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Council looks for ways to cut budget

Fri, Apr 18th, 2003
Posted in Features

With Local Government Aid (LGA) reductions affecting Harmony to the figure of $43,000 this year, and an additional $80,000 next year, council members started to take a close look at department budgets at their Tuesday, April 15 meeting. The council had requested that each department bring back a dollar amount they felt could be subtracted from the original budget. The following reductions were turned in: Library, $5,615; Streets, $1,200; Street Lighting, $7,000; Snow & Ice, $1,450; and Public Works, $500. The Fire Department didnt turn in an amount as of yet, however, the council temporarily penned in $6,000. The total came to $21,765.Insurance premiums versus the amount of coverage was also scrutinized. The council had asked for a detailed list of insured city structures and vehicles and the value placed on said items. The biggest cut was made on the current $2,309,000 coverage for the Community Center and Library. $1,000,000 was cut from coverage as the council felt they could replace the building for considerably less, as there probably wouldnt be the need to rebuild as large a building in the future. The current premium is $4,789. There also was $80,000 in replacement value cut on a city maintenance building located on 2nd Ave. NW. In addition, the council will seek agent advice on other structures to ensure adequate coverage.Insurance deductibles also came under fire. The present policy shows a $250 deductible for structures and vehicles. This jacks the premiums up considerably, especially with automobiles. When the council discussed the merits of raising the deductible to $500, another weakness in the policy showed up. Of the 17 vehicles insured, eight of them were 19 years or older and still had full coverage. The council agreed to only carry full coverage on vehicles that were 1996 or newer. Mayor David Runkel brought to the councils attention that it was approaching the time to replace a squad car whose odometer was reaching the 100,000 mark. Sheriff Jim Connolly had informed him the city could purchase a new Chevy Impala through a state bid for $17,000. Equipment off the old car could be reused on the new Impala. The Mayor also informed the council of a business that buys back ex-squad cars at a reasonable price. Though the city would be spending more money at a critical time, the savings in the long run justified the purchase. Approval was given. Runkel also had a discussion with Sheriff Connolly regarding the possibility of cutting back on contracted time for officers. The Sheriff didnt feel Harmony was over staffed with its three individuals.Last month Council member Gerald Shuck pointed out that the city was paying full time wages, $100,000, for a part time contracted job to Peoples Service, Inc. for overseeing sewer maintenance. The council questioned Chris Johnson on whether a city employee could get their license. Johnson researched the possibility and reported that a class "B" license must be obtained to monitor the system. He is at class "D", but is very interested in upgrading his license. There are classes and study material available if the city would pay for this. Johnson could take the test in June. When he passes, he must wait one year before trying to advance to the next level. The council encouraged Johnson to move ahead on the project. In the meantime, the city has about 2 1/2 years left on its contract with Peoples Service, the approximate time table Johnson would be on if he chooses to obtain the class "B" license. If Harmony didnt renew their contract with Peoples Service, Inc., Canton would also be looking for a part time person as their contract is tied into Harmonys. This is another possibility for more incoming funds to Harmony.As the council continued to look for more ways to save funds, City Administrator Jerome Illg cautioned the council not to "borrow" too much money from other funds set aside for specific uses. That would be about the time a major expense would surface and the city wouldnt have the funds to handle it. Council member Mark McKay suggested that perhaps the city should not donate $5,000 to the Fireman Retirement Fund for a year, as a way to save money. This is a practice that has been going on for many years. The council will continue to work toward more reductions.Other businessChris Goddard and Mark Thein discussed funding for the community centers roofing project. Goddard told the council there is an off chance of obtaining a grant, but the paperwork would delay the project by four to six weeks if they got it. "I personally would like to get this started, we needed this yesterday, said Council member Sherry Hines, moving towards the loan process rather than a grant. The loan is available at 4 1/2% over 10-20 years. The council moved to apply for a $175,000 loan, which would give them some padding. When the loan is approved, the city will be able to advertise for bids.Steve Donney, of the Fire Department, gave a brief report on the grants in progress. $72,193 has been deposited from a FEMA grant. The citys match is $8,021. The grant paved the way for much needed updated equipment at the station. A $3,000 Department of Justice grant was approved which will be used to purchase an equipment trailer. The citys match is $1,000. Donney also noted the department is working on a truck grant, however since theyve already received some grants, the likelihood off this is small.The council passed a resolution declaring a moratorium on the operation of sexually oriented businesses and adult entertainment for one year. This came in response to a problem Stewartville is experiencing with one of their businesses on the citys outskirts.Trees for planting on the citys boulevards will be made available at a 50% reduction.

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