The Preston City Council discussions on Monday evening centered around the annual list of appointments, fee schedule and employee raises and step scale. The council also heard from Police Chief Matt Schultz regarding the purchase of a new squad car.

City appointments

In review of the 2014 committee and commission appointments, a slate of community members was approved for each of the Tourism Board, Parks and Recreation Board, Library Board, Planning and Zoning Commission, Public Utilities, Tree Board and the Economic Development Authority.

David Harrison was appointed to represent the council on the Tourism Board, replacing David Collett; the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Public Utilities Commission.

Charles Sparks will represent the city on the Parks and Recreation Board, Library Board and the Economic Development Authority.

David Collett will serve on the Tree Board and Robert Maust will serve on the Economic Development Authority.

Other appointments included Kathy Dahl as the city's representative to the Southeast Minnesota Bluff Country Tourism Association; the Republican-Leader as the official newspaper; F&M Community Bank as the official depository; David Collett as the mayor pro-tem; and Dwight Luhmann as the city attorney.

A complete list of the community members serving on the boards and commissions is available through the city office if one is interested.

Fee schedule

The council reviewed the fee schedule for the city, including general fees for licenses, rent and services; planning and zoning fees for permits and applications; tourism fees; police and street department fees; library fees; park board and EDA fees.

Joe Hoffman, the city administrator, explained that the fee schedule was adopted in 2011 and after the staff reviewed the schedule, noted he did not recommend any changes at this time. The fee schedule is set in the ordinance and no action is needed unless a change is to be made.

While reviewing the costs, Councilman Bob Maust questioned the fees for sand and rock applications and the area which could be covered. Maust felt the costs were too low for the areas designated.

Hoffman explained, in response, that the city usually only applies these to about 20 properties, and only if necessary. "We'd like to get out of that business," he added.

Maust also questioned the fees associated with using city equipment, such as the wood chipper, which was $100 per hour plus labor for the city employees.

Hoffman explained that the city does not hire out the service, but those fees may be incurred by the property owner if a tree needs to be removed in an emergency situation or if there is a diseased tree that needs to be removed and the property owner neglects to remove it.

He also said these services are rarely needed, confirming with Deputy Clerk Sheila Marzolf that they had not been used in the past year.

Councilman Charles Sparks said it was good to have a basis for the charges in case the city does need to step in, even if they are not used very often.

The council agreed to leave the fees as outlined in the schedule, but Maust suggested that the staff take a look at those street department fees. Hoffman noted he would check out the rental rates for similar equipment and see if the city was in line with those.

Step scale

Hoffman presented the 2014 step scale for city employee wages. He explained that it represented a 2 percent increase that was agreed to in 2012 during labor negotiations. It was also noted that 2014 is the third year of the three-year Preston Public Employee Association contract.

At the end of the 2012 negotiations, the council also extended the same pay and benefit changes to the non-union employees.

According to a memo in the council packet, of the 15 full-time employees of the city and Preston Utilities, six belong to the PPEA. One of those is employed by the city and the remaining five are employed by the utility.

Maust asked for further clarification as to how the employees may actually see more than a 2 percent cost of living increase if they were advancing up the city's step scale. While he did not want to see names, saying a number would suffice, Maust requested a document as to how each employee's 2014 wage compared to the 2013 wage when the 2 percent increase was considered in addition to a step grade increase.

Mayor Kurt Reicks agreed that this information would be valuable when the negotiations begin later this summer.

The step schedule was accepted as presented and Hoffman agreed to form a report as to how it impacted the city's payroll.

Squad car

Police Chief Matt Schultz requested council approval to purchase a 2014 Chevy Impala with the police package on state bid. He said the cost would not exceed $23,500 for the vehicle purchase, needed graphics and signage and retrofitting.

He told the council that the new car would replace the 2007 squad currently being driven by Officer Dahly, which would be sold at auction. Schultz said he anticipates that car would bring about $3,000 at sale.

Schultz and Hoffman confirmed that there is $21,500 in the equipment fund to cover the cost of the car.

The council approved the purchase of the new squad car.

Comprehensive plan

Hoffman reminded the council of the comprehensive planning meeting, which was to be held on Wednesday evening, after the Republican-Leader went to press. He told the council he had placed notice of a special council meeting and a special planning and zoning committee meeting to allow for a quorum of each to attend the planning meeting without conflict for the open meeting law.

The city of Preston is updating its comprehensive plan and the meeting held on Wednesday invited the public to discuss the needs and future growth of the community. The agenda included the review of a community analysis addressing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing Preston. Time was also given to review and discuss community goals and to discuss community services and a land use planning map.

Look in next week's issue for a recap of that meeting.

Other business

In other matters, the council approved the following items during the meeting.

• The council approved a recommendation by the staff to become the subordinate lender for its rehab loan for Jon and Kay Laging to the primary lender. It was noted the couple is refinancing a commercial property and that this request is common practice during a situation of refinancing.

• A request to place an advertisement in the Republican-Leader's Honor Roll of Businesses was approved. The council opted to participate with a small ad for a cost of $41.

• The council authorized individuals for signing checks, namely Mayor Reicks, Administrator Hoffman, Deputy Clerk Sheila Marzolf and Mayor Pro-tem Collett.

• It was noted that the second regular monthly meeting would be moved to Tuesday, Jan. 21, due to the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday on the regular meeting date of Monday, Jan. 20.