The Preston Chamber of Commerce submitted a proposal to the city’s tourism board recently in hopes of creating a shared tourism/chamber director position. Since this is a city position it was brought before the Preston City Council during its Monday, July 21, meeting.
The position, which was recently filled by Sarah Wangen, is currently one that pays an hourly wage for 30 hours per week for six months and 15 hours per week for the remaining six months. The chamber proposed the hours be changed to 22.5 hours per week for the entire year and then contract from the city an additional seven and a half hours.
The chamber has agreed to pay quarterly in advance the total annual income of $7,350.
Representing the chamber and tourism board, Holly Zuck told the council, “From the tourism and chamber prospective it’s a win/win, because we will be able to utilize those hours all year. The winter is when we get more of our planning done and by cutting the hours down to 15 we’re really making that difficult for that person.”
“I think Sarah does a good job, but why don’t those people just contract with her? It’d be no different than anybody else who works a second or third job,” asked Robert Maust.
According to Zuck, the chamber is not currently set up to have an employee and it does not believe it would have applicants for a separate position at the seven and a half hours per week.
“Having been president of the chamber now for a couple of years, this is my third year on the board, there’s always enough hours. There’s enough work; there is always something that can be done. I’ve been on a volunteer basis for the last two years and now my term is ending as president. That is where this opportunity came up,” Wangen added.
Councilmember Dave Collett brought up the potential issue of benefits due to the additional number of hours.
City Administrator Joe Hoffman reported the staff is looking into the implications of the changes.
“Under the Affordable Care Act, employers with 50 or more full-time employees need to offer health insurance to employees working 30 hours or more. Based on some new information, our understanding is that ambulance, fire and elected boards do not count as employees.”
Deputy City Clerk Sheila Marzolf is completing the complicated task of determining exactly how many employees Preston has according to these guidelines.
After much discussion, a motion to approve the hour changes and contract with the chamber was approved. Maust voted against the motion.
National Trout Center Board of Directors member George Spangler then approached the council.
“The only thing that I have to add to the previous discussion is the Board of Directors of the National Trout Center (NTC) would be willing to continue the kind of arrangement we’ve had the last couple of years with Kathy Dahl, except limiting that to eight hours a week rather than the 12 that Kathy was at for the last year and a half,” Spangler explained.
They would pay Wangen’s wage from part of the monies given to NTC from the city, monthly, so it would not affect the current budget.
Maust once again asked why the board couldn’t hire Wangen directly.
“The board didn’t discuss that option and hasn’t authorized us to extend that offer to Sarah or anyone else at this time,” Spangler answered. “We understood the budgeting process we’ve used for the last four years with Kathy.”
The motion to accept the contract between the NTC and city for the center’s director failed with Mayor Kurt Reicks and Councilmember Charles Sparks voting to approve while Collett and Maust opposed. Councilmember David Harrison was absent from the meeting.
Comprehensive plan
Molly Patterson-Lundgren of WSB and Associates addressed the council to discuss the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) recommended comprehensive plan.
“We had three workshops and went through different parts of the process, identified strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing the city. From that we created a set of goals and from those goals we determined a plan to try to achieve those goals,” she briefed the council.
In Minnesota, cities outside of the metro area are not required to have a comprehensive, plan but it is recommended. For Preston, this plan will serve as a guideline as a land use plan for future uses with zoning and ordinances.
Councilmember Robert Maust asked to table the motion until the council had more time to review the 48-page plan as P&Z had held the final approval hearing just prior to the council meeting.
Andrew Bunge variance request
The Planning and Zoning Commission also held a public hearing to consider several variance requests for the property owned by Andrew Bunge, located at 313 Center Street NE, where he is proposing to build a two-unit townhouse.
Bunge has requested a setback to the east of two feet, though 20 feet is required, and a north side setback of 12 feet where 20 feet is also required.
The setback begins at the owner’s property line and for this location those lines are deeper into the lot. So, even with the variances, the townhome would actually sit farther off the curbs than the surrounding properties.
Bunge was unable to attend the meeting, but did give written statements to the council.
“It allows for the construction of two living units on a single lot and relative to adjacent property it fits well,” he wrote. “The comprehensive plan encourages new living units relative to the current needs of an aging population that wants less responsibility for a more carefree living arrangement. It is a great location, near the post office, grocery store, bike trail, all of which are very walk-able. The lot needs to be maximized as reasonably as possible.”
Hoffman told the council, “About a half dozen people came to the hearing and asked some very good questions, but in the end no one spoke out in opposition to the project. P&Z recommends approval; they feel the use is consistent to the neighborhood and the setbacks that he is proposing also are consistent with the surrounding properties.”
The council took the recommendation and approved the request.
Weed destruction order
Police Chief Matthew Schultz informed the council about the ongoing compliance issue, regarding the city’s weed ordinance, at 105 Preston Street NW.
“The tenant has made an effort to knock down some of the weeds, but not to the extent that it will solve the issue. He is willing to fix the problem but might not physically be able to,” Schultz revealed.
The owner of the property has been given notice to remove the remaining weeds but as of Friday, July 18, the problem remained unresolved.
Since spraying is the most effective option available for the issue, the council approved the destruction order. If the issue persists for seven days after the order the city will spray the weeds with the cost being charged to the property owner.
Industrial park
The council then moved on to a number of agenda items regarding the new industrial park.
City attorney Dwight Luhmann first explained the site purchase agreement for the Doherty property.
“The EDA entered an option agreement with (the) Dohertys for purchase of up to eight acres and in addition to that Rockney (Moger) himself had entered into a purchase agreement with Dohertys for two acres,” he said.
As part of the agreement Luhmann is currently constructing, he included a condition that Moger would assign the interest for the two acres to the city.
“So the city is looking at potentially buying that two acres under that purchase agreement. I think what would have to happen is you would have to exercise the option on the remaining acres,” Luhmann summarized.
The council agreed and approved the motion.
The council had previously approved the development agreement between the city and Moger that includes the sale of lot one to Moger for the construction of his new building.
City engineer Brett Grabau explained the next step is to approve the site purchase agreement and easement agreement for the drainage pond. The agreement is proposed at 3.66 acres for the pond at $12,000 per acre, which would total $43,920. There would also be a purchase of 1.03 acres for the drainage easement for $5,000 per acre. The total cost of the property will be $49,070.
The council agreed to purchase the land.
With the approval for the land necessary to create the industrial park the council went on to approve the final plat for the property.
Other business
• The council approved the request for a two-hour parking zone in front of 100 Main Street East.
• The resolution to approve the sale of the tax forfeited lots involving the Golfview Estates was passed.
• The existing three-year contract with the Preston Public Employees Association will be expiring at the end of 2014. Collett and Maust were nominated to represent the council on a joint labor committee.
• The council adopted the History Month Proclamation from the Preston Historical Society.
• Finally, the council approved the pay requests for the Twenty-14 project.
The next council meeting will be held on Monday, Aug. 4, at 6 p.m.