Business owners and residents who own property adjacent to the portion of St. Paul Street, between the south bridge and Fillmore Street, attended a hearing held during the Feb. 18 Preston City Council meeting. Fillmore County will be making improvements to the road this summer.

City Engineer Brett Grabau was on hand to explain the plans and take questions from the council and visitors. He explained the project was county driven; St. Paul Street is also County State-Aid Highway 17 and receives funding from the state. The city has a 50 percent cost-share policy with the county for the road.

The project consists of two sections. From the south bridge to Main Street, all the curb and gutter will be removed and replaced. Any sidewalk panels that have sunk or heaved will be replaced as well. The road will undergo a structural mill and overlay. The Main Street intersection will have new pedestrian curb ramps installed that are ADA (American Disability Act) compliant.

Grabau explained the ramps will actually jut into the intersection to act as a traffic calming feature. The county will be evaluating during construction whether or not they should keep the brick walkways.

The second part of the project will run from the Main Street intersection up to the Fillmore Street intersection. Another mill and overlay will be completed, but only sections of the curb, gutter and sidewalks in poor condition will be replaced. It was pointed out that the sidewalk on the south part of the project was 12 years old.

Grabau explained the county had determined it would be more cost effective to replace the entire stretch instead of doing piecemeal repairs.

It was asked if the new work would be torn up again in the near future for utility work. Grabau said the current utilities were in good shape and that if something were to happen, utility work would be completed using directional drilling.

Construction will be occurring at the same time as the Twenty-14 Street and Utility Improvement project throughout the city of Preston and is expected to last a month and a half. Benefitting parcel owners will be assessed 40 percent of the cost for curb and gutter work and 50 percent of the cost for sidewalk work.

Grabau estimated it would cost between $35 and $45 per lineal foot. Storm sewer catch basins will be installed with no assessment. Grabau said final assessments would be determined after final costs come in following project completion.

In council action, a resolution was approved to waive a review from the Preston Planning and Zoning since the project did not relate to the city's comprehensive plan.

Another resolution was approved to order the street improvement and the preparation of plans for it.

A final related resolution was passed to approve of the county's plans and allow them to bid the project out.

Twenty-14 Project split

Grabau presented a resolution to the council which would split the Twenty-14 Street and Utility Improvement Project in two parts. The project's cost to the city is estimated to be over $3 million.

Grabau said he had spoken with many contractors about how they would prefer to see the project bid and they had talked about splitting it.

"If they want it split, it would help get the city a better price," he added.

He said the scope of the un-split project would be a concern to smaller contractors who wouldn't want to put a majority of their resources into one project.

The resolution would divide the project along Fillmore Street, with one part including the north and the other part south. Grabau explained the split would have contractors bid on both parts separately. The contractors could then choose whether to bid on either both parts or just one.

Mayor Kurt Reicks asked if the project would still be completed according to schedule. Grabau said it would and the city would also continue to deal with only one project manager for both projects.

He admitted there would be a greater need for coordination, but that the work could get done faster.

The first bid date was set for March 21. Grabau said it still needed to be determined how many hours after the first bid the second project would be let out for bids.

The council approved the plans and specifications for the project and then approved the split of the project and set a special council meeting for Monday, March 31, to review and award bids.

Dairy & Farm expansion

The Preston Dairy & Farm Association recently sent a petition for annexation to the city. The request came on the heels of a five-acre purchase the business made from Gehling Auction. The business is moving their base of operations to the site northwest of Preston.

Nathan Scheevel, project engineer for Dairy & Farm, attended the meeting to show the council an animated 3-D rendering of the proposed changes to the site. Two new buildings for seed and feed will be constructed along with grain bins, elevator, chemical storage building and dry fertilizer facility.

The original Gehling shop and auction building will be kept and used as well. Gehling plans to build an indoor auction area on their acreage. The expansion for Dairy & Farm has already resulted in one new job and Scheevel said two more hires will be made in the future.

"It's a much needed upgrade that has been long overdue," he added.

The council approved setting an annexation hearing during the March 31 special meeting at 6 p.m. The annexation request would then be considered for approval by the state Municipal Boundary Adjustment Board on April 8.

Dairy & Farm had also requested the city set up a tax increment financing district to assist with their infrastructure costs. The city would forego collecting new taxes generated from the improvements on the property for 20 years, allowing Dairy & Farm to use that money toward their project costs.

City Administrator Joe Hoffman said the request was justified because of the increase in tax base and job creation.

The council approved contracting David Drown & Associates for setting up the TIF District. Council members also approved a resolution calling for an April 7 hearing on the TIF District. Approval for the district would come on April 9, after the annexation receives state approval.

The council also called a hearing at the April 7 meeting to review and change the city's Business Subsidy policy that would enable them to provide TIF funding.

Another hearing regarding entering into the Business Subsidy agreement with Dairy & Farm was also set up for April 7.

Other business

• City attorney Dwight Luhmann updated the council on a settlement agreement reached between the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) and the League of Minnesota Cities relating to an ambulance director hiring complaint filed by Jennifer Christoph in July of 2011. The complaint related to Christoph's application for the position. Luhmann said there had been no wrongdoing by any city staff or those involved in the hiring process. The council approved the settlement which will require the city to pay its insurance deductible of $250 and provide additional staff training.

• Hoffman shared news with the council that Preston would be the host town for the 2014 Bicycling Around Minnesota bike tour. He thanked Kathy Dahl, Preston's tourism director, and the work she had done to bring the group of almost 400 riders to town. He also thanked the Fillmore County Ag Society, which the city partnered with, to provide camping space at the fairgrounds for the event running from Aug. 14 to 17 next summer.