Kevin Ostern, representing the Crown Hill Cemetery board, renewed the board’s plea at the city council’s January 2 meeting that the city take over the cemetery. Ostern maintained we can’t afford to keep operating and haven’t been able to do any improvements.
Ostern said they have $7,500 in checking, but it takes more than that to keep the cemetery mowed for one season. Last year each mowing cost $360, or about $1,880 each month. They do have funds in certificates of deposit (CD) but can only use the interest produced for operating expenses. Last year that interest amounted to less than $300. They did receive a donation of $2,000 last year.
Councilman Robert Maust questioned whether mowing could become the responsibility of parks. Mayor Kurt Reicks asked about summer help. Jim Bakken, public works, maintained they would have to have their people work more hours or add a fourth employee to do the additional mowing and trimming. Summer helpers only work during the months of summer vacation so would not be available for the entire mowing season.
The cemetery board hopes to establish a separate entity with the city, allowing the Crown Hill Cemetery board to continue to oversee the operation of the cemetery. Ostern noted there are about 400 lots left available on the cemetery property.
City Administrator Joe Hoffman explained cities can own cemeteries. Cemeteries can be classified as either public, private, or municipal. A municipality can levy up to $10,000 per year for cemetery care. Hoffman suggested the city could likely care for the cemetery at a lower cost than contracted crews.
Hoffman suggested they get more information, by looking at legal aspects (League of Minnesota Cities) and by having public works look into it more. Any decision would have to be made by the city council. It was decided to get more information and bring it back at a future meeting.
Dairy and Farm purchase agreement
The council discussed two revisions to the original purchase agreement, including the price change from $100,000 to $115,000 (requested by Dairy and Farm) and a statement that any reimbursement of the $15,000 demolition expenses received by Dairy and Farm should be reimbursed to the city.
Councilwoman Holly Zuck felt the possibility of a community center needs to be discussed in greater detail. She asked how are we going to support it year after year? Reicks said at this point his main goal is for the city to own the property and get it cleaned up. Zuck agreed with him. Reicks said it is alright with him if it is green space or a parking lot for awhile.
Councilman David Collett suggested there needs to be some public meetings before going further. Hoffman noted estimates have been made by Mike Bubany on the impact to the levy. An estimated operational budget has been made. Zuck insisted there are still a lot of questions to be answered.
Reicks suggested they acquire the property, clean it up, and then have a planning committee look into what needs to be decided before moving forward.
Maust said his dream was to have a referendum on the November ballot. The revised purchase agreement will be brought back for the council’s consideration in a couple of weeks.
Other business in brief
• The annual membership dues in the amount of $110 will be paid to the Preston Area Chamber of Commerce, the same as in 2017.
• The 2018 appointment list to various boards, commissions, and other appointed positions was approved as presented. Collett was again elected to serve as mayor pro tem.
• Two signatures are required on all checks from the city. The mayor, mayor pro tem, city administrator and deputy city clerk are authorized to sign checks for the city.
• The fee schedule was discussed. No changes were recommended or made, so no action was taken.
• Reicks discussed a resolution supporting the maintenance of local license bureaus. The state has shifted clerical and auditing responsibilities onto the deputy registrar network (through Minnesota Licensing and Registration System program). This has forced deputies to invest in additional staff, equipment, and space to meet demand. Filing fee revenue no longer covers operational costs. Reicks said they are spending more money than taking in on a daily basis.
The council adopted the resolution which calls for the state legislature and the governor to enact legislation in 2018 to provide deputy registrars with proper compensation “by reallocating from existing state fee structures or other appropriate filing fee adjustments” to ensure the continued service to citizens and the state.