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Paynesville Press - September 20, 2006

Council approves preliminary budget, levy

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville City Council took the following actions at their meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 13.

*The council was told by city administrator Renee Eckerly that she was informed by MnDOT that its plans for Highway 23 improvements in Paynesville had been delayed again. MnDOT's Office of Aeronautics has not reviewed the current plans, has not approved them, and may have concerns involving the clear zone needed for the city airport.

The council - along with the Paynesville Township Board of Supervisors - has requested a meeting with MnDOT District 8 officials from Willmar about a proposed change to the plans involving Cemetery Road before MnDOT officially submits a plan to the city for municipal consent. Eckerly was told that this meeting will still occur, but it will be delayed.

Once plans from MnDOT are officially submitted to the city, the council will need to hold a public hearing before making a decision to accept the plans, deny them, or suggest alternatives to the plans.

*The council approved a preliminary budget and levy for 2007. The city needs to approve a preliminary budget and levy in September and submit it to the county, which prepares property tax estimates. The final city budget and levy - to be approved in December - can be less but not more than the preliminary amounts.

The proposed budget is $1.718 million, up 9.5 percent from 2006. The proposed tax levy is $571,560, up 4.5 percent from 2006.

The council will hold meetings this fall to tweak the budget and will hold a public hearing in December about it.

*The council approved a revised development agreement for Heatherwood Plat 3, which had been previously approved by the council.

The county, however, would not approve the plat because they viewed one of the outlots as landlocked, though it does connect with other property owned by the developers. To rectify this, one of the residential lots will be joined with the outlot, reducing the 20-acre plat from 32 residential lots and two outlots to 31 residential lots and two outlots.

Because this plat was originally filed in the township, and then moved to the city because of its proximity to the city wells on the east side of town, the easements and streets of the original plat need to be vacated. The council set a public hearing to review the revised plat and to vacate the easements and streets in the original plat for Wednesday, Oct. 11, at 6:45 p.m.

It also waived the $150 fee for an amended final plat and approved the preparation of final plans and advertising for bids for the project.

*The council approved a final assessment public hearing for this year's street project on Wednesday, Oct. 11, at 6:30 p.m.

The proposed final assessment rate ($46.91 per foot) is down 13 percent from the proposed rate ($54.15 per foot) originally estimated for the project last fall. (The bid for the project was $0.9 million instead of the estimated $1.2 million.)

On a 100-foot assessment, this rate reduction would decrease the assesment by $724.

Residential water service assessments are now proposed at $997.50 per hookup and sanitary sewer service assessments at $598.32.

The total final assessment for a 50-foot lot (with water and sewer hookups) is $3,941.32; the total final assessement for a 100-foot lot (again with water and sewer) is $6,286.82.

Residents can opt to pay these assessments in full or they can be paid via taxes over 10 years. The council set an interest rate for residents opting to pay over 10 years at not more than two percent over their bond rate (which was 4.29 percent).

*The council tabled a proposal to allow Inspectron, Inc., the city's building inspector, to charge an investigation fee. This fee - proposed as twice the permit charge - would fine residents who start a project without a permit.

Council discussion centered on the complexity of knowing when a building permit is needed and then fining residents for honest mistakes. On the other hand, a higher fee for residents who knowingly disregard the code would be appropriate. Inspectron, however, does not want to make value judgments about whether residents knowingly or unknowingly started a building project without a permit.

The council discussed ways of educating the public about when a building permit is needed. (City staff refers questions to Inspectron directly by calling 1-800-322-6153.)

Councilor Tom Lindquist expressed concerns about being "overcoded" during the discusssion, while councilor Dennis Zimmerman said the city should study the problem and see how big it is before adopting a "heavy handed" solution such as an extra fee.

*The council directed city attorney Bill Spooner to draft a policy about check signing. The city currently does not have a policy about this. The new proposed policy would also require signatures from both the city administrator and the mayor for checks. (Their back-ups would be the bookkeeper and the deputy mayor in emergencies.)

*The council approved a bid for a new tanker truck for the Paynesville Fire Department from Forstner Fire Apparatus in Madelia, Minn., in the amount of $135,272.63 with three upgrades of $2,519.46, making the total cost $137,792.09. Four bids were opened on Tuesday, Sept. 5, and this bid was the lowest.

*The council approved a quote for sidewalk repairs from Spanier Masonry in the amount of $5,550, which was the lowest of two quotes obtained by the city. The project includes sidewalk repairs in four locations of the city: on the 200 block of Washburne Avenue; on the 100 block of Oak Park; by Grace United Methodist Church; and at Veteran's Memorial Park.

Public works director Ron Mergen, responding to a question from Lindquist, said that the city inspects sidewalks in the downtown area every year and sidewalks in residential areas every three years. Residents who have a concern about the condition of a sidewalk can also contact Mergen at city hall.

*The council was informed by letter that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has closed its file on the monitoring of three underground fuel tanks at the former Gottwald Oil on Minnie Street.

While closure of the file indicates that the soil contamination "does not appear to pose a threat to the public health or the environment under current conditions," MnDOT can reopen the file and require additional work if needed.

*The council approved a yearly contract with SafeAssure Consultants for safety policies and training for a fee of $4,304.

*The council was informed that work was beginning on the Ampe Morningside Plat 5, a private development on the east side of the city, which should be finished this fall.

*The council approved hiring Stephanie Hormann for the part-time position of cable access station coordinator, starting immediately.

*The council approved allowing any city council member and Eckerly to attend a League of Minnesota Cities regional meeting this fall at various dates and locations. The registration fee is $35.

*The council approved allowing Eckerly and city employees Gayla Orbeck and Jennifer Welling to attend training on land-use issues in St. Cloud in November. The registration fee is $25.

*The council approved allowing Mergen to attend the Minnesota Wastewater Operators Association's meeting in Isanti in September. The registration fee is $3.

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