Harmony resident Harvey Benson spoke during the public forum portion of the September 13 Harmony City Council meeting. An avid library supporter, he had attended the recent library board meeting and was surprised to hear that the city had recommended no increase in funding for the library in the 2023 budget. He asked if that was correct and if so, why that decision had been made as a 7% inflation rate seemed to indicate that an increase was in order. Mayor Steve Donney said that the budget committee had recommended no increase as there had been large increases over the last two years. He thanked Benson for his comments.
The consent agenda was approved and included the minutes of the August meeting, the claims and August checks, the city’s memberships with the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, or SMIF, and the Minnesota Municipalities Utilities Association, or MMUA. The 2023 contract with the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Department has not been received yet, but since the contract will remain the same, the council approved it.
The council reviewed the 2023 preliminary budget and levy. City Administrator Devin Swanberg reminded the council that the levy can always be decreased later, but that once the preliminary budget resolution has been passed, it cannot be increased. Overall, the levy would increase 3.5% from the previous year and should have a minimal impact on homeowners. Council member Domingo Kingsley asked to review the library budget and noted that it was given a 5% increase last year with no increase this year. Swanberg said that the library also receives county funds each year so its budget is not limited to what it receives from the city. Resolution 22-13 certifying the property tax levy was approved.
CEO and founder of LTD Broadband, Corey Hauer, gave a presentation to the council about the possibility of bringing aerial fiber optic services to Harmony. As of now, many people use wireless services for their internet, but signals can’t always make it through foliage and other physical obstacles so there are restrictions to who can access that service. “The physics of that are never going to change,” Hauer said. His company has found a way to inexpensively install aerial fiber. He showed the council a sample of the fiber and noted that it holds up through wind and ice storms. Aerial fiber optics can be installed in just a few weeks for an entire town using the existing utility poles which LTD Broadband would rent from the City of Harmony. Before a project were to begin in Harmony, LTD Broadband would conduct a survey to find out how many people were interested in the service. Mayor Donney felt that it would be wise to have the utility committee look into it as well. City Attorney Greg Schieber asked Hauer to send him a sample pole attachment agreement to look over, to which Hauer agreed.
The council approved a motion to move Lisa Morken out of her probationary period as it has ended, and to increase her from part-time to full-time hours as of September 26 based on the recommendation of the personnel committee.
Last year, 15 holiday snowflakes were purchased to decorate the street lights on Main Street at a cost of $7,500, which was half the number needed. The council approved a motion to purchase 15 more holiday light decorations in a different design at a cost not to exceed $7,500.
Steve Sagen gave the EDA report. Years ago, Hammel House & Co came to a development agreement for the Walnut Farms subdivision which required the company to build one house a year. There were two years that that did not happen, leading to Hammel House reimbursing the city $12,000 for each year, which is the amount of Harmony’s new home rebate. Now, however, they’re selling the lots rather than building on them. The lots for which the city received refunds shouldn’t have assessments on them as they’ve already been squared up with the city. The developer and future homeowners of the other lots will have to decide how to handle the amount of the new home rebates for them as per the development agreement, the rebate would not apply to the homeowner. The EDA will stay in contact with Hammel House as sales move forward.
A meeting is being set up to meet with legislators to get advice for the bike trail expansion project, as the DNR’s budget will not cover the full project. The estimated cost for the project is $1.7 million, but only $1.4 million in bonding dollars is available. The project is going out to bid in November and will be awarded in December. However, if the end of the year comes and the contract has not been awarded, the bonding money will be lost. In the event it is not able to award the contract in time, the DNR will consider awarding the funds to the city to do the project, but that’s not a best case scenario. “There’s a lot of things we need to fall in place perfectly for this to go well,” Schieber said.
Swanberg asked the council for their approval to apply for a Laura Jane Musser grant to help pay for either the splash pad or the picnic shelter. Grabau said that since the splash pad was originally presented to the city as a project that would be paid for by fundraising, he would prefer the money to go to the shelter first with any extra being used for the splash pad. A motion to apply for the grant with those conditions was approved.
Kingsley noted that the last library board meeting included a discussion on how to handle book complaints. The library does not have plans to ban any books, but will work with anyone who has a concern or complaint and wants to be sure that everyone can enjoy coming to the library. Michael Himlie was thanked for donating some books in memory of his father, Todd Himlie.
Grabau asked if the city had seen any revenue from the car charging stations yet. Swanberg responded that the payment system for them had been programmed incorrectly at first, causing a loss of $46 in revenue, but that the issue has been fixed now.
Kingsley mentioned that a member of the community had asked him if something could be done about the Center Street/Main Street intersection as people drive so fast on Main Street that it can be dangerous to cross or turn onto the road. Mayor Donney said that he had also received a complaint from someone about how dark the intersection is at Highway 52 and County 22. Swanberg asked the council members to write letters for him to forward to MnDOT.
The next Harmony City Council meeting will be held on October 11 at 7 p.m.