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Wells liquor store in red for second year in a row

By Staff | Jun 19, 2011

The final report of the Wells 2010 audit has good and bad news.

Tom Olinger of Abdo, Eick & Meyers told the City Council Monday night the city overall is financially sound.

So what’s the bad news?

The municipal liquor store recorded an operating loss for a second straight year.

Olinger says the operation finished $61,609 in the red last year and $27,552 in 2009.

By state law, the council is required to hold a public hearing to discuss the liquor store’s future.

“The big thing is to have a plan in place to avoid a loss in the future,” he says. “The general fund is in good shape. Just focus on the liquor store. I think that is your big task here.”

City Administrator Jeremy Germann says “one-time expenditures” such as repairing the liquor store roof and a retirement contributed to the loss. Also, $25,000 was transfered out of the liquor fund to supplement departments experiencing budget shortages.

Germann says he doesn’t expect a public hearing to discuss the issue will be held until later this year.

Some of the results of the audit include:

• the general fund has a balance of slightly more than $1 million;

• revenues were $120,000 more than budgeted;

• expenditures increased by $100,000;

• public safety budget was down $28,000;

• culture and recreation budget decreased by $34,000;

• property taxes per capita went from $225 to $240.

In other business, the council rejected a counteroffer to have the city repair a damaged grain bin owned by Frank Bros. Feed and Grain Inc. and add the cost to the company’s property tax statement.

Instead, the city plans to go to court to have the owner either repair or tear down the bin.

Wells officials have already spent $1,000 on an engineering study that found the structure could pose a safety hazard if there is a storm.

In the past, officials have said cost of repairing the bin is estimated at $77,000, while tearing it down would be $36,000.

The council also:

• did one-year job performance evaluations for liquor store manager Scott Berg and street department supervisor Janie Whim.

City Attorney David Frundt gave a brief summation of the closed-session reviews that last about 15 minutes each.

Frundt says the council as a whole had mostly positive comments for each employee regarding their competency and ability to work well with the public.

“There were statements on their quality of work and hard effort, and going above and beyond of what’s called for,” Frundt says.

Only two areas needing improvement were cited — dealing with personnel and staying within their budgets.

Frundt says the council believes Whim must “step up and take a full management role” now that the learning curve is over.

• heard a request from resident Steve Navara to have his 4.6 acres of property de-annexed.

Navara says the city portion of his taxes have increased 18-fold since 2005 without any increase in services.

“I’m not angry. I just think there is an inequity here,” he says.

The council will study Navara’s request.

• officially accepted the resignation of Chris Elvebak as community development director.

The council did not discuss whether to fill the vacancy.

Germann says a decision will be made once it is known how much the city will receive in state aid.