The Lanesboro City Council dealt with a couple items relating to trees in Sylvan Park at its most recent meeting on Tuesday evening, Sept. 3.

Street and Park Superintendent Andy Drake reported that many ash trees in the park have continued to die in stages. The city had trimmed all the trees, but Drake said most had shown further deterioration. A major concern for the city is the emerald ash borer insect, which has not been found in the park yet, but is expected to inevitably arrive and lead to further ash tree destruction.

Drake said problems with dying trees aren't just in the park, but throughout the city. He asked the council if it would prefer to continue to trim the trees or dispose of them. The city had cut down 15 ash trees last year.

Mayor Steve Rahn suggested the city remove them if their condition was worsening.

Councilmember Tom Smith said the city could figure out how many trees needed to be removed and then budget for their removal next year.

Drake said there were around 35 ash trees in the park and reminded the council there would be more trees being planted through the David Drake Memorial Fund.

Councilmember Ceil Allen said it didn't make sense to keep trimming the trees that will need to be removed soon.

Drake was advised to determine which trees in the park should be removed this year and which ones should be removed in coming years.

"We don't want to take out all the trees," Drake shared.

Councilmember Tom Dybing told Drake to have conversations with property owners and discuss action on trimming or removing trees throughout the city. He agreed with Drake stating that the city wouldn't want to take all the trees down in town.

Later in the meeting, the council discussed how it should spend the money in the David Drake Memorial Fund for more trees. Two options were presented. The city could pay for the planting of nine purchased trees or purchase six trees and use the memorial fund monies to offset the costs of planting. The tree types are yet to be determined, but should cost between $290 and $325 per tree.

Trees are being purchased through Winona Nursery, are 18-feet high, and come with a two-year warranty.

Additional costs would come from cypress mulch bags and tree gator watering bags if the city has none they can use. The memorial fund has $3,070 in it.

Dybing recommended the city purchase nine trees and come up with the money for planting through other means. "The park is important to the city," he stressed.

The council approved the purchase of nine trees and discussed the possibility of using stump removal funds to pay for the planting.

In other related news, the park board had discussed what they should spend moneys received from the Rochester Area Foundation. The city has received $75,000 to date and will receive a total of $102,287, all earmarked for playground equipment.

The Park Board meeting on Aug. 6 had also considered a request for installing a sandbox in the park. The landscaping around the gazebo will cost around $3,500.

2014 Tax Levy

City Administrator David Todd reported that the city, upon approval of its 2014 proposed tax levy, would be in the lower third of Fillmore County cities for budget monies from the operational levy.

However, he noted, insurance costs would be going up with the Affordable Care Act. by almost $20,000.

The police contract with Preston also showed an eight percent increase.

"This is getting out of line," stated Smith stating further that the city would come to a point where they would have to choose between police protection and good streets.

The city's 2014 budgeted expenditures shows a $107,100 cost in police coverage and $254,884 in street repairs.

"People aren't going to like seeing their city taxes go up," he said.

Todd said street repairs have been in a majority of complaints. Balancing those repairs with what Todd said was a priority of building up reserves will be an issue the city faces in 2014.

"There isn't anything in the proposed budget that is a wish list item. They are all operational," said Todd.

The total 2014 tax levy was approved at $503,747. This means the tax rate is at 99.4 percent of the estimated 2014 taxable tax base. Last year's tax rate was at roughly 86 percent of the taxable tax base.

The levy increase will be reflected in the residential and commercial tax collections. Residential taxes per $100,000 will increase from $861 to $994 and commercial taxes per $350,000 will increase from $5,384 to $6,210.

Revenue and expenditures were estimated at $694,991. The city is expecting an increase of $6,000 from local government aid to result in a $210,284 certified LGA.

Ambulance

Lee Peterson was approved to assume the duties of a part-time ambulance director. Peterson will be paid $22,000 per year for 20 hours a week. The position will come with PERA benefits and paid time off, but no "run" pay, "on call" pay or pay for attending trainings.

Todd stated his thanks for Peterson stepping forward saying, "He helped us out just as much as we helped him."

Peterson also reported the Lanesboro EMS as being on a "high" as they have 20 staff members and another completing the class.

He received the approval of the council to use the bass pond parking lot on Oct. 5 for a Certification of Operation of Emergency Vehicle class.

Lanesboro dam

Todd reported that the State Capital Improvement Project Committee would not be stopping in Lanesboro to visit the dam. In order to ensure the city's dam project is on the radar for the 2014 bonding bill, Todd said he would be going to Winona State University on Oct. 10 to make a presentation to the committee regarding the public's perception of the dam and to answer any questions.

Dybing mentioned that although the committee did not stop in as part of their statewide tour, some of the committee members had already seen the dam and understand what the city is looking for.

Other business

In other matters, the council discussed the following issues.

• Todd had met with representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and toured all areas that had been damaged from the June 23 flash flood event. He said everything moved forward as planned and FEMA didn't see any problems in their requests for damage assistance funding.

• A blacktop proposal for the end of Whittier Street West was approved by the council for an estimated $2,700. The end of the street had washed several times and the city would normally patch it. The city will pay for the blacktop out of their reserves.

• An estimated 230 more people will be in town on Sept. 12 and 13 for the Preserve Minnesota 2013 Historic Preservation Conference. It is the state's largest gathering of its historic preservation community.

• The city's Truth in Taxation meeting will be held Dec. 2 at 5 p.m., prior to their regular city council meeting.

• The next city council meeting is Oct. 7, at 5:30 p.m.