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Harmony Council looks at proposed budget cuts

Fri, Nov 16th, 2007
Posted in Government

HARMONY - Deciding where to make cuts in the budget was an item of much discussion for the members of the Harmony City Council during their regular meeting on Nov. 13. City Administrator Jerome Illg, with direction from the council, had come up with some recommendations that resulted in savings of $25,300. These changes to the budget included city employee health insurance changes, a reduction in the cost for visitor center repairs, a reduction of $10,000 in the amount of money set aside for purchasing city equipment. He also reduced the library expenditures by $2,500.

Illg stated that any more cuts would have to be the decision of the council, but he did not feel comfortable recommending any more.

Council member Gerald Shuck suggested reducing the money that is set aside for the Community Center projects from $20,000 to $10,000 since money for the project will be bonded. He also recommended giving $5,000 of that reduction back to the fund for city equipment. This would make the cuts total $30,300.

"I think we're good with our reserve dollars right now," said Mayor Dave Kingsley. "We don't need to keep padding them."

Illg figured the property tax increase with those cuts would still be around 12-13 percent, which many council members felt was still too high. Another $12,000 would have to be cut to reduce the tax increase to 10 percent.

Shuck mentioned that the city was $60,000 under budget last year and was wondering where that money went. Illg said half of the money went to the Jacobson addition and the rest for the Community Center projects. The extra money in the budget came from several areas. Illg also mentioned that there has been no increase in state LGA money for the past five years.

There was some discussion about cutting money from the park board funds, but council member Mark McKay said that money was going to be spent fixing the bathrooms near the football field. Shuck suggested looking into contracting mowers for the summer, and Illg will look into the cost of doing that.

The Truth and Taxation meeting will be held on Dec. 4, with the continuation on Dec. 11. The council will be meeting at 7 p.m. on Dec. 4 to discuss further ideas for budget cuts and make a final decision.

Community Center Funding

The council looked at a couple of different ways of financing improvements needed at the Community Center. The improvements include new outside walls and windows in the rooms, as well as heating and air conditioning units in each room. Illg estimated the costs of the project based on some of the work that has already been done, and the total was around $299,000. This amount also included $50,000 for repaving the parking lot and driveway.

With winter approaching, the city will be able to see how the heating units work in the rooms, and find out if two of them will need to be in each room, or if one would suffice. If they only need one, the cost of the entire project would be less.

The council looked at the option of getting a USDA loan, as well as a Microloan. A microloan would cover work that has already been done, but a USDA loan would have no dollar limit, and have more flexibility.

Council members were concerned about drainage problems in the parking lot, which would not be helped by simply repaving. There were some other ideas about making the lot smaller, making a small lot near the library, and getting rid of the driveway altogether. Illg said that it would be worth having an engineer look at it to get it done right due to the drainage issues.

The council approved Illg filling out a pre-application for a USDA Loan, and to request a feasibility report from an engineer about the parking lot.

Dobie Days

Cory Scrabeck approached the council requesting a liquor license for the second annual Dobie Days to be held next summer. He said the event will always be held the third weekend in August, and that everything went well this year despite all of the rain on the second day.

Council members had no problems with having another Dobie Days, but recommended that Scrabeck fill out the proper application before they approved a liquor license, to which Scrabeck agreed.

Harmony resident Jerry Youngkin spoke up and said that he does not approve of the festival. He said he had several complaints about it, including that the band did not stop playing when they were supposed to. He added that another lady, who did not want to attend the meeting, had to go get her teenage daughter from the Dobie Days festival because she had been drinking.

Scrabeck said that everyone was carded at the gate, and people who were underage had their hand marked from wrist to knuckle with a black marker. People who were over age 21 had a wristband, which allowed them to purchase tickets for alcoholic drinks.

Mayor Kingsley assured Youngkin that the city was very strict about having no underage drinking at the event, and that while he was down there he saw no minors drinking.

Scrabeck mentioned that next year he will be hiring 4-5 people from Premier Security in Rochester to be at the gates checking IDs. The security guards will cost him $6,000. Due to the size of the crowd, he will still need two deputies there as well.

"I think it's a good festival to have," said Scrabeck. "All the businesses in town are open at that time, and it brings people into town."

He added that if there are any concerns regarding next year's Dobie Days, he will look into every avenue to make sure it's covered.

Other business

• Jim Lutes of Harmony State Insurance Agency wrote to the city regarding flood coverage for Harmony citizens. According to his letter, Harmony does not currently participate in the Floodplain Management Program, and therefore residents can not purchase flood insurance.

In order for Harmony to be part of the program, the city would have to hire someone to address problem areas.

Council member Linda Grover believed that people could still get flood insurance if they want to, but it's not required. She added that there are no flood plains in Harmony, and she doesn't believe it's necessary for the city to participate in the program. She will be looking into that to be sure.

• The council approved the resolution for MNDOT snow removal this winter, as well as a lease agreement with Wheelers.

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