Friday, November 21, 2008

Good way to develop in Buhl

An example of a good development for Buhl is the new assisted living facility, Northland Village, located on East Monroe Drive. Northland Foundation asked the City of Buhl to help them with the project. We helped with the grants, we made sure that the city’s engineers were used for oversight on the project, we even backed Northland Foundation's request for a loan from the bank.

Now the project is nearing completion and it is a huge success for Buhl. First, it did not cost the local taxpayers any money. Second, we have a large new assisted living facility in Buhl for our residents. Third, Northland Village will pay taxes, which increases the tax base of the city and helps to hold down the taxes of everyone in the city. This is a great example of how to do new development projects in Buhl.

Let me know what you think of the new assisted living facility in Buhl.

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.

Blog Reason

I have been a member of the Buhl City Council for 4 1/2 years. In that time, I have found it difficult to express my thoughts and ideas to Buhl Citizens for a variety of reasons. I work outside of Buhl, and don't get to spend a lot of time in town during the day. All of the other members of the council work in Buhl, or are retired, so they find more opportunities to speak to individuals during the day.

I also don't have a family history in town, and haven't really known the people of Buhl for very long. My wife grew up in Buhl, and her family has deep roots here. We have been married for 20 years, so we have visited town often over the years. But we moved here just 5 1/2 years ago, so my own roots aren't deep, and in a small town time makes for familiarity between people.

So, I thought that I would try another way to speak to the citizens of Buhl. This blog will cover the City Council meetings. I will review the meetings, go over the issues we debated and give outcomes of our debates. I will also give my thoughts on these issues, and tell why I voted the way I did, and the reasons for my thoughts on these issues.

I invite anyone that reads my blog to leave their thoughts. However, please be polite. Each member of the Buhl City Council tries to do their personal best for the City. We don't always agree, and occasionally we argue, but we are always respectful of each other. I commit to be respectful in this blog, and I insist that any feedback be respectful too.

Disagreement is fine. Our rights to free speech are rooted in our rights to free political speech, and I won't stop that here. But free speech does not mean the freedom to say anything at anytime. Disagreement yes, but I won't allow personal attacks. So, be polite.