Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, November 16, 1998

LP council: comprehensive plan, street lights, assessments


Lester Prairie City Council spent a wintry evening debating new vs. used street lights, comprehensive planning, and assessments last Monday.

The meeting was the scene of some stormy words between business leaders, current and future council members, and citizens.

First on the agenda was consideration of the comprehensive plan and the Lester Prairie Planning Commission. Mayor Ed Mlynar suggested that planning should include representatives from the surrounding townships.

As of now, the commission members must be made up of Lester Prairie citizens. Council member Kay Jepson insisted that the commission would work closely with all members of the community.

Jepson also maintained that the makeup of the commission was an old issue, and that city council support for the comprehensive plan has not been forthcoming.

She charged that recommendations from planning commissions had and would not be taken seriously.

Council Member Stan Ehrke countered that the commitment of $6,000 in funds was a significant show of support for the comprehensive plan, and questioned what was done at the first meeting.

Jepson replied by reading a draft of procedures. Action on the ordinance was left for the new city council.

Street lights

Also discussed was the purchase of new street lamps for the city. The affordable choices, according to the council, were two types of lamps, one refurbished and the other new.

The refurbished lights would include poles donated by three area businesses: Jerry's Transmission Service, Inc., Fred Holasek and Son Greenhouse, and Angvall Hardware and Mercantile.

Jerry Pawelk, representing the three, felt that action on this issue had taken too long and the maintenance fee of $780 was set too high for the refurbished poles.

This fee was produced by Council member Galen Hochstein, who insisted that the number was taken from an estimate which he had done by an electrician. Both poles were estimated to be about $19,000.

Ehrke felt that buying refurbished poles would be a mistake, since parts would be hard to find.

Pawelk disagreed, and also noted that the council was "judging a pole before (they) see a pole."

The council decided that used poles would need to be replaced sooner, and opted for the new poles. More research will be done to establish exact costs for the next meeting.

Funding became an issue because a promised donation of $3,000 from the business community was not secured. The council had planned for $5,000 to be budgeted in 1999 and 2000.

No decision has been made on whether funding will come from more donations, leasing, or the city's maintenance fund.

A tale of two assessments

Both Debra Bahr and Bethel Lutheran Church brought complaints of mis-assessment to the council. Both complaints were a result of the recent street milling and overlay project, the biggest assessment since 1988.

Bahr said that since her lot was on a corner, she should not be assessed twice for each street, particularly since she had been assessed 10 years ago for one side, and that she had received verbal assurance from the city that she would not be charged again.

Bethel Lutheran Church argued that it was under the same impression, and the church was being assessed for a street which they did not have access to or benefit from.

The council diverged in each case, assessing Bahr for the full amount because her previous assessment was for street creation, not just maintenance. The council rescinded Bethel's assessment for Central Avenue.

Bahr was visibly upset while the representatives from Bethel thanked the council. The audience voiced criticism on the decision questioning the council's consistency.

Jerry Pawelk said, "I feel sorry for these people."

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