By Hannah Wingert
The November 10 Harmony City Council meeting opened with a public forum to discuss the assessments, but as no one was present with questions or comments, the forum was closed.
President of the Harmony Area Cancer Support Group, Ann Mraz, attended the meeting to discuss the cancer memorial park in Harmony. The support group was first started in the late 1980s to help local cancer patients financially. In 1992, they asked the council for some property to create the cancer memorial park and were granted some space on the corner of 1st Avenue NE and Main Street. At the time, the mayor of Harmony, Marvin Wilt, along with the council, informed the group that the city would cut the grass and the group could do whatever it wanted with the property. “This is the agreement that the city and the group worked with for over 40 years with no issues,” Mraz stated. Recently, the cancer group did some landscaping and added new plants with the total bill coming to just over $3,000. Mraz presented a list of local businesses who donated towards the project. She asked the council for financial support to help cover some of the costs as well. Mayor Steve Donney addressed her request. “We love and encourage the cancer support group, but since it’s a city park, if anything’s going to done down there, it should go through the city first,” he said. He asked the group to go through the Park Board before doing any work next time and invited Mraz and other members to meet with him and City Administrator Devin Swanberg to get everything squared away. Mraz noted that the group had originally been told that they could do whatever they wanted with the park without seeking the city’s permission first. Mayor Donney reiterated that the city should always be made aware of changes being made to city property.
“We appreciate what you do. The work that got done looks nice,” Mayor Donney said. “It’s just in the future, we have to get things done the right way.”
The EDA reported that soil samples are being obtained for the Dairyland project, and they should have an answer soon as to the status of the project. $30,000 has been raised for the splash pad so far and the proceeds from Give to the Max Day in Harmony will also be put towards the project. The goal is to raise a total of $100,000 by the end of this year so that construction can begin in 2021. It was noted that The Bite from Lanesboro will be moving into the Falcon’s Nest building in Harmony and re-opening in January 2021.
The Harmony Public Library will be purchasing a hand sanitizing station from Harmony Enterprises for each of the library’s two entrances. The money for the purchases will come from CARES funds.
Swanberg presented two sample budgets to the council for them to review. One included the option of continuing to have a city-owned squad car and the other showed what the budget would be if the city decided to lease a vehicle from the county instead. “A lease means that the county is responsible for the car and it is no longer a city issue,” Swanberg explained. Although it would mean an increase in the police contract with the county from $102,957 to $110,350, the change would save the city money that they normally spend on gas, insurance, upkeep, and other expenses for the squad car. “It simplifies the contract,” Fillmore County Sheriff John DeGeorge said.
If the city decides to switch to a leased squad car, the usable equipment in the existing car could be sold to the county to use in the new vehicle, which due to COVID-19 delays wouldn’t be ready until later in 2021. “If we don’t have to buy new stuff, it’s a win for everybody,” Sheriff DeGeorge said. After removing the equipment, the city would be able to sell their car.
Mayor Donney noted that the city’s police contract with the county has increased by 10-12% each year in the last few years and asked the sheriff why that was. Sheriff DeGeorge explained that the county’s contract with the city is kept as close to actual cost as possible. “The county shouldn’t and won’t and can’t make any money on this,” he said. Most of the increase that the city has seen are due to wage increases which are required in order to bring the deputies up to the pay rate that they should be getting. Once they have reached the appropriate level, the wages should only change for cost-of-living raises. The cost of insurance continues to grow each year as well. which is reflected in the contract.
The council approved the squad car lease agreement with the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Department.
The new council members, Domingo Kingsley and Jesse Grabau were welcomed. They will be filling Deb Swenson and Lynn Mensink’s seats.
The next Harmony City Council meeting will be held on December 8 at 7 p.m.