Preston council discusses costly future street repairs, continues to set aside funds
Regarding a statement published in the Oct. 4 Republican Leader concerning a frac sand position letter brought before the Preston City Council, the article reported that a letter written by the Lanesboro Area Chamber asked towns to take a stand "against" frac sand mining. In actuality, the LACC's position letter states that it "encourages the frac sand committee to make ordinance revisions that set reasonable limits and mitigate the adverse impacts of large scale mining of sand."
Wednesday, October 03, 2012 6:21 AM
"It's a big number, $4.9 million, but it's manageable," said Preston City Administrator Joe Hoffman during the Oct. 1 Preston City Council meeting, addressing the total amount that the city might need to repair or re-pave its streets and account for future repairs.
Hoffman referred to the figure after hearing a report from Stantec representative Brett Grabau regarding the condition and estimated costs of maintaining local streets, most of which Grabau rated an eight on a scale of one to 10, or in relatively good condition.
Grabau said if streets in need of repair are fixed sooner than later, the costs will be lower and the number of necessary repairs will be fewer.
"But if you take all the costs at once, it's $4.9 million. That's just street improvements, and it includes all future maintenance."
Preston's city council has been appropriating funds for street improvements for the past several years and plans to continue doing so, taking into account that improvements made along streets will incur assessments to the property owners on them.
Council member David Collett said, "The major ones should probably be addressed."
The council will continue to examine which streets need immediate repair and which ones can be fixed using crack filling and sealcoating.
Next, Preston tourism director Kathy Dahl addressed the council, bringing with her a letter from the Trail Towns Committee that was presented to committee members by Lanesboro's tourism director, Julie Kiehne, requesting that towns in the committee take a stand against frac sand mining.
"Julie Kiehne asked us to take a position and take this letter to the commissioners' frac sand committee, and most towns are choosing to remain neutral, not to take a position," she stated.
Dahl said she brought the letter forward only because she felt Preston's council should have an opportunity to read it.
"Personally, it's difficult for me because I do see both sides of the issue. Maybe the city can ask that they consider balanced practices, what would be in the best interest of tourism and agriculture, as silica sand mining is legal in Minnesota."
Councilor Kay Spangler questioned whether the commissioners' committee had researched the "various impacts silica mining will have on the county."
Dahl replied that she couldn't comment, but that a comparison had been made with a community in Wisconsin that relies on tourism and also has frac mining.
"There was an $88 million impact on the county revenue. That study didn't show the direct impact, though," she said.
The council concluded that it should remain neutral for several reasons, including that once a decision has been made, it becomes an official stance. Dahl thanked the council for hearing about the letter.
Preston's street department will purchase a new sanding mechanism for snow removal and winter street maintenance. The old sander has rusted away, and a new sander will be put on the newer city truck at a cost of up to $5,000, with some retrofitting necessary on the old dump truck, which will have installed a still-functional sander taken from another truck.
After passing that motion, Hoffman queried as to whether the council would like to allow city membership in the Southeast Minnesota League of Municipalities, an entity to which Preston had belonged for several years but had dropped out of not because of cost, but due to availability of representatives. Councilors voted to re-join the league at a cost of $35 per year, providing an opportunity for Preston to collaborate with other small towns.
Next, Hoffman shared an amendment he'd like to have made to the city's personnel policy, as the workman's compensation plan doesn't take into account compensation for the first three days following a worker being injured or falling ill on the job.
"We've had three or four people get hurt in the past three months, so this brought it to the forefront. There's a three-day waiting period before employees can be compensated through our insurance program, and that's state law, but there are also other cities that allow employees to use sick time to cover the first days until insurance starts to pay their wages. If the council is agreeable, we would do well to allow employees to cover their lost time with sick pay."
Council members pointed out a language stipulation that needed changing, but otherwise agreed that the provision would be beneficial.
Lastly, Spangler asked the council to take into account the ramifications of voting for the voter identification amendment to the state constitution, as she observed that by voting for it, it would limit the rights of numerous people who would otherwise be able to vote for city council candidates, including those who don't have picture identification, military members and anyone whose ballot has to be mailed.
Spangler said while she wasn't asking the council to take a position on the matter, she felt that information should be shared.
Collett related that his mother was among those who did not ever possess a photo identification card in her lifetime and that "by voting for this amendment, we're taking away the rights of people who've had them for 60 to 70 years."