Friday, September 4, 2009

September 1, 2009 Council Meeting

It's been few meetings since I last wrote about one. Summer life is busy, and I'm kind of lazy. But here's my account of the latest council meeting.

The mayor started off by reading a nice letter from parents of a Buhl baseball player. The parents thanked Buhl, but mostly the baseball coach Jessie W. for the fun positive season.

Next, George from Northland Securities talked to the council about refinancing two of our bonds. The terms would stay the same on the bonds, but the interest rate would lower enough that the City would save @ $27,000 over the next decade. The council approved moving forward with a more detailed study, and if all is as George said I suspect the council will approve the refinancing of the bonds.

We approved a change order for the Frantz St improvements. The contractor needed to replace a culvert that goes under Presidents Ave. The cost for the change was $1827.00.

Then we paid a partial payment for the road and improvements projects going on in Buhl for a total partial payment of $147,160.01.

Next we discussed the fiscal 2010 budget and tried to set a preliminary levy. In the end we did not set the levy because the request was for a 21% increase from last year. The preliminary levy setting is strange to start with. A proposed levy is set to meet a State of MN deadline (Sept 15 this year). Then we go through each and every dollar of the budget to try to trim wherever we can. This year, with a preliminary request 21% higher than last year, our two new council members decided that they would not vote for the levy. Good. I have tried every year since I have been on the council to set a more realistic preliminary request, and I have failed every year to get more than 2 votes. I am glad to see that Jessie and Colin want the same thing.

We will get together 1 hour before the next council meeting and try to work out a better, more realistic preliminary levy request. Believe it or not, the council has done a good job of keeping spending down. We spent less last year than we did in 2006 or 2008. The request this year is for less than either of those years or 2009. But our revenue goes down every year, so we need to continue to find ways to cut.

One very interesting thing is, if you go to this web site and select Buhl, every year available, and put in $100,000 (or any home price), you can see that the taxes in Buhl are MUCH lower now than they were in 1997. Still, we need to keep taxes low so we can continue to being new homeowners to Buhl.

Next we passed a Resolution to give $165,000 in loan money to St Louis County. The reason we did this is a bit complicated. Buhl gets $893.83 per month from Kids Peace, and in turn Buhl must loan that money out to private companies for things like infrastructure, loan guarantees, interest buy downs and other things a private company may need. The problem is that with only two people working for the City in administrative positions, we just don't have the staffing and knowledge to make these loans. So, we gave the money to the county, and they will make the loans. We couldn't use the money ourselves (I asked), so it was best to let the county run the program.

The water tower needs work, so we worked out a way to use some Mining Effects funds to get the inside of the water tower fixed. Then next year we will pay to have the outside of the tower painted. The total is $41,000 for inside and out.

Next, we okayed a new City warehouse for $33,900 that will be located just west of the #2 pump house. It might seem crazy to spend money on a new building now, but with many thousands of dollars of equipment and parts sitting outside in the weather, we need another storage building. If we can increase the life cycle of our equipment and make each of them last one or two years longer, then the new building will be well worth it.

We approved $1008.00 for new rubber mats on the skateboard ramps at the park. The old mats are worn out through use, not abuse. It's good to see the kids using the park.

We paid $33,014.00 to the League of MN Cities for our insurance.

We talked about starting a new program for administrative traffic citations. This would allow the Sheriff to give citations of $60 to speeders, stop sign runners etc instead of tickets. Then the City would collect $40 of that. The council took no action. After hearing the discussion and reading the materials provided, I am not all that positive on this program.

Next we briefly talked about a curfew ordinance, but it was tabled do to lack of support.

We approved a grant proposal for the senior center for automatic doors. The bid for the doors is $1950, and a grant should pay for that.

We reviewed the Long Range Planning minutes and made a recommendation to have the City Attorney pursue lien forfeiture by the lien holders of the old nursing home. If they will forfeit their liens, then we can tear the old building down. It needs to be torn down because it has quickly become a hazard.

We approved the receipt of a $100,000 grant from the Central Iron Range Sanitary Sewer District. We will use that money and another $100,000 CDBG grant to fix sanitary sewer lines in Buhl. The council approved going out for bids on those sewer lines.

Finally, we approved a $15,870 contribution to the Buhl Fire Relief Association to be paid next year. This is the first time I can remember approving the payment of a bill for the next year, but we did.

That was it. Come to the meeting on September 15, 2009 at 5:30 and let us know what you think about next years levy.