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Harmony City Council speaks with Ropes

Fri, Jun 12th, 2009
Posted in Government

The Harmony City Council was able to speak to Senator Sharon Ropes during their regular meeting on June 9. They asked questions and got some information about the state's budget and the status of the city's LGA (Local Government Aid).

Ropes was also there to find out how Harmony is doing as far as their budget and their fund balance.

"If it doesn't get much worse, Harmony should be okay," said Mayor Steve Donney.

Ropes explained Governor Pawlenty has until July 1 to make his final decision about the budget. Last December, the Governor used an unalottment to balance the budget for the year. This year Minnesota was projected to receive $6.4 billion less for the next two years. The legislature came up with two balanced budgets. According to Ropes, the Governor agreed with all the cuts, but rejected the last $2 billion, which was about generating revenue for the state. So, instead of working with the legislature, the Governor said he would balance the last two billion on his own, something that has never been done.

Ropes also explained that the unalottment is intended for unexpected emergencies. The Governor can use it when the legislature is not in session. The fact that he is using it when they were expecting the problem, and while the legislature was in session, is very unusual.

The state might have to look at another unalottment when the end of the year arrives. The Governor will be looking at cutting LGA, as well as money to schools, hospitals and nursing homes. Schools may have money held back, during which time they would have to borrow money to pay bills until their state funding arrives.

"We did some good work cutting that four billion," said Ropes. "We tried to save as many jobs as possible, and make permanent cuts. This is going to be an ongoing crisis. I can't imagine things will turn around in the next year."

Shuck said the council is pretty confident they have done everything they can. Illg said they have made cuts in the budget anticipating LGA cuts.

Ropes is concerned about small towns, especially due to the large number of elderly and retired people, and the increase in property taxes that is likely to come. She said if there are any questions or concerns, to contact her.

Dobie Days

Corey Scrabeck was at the meeting to ask for a temporary liquor license for Dobie Days, as well as a variance on the noise ordinance. He brought with him Dan Cook from Spectrum Pro Audio, an audio engineer who was there to explain how the sound system works.

Scrabeck said the festivities will begin on Thursday, August 13 and go through Saturday, August 15. On Thursday night there will be a band playing until midnight. Friday and Saturday night a band will be playing until 12:30 a.m. The noise ordinance would have to be extended from 10 p.m. Thursday night until midnight, and from midnight Friday and Saturday to 12:30.

Cook explained to the council that the sound system they have been using the past two years is called a Line Array system. The system uses a line of speakers, each of which shoot sound out in a straight line. He uses a computer program to figure out how many speakers to use and how to arrange them depending on a number of factors such as the size of the room or area.

Cook said he and his company travel all over the country doing work for concerts, government conventions, IBM, spring break in Texas, and even work at the White House. Mayor Donney mentioned that there were some concerns about noise last year. Cook said the noise can't be completely controlled as there will always be residual sounds and echoes, depending on certain conditions. He explained the noise level of the bands playing will be around 105 decibels. The noise level will go down as you get further away, and where the first houses are, the noise should be around 50 decibels, which is quieter than traffic driving by.

Illg said that one person called the sheriff's office to complain about noise last year. Shuck said where he lived he could hear the music even with his windows shut and the air conditioning on. He also said that he would not approve of having the music go until midnight on Thursday night.

Scrabeck said two papers in Rochester, the Post Bulletin and Rochester Express, are doing a story on Dobie Days. There are a lot of advertising, word-of-mouth and internet connections that are getting the word out about the festivities. He expects that there could be from 1,800 to 3,000 people coming over the three days.

"The bigger picture is keeping the town together," said Cook. "We're keeping the community going and stimulating the economy. I believe in what Corey's got going on here."

The council approved the temporary liquor license. They also approved the noise ordinance variance, with Shuck the only one voting against it. Council member Sherry Hines voted for it, but said the Thursday night until midnight would be a trial for one year. "If it doesn't work, it won't happen again," she said.

Zumbro Valley Request

Zumbro Valley Mental Health Center has moved an office into the building that was the D&D, which is now owned by Jeremy Kruegel. Kruegel approached the council about a request that Zumbro Valley has about their sidewalk. They are putting a handicap ramp on their side entrance, and would like a curb relief in front of the building. This would mean taking away a parking space in front, on Main Street. Shuck asked why they couldn't use the alley in back of the building. Kruegel said there are a lot of issues with ice in the alley during the winter, as water from the building, as well as the Harmony House building, runs off into the alley. Kruegel said the safety person from ZVMHC made the request. There was some discussion, but the council made no decisions about the sidewalk in front. Many council members would like to look at the area first and possibly speak to somebody from Zumbro Valley.

Electric Rates

A study was done recently on the city's electric rates, which were last reviewed in 2006. The rate increase that was suggested was made so that the estimated net income for the city would be $75,000. For residential electric service, the study recommended raising the base charge from $6.00 to $8.00. The per-kilowatt rate went from .085 to .09. Council member Gerald Shuck suggested that they only raise the base charge to $7.00, and raise the per-kilowatt charge to make up for that dollar difference. That way a person can save more money by using less electricity. The council approved.

Maintenance Report

Maintenance employee Chris Johnson mentioned a fund that they have to replace the sewer cable auger. According to Johnson, the current machine they have is very old and very dangerous to operate. Right now, there is $10,000 in the fund. Johnson checked with McQueen Equipment, who has a used one for $15,000. They are going to bring it down to demonstrate how it works.

Johnson also said he has had requests for dust treatment on some township roads. He said there is non-stop dust on the road going by the Wastewater Treatment plant, and houses in the Scrabeck Addition have a lot of dust problems. He checked with someone about tree sapping the road, as well as another gravel road. The price was 50 cents per foot. Johnson said that in all there would be about 1?4 mile that needs work.

Council member Dan Tieffenbacher asked about using TIF (Tax Increment Financing) money to fund paving those roads. City Administrator Jerome Illg said that the tree sap would be much more economical.

Other Business

Ralph Beastrom, from the Harmony Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke about closing of part of 1st Ave. SW for vendors on the Fourth of July. There is a major power line there that the vendors can all use, which will lower costs for temporary electricity. The section from the Harmony Foods parking lot to the school parking lot will be closed off. Beastrom has to speak to the county since it's a county road, but the council gave their approval.

The council chose to put two plain lights in the alley for $2,400 each instead of decorative lights for $3,700 each. Illg explained they will also be placing a conduit in the far north part of the alley for a third light to be placed in the future.

Three city maintenance employees will be sharing the duties of animal control in Harmony. They will each receive $50 a month compensation and $10 per animal captured.

The council approved the resolution for TIF District #1.

The Park Board accepted a resignation from Jim Lutes and is looking for a new member.

Liquor licenses were approved for On the Crunchy Side, Time Out Sports Bar and the Harmony Legion.

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