The city council set the preliminary levy for 2022 at $2,337,277 or a 3.98% increase (just under $90,000) over the 2021 levy. Councilor Dave Frank was absent from the September meeting.
City Clerk Joel Young presented three proposals for the council to consider for the levy. The first proposal would have had a levy increase of 7.3%. A reduction of $75,000 to wastewater treatment plant debt service allowed the levy increase to be reduced to 3.98%.
A resolution was approved concerning Small City Assistance funds received in 2021 in the amount of $53,000. The funds will be deposited into the 2017A Debt Service Fund and future tax levies for that debt service fund are to be lessened in a pro rata fashion. This debt service fund is associated with the Enterprise Drive improvements. If the council chose to use this transfer to further reduce the levy, it could have resulted in an additional levy reduction of $10,000 to a levy increase of 3.53%. The final levy can be decreased, but not increased from the preliminary number, when approved in December. The council chose to allow some cushion.
A motion was unanimously approved to set the preliminary levy at the 3.98% increase. The Truth in Taxation hearing will be December 13.
A resolution was approved setting the pay grid as of January 1, 2022. All employees, full-time and part-time, will receive a pay increase of 3.5%.
Young reviewed the guiding principles for the budget which include a steady predictable tax rate and a reduction of the city’s debt per capita to $3,500 or less. The city’s tax rate has been reduced the last couple of years and the debt per capita is down to $3,600. The community is growing faster than the city’s budget. Sanitary and sewer funds have a 0% increase. There is a 2% increase in water rates. The total monthly impact will be less than a 1% increase in rates.
Other business in brief
•Mayor Russ Smith announced Senator Carla Nelson has been selected as a League of Minnesota Cities Legislator of Distinction for 2021. She is one of 18 legislators recognized this year.
•Mitch Irish was recognized on receiving the 2020 Minnesota Wastewater Operators Association Award for Class C Operator of the year for the Southeast section of Minnesota. Brian Burkholder congratulated Irish on the award.
Burkholder said the Capital Plan calls for the front end loader to be replaced every three years to keep repair and maintenance costs down. Approval was given to trade the 2018 front end loader for a 2021 front end loader; the cost after trade-in is $23,500.
Approval was given to purchase a RayPak pool heater for $36,149 from Southeast Mechanical. It is to be installed in May 2022.
Burkholder reported that there has been a lot of vandalism of city property, with a value of about $7,000. He wanted the public to be aware of the vandalism and the cost.
Approval was given for new roofs on the warming house shelter, bleacher canopy and other repairs at Mill Creek Park at a total cost of $13,900.
•Ambulance Director Rocky Burnett asked for and received approval to replace 20 chairs at a total cost of $2,000. Power cot systems protect both patients and EMTs as the cots do the lifting. The council approved the purchase of two power load cots at a cost of about $31,000 each.
Jarrin Jax was hired as an EMT. She will fill in mostly night shifts and at least one weekend shift per month.
A service area agreement with St. Charles was approved. St. Charles is having difficulty fulfilling their schedule. Chatfield has been asked to help by covering Saratoga Township. Chatfield Ambulance will just be available to cover for 12-hour shifts when they don’t have staffing available.
•Fire Chief Lucas Thieke asked the council to consider approving a firefighter pay increase proposal. There has not been an increase in pay since 2017. The increase was approved as proposed. Thieke proposed that firefighter pay be increased each year in line with the city employee cost of living increases.
Authorization was given for the fire chief and city clerk to execute the DNR grant agreement. The fire department plans to purchase two radios and a digital tank level gauge for the brush truck (total cost $6,472.83). After the purchase the DNR will give half of the purchase price back. The department is approved for $3,396 as a match.
•Chris Giesen, EDA, explained the EDA moved forward to create a development agreement with Mike and Julie Sogla. The agreement covers a two phase development. The agreement allows the developer to move ahead with the first phase of townhomes. Townhomes on the lower elevation will be serviced by water and sewer from Mill Creek Rd. N.W. and a single private drive from Division St. N.W. The second phase on a higher elevation will be serviced by water and sewer from Division St. NW and a single private drive from Division St. N.W. The plan is for 23 homes.
•A conditional use permit was approved as recommended by Planning and Zoning with 11 conditions for the Gjere Subdivision planned unit development. Eleven townhome units are planned. One modification was made including a 25-foot front yard setback from the private drive and a 20-foot rear yard setback from Mill Creek Rd. The property is located in Elmira Township adjacent to Mill Creek Rd. NW and Division St. NW.
•An offer from Joshua Broadwater LLC to purchase a lot on Enterprise Dr. for the full asking price of $68,160 was approved. Councilor Josh Broadwater abstained.
•The second consideration of Ordinance #455 Gjere Zoning was approved, as was its publication.
•The second consideration of Ordinance #456 Mill Creek Overlook Zoning was approved, as was its publication.
•Katie Goldsmith will be swimming pool manager again next year.
•There was a public hearing on Delinquent Utility charges. No one from the public commented. A resolution was approved authorizing the city clerk to prepare documentation that would cause the county auditor to collect the delinquent utilities with property taxes.