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Paynesville Press - November 30, 2005

Council chooses new city engineer

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville City Council took the following actions at their meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 23.

*The council passed a resolution asking MnDOT to change the categorization for the new Highway 23 from 2A (rural/exurban/bypass) to 2B (urban/urbanizing area) within the city limits of Paynesville and a full interchange or intersection in the area of the airport. The council agreed to first send this resolution to MnDOT staff in Willmar to help get the categorization changed.

This resolution followed a special city council meeting with MnDOT representatives on Monday, Nov. 21. Highway 23 meeting

*The council approved hiring Bolton & Menk, Inc., to provide city engineering services, replacing Short, Elliott, Hendrickson, Inc. (SEH). The council had directed a review of city services, starting this year with building inspector and engineering.

The Public Works Committee had interviewed several firms, including Bolton & Menk and SEH, and Bolton & Menk were the most impressive, said public works director Ron Mergen. In contacting cities that work with Bolton & Menk, all the things they had said in the interview were confirmed, said Mergen, including that they design projects as directed, go the extra mile for public hearings, and deliver a good cost for their services.

"Really, they couldn't say enough good things about them," said Mergen. "Common-sense engineeringŠwas reiterated several times."

The council directed that the transition from SEH to Bolton & Menk start immediately. With new projects, this is easier than with current projects, especially the 2006 Street Improvement Project. It depends on when Bolton & Menk wants to assume that project, but Mergen said he expected SEH to complete the final design with Bolton & Menk handling the inspection next summer.

*The council approved disbanding the Ad Hoc Kruger Lake Nature Preserve Committee after receiving a letter from landowner Mary Hahn stating that she did not see her goals for the property/preserve being met by municipal ownership.

Hahn, who also attended the council meeting, thanked the city and township members for their efforts. She said that she was not comfortable with some of the ideas for the property and wanted it kept as a nature preserve, not turned into a park. She told the council that she still intended to preserve the property by Kruger Lake, also known as Kruger's Pond, through private means.

The city had negotiated a purchase price of $200,000 for the 116-acre parcel and had received a DNR grant for $100,000 to cover half of the purchase price. Paynesville Township had agreed to partner in the project.

The discussion at the council meeting was amicable with Hahn explaining her vision for keeping the property in a natural state and with Mayor Jeff Thompson noting that that desire did not fully square with their responsibility as a public entity to make it accessible.

*The council closed the meeting to review and discuss pending litigation with Andy Winstrom concerning property acquired for the new airport. The council, after reconvening, approved a settlement price of $150,000 for the purchase of 50.8 acres and an easement on 21.29 acres.

The city paid $97,000 to Winstrom when the court awarded the city this property in 2003, based on an assessment of $1,600 per acre for the land that was purchased and $800 per acre for the easement land. Of the additional money, $13,500 was already required by the court for obsolescence to a building ($13,000) and for an appraisal ($500). The settlement represents a purchase price of $2,221.50 per acre ($1,110.75 per acre for the easement).

The agreement also includes swapping additional easements between the city and Winstrom.

*The council approved making a counteroffer of $180,000 for two 40-acre parcels by the city irrigation ponds. One of these parcels adjoins the city's sewer ponds and has been identified as a likely place for future expansion of the ponds.

The landowner had listed both properties at $200,000, and the city had made an initial offer of $175,000. The owner counteroffered at $195,000, the appraised value, and the city made this counteroffer.

The city holds a right of first purchase from the landowner.

*The council approved a bid from Yarmon Ford for a new 2006 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor for $20,685. Two quotes were received by the city. Yarmon's original quote was for $5 more, but the other quote was for $20,688, and the city expressed an interest in keeping the purchase local and Yarmon Ford lowered its quote to $20,685.

*The council approved having Kern, DeWenter, Viere conduct the 2005 audit for the city for a fee not to exceed $19,000. Partner Loren Viere explained several new regulations that have caused auditing expenses to increase.

He quoted a price for the city's 2006 audit of no more than $19,000, even though he said their actual costs were estimated at $22,000. His firm wanted to reward long-term clients like the city, he said.

New requirements - made after recent financial scandals - add to the time and detail needed to complete the audit, Viere explained. For instance, in the past they have just checked that city investments - which must be backed by government security - were legal but now they have to assess risk, interest rate, etc. These requirements might make sense for larger cities but probably are too much detail for small cities like Paynesville, he said.

Bertram asked if Viere would look into the requirements for doing an audit every two years instead of every year. Viere's initial comment was that it would be less than two full audits but more than a single year's audit. He also said that Paynesville might not qualify.

*The council approved a temporary street closing request from the Paynesville Area Chamber of Commerce to close part of James Street on Saturday, Nov. 26, for the tree lighting ceremony.

James Street was closed from 6 to 9 p.m. from Washburne Avenue to Augusta Avenue.

*The council approved temporarily allowing AMPI to increase their BOD level from 4,000 pounds to 4,800 pounds before issuing surcharges until June 2006. A problem of inaccurate readings has been discovered in an effluent pipe, and AMPI is examining solutions to the problem.

*The council received the annual report for the Paynesville Area Compost Site. From mid-April to mid-November, it was open 30 Saturday mornings and 27 Wednesday evenings. It gave 891 permits (523 to city residents, 325 township residents, and 43 other) and had 2,630 visits (1,784 by city residents, 767 by township residents, and 79 by other residents). It is located on Co. Rd. 33.

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