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Colby buys land along Hwy. 13

The city of Colby has purchased a 37acre parcel of land along the east side of Highway 13 for close to $298,000, and early discussions suggest that city officials would like to put new roads in the area.

Information about the purchase was first released publicly at Tuesday’s regular monthly city council meeting, a little more than two weeks after council members met in closed session to discuss the deal with Kelly Weiler of Exit Realty.

According to minutes of that Aug. 12 closed session meeting, the council voted to purchase the parcel at 1004 N. Division St. from Audrey Venzke for $297,900, plus the closing costs.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council voted to name — if possible — any future roads on that parcel in honor of the Venzke family, which had owned the land since 1957. Mayor Jim Schmidt, however, noted that the city may not be able to guarantee the road names if the land is sold to a private developer in the future.

“We weren’t sure if we’d be developing it, or if we’d sell it to a developer,” he said. “We may not be able to honor that.”

Philip Venzke, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, suggested “Jim’s Way” after his late father, “Audrey’s Lane” in honor of his mother or “Venzke Drive.” Venzke said his parents bought the land in 1957, paid it off in 1963, and since then, portions of the original 40-acre plot were sold off for what is now The Waterford at Colby, the Medford Veterinary Clinic and Forward Bank.

With his parents having owned the core parcel for 63 years, Venzke said his mother would appreciate it if the city could recognize the family’s legacy once the land is developed.

“Some way to honor them is all I’m looking for,” he said.

City clerk Connie Gurtner said the city may not be involved in creating and naming new streets if it sells the land to a third party, but she and other city officials expressed a desire to honor the Venzkes’ wishes if possible.

“It’ll depend on how things are developed up there,” she said.

Right now, the nearest roads along that stretch of STH 13 are Hornet Drive to the south and Elderberry Road to the north. In the past, city officials have talked about extending Community Drive to the north so it connects with Elderberry, but it was unclear Tuesday if that was the city’s plan at this point.

_ The council approved the 2021 budget proposed by the Central Fire and EMS District, which includes a $44,737 contribution from the city — a drop of nearly $19,000 from this year.

Gurtner noted that one of the biggest changes in the district’s budget for next year is that anticipated revenues from ambulance calls are much closer to what the actual numbers have been the past couple of years. With that revenue line increased, the seven municipalities are able to pay less, at least for next year.

_ During a review of the police commission’s meeting minutes from last month, Ald. Todd Schmidt said the commission is considering how to handle the school resource officer (SRO) position now that the Abbotsford School District plans to hire current SRO Patrick Leichtnam as a full-time district employee.

“We’re having discussions about how that’s all going to transpire and how we can also meet Colby’s needs,” he said, referring to the local school district, which had been sharing the SRO with Abbotsford schools during the school year.

Schmidt said a new SRO agreement will be presented at the next commission meeting on Sept. 14, along with a draft 2021 budget prepared by police chief Jason Bauer, who plans on presenting multiple options for a possible ninth officer and potential coverage in Dorchester.

Mayor Schmidt said it was initially believed that money from Abbotsford’s TIF district could be used to help pay for a new officer, but that turned out not to be true.

“That may put a twist in the budget, especially with that’s going to happen with the SRO,” he said.

_ The council approved the purchase of a new SCADA system for the city’s wastewater treatment plant, at a total cost of $136,518. SCADA, which stands for “supervisory control and data acquisition” is the computer technology used to operate the city’s sewer facilities, and the current hardware is over 20 years old, with replacement parts no longer available from the manufacturer.

DPW Harland Higley said the upgraded system includes many components, including a full electrical cabinet, two computers and a 60-inch TV screen for overseeing the system. Mayor Schmidt said money is available in the sewer utility’s equipment replacement fund to cover the cost of the upgrade.

_ Ald. Mark Kaiser, chair of the parks and recreation committee, said his committee is proposing to replace the outfi eld fence at the city’s main softball field next year, and to also do some landscaping work to improve drainage at the field.

Other parks expenditures planned for 2021 include replacing six trees near the South Sixth Street Park and spraying the city’s fields with weed killer and fertilizer.

_ During the clerk’s report, Gurtner said she and her deputy have returned to their normal office hours at city hall, but are still encouraging people to pay their utility bills either online or via the drop box on the outside of the building.

Gurtner also noted that a recent change in the state’s election law means that early in-person voting for the Nov. 3 election can’t start any earlier than two weeks beforehand. In the past, she said it could start as soon as the ballots arrived, which is usually 45 days ahead of time.

If people want to order an absentee ballot, however, she said they can do so anytime by going to Ordering a ballot this way will automatically trigger an email being sent to Gurtner so she can send the ballot to the voter.

Looking ahead to Election Day, Gurtner said she is still looking for more poll workers and will be doing everything she can to keep the polling location safe by requiring masks and providing sanitizer.

_ Higley told the council that a new ChemScan nitrate analyzer has been installed and is up and running, enabling the city to take nitrate readings every half-hour from two wells that had previously been getting close to the limit for safe consumption. Now that the water is being blended with water from other wells throughout the city, he said the nitrate levels are way down.