Biggest reason for increase is loss of LGA funding
By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN At its meeting Sept. 15, the Delano City Council approved a 16.5 percent tax levy increase for next year compared to this year’s final levy.
The preliminary levy was set at $2,388,101, compared to last year’s final levy of $2,049,317. Delano City Administrator Phil Kern said the preliminary reason for the increase is the loss of Local Government Aid (LGA) funding.
“Almost half of that increase is recovering lost state aids,” Kern said, adding that amount is $212,851. The second chunk of the increase is the Highway 12/Bridge Avenue project.
Kern also said the preliminary budget shows expenditures increasing by 6.2 percent.
“We do not anticipate this to be the final number, though,” Kern said about the expenditure increase, adding that the city expects that number to go down before the final budget is approved in December.
“In between now and December, the city can work on reducing that, and doesn’t approve the final levy until December that December levy can be less than this, but can’t be more than this,” Kern said.
The opportunity to reduce that number would simply be whether or not the city digs into its reserves to offset the loss of state aid, Kern explained, noting lack of growth and stalled development means that revenues aren’t there and that reserves have taken the brunt of the last two years of the economic downturn.
“It will be a difficult process,” he said.
The council approved the 2010 preliminary tax levy, and set the Truth in Taxation hearing date for Tuesday, Dec. 1 at 6 p.m. at the Delano City Hall, with the final levy expected to be adopted Tuesday, Dec. 15 during the regular city council meeting.
Delano’s city park to be wireless ‘hotspot’
The council decided on the city park as a wireless “hotspot” as part of its contract with Frontier.
The city council last considered wireless hotspot locations at its Aug. 4 meeting, according to a memo to the council from Luke Fischer, assistant to the city administrator.
At that time, city staff presented two placement options that seemed to be the most feasible considering the rather difficult technical challenges of the router.
The first thing that the router needs is access to a phone line and power. This limits the placement options within the city parks and other public properties, according to Fischer. The router’s range is also reported to be significantly smaller than originally conveyed to staff.
In early meetings, Frontier said that the router’s range would be approximately 300 to 500 feet. In actuality, the range is significantly less in optimal conditions reaching a maximum of 250 feet.
Due to the much smaller range than anticipated and the obvious obstructions of buildings, staff recommended placing the router at Central Park.
Discussion took place by the council about the location of the router, with some questioning the use of the hotspot at the park during the winter months.
“I’d prefer it downtown,” Council Member Betsy Stolfa said. It was noted having it downtown may be an incentive for a business to locate there.
Further discussion took place about the signal, with the odds of it reaching far enough to be of value to a potential new business not likely. The council then took action to locate the hotspot at Central Park.
Former ‘Daily Grinde’ site study sent to MPCA
The council approved the submittal of a limited site investigation done by Mark Millsop and Associates of the former Daily Grinde site on Highway 12 to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
Last year, MPCA notified the City of Delano that it would need to conduct a Limited Site Investigation (LSI) on the Daily Grinde property, according to a memo to the city council from Fischer.
The city acquired the property as part of Highway 12 construction and demolished the structure. The LSI was triggered because of two underground storage tanks found at the site.
Millsop’s report identified a number of pollutants found at the site, according to the memo. The levels of contamination were identified as being “above action level,” meaning the city would be required to further monitor the site to ensure the contaminants are not infiltrating the water supply of the Crow River.
Fischer said while city staff understands the importance of sound environmental stewardship, there have been some objections to the ultimate recommendations included in Millsop’s report.
He said the city fully acknowledges there are pollutants in the ground, but would prefer to request a waiver from the MPCA due to the limited effect and risk this site poses to neighboring properties.
After conversations with the city’s engineer, staff recommends that the city attempt to work with the MPCA to identify the action steps that are most appropriate for the overall geography of the site. The council authorized the submittal of Millsop’s report with a cover letter from the city engineer outlining staff objections to the next course of action identified in the report.
While the city may be required to engage in further monitoring in the future, there is also a possibility the city could be waived of this responsibility and the case essentially closed. Fischer said while there is no guarantee that this will be successful, city staff believes it could result in reduced site monitoring.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• approved a request from Ben Moonen with West Edge Properties to rezone properties located at 318 and 328 Railroad Avenue from a central business district to business warehousing district.
• tabled a request from the City of Delano and Bauer Design Build on behalf of Jeff and Kevin Shrode for permits relating to the relocation of LeLand and Sons Auto, and extended the review period 120 days.
Kern said negotiations have stalled, and a court process is beginning to determine how much the city owes the Shrodes for taking the property as part of flood prevention efforts through a grant it received.
• appointed Debbie DeBeer to the Delano Historical Preservation Advisory Committee, which has been operating with only six of its required members for 2009.
DeBeer, who has a Montrose address, is a member of the historical society, has been attending the preservation committee meetings, and participating in discussions and activities.
The bylaws adopted by the city council in June 2004 for the committee state that a majority of the membership may be from the historical society. Presently, all six members of the committee are members of the society.
• accepted the bid and awarded the competitive sale of $770,000 general obligation street reconstruction bonds.
• directed city staff to research and prepare paperwork that would place a moratorium on computerized message boards until standards can be set by the city for such signs.
• postponed a presentation on “Neighbors Strengthening Wright Communities” to a later date.