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BE makes cuts to lower 2019 levy & budget

By Staff | Oct 21, 2018

Mayor Rick Scholtes joins Vanessa Wirkus and Chris Gage to commemorate October 15 as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in the city of Blue Earth. All October long is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

Blue Earth’s City Council took some extra time during their Oct. 15 meeting to discuss their ongoing budget levy for 2019.

One of the larger budgetary considerations was in regards to the local Blue Earth Fire Department.

Each year, the city of Blue Earth provides a voluntary contribution of approximately $12,000 to the fire relief association fund. For the last five years, the city has voluntarily contributed to that fund.

But this year, after allotting a three percent increase to each fireman’s pension, council members ultimately decided to forego the voluntary contribution to the relief association fund for the 2019 year.

Councilman Glenn Gaylord brought up the discussion point, stating, besides the three percent increase to pensions, the city of Blue Earth also spent $180,000 on new air packs for the local fire department.

“The fire relief association fund is well-funded due to the levy,” said Gaylord. “We could forego feeding that budget for five years and that fire relief budget would still be fine. I think this is one thing we can do for our taxpayers to keep the city levy down.”

There was some concern from councilmember John Huisman about foregoing the voluntary commitment of $12,000 to the FRA, stating the funds were relied on by the fire department.

“This is just the part funded by the city,” was Gaylord’s response to Huisman’s concerns. “That doesn’t even include all of the outsourced help our fire department receives from the state. I make a motion we remove this item from the levy this year. I would like to see a second with my motion.”

Councilman Dan Warner seconded the motion, while Gaylord requested a roll-call vote. All but one member of the council voted in favor of removing the voluntary fire relief fund item from the 2019 levy. Mayor Rick Scholtes also voted in favor of foregoing the voluntary $12,000 contribution.

Other portions of the budget the council looked at included the city’s community pool budget. The council noticed an increase in the pool’s budget due to the on-going assistance with the purchase of a new slide for the pool.

The council also noted an increase in the city’s Economic Development Authority budget, which is largely due to a Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) employee being staffed by the EDA for four days a week.

Other budgetary items the council discussed were:

An increase in the Senior Center budget. The center is seeing an increase in meal program users, and requested an eight percent increase to accommodate that increased market.

A $30,000 budget for new playground equipment for children at Third Ward Park located on East Fifth Street.

A decrease in budget for the council and its mayor from approximately $4,500 down to $3,500.

Potential savings in the Police Department budget in the future, depending on how well the in-city deer hunt goes next year, in 2019.

Taking their time and using their best judgement, the council worked diligently through their levy and budget and requested they continue to work on the budget in future meetings before their Truth in Taxation hearing in December.

In other topics, the council received an update from city engineer Wes Brown who shared that though the snow last Sunday did slow things down with street projects, they still anticipate completing their ongoing work before the season’s end.

The 13th and Moore Street project, according to Brown, would be doing subcuts into the street in hopes of getting the four blocks finished before the end of construction season.

The housing development in the northeast side of town is still waiting on drier conditions in order to continue with concrete curb and gutter installation.

Brown also discussed the city’s prospects for 2019 street projects. He introduced a 2019 Street Project Feasibility Study for the North Sailor Street Improvements. The hearing date for the project was covered in the city’s Resolution 18-17, a resolution the council approved and sets the hearing date for Nov. 5, at 5:05 p.m. in the Ag Center. The proposed project would cost the city close to $1.9 million.

The city engineer stated there would be a proposed change for Riverview Lane with regards to its plumbing and connection into the water service stub. Brown also stated they would connect Second Street with East Street, and potentially add more sidewalks with regards to the Safe Routes to School project.

There was some question as to whether or not sidewalks were wanted by residents while others argued having safe routes to school for children would be more beneficial to the city, something the council will have to look at closer in the future.

The council also:

Discussed a street lighting district establishment,

Approved a variance request for a concrete patio,

Hope to hear an update on the Three Sisters project at their November meeting. They also hope to see a resolution to the project in December.