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Harmony makes over $100,000 in cuts

Fri, Feb 13th, 2009
Posted in Government

Like most communities in the area, Harmony has been dealing with the effects of losing LGA money from the state, and is trying to make cuts to their already tight budget.

Several departments looked at the budget for 2009 and made some suggestions for cuts. A budget committee came up with a recommendation for the council, which they looked over and discussed at their meeting on February 10.

The total cut from Harmony's LGA (Local Government Aid) in 2009 is estimated at $49,870.

The council cut out future equipment purchases from the budget for the time being, which is a total of $37,500. The recommendation was to cut out another $84,050 for a total reduction of $121,500.

The EDA (Economic Development Authority) cut $10,000 in advertising, marketing and tourism out of their budget. There was $3,000 cut in garbage and recycling at the Visitor Center and Community Center. The street light roping at Christmas was eliminated, which was $1,500. The tree boulevard program will be eliminated for a year, which is another $1,500. The library cut $3,000 from their budget, and expenditure changes for the Fire Department totaled $5,500.

There were a few items that the council decided not to get rid of despite the recommendations. After some discussion, it was decided to keep $1,500 in the budget for crack filling and $5,000 for patching the streets. Council member Gerald Shuck felt it was important to keep the streets up and not let them get bad.

There was also some discussion about the city plowing snow off the sidewalk. Right now the city plows sidewalk from Wheelers to the Visitor's Center, and from I Love Antiques all the way down to the nursing home. There is an ordinance that states property owners must shovel their own sidewalks free of snow. Shuck said when the street was redone and the sidewalk put in, the city agreed to take care of the snow removal. The sidewalk is used by many people in the winter as well as the summer.

The council decided to keep the $1,200 for removing that snow. If they stopped plowing the sidewalk, they would spend time and money to try to enforce the snow removal ordinance for residents living along that street.

There was also some budget shifting done to the audit fee, and a water fund to sewer fund transfer of $21,000. The total cuts approved came to $113,800.

As far as sources of revenue, the council approved a Storm Water Utility ordinance that would bring in $6,300 a year. Residents who live on paved roads will be charged one dollar a month for water run-off into the storm sewer. This money would be put into a fund that would be used to purchase a street sweeper. Residential dwellings would have a Residential Equivalent Factor (REF) of one; and non-residential, which includes apartment buildings with five or more units, will have an REF of three, and pay $3 a month.

City Maintenance Employee Chris Johnson spoke to the new council members to give them some background information about his job. When he was hired, it was to replace two people and there was an understanding that there would be some overtime. The thinking was that it would be cheaper than hiring another person. He said that right now he and the others are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as the water tower and wastewater treatment plant have to be checked every day. They rotate their weekends to work.

"If we got rid of the overtime, I don't know when I would take off," Johnson said.

Mayor Steve Donney said that there are many places making their employees take one day off every month unpaid. He said having six full time employees take that one day off would save the city a lot of money, but is not necessary right now.

"We hope that it never comes to that," he said. He added that the employees are very much appreciated, and that's one reason they are working so hard to make cuts elsewhere.

Fire Department

Fire Chief Bill Hanlon approached the council with an issue that had recently come up regarding the foam they use in fire training and to put out fuel fires. The MPCA (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) hired Delta Consultant to do an environmental study in areas where the foam is used, as it contains perfluorocarbon (PFC). They will conduct site visits and do water and soil samples. Hanlon said they use very little of the foam, as it is very expensive. It is different than the foam they use for structure fires. The council approved having Delta come to do their study.

The council also approved having the Fillmore Central post-prom party at the fire hall, and agreed to contribute $75 to the prom committee. There will also be a firearm safety class at the fire hall starting March 10.

Hanlon mentioned that Stuart Morem has resigned from his job of Assistant Chief. He is not retiring from his position on the fire department. According to Hanlon, he has been with the fire department more than 30 years, and has held the office of Secretary, Fire Chief or Assistant Chief for several years. He is still the Civil Defense Director.

Hammel Equipment Sale

Linus Hammel of Hammel Equipment had previously asked the city to sell him a plot of land adjacent to his business. The parcel goes out about 50 feet to the east of his property. The Planning and Zoning Commission met to discuss changing the zoning of the land from R1 to commercial. Shuck told Hammel they had decided to offer the land to him for $8,000. There was some concern about what to do with a fire hydrant on the property, and Shuck said they would take $1,000 off the price if Hammel was willing to leave the hydrant there. If he wanted, the city could remove the hydrant and cap off the water line. The other stipulation was that the city would have to have an easement to access the water line if they needed. Hammel said it would be fine to leave it there, and if he needed it removed someday he would take care of it himself. The council approved the sale to Hammel for $7,000, along with an easement. They also approved rezoning the property to commercial.

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