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City OKs agreement, $100,000 for parking lot

By Staff | Aug 30, 2008

The Winnebago City Council approved a lease agreement to purchase the parking lot of a new grocery store from businessman Bob Weerts.

Economic development comes in many forms. In Winnebago, it’s paying $100,000 for the parking lot of a new grocery store just north of the Municipal Center.

Tuesday night, the City Council unanimously approved a 10-year lease agreement with businessman Bob Weerts to acquire the lot, which cost more than $158,000 to build.

City Attorney Douglas Johanson explained to councilmembers details of the agreement, such as, who is responsible for various maintenance and utilities.

“It is a public lot. Anyone can park there. It is not exclusive use for the grocery store,” Johanson says.

In May, the council agreed to purchase the parking lot for no more than $100,000, once work was completed.

The city will use money from the Economic Development Authority fund, which has a current balance of $230,000, to purchase the lot. Details of repayment to the EDA must still be worked out.

Johanson told the council that Weerts should own the lot’s security cameras because of liability, maintenance and monitoring issues. Also, he says the city should not take ownership of the electric sign because upkeep is too costly.

Councilmembers got their first look at the proposed 2009 budget and it shows a levy increase of 11 percent.

“That likely will go up. Health insurance costs and the library budget have to be factored in,” says City Administrator Jennifer Feely, adding that insurance costs could increase as much as 10 percent.

The proposed levy of $398,826 is $39,500 more than last year’s.

Feely called the budget she presented “a very rough copy.”

Levy limits imposed by the state, she says, do not affect Winnebago because the town’s population is less than 2,500.

While Feely anticipates most of the city’s revenues to stay the same, state aid will increase; going from $563,065 to $578,934.

Most departments will see 3 percent salary increases for their employees.

High fuel costs also are adding to the budgets of emergency services departments.

Feely says the city also is budgeting for higher utility bills.

“We’re allowing some wiggle room. Since we’re uncertain what gas prices will be a year from now,” she says.

The ambulance department may see a cost increase of $5,500 if officials decide to contract with a firm to handle billing. Staff say billing forms take too much time to fill out and are complicated. In addition, the firm would be able to collect from people not paying their bills.

Police Chief Bob Toland told councilmembers the city needs to start setting funds aside to purchase high-tech radios for a new system implemented as early as 2010.

Toland says the new portable digital shortband radios cost $1,800 each and $3,500 for 800 megahertz. He says his department has six portable radios, while the ambulance and fire departments have about 60.

The council plans to review the 2009 budget again at its Sept. 8 meeting. A proposed budget must be adopted by Sept. 16.