On the eve of Parks and Trails Day at the State Capitol, where National Trout Center representatives would have an opportunity to lobby for their 2014 bonding bill request, the Preston City Council again gave its consent to be the fiscal agent for the organization. The decision was reached, with mixed responses from individual council members, voiced during its Monday night meeting on March 3.

Discussion commenced when an update was proposed to a resolution which had marked the city's intention to act as the National Trout Center (NTC) fiscal agent should the state approve the project. Included in the original resolution was an understanding that the city would receive state appropriations and would construct the modern facility along the Root River, south of downtown. The city would then own the facility. The original resolution had been approved March 19, 2012, by a unanimous vote.

The proposed changes to the resolution related only to language explaining the positive impact the NTC project would have on Preston and the region.

Councilman Robert Maust asked City Administrator Joe Hoffman if the project would be a liability to the city and affect future bonding opportunities if the current proposal fell through and the city's name was on it.

Hoffman explained the city would not be responsible since the bonds would be paid out by the state and not the city. Maust clarified his question and asked what obligations the city would be under. Hoffman said the city would purchase the property, demolish the site, and build the new home for the NTC, entering into a lease agreement with the organization. Asked about the worst-case scenario, Hoffman said if the NTC dissolved in 10 years, the city would be left with a facility to maintain.

That statement prompted an observation by Maust that the NTC currently had no real access to funds for a new facility's operation costs. Mayor Kurt Reicks recognized the issue saying the NTC didn't know exactly where that money would come from.

Maust pointed out the city didn't know what sort of donations and pledges the NTC had received within the past two months. "Aren't they going to have to show the state how they will maintain it?" he asked, adding that he didn't think the project would secure money from the state if the NTC didn't have a continued operations plan.

Maust voiced his concern that the city could be left with operating a facility it could not afford.

Councilman David Harrison reminded the council that the more city support the NTC received, the more likely it would secure funding. "I don't think it's a bad idea," stated Maust, while noting the fiscal problems it could present. "They have a big fund-raising issue."

Reicks explained he felt if the NTC could show people that a facility was going to be built for sure, that the public would respond more to their fundraising requests. "This is a way forward," he stated, referring to the resolution still on the table.

Maust reiterated his concern about having the city be the fiscal agent adding, "I'd like to see real numbers."

The vote was taken with Reicks, Charles Sparks and Harrison voting for the adoption of the resolution and David Collett and Maust voting against adoption. The resolution passed.

Other news

Public Works director Jim Bakken received approval to have repairs done on the street sweeper. He detailed the known issues with it and said little maintenance had needed to be done on it in the six years the city has had it. The repairs could cost upward of $7,000, but Bakken said he didn't think final costs would be that high.

The council approved the advertising for a summer helper position. The position has normally been filled by a high school student on summer break as the duties last during the summer months. General maintenance work is included in the job description and payroll has been around $5,000 in years past.

Hoffman informed the council that the no-parking zone along North Street by the post office was determined to be unusable by the Department of Vehicle Safety for motorcycle testing. He said the city would need to decide at a future council meeting whether or not to lift the parking restrictions there, which are currently Fridays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Hoffman and Harrison had attended the League of Minnesota Cities Legislative Conference on Feb. 26 and 27 and informed the council on the meetings and conference they had attended. Topics included sales tax exemptions, street improvement districts, and alternative publication options. They also met with Rep. Greg Davids and Senator Jeremy Miller.

Finally, upcoming meetings were noted to be regular council meetings on March 17 and April 7 with special meetings on March 31 for an annexation hearing and April 9 for a TIF District hearing.