As the time for 2021 budgeting and setting of public tax levies draws near, cities are buckling down on goals and priorities for the year. At the August 18 Rushford Village Council meeting, getting a grasp on the budget to determine those plans was key.
“At some point and time we need to try to get together to talk about what we want and need to find a better understanding. It’s just awareness,” said Councilor Bob Hart.
The city is putting some funds aside for items such as equipment replacement and street repair, but is largely still playing catch up with a number of things. “These are big topics. It’s a lot to compress in just a few minutes,” added Councilor Roger Knutson. “We need to rely on staff. I think we as a group should spend time on catching up. That’s the services that we’re providing to the city.”
“Growth isn’t a priority for me right now,” added Councilor Mike Ebner. “We need to catch up.”
“I think we need to focus on maintenance and neglected issues so we can all feel comfortable. This is a big area,” concluded Knuston. The council will discuss the budget in depth at the first meeting in September. The preliminary tax levy must be set by the end of next month.
Council discussion also included whether or not to accept Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding from the state. To date, the city hasn’t spent more than a few hundred dollars in relation to COVID-19 needs, but is in line to receive more than $63,000. The funding can only be used for expenses related to the pandemic. If unused, it is turned over to Fillmore County.
Community and Economic Development Associates representative Rebecca Charles suggested the city accept the funds with the intent to turn over the funds to the county for needs it may have and suggested the county may look favorably on the city’s future needs by doing so.
“They were really warning against businesses that may want money, since they might have already gotten money elsewhere,” said City Clerk Mary Miner. “Once we donate the money, it’s out of our hands.” To date, no businesses have reached out to the Village regarding assistance.
Knutson motioned to accept the funds with the understanding it would be utilized for costs deemed necessary and that the rest will be sent to the county. The motion passed unanimously.
In other news, the council has tabled a decision on an agreement with AcenTek for placement of services along Ekern Road right-of-way. The council initially approved moving forward with it in July, but halted it once it was determined services were already placed in the area, on private land, through an error by communication with the consulting firm.
Public Works Supervisor Kyle Chiglo has expressed concern over being able to maintain the steep roadway if services are put in. He has agreed to work with the company, should the city move forward with it, but wants assurances that the city won’t be held liable for accidental damages and with acknowledgment that there will be ongoing maintenance issues.
“It would be more favorable if it wasn’t already in,” stated Mayor Dennis Overland.
“It’s just not a workable situation,” explained the representative from AcenTek, Brian Jervis, regarding the services currently on private land. “We can get an easement, but it would cost an obscene amount of money that would set a precedent. The CEO advised if we can’t get agreement, we may have to abandon services.”
“In my opinion, I’m assuming AcenTek, who is a local company, has done their due diligence and found the most effective legal way to do this. We have to provide services to our citizens. We as a community, our job is to provide services to our citizens,” said Knutson. “But, as a council I don’t think we should get involved in private negotiations.”
The owner of the private parcel was in attendance and indicated he’s willing to negotiate with AcenTek. “I was told it was going to be off my property and on the road right-of-way, cut and dry. I’ve gotten no compensation for being on my property. I did make a written proposal in December 2019 and have not formally heard anything back. I’m hoping and thinking someone would come and sit down and discuss,” he said. “Why you guys are even involved; just floors me.”
“Scott and I have had a few conversations,” noted Jervis. “I don’t want to get into it in this format. It’s not appropriate. But, he’s moved up the ladder to the board and the CEO, so ’m out of it now.”
“There is another option and I think it would be a win-win,” said Knutson. “It’s not a good deal the way it’s going right now.
“I think it’s off the table for me. Let the two parties work it out,” added Councilor Mike Ebner. The council has tabled discussion of the matter until the second meeting in September to allow the parties time to discuss.
The council also approved up to $2,500 in costs related to signage within the Village. A plan for needed signs is being developed by Chiglo. Clerk Miner noted he had anticipated the entire project could take $10,000 and quite some time. “We’re not going to get all done at once,” she added.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, September 8, at 7 p.m., at the Village Hall.