By Ivan Raconteur
Lester Prairie, MN If the agenda for the Tuesday, Oct. 12 Lester Prairie City Council meeting gives one a powerful sense of déjà vu, it is not without reason.
Some of the topics listed on the agenda have been discussed during several recent council meetings.
Some of these have reached the point where the council will need to make a final decision.
The first items up for consideration by the council are a proposed water treatment facility and water main looping project along McLeod County Road 9.
The council began discussing these items two years ago.
City engineer Jake Saulsbury provided an update on the projects during the Sept. 14 council meeting.
Both projects would be financed through the Public Facilities Authority (PFA).
The city’s water contains elevated levels of iron and manganese that exceed recommended levels for these contaminants.
The high iron and manganese levels contribute to discolored water, stained laundry, plumbing fixture erosion, potential odors, and less-efficient water softener operation, according to Saulsbury.
In 2009, the city council authorized preparation of plans for a possible water treatment facility.
The proposed water main looping project would involve installing 12-inch water mains to the East Park Estates and Prairie Ridge developments to increase capacity, and improve system reliability and fire flow capacity. Each of these developments is served by only a single water main.
These plans were submitted to the PFA to be placed on the project priority list.
The project scored five points, and in August 2009, the PFA announced funding was available for all projects scoring five or more points.
The council chose not to pursue the plan as a 2010 project.
In April, the council authorized Saulsbury to submit the treatment plant and the water main looping project to the PFA.
In August, the PFA scored the treatment facility at five points, and the looping project at seven points, meaning both would qualify for financing.
Primary funding would come from a 20-year low interest loan. Rates are typically about 2 percent, and in some cases, have been even lower, according to Saulsbury.
Saulsbury said based on recent history, it is likely that a PFA low-interest loan will not be available in the near future, so if the city does not proceed at this time, it risks not getting the financing.
A 20-year PFA bond for the $1.25 million project would result in an estimated annual payment of $76,477, according to Saulsbury. This would be an annual savings of $23,857, compared to a traditional water revenue bond, and a savings of $477,147 over the life of the bond.
If the city proceeds with both the water treatment facility and the water main looping project, this would result in an estimated annual payment of $94,793, and a total savings of $591,662 over the life of the bond, compared to a traditional water revenue bond.
Saulsbury said if approved, construction would begin next spring. However, in order to allow time for Saulsbury to obtain survey and soil-boring information prior to the first frost or snow, the council would need to authorize the project to proceed no later than Monday, Nov. 1. Since the council meets only once per month, the council will have to make a decision during Tuesday’s council meeting.
If the council moves forward with either or both of these projects, the first payment would not be due until 2012.
Sidewalk displays to be discussed
Discussion of sidewalk merchandise displays is another topic that is back on the agenda for tomorrow.
The council began discussing this in June.
Mayor Andy Heimerl introduced the subject, noting that he had received complaints from residents about pallets of merchandise displayed in front of downtown stores blocking the sidewalks.
The subject was revisited during subsequent meetings throughout the summer.
The council approved an ordinance amendment allowing merchandise to be displayed in front of the businesses, as long as a 4-foot walkway is maintained.
However, the amendment also prohibited the display of “explosive materials,” and the council told Eric Angvall, owner of Angvall Hardware & Mercantile, that he would have to move the display of propane cylinders from the front of his store.
Angvall appeared at the Sept. 14 meeting and questioned the decision.
He stated that propane cylinders were not part of the earlier discussions, take up less space than other merchandise, and meet the 4-foot walkway requirement.
Angvall said he contacted the fire chief, the state fire marshal, and his insurance company, and none of them expressed any safety concerns with the display.
Angvall also said he had collected about 80 signatures from customers who did not object to the display.
The council did not change its position, except to allow Angvall extra time to comply with the ordinance. A deadline of Wednesday, Dec. 1 was established.
However, the subject is back on the agenda for Tuesday.
Corner lot obstructions back on agenda
Another subject that is back on the agenda is corner lot obstructions.
After several discussions over the course of the summer, both during council meetings and at planning commission meetings, the council approved an amendment limiting vision obstructions on corner lots.
Resident Roy Strasmann addressed the council about the amendment.
He said the lilacs that border his property on Elm Street North have been there since the 1950s.
He said he asked the planning commission about the ordinance, and was told there was no problem with his lilacs.
Council Member Larry Hoof, who is also the planning commission liaison, said the intention of the ordinance “was mostly involving things that needed to be moved.”
Lester Prairie Police Officer Mark Thiry said the issue is visibility, and the safety of motorists, pedestrians, and emergency vehicles.
In response to Strasmann’s contention that the lilacs had been in place for decades without problems, Thiry replied “The ordinance is the ordinance. We are taking a proactive approach and trying to prevent things from happening.”
“Mr. Strasmann may not have received complaints, but the city has,” Council Member Ron Foust said.
Resident Lee Ortloff said he previously moved the shrubs on his lot back 2 feet, and under the amended ordinance, he is being asked to cut them back 40 feet from the corner.
Heimerl said the city would forward a copy of a letter from the city attorney to Strasmann, and the council would review it again at the next meeting (Tuesday).
Mosquito control to be discussed
The council discussed mosquito control in September, and will consider what to do about mosquito control for 2011 during Tuesday’s meeting.