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Paynesville Press - November 16, 2005

Council covers full agenda

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville City Council took the following actions at their meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

*The council discussed the information meeting about Highway 23, held on Wednesday, Nov. 2, and set a special meeting for Monday, Nov. 21, to meet with Lowell Flaten of MnDOT and other MnDOT staff. The council indicated that it wanted some changes to the current design before it would agree to give its approval of the project. MnDOT is expected to submit a request for municipal consent in December.

*The council approved making a purchase offer of $175,000 for two 40-acre parcels in Section 3 of Paynesville Township. Both parcels lie under pivots for the city's irrigation system and the city holds a first option to purchase them. One of the parcels borders the city's pond system and has been identified as the most likely site for a future pond.

Public works director Ron Mergen said it would be good planning to purchase this lot in particular, but the seller wants to sell both parcels together, at an asking price of $200,000. The public works committee approved making the offer of $175,000.

The city's right to match an offer should not be affected by this offer, said city attorney Bill Spooner. The city would retain its right to match the offer of a third party.

The city does not have a use for the second lot, which could be sold.

*The council approved a wellhead protection plan, which defines areas where groundwater travels to the city's wells in one year (a smaller, critical area) and in ten years. The plan will now be submitted to the Minnesota Department of Health. The next step will be to identify actions in this area to prevent groundwater pollution.

*Council members Tom Lindquist and Dennis Zimmerman were assigned to an ad hoc committee to pursue a joint powers agreement with Paynesville Township of the Kruger Lake Nature Preserve. The city has received a DNR grant of $100,000 towards the purchase of this property, but that grant expires in June 2006 and the DNR wants to know if a purchase is imminent by January 2006.

*The council approved paying $4,339.42 to Paynesville Township as a reimbursement under its orderly annexation agreement. Once land from the township is annexed to the city, the township is reimbursed for the taxes, based on the value of the property at the time of annexation. The township receives 90 percent of the taxes the first year, 70 percent the second year, 50 percent the third year, 30 percent the fourth year, and 10 percent the fifth year. This sliding scale stays at 70 percent if the city does not provide services (water and sewer) and resumes when those services are provided.

This represents payments from the following annexations: Project 55, WilGlo Acres, Michaelis-Olmscheid, Ampe Morningside Plat Two, the airport, and Minnie Villas. Out of curiosity, the council also asked city administrator Steve Helget to prepare a report about the current assessed value of the properties and the taxes to the city.

*The council reviewed a survey for the proposed Ampe Park around the city wells on the east side of town. The park committee sent 91 surveys and received 41 responses, said Mergen. Top activities/amenities were: trail for walking/biking (31 total votes, including 13 firsts); open grass area (28 and 8); restrooms (27 and 8); playground equipment (for ages 2-5) (26 and 4); playground equipment (for ages 6-12) (24 and 2); grilling facility (21 and 4); basketball court (17); shelter (open with electricity) (16); enclosed with electricity (15); sand volleyball court (14); horseshoe pits (14); softball diamond (10); frisbee golf (10); baseball diamond (9); shelter (open without electricity) (5); and shelter (enclosed without electricity) (3).

Other suggestions included naming it Morningside Park, the need for parking, and the future of the South Street Park, which would be a few blocks away.

Mergen said the park committee is working on this park and admitted that parking was a difficult issue. Since the 14-acre parcel is landlocked, the city will need to secure an easement to the park or possibly buy a lot to have access.

The council did discuss that both the South Street Park and the Maple Street Park could possibly be sold and the proceeds used to improve neighboring parks (this new park in the case of South Street Park and the BMX park in the case of the Maple Street Park).

*The city approved certifying 20 utility accounts (16 garbage and four water/snow removal) as delinquent and having the county put the past-due amounts on next year's taxes following a public hearing.

City resident Steve McCorquodale protested his past-due bill, saying he had tried to cancel garbage service and had been told that he had been cut off. McCorquodale also questioned why garbage service is mandatory in the city.

Bertram, who works for West Central Sanitation and recused himself from the council for this discussion, said that the normal practice for the company would be to reduce the customer to the lowest level of service and that no one should be cut off. He pledged to investigate the bill and square things with McCorquodale before the past-due bills are certified with the county. The city has mandatory garbage service, he reminded the council, because a normal family of four produces one ton of garbage in a year and that garbage ends up somewhere.

The council approved certifying the past-due bills as delinquent with Bertram abstaining.

*The council heard from Mergen that the owner of Quality Checked Plastics is trying to sell his St. Cloud building by auction, which might enable him to clean up his property in the Industrial Park. Bertram warned the council not to get its hopes too high, even if the sale is made, the owner will want to move more things to Paynesville, he said.

The council urged staff to remain vigilant on the issue and directed that the item be put on the council agenda again on Wednesday, Nov. 23.

*The board set a special city council meeting for Wednesday, Nov. 23, at 5 p.m. in order to hold interviews with firms for city engineering services. Council members could also choose to send written comments, but at least three council members are expected to attend the interviews, so the council set it as a public meeting. The regular council meeting will be held that same night starting at 6 p.m.

*The council approved contributing up to $1,000 to the Urban Conservation Assistance Program through the Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District. The Soil and Water Conservation District would like to create an urban conservationist position to provide technical assistance for wellhead protection and stormwater management.

Mergen said the extra knowledge and assistance would be useful. The Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District would like to hire this person in 2006. They have budgeted $50,000 for the position and have requested $25,000 from Stearns County, which provides approximately 65 percent of its overall funding. Cities were asked to contribute based on the following scale: population less than 1,000 ($500); population 1,000-3,000 ($1,000); population 3,000-10,000 ($2,500); and population 10,000 and more ($5,000).

*The council approved a new flag design, based on the Welcome to Paynesville signs, and approved purchasing six flags for $795 plus tax.

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