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Paynesville Press - December 21, 2005

City Council continues ordinance that prohibits crossing double yellow lines to park

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville City Council took the following actions at their meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 14.

*The council received a new proposal for improvements to Highway 23 in Paynesville from MnDOT District 8 representatives (Willmar office). Story

*The council adopted a 2006 budget for the city, which calls for $1.555 million in revenues and expenditures, and a tax levy for 2006, which calls for a levy of $484,100. This represents a 7.5 percent increase in the budget and a fourpercent increase in the tax levy. Story

*The council voted to keep the city ordinance prohibiting drivers from crossing the double yellow lines to park in the downtown area by a vote of 4-1. Mayor Jeff Thompson and councilors Tom Lindquist, Jean Soine, and Dennis Zimmerman voted in favor of keeping the ordinance; councilor Jeff Bertram voted to repeal it.

The public works committee had recommended that the ordinance be repealed because of the difficulty in enforcing it. Thompson argued that this was not sufficient reason to repeal it, or the city would need to repeal other ordinances that are hard to enforce.

Police chief Kent Kortlever acknowledged that the ordinance is difficult to enforce - an officer needing to witness the illegal maneuver - but supported keeping the ordinance as a safety measure, citing a recent accident resulting from a driver crossing the street to park.

Bertram then asked how many accidents were caused by this maneuver, to which Kortlever responded two in the last six months. Bertram said he had heard from lots of constituents about this issue and felt that police time and efforts were better used finding meth labs, enforcing the speed limits, etc.

Issuing fines to people for parking downtown works against being smalltown friendly, Bertram said.

Before the ordinance was enacted (in December 2001), countered Thompson, the number of drivers crossing the downtown streets to park was the top concern he heard from constituents.

*The council reviewed a preliminary drawing for industrial lots on a parcel that the city is considering buying with PayDelCo to expand the current Industrial Park. Currently, PayDelCo has only three empty lots for sale in the current Industrial Park, and the city and PayDelCo have negotiated with Paul and Peter Ampe to purchase 64 acres to the east of the current Industrial Park for $190,000.

The initial drawing by new city engineer Bolton and Menk, includes five lots (ranging from 1.5 acres to 2.2 acres) on the south side of the river, plus an 8.25-acre outlot. The plat is complicated by the floodplain for the river and an easement for a gas line. The outlot could be sold to one large industry or broken into several smaller lots as needed.

Representatives from PayDelCo attended the council meeting and reported that their full board would look at the proposal this week. President Pat Flanders reiterated PayDelCo's financial position, roughly $200,000 in assets, which does not allow them to proceed with this project without help.

Cost estimates for the developing the property (city sewer, water, and streets) are $490,000. The city and PayDelCo intend to apply for grants to help with the project. The first step would be to acquire the land.

The Ampes are interested in completing the purchase as soon as possible, and a purchase agreement could be on the council's agenda as soon as the end of the month.

*The council approved 2006 water and sewer rates, which included increases in the bulk rates.

Flat rates for water will remain the same: $10.22 for the first 2,000 gallons for residences and businesses, and $13.63 for the first 2,000 gallons for other users. Bulk rates were increased by eight cents each: $1.83 per 1,000 gallons from 2,001 to 99,999 gallons; $1.78 per 1,000 gallons from 100,000 to 500,000 gallons; an $1.77 per 1,000 gallons for over 500,000 gallons. The cost of a standard meter will also be added to the hook-up fee (normally $440).

Flat sewer rates were kept the same: $11.99 for the first 2,000 gallons for residential and commercial and $15.98 for the first 2,000 gallons for all other users. Bulk rates for sewer were raised 10 to $1.99 per 1,000 gallons over 2,000 gallons. The city will also now use first quarter water usage to set sewer rates for residences, instead of fourth quarter water usage.

*The council approved a one-year contract with Inspectron, Inc., for building inspector services in 2006. The contract calls for a $3,500 monthly retainer. For hours in excess of 20 hours per week, Inspectron will bill the city $55 per hour. This contract begins on Jan. 1, 2006.

The council also approved paying Inspectron 80 percent of building fees collected in 2005 as payment for services for the remainder of this year. (This is a continuation of the current payment method, with the new contract starting in January.)

