Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nov 18, 2008 Buhl meeting

The Nov 18 meeting finished up the 2009 budget, and set the final levy for the City of Buhl. This meeting started early, 5:30pm so that Buhl could have Sheriff Ross Litman at the meeting to review our contract with the county for services.

Sheriff Litman gave us a copy of a draft contract for 2009 services. Buhl contracts with St Louis County for 40 hours of on site deputy service in the city. We also have an agreement with the City of Kinney to share some of the costs. Sheriff Litman shared his thoughts on the contract, and we tried to get the total cost of the contract. This was a difficult thing to do, since some of the costs are not permanently set. Such as the Deputy's salary, which depends on the level of the pay of the deputy that serves Buhl. Also the health insurance costs aren't set, since we won't always know if the deputy has single or family coverage. So, we did the best we could and came up with a number of $90,000 for the 2009 budget. I believe that the cost will be closer to $75,000, but we won't know until the end of 2009.

At some point in the near future, the city will have to decide if we can still afford coverage, or if we should just go with 911 calls and normal sheriff patrols. I haven't made up my mind on this yet, because so much is dependent on the funds that are available. If we can afford the deputy service, I think that we should have it. I'm not sure we can continue to afford it.

We next talked about the library, which is a constant debate within the council of how much we should spend and who has control over the spending. At the previous meeting, we sent the library board back to the drawing board on their budget request, and asked them to cut their request. They did, down @$6,000 to $80,956 with an additional $5,000 for capital expenses.

Again, we will have to decide in the future if a library is in Buhl's future. Our total budget for 2008 was $847,000. Of that, $85,000 went to the library. That is about 10% of our budget. The library is not a core function of the city, so it is a sore spot for some people that don't want their tax dollars spent on non-core services. I think that what we offer outside of core services is what makes our city attractive to homeowners and businesses. So, at this point in time I am all for the library, and will support the spending needed to keep it open. But, as one councilor said during the meeting, the library needs to be more innovative in it's business. What he means (I think) is that they need to find other sources of revenue, and stop asking for more money every year. At some point, even I will have to say no.

After the Library budget being set at $80,956 (with $5,000 more for capital), we had to set the levy for 2009. After some brief discussions, we decided on $856,000, an increase of 4.5% from 2008. We had a short discussion on past spending and future project spending, and where that money will come from. I will discuss that in another post soon.

We then approved a grant from IRRB for $200,000 for the reconstruction of Frantz Street.

We paid for the paving at the new assisted living facility in Buhl. $40,000 was spent out of money received in a grant for the job.

We spent $4,000 for engineering work for the assisted living facility, again from a IRRB grant.

We renewed licenses for businesses in town.

We reviewed a new utility ordinance, and took no action.

We agreed to pay the Buhl building inspector a retainer of $150/month for services. This agreement is instead of an hourly rate. Our city clerk believes that this is a good deal, and that the building inspector gives us much more service than the $150/month if set at an hourly rate. Our city clerk is a smart guy, so I agreed to the retainer. However, we will review the retainer fee at a later date to see if it is costing the City too much, and if we should then raise our building permit fees.

We sent a letter to the Secretary of Energy to support the Excelsior Energy Mesabe Energy Project.

We voted against providing any money for the Chisholm, Balkan & Buhl Rec Program. Over the years, we felt that the usage of this program by Buhl residents had diminished to a point where it was no longer worth the cost.

We allowed the City offices to be closed on Dec 26, 2008. Each employee will take a personal day or take vacation for the day.

Well, that was a lot for my first post of a meeting. One of our councilors writes for a newspaper, so his writing would be very good. Mine, not so much. Let me know what you think.


concerned taxpayer said...

You list alot of things the council did at the last meeting. Library, Law Enforcement, Levy, hmmm I guess it was the wrong meeting alphabetically for you to discuss or do anything about your Ambulance Service.Something as far as I am concerned is far more important than a library. You have take a problem to which you were offered a simple solution. A simple mutual aid agreement with Kinney's EMS personel and you turned it over to your attorney who has drug his feet and blown the simple mutual aide agreement way out of proportion. I just wonder how you or any of the other members of the council would feel if it were you who needed an ambulance and had to wait for one to come from Virginia, or Hibbing rather than having your own service right there in town? The first few minutes of care in medical situations are very crutial to a positive outcome. The longer it takes to get even the simplest of care can mean very much. I guess until you are actually faced with it though you will not understand.

Chris Primeau said...

Good comments on the joint powers agreement. Buhl's lawyer gave us an update at the Nov 5th (it wasn't on the Nov 18 agenda, and we didn't discuss it) meeting stating that the agreement was waiting on comments from Kinney's lawyer.

20 years ago, a simple verbal agreement, or something written out by the two mayors could have solved the joint powers issue, but with all the litigation these days, we pay a lawyer to do it for us.

We don't want Buhl to be sued over something that our ambulance did, or did not do. Lawyers take awhile, but ours does a good job.