Council denies reduction to special assessment

NEW ULM – The New Ulm City Council turned down a request Tuesday from Ken and Crystal DeLeo to reduce the special assessment amount for three lots in the Dacotah West Addition.

These lots within the Dacotah West Addition went into tax forfeiture and are currently being offered for sale at previously set minimum prices by Brown County. The special assessment amount and terms of payment are determined by the City of New Ulm. The delinquent special assessment amount assigned to each lot in the subdivision is $25,922.

Ken and Crystal DeLeo have proposed to buy three of the subdivision lots on the condition that the special assessment in each lot be reduced by $5,000, a total of $15,000.

City Manager Brian Gramentz told the council at its meeting Tuesday the city had reduced the special assessment amount in the subdivision in a separate instance. In the fall of 2013, Mike Kral Construction purchased a total of 20 lots. In this case the special assessments were reduced by $4,000 for 16 lots for a total reduction of $64,000. This resulted in a loss to the special assessment fund of $238,440. Gramentz said the council justified the reduction as method of stimulating development.

“So far it has been successful because there are more people looking to build out there,” he said.

Councilor Ruth Ann Webster was against granting the lower assessment.

“I am concerned with the home owners that are and will continue to pay the full assessments,” she said

Webster added that the lots purchased by Kral were the least likely to be sold one at a time and the bulk sale at a reduced assessment made sense.

Councilor Lisa Fischer agreed, saying, “If you are going to start reducing lot assessments I think it should be open to the public… how do you justify this to those paying full.”

Council President Charles Schmitz pointed out that anyone could request a reduced assessment, but it was up to the council to determine if it should be accepted. Schmitz added that in this case he was against the reduced assessment.

Gramentz reminded the Council that any reduction to the special assessment would fall to all the tax payers.

Webster ultimately made a motion to deny the request from the DeLeos, and it passed unanimously.

Councilor Les Schultz stated that while he was against a $5,000 reduction he was open to a lower reduction. Any alternative proposals would need to be submitted in writing by DeLeo for consideration at a future Council meeting.

Donations Accepted for Dog Park

The council accepted several donations for Dog Park development. Donations included $2,381 for a one-time, in-kind service for gravel parking lot from M.R. Paving & Excavating Inc., $127 from a Church of Cash event, $100 from Charles & Barbara Bornhoft, $94.82 for one-time in-kind service for refuse dumpster for special event from Riverview Sanitation, and $15 from Tim and Ann Wonn. The council announced that the fence around the dog park has been installed and a ribbon cutting is scheduled for Friday, May 23 at 5 p.m.

Later in the meeting the Council authorized an application to IMT Group for a $500 Dog Park grant.

Other donations accepted at the meeting included $862.80 for the Rec Center as an ongoing, in-kind annual Television Service from NU Telecom. The Annual Easter Egg Hunt received a $500 from New Ulm Real Estate, The Park X Program received $1,000 from New Ulm Medical Center, and Farmers Coop of Hanska donated $300 in new soccer balls. Patricia Rodger donated $100 to German Park in memory of Don & Marilyn Rewitzer.

A resolution to accept monetary donations for the Police Department Bicycle Helmet Safety Fair was also accepted. Donations included $100 from Alliance Bank; $60 from Bank Midwest; $100 from Citizens Bank; $60 from Frandsen Band & Trust; and $250 from Physician Group of New Ulm for a total of $575.

The Council accepted the donation of a Grain Bin Rescue Kit from the United Farmer’s Coop. The equipment is valued at $2,800.

Park & Rec Request OSHA Safety Grant

Park & Rec Director Tom Schmitz recommended the council approve a resolution authorizing the application of an OSHA safety grant to assist in the purchasing in glass handling safety equipment. The glass handling safety equipment would be used to assemble and disassemble hockey rink board glass in the Civic Center. Park and Rec Director Tom Schmitz informed the board the glass is taken down at least once a year for various events. The board glass is heavy and difficult to place and has resulted in staff injuries in the past. This grant would, at least, cover half the cost of the equipment estimated at $5,000. The maximum award from OSHA would be $10,000. Schmitz suggested various city departments could pool resources to acquire needed safety equipment. New Ulm would need to provide cover 50 percent of the cost but this would give the City $20,000 worth of safety equipment at half the cost.

Councilor Schultz supported the recommendation, saying that further staff injuries were likely to exceed $10,000. The council unanimously approved the grant application.

Next, the Council authorized an application for a Healthy Activity grant up to $1,000. The grant was offered by Allina’s Neighborhood Health Connection program. The grants are awarded to activities that support social connection, healthy eating and active living for adults and families. Park and Rec would like to offer family fitness opportunities at various park and facility locations beginning in July. Example fitness activities include Family Zumba and Yoga in parks, scavenger hunts along the Recreational Trail, Boot Camp and water exercise classes.

Sidewalk Installation on South Broadway

The Council approved a recommendation from the Safety Commission to install 261.4 feet of sidewalk from Broadway/20th Street South intersection. After reviewing the City’s sidewalk system the Safety Commission felt a sidewalk along the west side of Broadway to connect with the Park Place Apartment complex. If constructed the sidewalk would provide a path for pedestrian to the signalized intersection. The Public Hearing on the issue is scheduled for 5 p.m., Tuesday, July 1, 2014.

Other Business

A joint meeting of the City Council and Public Utilities Commission was scheduled for June 3, at 4 p.m. The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss the auditing financial statements for 2013.

The Council adopted the amendments to the City Code relative to Noise Standards. This places New Ulm’s noise ordinance in line with the State Standards.

Overnight camping was authorized in South German Park for a BMX event on the nights of July 18-19. The Council approved the resolution on the grounds that similar requests had been granted in past years without any issues.

An agreement with the Canadian Pacific Railroad was approved to renew the railroad surface crossing on 20th South Street.

A Public Hearing date was set for June 17 during the City Council meeting to discuss a financing program and the issuance of Housing Facility Revenue bonds by the EDA in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $11,500,000 at the request of HADC Ridgeway.

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