*The council discussed the status of the ambulance garage, which has a mold problem and needs $20,000 to $25,000 in repairs, according to public works director Ron Mergen. The garage needs to be re-stuccoed and have its interior walls replaced.

The city is also negotiating a new contract with the Paynesville Area Health Care System, which leases the garage for the ambulance corps. In previous leases, the city and PAHCS have agreed to split non-routine maintenance expenses, but now PAHCS wants to drop that clause, Mergen told the council. City officials have told PAHCS that then the lease rate (currently $250 per month) would need to go up.

The city does not want to repair the building without a long-term committment from PAHCS. Since the building borders the fire hall, another option to investigate is when the fire hall might need more space.

*The council approved making year-end transfers, which is a standard practice for the city. Unused amounts in certain budgets will be transferred to their respective capital improvement fund. These budgets include: airport; emergency services; fire; liquor fund; park; and police. Additionally, unexpended money from the street and alley, snow and ice removal, street lighting, and tree inspection budgets to the street/sidewalk capital improvement fund.

Actual transfer amounts will be known after the first of the year.

*The council approved billing Paynesville Township for an overcharge on annexed property since 2001. Under the orderly annexation agreement, the city reimburses the township a certain percentage of the taxes for properties annexed to the city for a set period (five years, unless city services are not extended to the property).

For the past five years, the city has miscalculated the taxes owed to the township (using the total property taxes for the property, rather than just the township share). This has resulted in an overpayment to the township of $23,540.86.

The council approved having the 2005 taxes that they owe the township ($1,072.55) to be subtracted from this overpayment and then to bill the township for the remaining $22,468.31.

*The council approved changing its mileage rate back to 44.5 per mile, effective Jan. 1, 2006. The Internal Revenue Service, whose official rate the city follows, is changing back to 44.5 per mile at that time. The city had raised its rate earlier this fall to 48.5 per mile, following the IRS rate.

*The council approved hiring Terry Hacker as cable coordinator for the city, effective immediately.

*The council approved a gambling permit for St. Louis Catholic Church to hold a bingo event on Sunday, Feb. 12.

*The council approved a gambling permit for the Paynesville Sportsmans Club to hold a raffle at the Paynesville American Legion on Friday, March 10.

*The council approved accepting a Minnesota Safe and Sober mini-grant of $1,000 for the Paynesville Police Department. The police department placed third in the 2005 Minnesota Safe and Sober Challenge and got $1,000.

Police chief Kent Kortlever told the council that the department intended to spend the money for a hand-held radar, which would be used in the department's undercover vehicle, and for overtime dedicated to traffic enforcement.

*The council tabled an amendment to its platting ordinance that would allow lot splits of unplatted land in limited cases. The amendment would only allow lot splits to correct a boundary dispute and by the approval of the city council.

Bertram requested more information about the pros and cons of the amendment, and it is expected to be an agenda item at the council meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 28.

*The council referred issues relating to personnel evaluation to the personnel committee after a brief discussion. While the city is reviewing its entire personnel policy, with the year end coming, policies for evaluations needs to be clarified. One issue is the role of the personnel committee, which is vague. Another is having committee members review personnel evaluations done by the city administrator in order to evaluate the administrator. In doing this, the city needs to balance the privacy rights of the employeed with the oversight responsiblities of the committee.

*The council approved an extension for the rezoning of property owned by Bud and Leola Wendroth. The current recommendation from the planning commission is to rezone their property from light industrial to single and two family residential, but not until January, thus requiring the extension.

*The council approved an invoice from Zimmerman Computer Consulting for $217.50, which represents 7.25 hours of service. Council member Dennis Zimmerman abstained from the vote.

*The council approved designating the National Incident Management System as the basis for all incident management by the city. These policies, Kortlever told the council, were developed in 2002 in response to 9/11 to standardize communication, among other objectives.

*The council approved a resolution promoting the use of intrastate mutual aid. This allows city personnel and equipment to be dispatched to emergencies outside the city.

The council also asked Kortlever to track the time and expenses the city incurs under mutual aid, which Kortlever agreed to do. But, he also noted that the city benefits from mutual aid, too, with help from the county and the state patrol.

*The council was informed that Joel Burr has resigned from the fire department.

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