Preston council reviews plans to clean up blighted properties
Wednesday, August 07, 2013 3:09 AM
EDA (Economic Development Authority) director Cathy Enerson updated the Preston council on the city's current efforts to acquire and ultimately redevelop three parcels of land which are considered dilapidated during its meeting on Monday evening. The city has been working for years to acquire the land and clean them up. The parcels are near the trailhead and at the northeast corner of St. Paul Street and Mill Street.
John Goos from Stryker EMS demonstrated a Stryker Power cot for the Preston City Council at their Aug. 5 meeting. The council approved two Ambulance service purchases, including the new cot. ANTON ADAMEK/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
Enerson said the EDA had been working on two purchase agreements for the three parcels. One parcel on Mill Street is residential property with the other two being commercial parcels owned by Preston Oil Products (POP). It is the EDA's plan to purchase the properties, clean them up, convert them to green space, and then redevelop them through a new owner in the future.
Enerson addressed the risks of allowing the parcels to fall into the hands of the state or another owner, who may not develop the property or even clean it up.
If the city purchased the parcels, Enerson said it would allow them to enter into a voluntary cleanup program through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Brownfield Program, which would assist the city in cleaning up the parcels and assessing the POP parcel along Mill Street for contamination.
The testing and development of a plan for future redevelopment would cost around $50,000 with the city share being $12,500. The city had budgeted $10,000 for each property's demolition and tank removal costs. The cost of purchasing the properties would be roughly $9,000. Overall, the city would need to spend $29,000 on the parcel acquisition and tank removal before being able to start the Brownfield Program.
"It's time to look at cleaning it up," Mayor Kurt Reicks strongly suggested adding that the city couldn't afford to do it all on their own.
Councilman Bob Maust noted the city had been in violation of the state by still having the POP tanks. He suggested the city give up the property to the state, saying, "They have deeper pockets than us."
He continued to express concern that the city would have to pay to remove the tanks and taxpayers would have to wait for future redevelopment to get their assessments back.
"We have lots of other projects that need work," he stated.
Enerson warned Maust that the longer the properties stayed dilapidated, the more risks the city would take in safety and in attracting future business development around the parcels.
Maust said the city had only invested in dilapidated housing up to that point and contaminated commercial property was more concerning.
Councilman Dave Collett asked what the best and worse case scenarios would be.
Reicks responded the best case scenario would be to clean up the property and the worst case would be to let them sit there and stay contaminated. He asked Enerson if there was still a petroleum cleanup fund at the state level.
Enerson said there was, but it wouldn't pay for tank removal. If the city bought the property, they would have one year to remove the tanks.
Reicks said it would be a good investment for the city, noting the residential parcel had, "the worst looking building in downtown."
City Administrator Joe Hoffman said the city's track record with redevelopment had proven successful.
It was recognized by both Enerson and the council that there were several unknowns involved with the process and future costs after purchasing the properties.
"We know it's going to cost something. We can spend some money now, so we can redevelop in the future," stated Reicks. He brought up the possibility of there being contamination.
Collett asked Enerson about the green space, saying he didn't want another park in the city. Enerson said they would not be treated as parks.
Maust said he did not like the idea of purchasing the POP parcel on Mill Street since it was in the flood plain. He asked if Enerson could renegotiate to purchase the other two properties and see if the city could collect on back taxes from the third.
Upon a directive by the council, Enerson agreed to renegotiate the other two parcels and not pursue the POP parcel if possible.
Several members of the Preston Ambulance Service were on hand to support a request made by Ambulance Director Ryan Throckmorton for new equipment. He presented information on a battery-operated, hydraulic-powered Stryker Power cot and a Lucas 2 CPR device.
Throckmorton mentioned the service had not received any grants to go toward the purchase of the equipment, but were still working on obtaining others. A demonstration of the cot was performed by Stryker EMS representative John Goos and guaranteed the city would see their back injuries halved in a year.
The cot can lift a 700-pound patient and is more functional in tighter spaces. Throckmorton noted that Preston would be one of the last cities in the area to get a power cot. It will cost the city $11,976.
The Lucas 2 CPR device is a hands-free machine which can provide consistent cardiac compressions during a CPR call. Throckmorton showed a video of how the device would be used and said it would improve patient care and staff efficiency. He said it was a goal of the service to have two of each piece of equipment.
The council approved the purchases with Maust adding, "Is there any reason why we shouldn't buy it?"
In other business, the council handled the following issues.
John Goutcher and Andy Bisek of the Preston Lions Club formally presented a proposal to the council in which they would fund part of the expenses derived from new downtown garbage cans. Goutcher had previously met with Hoffman to see if the Lions could, in return, have a Lions logo on the cans stating, "Preston Lions Club - We Serve." Goutcher said a number of Lions were interested in the venture and that it would be brought up at their next club meeting. Each can will cost the city $575. Bisek asked if the cans would be placed on the county square, noting that the county might take them if the city did. Hoffman said they would be placed in other locations.
Hoffman reported on an issue dealing with water leaking into the council room. Several times, almost a third of the carpet has been wet. Hoffman said Public Works Director Jim Bakken had done some digging on the east side of the city hall building and found a likely cause of the problem. He discovered below the curb and grass lines is about two or three more feet of brick wall. Hoffman said the water was likely leaching through the brick. He proposed the city put in concrete in the landscaped area just north of the stairs to the library, saying it was unfortunate that a beautiful part of the landscape would have to go. "We don't want to keep showing up here," Hoffman said of the chambers which had been remodeled only 10 months before.
The council approved the purchase of a new electronic records management system for the police department. The county had recently switched over to the Law Enforcement Technology Group (LETG) and Hoffman said the system would be hosted by the county. The city had approved $2,000 in 2010 toward a new system, but hadn't made any switch. The updated cost was $2,350.99 and will come out of the general fund/reserves. An annual maintenance fee of roughly $450 will be budgeted in the future.
The council approved gambling licenses for the American Legion Post 166 paddlewheel game on Nov. 23 and the V.F.W. Post 6893 bingo games.