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Lanesboro Council holds public hearings on capital improvement projects

Fri, May 23rd, 2008
Posted in Government

The Lanesboro City Council held two public hearings before their regular meeting on May 19. The first one was for the Capital Improvements that will be done to the Community Center. Elizabeth Blakesley, who works with Mike Bubany at David Drown Associates, was there to answer any questions the council or the public may have about the project.

Blakesley explained the project will include re-roofing the building and redoing the HVAC system. With the Capital Improvement Plan, they can borrow with the city's general obligation pledge and receive a lower interest rate. She noted that a recent bond sale was set at a little over four percent. After the council adopts the resolution, they must wait 30 days for residents to protest and reverse the referendum, at which point it will go to the general election.

There were no comments or questions from the public on the project, and the council passed the resolution for the Capital Improvement Plan.

The second public hearing was for the proposed changes in utility rates. The changes were based on a 2008 Electric Rate Study done by Power Plus Engineering in April, and were approved by the council. Residential electric rates will increase nine percent, and commercial rates around one percent. The base charge for sewer will go from $7.50 to $10.00, and the garbage fee increased from $7.20 to $7.80.

"We're trying to run it like a business," said council member Kevin Drake, who is on the Public Utilities Commission. "We want to be as fair as possible, and we are still competitive compared to other cities."

Audit Report

Jason Boynton and Darcie Abbott from Smith Schafer presented the council with the report from the 2007 audit. Boynton explained that the audit gave assurance that the financial reports of the city are clean and without errors. He noted that the state recommendation that cities have 35-50 percent of the general fund in reserve, but said that smaller cities are having trouble meeting that. Lanesboro currently has 103 percent of the general fund in unreserved funds. The general fund balance is $529,673.

According to Boynton, Local Government Aid (LGA) has decreased by two percent in the last year, and is not keeping pace with the city's needs. This means the city has to ask for more money to make up for it in their levy. The city spent $207,568 in government expenditures, $254,000 on public safety (which includes a new fire truck), $215,890 on public works and $308,000 on culture and recreation. This year, the financial statements included $87,714 for Buffalo Bill Days, as well as the Park and Rec. and library expenditures. The revenue from Buffalo Bill Days totaled $96,433. Vickerman stressed that the amount also includes revenue from the Garrison Keillor event and the Rushford fundraising event. The total does not mean that the Buffalo Bill Days account has more money than is needed, in fact there was a loss last year and they had to dip into reserves.

The fire fund and ambulance fund have been operating in a deficit for several years. City Administrator Bobbie Vickerman recommended zeroing out the balances and starting fresh by transferring money from the general fund, and the council approved.

In all, Boynton said that the debts are getting paid down in a timely manner and things looked good. Vickerman stated she thought it was a very good audit this year with the new accounting firm.

Bunge Lot Request

Eric Bunge and Andy Bunge asked the council about how the empty St. Mane lots can be used. He said he has had requests from people who would like to rent the lots for temporary use, such as selling arts and crafts, renting bikes, or having a coffee stand. Eric Bunge said that on June 2 they will be meeting with the EDA (Economic Development Authority) to discuss potential projects for the lots. In the meantime, they are not sure what they are allowed to do on that lot legally.

City Attorney Tom Manion said that according to the ordinances, empty lots can be used as an accessory that is connected with an existing business, and storage. He noted that there seems to be a demand for mobile businesses, but there needs to be regulations about what can be done. He added that he would hate to see the space not being utilized if there are people who want to use it.

Andy Bunge said that the long term goal of the lots is to build a structure that would be commercial. In the interim, renting the lots to people who want to use it would generate a little bit of revenue for them.

Mayor Steve Rahn suggested they wait on a decision until Planning and Zoning can look at it and see what the lot can legally be used for.

Other business

• Planning and Zoning requested that the council call a public hearing for Bob Schrupp's proposed project that was brought up at the last meeting. The hearing would be for a variance for the location of the gazebo and Conditional Use for retail use when the area is zoned R-3. The council is going to ask Schrupp to attend the next meeting with more details about his plan.

• The council approved the use of parking canoes near the softball field by permit only. Two business owners had approached Vickerman about using the space for parking their equipment and vehicles, but Rahn said if they allowed them to park there, they would have to allow everyone.

• It was decided that the project on Maple Drive would be assessed 100 percent to the property owners due to the fact that it is a new street construction, as outlined in the assessment policy.

• Vickerman asked about city employees being reimbursed for personal cell phone use for work related calls. She is going to look at what other cities are doing.

• The council passed a resolution to develop a Hazard Mitigation Plan in case of a disaster.

• Due to a funeral, the Park TMI changed the date to improve the park to May 31 at 9 a.m.

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