The Preston City Council had a busy night on Monday, April 7, with four public hearings and a full agenda.

The evening started with the public hearings that involved public comment regarding the amendment of the business subsidy policy, approving the business subsidy agreements for Preston Dairy and Farm and Gehling Auction and creating the Tax Increment Financing district 7.

Though no members of the public attended the hearings, consultant Mike Bubany of David Drown Associates, Inc., summarized information on all four topics so the council members are prepared for their special meeting on Wednesday, April 9, when they will consider and take action on all the proposals.

Check next week's issue of the Republican-Leader for further details on each public hearing and the results of the meeting on April 9.

After the completion of the public hearings, the council reopened the meeting to tackle their agenda.

Industrial park feasibility study

The Preston Economic Development Authority (EDA) has been working to develop an industrial park, which would consist of approximately six acres located on the southwest corner of the intersection of Highways 52 and 16.

City engineer Brett Grabau first briefed the council on the industrial park feasibility study, which was needed to estimate the potential cost of the project so the EDA can move forward on attaining grants for the project.

Grabau relayed water and sewer do exist in the area currently, so they will be able to access and extend the utilities for the industrial park properties.

As for the roadway, it will need to come off of Golfview Drive instead of direct access off of Highways 52 or 16 because then the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) would be controlling the access and it would likely be more costly.

The proposed 1.2 acre storm water improvement is a large part of the project and had been slated to be located near the center of the development, which cause some issues with councilmembers.

"We would need a little over an acre to meet the quality and retention requirements for this site," Grabau explained.

Councilmember Robert Maust argued, "I'm not really thrilled with the water storage area using up all that ground. Why don't we look at exploring putting some kind of structure downstream for containment rather than spoiling all that land for a water pond before we make a decision."

A lengthy discussion ensued to determine whether or not the pond could be moved to an area across Highway 52 near the Poet site. The council agreed this position would serve the properties and the city better as it would be more hidden while still serving its purpose.

"It would be nice to somehow get that pond out of the industrial area because that is property we could sell," Mayor Kurt Reicks expressed. "Our vision of Preston needs to be different than seeing three weedy ponds as you come into town. We already have two ponds that are very poorly maintained."

Though moving the pond could possibly add two additional lots, the project cost of moving the pond and extending the roadways and utilities may become a pivotal issue.

Grabau presented two options for the council to review. The first option is more costly at $531,043.28 and would involve more roadways. At $413,104.79, option two is less costly with less roadway construction.

"If you added two more lots you'd have to somehow get there," City Administrator Joe Hoffman advised. "The difference between option one and two is $120,000, so in order to open up another lot that you could hopefully sell for $30,000 and collect $90,000 in tax increment financing (TIF) that would just pay for the additional growth. It wouldn't add any additional revenue. You wouldn't see a benefit up front."

Grabau had recommended option two to the council, but with the council asking for a change in the pond location, option one was determined to be closer to the estimated project cost, though moving the pond would increase the cost.

Economic development director Cathy Enerson then stepped in to review the DEED (Department of Employment and Economic Development) grant that the EDA will be applying for to help fund the industrial park project.

"We are looking into a grant to help offset a lot of the cost and that grant will pay up to 50 percent of the electric, sewer, water and streets," she explained.

Bubany then noted the project is estimated to cost $700,000 and the DEED grant would help considerably.

The TIF is projected to be around $188,000 but he admitted he was not truly confident on that number.

"Even if it is accurate, that $188,000 is collected over time, about 10 years. And if our projections are way off, which is possible because these are all estimates, then that number could conceivably be zero," Bubany said, though that risk would be the worst-case scenario.

The council moved to approve the resolution to apply for the business development infrastructure grant, using option one's estimates, as well as the application to support the public infrastructure for the Preston Dairy and Farm development.

The group also asked Grabau to pursue the possibility of moving the pond and the details and costs it would entail.

Hayner revolving loan

Enerson again approached the council on behalf of the Preston EDA to recommend the council approve a revolving loan application for Melvin Hayner's new business, the Driftless Flyfishing Company.

The proposed terms are $5,000 at 2.5 percent interest for seven years, to be paid in monthly installments, plus a $100 loan fee.

"He has created a destination," Enerson told the council. "Hayner is Orvis endorsed and this is only their second location in Minnesota."

The council voted to approve the loan.

Housing incentive applications

Enerson next introduced three housing incentive applications for which the EDA had recommended approval.

The first application, totaling $5,699, was for new windows and a new garage door for Karla Franzen's property on 412 Cottage Grove Avenue SE.

As Franzen qualified for the incentive, the council approved her application.

The second application for 412 Bluff Street, owned by Mike and Flossy Schultz, was also approved for a new garage pending a submitted estimate.

The third application involved updating electrical wiring, a kitchen appliance and other kitchen and living room remodeling for Jay Harstad's property at 1025 Washington Street NW. The council approved this loan.

"I also just wanted the council to be aware there are still three new construction and three existing home incentives remaining for qualified applicants, but the rehabbing incentives are now used," Enerson concluded.

Ambulance capital budget

Preston ambulance director Ryan Throckmorton approached the council to outline a two-year capital expenditure budget for the ambulance service. He presented the information so the council would know in advance what major purchases are planned and what the impact will be on the finances of the service.

The 2014 budget lists 12-lead cardiac monitors at a cost of $21,000 and repair to garage doors for $3,000.

For 2015, he noted the possible purchase of a second power cot listed at $15,000.

Throckmorton advised the council there is currently a "once in a lifetime grant" available for the cardiac monitors. The American Heart Association Grant for rural Minnesota ambulance services is a competitive grant, which awards up to $25,000 to implement the monitors.

If the service is able to get the grant, the cost of two monitors now would total $21,164. If the council chose to wait and only purchase one now it would cost nothing (with the grant), but it would cost $32,032 for the second monitor if purchased later.

The council moved to approve the purchase of both monitors with Throckmorton applying for the grant.

Other business

• The 2014-2015 road salt contract with the state was approved. The contract is for 25 tons of salt at a cost of $1,891.99 with tax. They also accepted bids for rock and bituminous from Bruening Rock Products, Milestone Materials and Rochester Sand and Gravel.

• The council approved the request from Dodge-Fillmore-Olmsted County Victim Services to recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month by placing teal ribbons on light poles along Fillmore Street.

• Throckmorton told the council there will be an ambulance fundraiser held on Friday, May 16. Tickets are available for $15 for a steak dinner prepared by Fillmore County Cattlemen's Association.

The next regular council meeting will be held on April 21 at 6 p.m.