Preston City Council holds hearing for proposed street, utility improvement project

Melissa Vander Plas

The Preston City Council hosted a public hearing on Monday, July 1, for the purpose of presenting information regarding a proposed street and utility improvement project to the property owners affected by the project.

Residents living on three of four streets being improved later this fall gathered in the City Council chambers on Monday, July 1, as city engineer Brett Grabau outlined the scope of the project, explained its timeline and the costs associated with the areas undergoing improvements.

Grabau noted that of the four areas being addressed this summer, only three will be subject to assessments as the fourth street, Washington, from Oak to Hillside, is a simple mill and overlay, which is considered a maintenance project rather than reconstruction.

The proposed improvement areas which are assessable include Chatfield Avenue, Cottage Grove Avenue SE and Fillmore Place SE.

The proposed improvements for Chatfield Avenue include no sanitary sewer, water main or storm sewer improvements. However, the roadway within the proposed assessable project will be improved with the installation of a concrete valley gutter to convey surface drainage from the north curb line to the south curb line, located just east of Winona Street.

Grabau explained the existing concrete curb and gutter will receive spot replacements. The existing bituminous pavement will be removed and the existing aggregate base will be shaped and compacted and a new bituminous surface will be constructed throughout the corridor.

The two existing pedestrian curb ramps, crossing this street at the south school entrance, will be replaced to be ADA compliant.

“From St. Paul to Winona is in pretty decent condition,” Grabau had told the council at the May 20 meeting. “There are some deficient curbs and we propose to replace them.”

On Cottage Grove Avenue, there are also no utility improvements planned except for fixing some drainage issues, Grabau explained. These would include some minor ditch grading and adding a centerline culvert to convey drainage from the south to the north.

The street improvements on Cottage Grove Avenue consist of the existing aggregate roadway being completely reconstructed with a new roadway section, including bituminous surfacing and minimal bituminous curb.

“Cottage Grove takes a beating in the spring,” Grabau noted at the May meeting. “So, we are planning for total reconstruction for a portion, but some will still be gravel, but we will reshape and regrade the last part.”

On Fillmore Place Southeast, no sanitary sewer or water main improvements are proposed for this improvement area, however, drainage improvements are also being proposed. Grabau said there would be some concrete curb and gutter installed as well as some minor storm sewer improvements such as an area drain and catch basin to move drainage from the west to the east.

On Fillmore Place, the existing bituminous roadway will be widened to better match existing pavement widths to the north and south of the project corridor. Concrete curb and gutter is proposed to be constructed along a 210-foot section on the west side of the roadway between the Fillmore County Development Achievement Center (DAC) driveway access points to control the surface drainage. The entire area will receive a new bituminous pavement surface.

“Fillmore Place, between DAC and Park Lane, is a roadway that is very quickly deteriorating,” Grabau said. “A lot of that issue is drainage related. There’s no ditch section on the west side of the road, no curb and gutter – so water shoots across the road, saturating it and creates a big mess.”

Once the scope of the project was explained, Grabau then went on to explain the estimated project costs.

The Chatfield Avenue portion is estimated to cost $94,324.50; Cottage Grove is projected to cost $89,056.38; and the estimate for Fillmore Place is $106,588.90, for a  total project cost of $289,969.78.

Based on the city’s assessment policy, about 40 percent of the street reconstruction project will be assessed to adjacent property owners. Each assessment will be based on the lineal feet of frontage of each property.

Grabau had estimated assessments for anyone who would be interested in knowing how the project would impact them. The city assessment would be applied to the property owners’ taxes and spread out over several years with a small interest rate. Individuals could also opt to pay the entire assessment upfront as well.

Final assessments, however, would not be determined until the project was completed and exact project costs were applied. Once those things occurred, a final assessment hearing will be held.

Grabau stated the construction is expected to begin in September and be completed by the end of the year. He stated he feels the project can be done in a relatively short period of time.

Once the public hearing concluded, the City Council reopened its meeting and then approved pursuing the proposed project, ordering the preparation of plans and specifications for the outlined street and utility improvements.

Grabua noted he would return to the next council meeting to present those plans and then once those were approved the city would advertise for bids on the project.

Flood 0rdinance

Following the conclusion of the public hearing for the street and utility project, the council addressed the flood ordinances. City Clerk Joe Hoffman explained that flood insurance is only available to property owners in cities or counties that have adopted a proper floodplain ordinance.

He explained, for nearly 10 years, FEMA has been working on revisions to the 1994 foodplain maps for the city. The new maps are now finalized and will become effective on Aug. 15.

In order for the community to remain in the National Flood Insurance Program, Hoffman said, the city must amend its floodplain ordinance to reference the new maps before the effective date of the new maps.

Hoffman also explained that the Minnesota DNR is also requiring several other revisions to the flood ordinance. He said Preston’s planning and zoning committee has discussed the revisions, held a public hearing on June 26, and ultimately recommends the approval of the revised ordinance.

“The council is not obligated to make the changes, but the city residents would no longer be able to purchase flood insurance if the council does not adopt the new ordinance,” Hoffman said.

As he reviewed the old and new maps of the floodplain and the floodway, he told the council that the two maps appear to be nearly identical. The new maps are highly accurate and highly detailed, he added.

He also noted there are two flood zones in the community, the first is the floodplain and the second is the floodway – which is where the water has the potential to move with more velocity. Building within the floodway is restricted to anything bigger than a doghouse, Hoffman said, and improvements within the floodplain are limited to half the value of the property.

The council approved the new ordinance and approved publishing a summary of the ordinance, highlighting some of the changes made to the ordinance.

Trout City Brewing

Andy Bisek, owner of Trout City Brewing, approached the council with a request that the liquor license for his establishment be prorated for the remaining six months of the year. He noted he and his wife, Anita, hope to open their brewery by the end of July.

The council had approved the license at a previous meeting, at an annual fee of $950.

The council agreed to the Biseks’ request.

Tort limits

Hoffman and the council discussed insurance coverage for the city of Preston and whether or not the city wanted to waive the tort limits in place.

Hoffman explained that most cities in Minnesota, as does Preston, purchases property, liability and workers comp insurance through the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT). The city also has the option to waive the monetary limits on municipal tort liability. The state gives cities special protection, saying cities, employees and council members cannot be found liable for more than $500,000 per claimant and $1.5 million per occurrence.

“Our insurance provides coverage up to these limits,” Hoffman wrote in a memo to the council. “Cities do have the option to waive this protection. The city has not waived the tort limits in previous years.”

The council decided to continue its past practice of keeping the limits in place.