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Lester Prairie Council rejects proposal to increase park levy by $22,000
Aug. 9, 2010
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By Ivan Raconteur
Editor

LESTER PRAIRIE, MN – Lester Prairie City Council remained firm in its resolve to limit budget increases, rejecting a proposal from the park board that would have resulted in a $22,000 levy increase.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, Council Member Bob Messer said the park board’s intention was to start discussions on a two-to three-year process to get the lights at the football field fixed.

Messer said the lights are more than 40 years old, and in need of repair. None of the lights meet state high school league standards.

The total cost of replacing the lights is $60,000.

The new line items in the park board’s budget proposal included:

• $2,200 for the park department’s portion of mosquito control (the council made this a separate line item in the general fund);

• $6,000 for repair of park fences;

• $12,000 for park lights.

City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk said if the council were to approve a $22,000 levy increase for the park board, the employees who are department heads for other city departments would submit revised budgets requesting increases for their departments.

“We do not want to get into elementary-school thinking,” Mayor Andy Heimerl replied.

Pawelk said the other departments operate 12 months of the year, while the parks department only operates during part of the year.

The council directed Messer to ask the park board to review the proposed budget and make cuts prior to the Monday, Aug. 23 budget meeting (7 p.m. at city hall).

Street turnback projects discussed

City Engineer Jake Saulsbury said he, Pawelk, and Heimerl met with McLeod County Engineer John Brunkhorst, Assistant County Engineer Chad Hausmann, and McLeod County Commissioner Ray Bayerl to discuss possible road turnback projects.

Based on that meeting, Saulsbury drafted a letter to the county on behalf of the city outlining what the city would want in exchange for accepting the turnback of a portion of County Road 23 from the county.

The section in question includes Pine Street North from Central Avenue to First Avenue North and First Avenue North from Pine Street to McLeod County Road 1.

Because this road is in relatively good condition, the city is requesting that the county pay for repairs in other parts of the city as compensation for the city considering acceptance of the turnback.

This includes improvements on County Road 78 (Pine Street and Second Avenue South), with an estimated cost to the county of $1,892,000, and a cost to the city of $237,000.

The request also includes repairs to County Road 23 (Pine Street North and First Avenue North), with a county cost of $115,000, and a city cost of $26,000.

Work on these improvements would be completed in stages from 2012 to 2014.

As a separate project, the city is asking for written confirmation that the county is planning to overlay Central Avenue in 2011. If the county is planning to do this, the city may wish to complete utility upgrades on this street in the spring, in order to avoid having to tear up the street after it has been overlaid.

The council approved the draft of the letter and authorized Pawelk to send it to the county.

Sidewalk policy clarified

Pawelk said she had not sent letters to local business owners about the new sidewalk policy approved at the last council meeting, because she was still confused about the council’s intentions.

The council clarified the policy, stating that a 4-foot clearance must be maintained on downtown sidewalks for pedestrian traffic, no explosive materials may be stored on sidewalks, and light poles and street signs are exempt.

Pawelk will send letters to business owners explaining the policy.

Dugouts replacement decision delayed

The council discussed a proposal to replace the dugouts at the baseball field.

Replacement cost is estimated at $7,228.

Two bids were received for removing and disposing of the existing dugouts, one for $1,600, and the other for $1,000.

Council Member Ron Foust said the dugouts can be repaired, and do not need to be replaced.

Messer replied that the blocks are decaying and crumbling, and being pushed in.

Pawelk said the money for replacing the dugouts is not included in the current budget.

Heimerl said there is money in the cash balance to complete the project.

Heimerl added that the only funds that have been earmarked in the past from the park budget were for fence repairs. He said the lighting was not mentioned, and the money is not there. The only way to get unspent money from the budget earmarked at the end of the year, Heimerl said, is for the park board to go to Pawelk and request it.

The council tabled the discussion about the dugouts until the park board can collect more information about possible grants to help pay for the project.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• approved a mosquito spraying contract for 2011 at a cost of $7,000.

• authorized the Lester Prairie Police Department to participate in a driver awareness program conducted by the McLeod County Sheriff’s Department.

• rescheduled the Tuesday, Aug. 24 council meeting to Monday, Aug. 23 at 7 p.m.

• directed the park board to have some bleachers inspected to see if they are up to code before the city accepts them from the school district.

• discussed repair of storm sewer catch basins in the Prairie Ridge development at an estimated cost of $12,325, and sediment repair at an estimated cost of $30,000. The council directed Pawelk to send a letter to the developer asking him to share the cost of repairs.

• directed Pawelk to contact Waste Management to get the cost of a fall cleanup event after the citywide garage sale day in September.

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