The Preston City Council, meeting Jan. 22 due to the holiday on Jan. 21, heard from City Public Works Director Jim Bakken about future improvements for CSAH (county state aid highway) 17, also known as St. Paul Street, from Fillmore Street to the south bridge.

Bakken told council members that rock, brick, sand and concrete were found under the bituminous. "What we are looking at now is a mill and overlay, to be completed by mid-summer, July or August."

The county will pay a portion of the cost of the project, including the mill and overlay.

He shared that the good news is the utilities under the street are "good." There are a couple of issues with storm water catch basins that will need to be replaced. The cost Bakken estimated to fix them would be $5,000.

The city will also need to replace curb along the street, which has pieces broken off in several locations. This would be the city's responsibility. Bakken said anywhere from 300 to 400 feet of curb would need to be replaced at an estimated cost of $10,000.

It was discussed how concrete would be needed to abut the brick portion of Main Street to support it where it meets St. Paul Street. It was discussed how crosswalks could be made of concrete in this area and stamped with a brick pattern like at other intersections in downtown.

Sidewalks, located near the south side of the street by the bridge, will also need to be replaced. Bakken estimated this to cost $5,000.

City Administrator Joe Hoffman said they would plan to hold off on the project until Trout Days was over. He noted no action would need to be taken during the meeting but information was shared to make council members aware.

"It's a process," Bakken said. "Over the next few months we will find out more."

Hoffman said he wanted to make the council aware that by milling the bituminous off, some of the brick under St. Paul Street would have to be milled into, but for the most part won't be disturbed.

He noted the city is "fortunate the utilities are in good shape."

Bakken estimated the total project cost for the city of Preston to be about $20,000, which included the improvements discussed previously.

Pay equity

It was noted city staff had completed the 2013 report for the state that will show the city is in compliance with pay equity for men and women.

This report must be submitted every three years. Hoffman noted the City/Utilities appear to be in compliance.

Hoffman said the city wants to make sure it doesn't have more females under paid than males, which the report showed there were more males than females. This was determined by assigning points to each position based upon how it compares with various positions with the state government, called the "State Job Match" system, which was implemented in 2010 by the city of Preston.

The administrator added that the city has "eliminated any concerns about pay equity when the step scale was implemented."

The council approved the report so it could be submitted to the state.

Other business

• Council members discussed Preston's partnering with Semcac for a small cities block grant for acquiring and rehabbing the Vesterheim apartments and 15 residential rehabs. Four-hundred and fifty surveys went out in the mail to all owner-occupied residences within city limits. The survey will ask owners the condition and other characteristics of their home. The seven-year deferred loan to qualifying property owners would be at zero-percent interest. The max loan amount for each property is $22,000. Hoffman said a public hearing is set for Feb. 4, during the next council meeting at city hall where more information would be shared.

• The council approved submitting a letter of support from the city of Preston to its legislators and one to the White House administration, about the need to keep the tax exemption for municipal bonds. Hoffman said that as part of ongoing fiscal cliff negotiation, there are rumors that congress and the administration may get rid of this exemption. The city and taxpayers would be responsible for the new cost in financing.

• Ambulance write-offs were approved for 2011 and 2012. The total write-offs for 2012 were $30,643.60 and $9,950.63 for 2011. It was noted that writing these off doesn't forgive the debt, because the city can continue to pursue collection. "It is simply an accounting acknowledgement that we are unlikely to collect," Hoffman said.

• Hoffman noted three long-serving volunteers on the Trout Days committee have decided to step down. The committee is "in desperate need of volunteers to step up," he said. A president, secretary, treasurer and someone to coordinate the annual parade are needed. A meeting will be held Wednesday, Jan. 30, at 6 p.m. at city hall for those interested. "Spread the word," Hoffman concluded, "Encourage people to step up and help out."