city council

Nuisance properties dominate discussion

Residents unhappy with fines and towing

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The Lake Preston City Council met on Mon., June 6 for a regularly scheduled meeting.

The majority of the meeting was discussion with Steve Strande and family regarding a letter and fine that he had received about his property.

Strande was opposing the fine that he had received, stating that pictures sent in were pictures taken over a year ago. He had also been in contact with Tim Austin, the city’s hired code enforcer, and Austin knew the Strandes were getting their property issues resolved. The fine was $200 and would continue with a $100/day penalty until completed.

Mayor Andy Wienk was told that Strande wasn’t getting back to Austin, but Strande claims he and his wife had both talked with him. Strande did not appreciate the fact that “he was the only one that got the letter.”

Wienk stated that letters were sent to 38 individuals who still needed to clean up their property, and several letters were sent threatening fines. Usually, they hear from the individuals or from Austin, giving a date by which the property issue should be resolved.

Strande wanted to know where the notes had gone, because he claims he spoke with Austin twice.

After taking a look at the notes, council member Kristin Longville stated, “I think that the communication between the person we hired to do the code enforcement and his notes need to be a little bit clearer. I know I came in and visited Brenda and requested a meeting with him, and it was turned down. His last note on his properties was April 7, 2022, but if he was back on May 11, why weren’t his notes updated on Strande’s property as well?”

Council member Donna Bumann, over the phone, spoke up saying that the council should request that he make notes on all properties every time he comes to town, whether nothing has happened since the last visit or not.

“My understanding was that certified letters were mailed and not picked up,” stated Bumann. “Is that correct?”

“He gave it to us,” said Shelley Strande.

“When it was mailed, it wasn’t signed for?” asked Wienk, and Strande answered, no.

“Mr. Austin came to my place of employment and handed it to me,” stated Shelley Strande.

On the notes, it says that the property owner was handed a returned certified letter.

Longville questioned what the council is supposed to believe since the two tell different stories, and the notes tell a whole other story.

Wienk stated that the city only sent letters to people who weren’t communicating with Austin.

After conversing and explaining how the ordinance works, discussing how city clean-up has always been a priority and explaining that they hired Austin because this has been years in the making, it was decided that they talk with Austin and determine what to do with the fines at a later date. Hopefully, they will understand it better, and all parties can come discuss it at the same time.

WATER PROJECT

Representatives from Banner Associates were in attendance and gave an update on the water project. They reported that they’ve been staying pretty much on track even with the wet weather and proceeding on schedule.

They brought a pay request in for $486,672.83, bringing the total amount to $1,027,115.88.

An associate wanted to run through the engineering agreement again with the council. Banner Associates awarded the city a funding package.

“The scope of the work is water and sanitary sewer and storm sewer,” he said. “So similar to the scope of the work that it is taking place right now.”

The total project cost was $2.9 million for the sanitary and storm sewer. After the grant that the city was awarded for $2.3 million, the remaining funds were $582,000, which corresponds to that 80% grant.

On the water side, the total project cost is $2.6 million. The grant was awarded for $2.1 million, so the remaining funds are $431,000.00, corresponding with the 83.3% grant awarded to the city.

After some questions and discussion about bidding for future projects, the council was left with some things to think about regarding when to have projects bid and whether to extend the completion date to possibly get a lower bid.

The council thanked Banner Associates for coming and presenting.

“It’s going pretty smoothly this far, so let’s keep it up,” said Mayor Wienk.

FIRE DEPARTMENT

Brandon Gates gave a fire department update that went back from last December.

The lease for their side by side and jet ski was set to expire, so after a mailer was sent out to the community, they are set to purchase those. He thanked the community for their generous donations and support.

Gates reported that it’s been an active spring with fires, storms and accidents with thankfully, nothing too major.

A few new recruits have joined the department, so they are sitting pretty well on their numbers.

The fire department is in the very early stages of looking into doing a fire district, following suit with Badger and Arlington.

“We are asking for the city council’s blessing on doing the district along with figuring out numbers on what it would cost to purchase trucks and the amount to lease the fire hall until they find a new home,” stated Gates. “This would take a lot of relief off the city if voted upon; if it wasn’t, we’d be doing what we do now.”

Making the department a district would make them their own entity.

Some pros for the fire department would include more of a steady income, more of a budget and lower insurance for the city. They would also be able to go off different funds.

When asked for concerns or backlash, the main topic was taxing rural people. A tax levy would be put on anyone who owns property.

Gates said a great majority of their calls are rural.

“It’s good to be able to provide that protection for everyone, but at the same time, it’s nice to have the support financially from them,” said Gates.

Much legwork is still necessary, but for now, Gates is just asking for the city council’s blessing.

EMPLOYEE UPDATES

Doug Bumann reported that air conditioning units at the library and community room are on borrowed time; the library might need a new unit. Price would be what the council wants, so options will be brought to them to determine what to do.

The pool is running well with just a few minor issues, one being the robot cleaner. To fix the current cleaner is $750, and a new one would be anywhere from $3,500-$5,000. The current one will be obsolete soon, so there is a need to move forward with that.

Brian Zeeck gave an update on what’s going on around the town. It’s been such a busy, wet summer, it’s made for a crazy season so far.

Another topic of discussion was the trees taken down due to construction. The contractors working on the water project are doing so because the trees are in their right of way or on a boulevard and need to be removed. The council members and city workers have heard complaints, because it wasn’t cleaned up very well.

A public question came up on when the mosquitoes will be sprayed, and Zeeck answered they have everything ready and will be spraying soon.

OTHER ITEMS

• Scheduling at the pool has been going well. Sign up for swimming lessons by calling the city office.

• The council has a list of people wanting curb and gutter. They decided to call Banner and ask a few more questions such as how payment from the residents will be made for that work, who wants what and how they want that information relayed.

• The council thanked Jesser’s Greenhouse for work in the park with the flowers. They look great.

• The council talked about next year, possibly doing something different with the Main Street flowers to make them look fuller.

• Several building permits needed approval.

• During nuisance property discussion, it was brought up that others have contacted the mayor, angry because their cars were towed. The council said that’s the hardest part because they feel people don’t realize it’s been months in the making, so it shouldn’t be a surprise. When this happens, it’s at the owners’ expense to get them back and to pay storage and any other fees. They invite anyone to the council meetings if they have a problem.

• Children will have to prove themselves able to swim in the deep end of the pool by swimming down and back the short way and treading water for one minute before approval is granted.

• Discussion about unattended campers at the campground was held. The council will look into updating the rules, because campers do pay for nights. They’ll keep an eye out for unattended campers before changing any rules.

• Meeting ended with an executive session.

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