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October 19, 2019

9/12/2019 3:18:00 PM
Center City finances, levy main agenda item

Center City Council last week heard from the budget subcommittee consisting of Council member Lloyd Vetter and Mayor Mark Wolcott, that just to cover debt payments in 2020 the city levy may need to increase 5.8 percent. The General Fund levy may require 2.5 percent additional.    Council set a budget workshop for Thursday September 26 at 7p.m. to go over budget details.  

Growth in expenses include the sheriff patrol deputy hourly wage increase to $60.40 (80 hours monthly in June, July and August and 60 in May and Sept. and 40 hours monthly in cold weather.)  The debt service is mainly for a paving loan that council approved 5-0 last week, authorizing borrowing of $90,000.  (The city gets $84,450 and the rest is for borrowing costs and counsel.)  

The loan is for bituminous around the fire hall, including the south end of the mall and a surface repair-improvement on Moody Avenue.  The interest rate on the loan out of the MN Rural Water agency is 2.5 percent and the first payment is due in August  2020.  

City Public Works Director Eric Garner commented that the paving work starts September 16.

Council made a small dent in city expenses.  Post office box fees were eliminated by approving the mail to be delivered directly to city hall and no longer having a city box.

The copier lease will dip by about $25 per month on a vote to contract for five years with a new company.  City Clerk Norma Anderson had compared lease options and gave council the information.  

Council also directed staff to review cellphone service contracts and see if there’s an opportunity to save tax dollars there. Center City provides three phones to staff.

The city’s cooperation in community solar arrays is paying-off too.  The former Solarstone community solar garden agreement has been transferred to new owner Clearway Solar.  The city paid Clearway $905.54 for July and received an Xcel community solar credit of $939.  The August payment was $910.83 and the Xcel credit was $1,207.

The $500,000 fire hall addition and improvements budget overage ended up around $30,000,  and council has been advised this will be covered out of the Capital Equipment Fund in the fire department budget.

In zoning matters:  Council member Jill Behnke reported the planning commission reviewed fence and dog ordinances’ language,  and recommends a public hearing for October 1 during the city council meeting, which council scheduled.

Fencing will be capped at 48 inches tall on all sides of a lot, there will be a three-foot setback from property lines unless adjacent property owners mutually agree to allowing a fence on-the-line.  The setback provides room to do fence maintenance from the odd side without trespassing.

The dog ordinance will also be gone over at the public hearing, and will clarify there is to be no more than three dogs on any property. (Special allowance for number of puppies.)

Public Works Director Garner informed council the watermain issue affecting the old jail on Mainstreet is resolved. The service line was “capped and plugged” just last week, he said, after much investigative excavation and blueprint review.  One of the water service lines had been covered over during a long-a-go jail addition  and last winter the line could not be found when there was a water freeze and  flooding problem.  

The jail property also contains some historic items that Center City was asked if there’s an interest in acquiring.  Garner said a small primitive cell, a safe door, the former gravestone monument company marker,  and the building header on the old telephone building are all salvageable.

No decision was made by council on accepting these items-- as the old jail/phone building demolition plans have no urgency.  

The jail/lakeshore property is for sale and the county is also applying for a state grant for structure demo costs.

The jail parcel was abandoned when the new Chisago County Public Safety Center was completed east of downtown Center City; now also housing sheriff’s administrative offices and the communications center 9-1-1 operations that re-located earlier.

Garner also went over the fire hydrant relocation project on the south end of Grand Avenue.  A property owner has agreed to allow a hydrant to be moved to his lot from a poor location on a neighboring parcel.  The parcel owner asking that the hydrant be moved is covering labor of almost $2,000 to move the hydrant.  The city (replacing the hydrant on a routine schedule anyway) pays the $3,500 approximately for the physical hydrant. Work was awarded to R.E. Peterson Inc.

Chisago Lakes Rotary also wanted to see if Center City Days could support a Rotary Dragon Boat Race event.  Council consensus was that it should be a good fit.  The large open boats are rowed by 10 to 20 rowers and usually have been decorated in a fierce “dragon’ motif and competing teams negotiate a race course. Rotary will report back.

Parks Liason Council member Scott Anderson reminded everyone the annual parks fundraiser brats and pie feed,  at Pleasant Valley Orchard, just south of Center City,  is Sunday, October 6.

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