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Harmony City Council trims budget

Fri, Oct 17th, 2008
Posted in Government

The Harmony City Council discussed how to make cuts in their budget for next year at their Tuesday, October 14 meeting. The preliminary budget had an increase of $90,854. The council wanted to see increases limited to $40,000, which would also decrease the tax levy.

City Administrator Jerome Illg highlighted the major budget differences from 2008 to 2009. One major difference is a decrease of $7,500 in the gas and utility budget at the Community Center. The city will be saving a lot of money because of the recent improvements on the building, but they won't know exactly how much until the end of the winter season. Council member Gerry Shuck recommended taking another $5,000 off the budget, as he believes the city will be able to save that much money in heating the building this year.

Shuck also suggested a few other cuts, and Illg will be looking them over and working on a new budget to look at for November's meeting. Shuck recommended cutting the increase of $1,750 to the street supply and maintenance budget, $22,500 from the street, fire and parks capital projects budget, $2,400 from the Community Center repair and maintenance budget and the $2,000 increase in the library budget. Also on the budget is a $23,000 payment to the USDA for Capital Improvements. The council is not positive that the payment will be due in 2009, so they are going to take that off the budget. If the payment does come due, they will use reserves from the electric fund to pay it. All of the recommended cuts totaled over $50,000.

The council had to approve an increase in the wages of the two part-time library staff, as the pay they are receiving does not match up with custodians that have the same number of points as far as pay equity. The increase in wages will come to about $3,000, according to Illg, so decreasing the library budget will cover most of that expense.

Also in the budget is the cost of taking over the school district's portion of the Summer Recreation program, which is $6,000. Illg said right now the city pays 65 percent of the total cost, and the district pays 35 percent. The school district would like the city to take over the entire cost, as that is done in other communities in the area. Illg believes that they are heading towards that, and would like to phase it in slowly. According to Illg, Harmony and Preston combined have a total cost of $25,000 a year for their summer recreation program. The fees from children participating bring in around $7,500. Last year, Preston had 132 kids, and Harmony had around 100 participating. They have talked about increasing the fees to offset some of the costs. It was not decided that the city would pay 100 percent.

Capital Improvements

Jeff O'Connor updated the council on how far improvements are coming on the Community Center building. The west side is almost completely done, as the windows are framed in and finished, and the walls have been sheet rocked and painted. The flooring is not yet completed on that side. The east side of the building has the new windows in and the walls have been sheet rocked. O'Connor said by the end of the week they would have the siding done, the PTAC's (Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners) and the wiring. They will have to then move the city office to another room for about three weeks while they work on that part of the building.

The parking lots improvements are finished, and the city has one payment left on the work that was done.

Dobie Days

Cory Scrabeck approached the council and asked permission to have a third Dobie Days next summer. He said this year was a success, with three times the amount of people attending, more than 1400 people over the course of the weekend. He said the people that came from the furthest away were from South Carolina and Arizona. According to Scrabeck, 86 people skydived; there were 50 mud bog trucks, and 12 motorcycles in the motorcycle rodeo.

"Everything went off without a hitch," said Scrabeck.

The one person who made a formal complaint was at the meeting. Jim Brute made a complaint about the noise on the Sunday night of the event. He called around 11:30 to complain that he could hear the band playing very loudly. He had the air conditioner on and the windows closed and the bass was shaking his house. He lives in the southeast part of town.

"If you approve this, I would like to see the music end at 10:00 p.m. as per Harmony's noise ordinance," said Brute.

City Attorney Richard Nethercut looked at the ordinance, which does say there should be no bothersome loud noises after ten p.m. And noise within 50 feet is a public nuisance violation.

Mayor Dave Kingsley asked Scrabeck if he would approve of stopping the music at ten.

"No, not at all," said Scrabeck. "That's when the majority of the people are showing up."

Scrabeck did say that next year he will not be having music on Sunday night. He will either be doing it Thursday, Friday and Saturday, or just Friday and Saturday. Brute agreed that it would be fine if the music was not on Sunday.

Nethercut said the city still has to be aware of the ordinance. Shuck said maybe they could find a way to permit something past 10:00 p.m. The council tabled the decision to look at the options and see what other towns have for ordinances.

Deb Scrabeck commented that the celebration is an attempt to pull people into the community, and that sometimes she can see lights and hear football games at her home, as well as the fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Sewer Issues

Illg said the Rumsey family would like to hook up to the city sewer by hooking up to their body shop business. There is a house between the two. Shuck said that this is against the ordinance, which says they must hook up to a sewer main unless a building is interior to the main and unable to reach one.

City maintenance employee Chris Johnson said there is no sewer main that could be reached. The only other options would be to put in a stub, or to let them install their own septic system.

Kingsley said letting them hook up to the sewer at their business would be the cheapest for both parties involved. Some council members had concerns about what would happen in the future if the property was sold, or if something went wrong and people complained to the city about it.

The council approved allowing them to hook up to the sewer line at the body shop, as there is no other sewer main. They will have to apply to the city for a permit and show a record of easement. The city will also change the wording of the ordinance to define interior property better.

EDA Update

Council member Sherry Hines spoke for the EDA (Economic Development Authority) regarding Heritage Grove. According to Hines it is currently full, and has a waiting list. They have not done anything with the refinancing, as it is not a favorable market for purchasing bonds right now. They have not made any changes in the budget from last year, but have not finalized it yet.

Kingsley asked about taking money out of the reserves to make the payments, and Hines said they are not going to be as far behind this year. The building was bonded at three million dollars, and not all of the money was used. The rest was put into reserves. Last year they took $28,000 out of reserves for payment, and there is currently $29,000 left.

Kingsley said people should know that the place is not making money. Shuck said the place should be able to stand on its own without dipping into reserves, which should be for capital expenses.

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