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BE again talks how to spend $241,390

By Staff | Aug 23, 2020

The Blue Earth City Council and HRA were the successful bidders on this house at 906 Upper Valley Dr.

The Blue Earth City Council had a dozen items on its agenda last Monday night that dealt with finances.

Chief among those was a continued discussion of what to do with the $241,390 in CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) funds the city has received.

At their previous meetings, the council had approved using some funds at various city entities including the library, city-owned liquor store and Ag Center, and the police and fire departments.

They had also approved $100,000 to the city’s Economic Development Authority to disburse to local businesses.

That still leaves $94,476 left in the fund. City administrator Mary Kennedy had presented a plan to disperse $83,600 of that money to local entities such as United Hospital District, St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center, Blue Earth Area Schools and others.

“There would still be $10,876 which could be spent by the city on some other things,” Kennedy told the council. “So if any of you have ideas on that, please let me know.”

The council started to discuss several possibilities, including the purchase of several floor scrubbing machines, instead of just one that would be trucked from building to building.

“I think places like the Senior Center need to have their own vacuum and carpet extractor,” councilman Glenn Gaylord said. “So should the liquor store and the Ag Center. Hauling this equipment around will cause damage to them.”

The other part of the CARES Act money distribution list also sparked some discussion, especially dealing with whether the city should be granting money to the other organizations, or at what amounts.

“We have a time deadline on this so we need to act,” Kennedy said. “We need to have the money dispersed, spent and documented by Nov. 15.”

In the end, the council decided to have Kennedy meet with the various community groups to determine the need for the funds, and then make a decision at their first meeting in September on how to disburse the funds.

Other financial items at Monday night’s meeting included:

The sale of $3.65 million in bonds which will be used for the 2020 Street Projects as well as a refunding (refinancing) of a 2010 bond.

The bond’s true interest rate was calculated at 1.09 percent.

The refunding of the 2010 bond will save the city $45,000 per year for the next five years. That means the city’s debt service levy can be reduced by that amount each year.

After a public hearing, the council voted to accept a USDA loan of $68,000 and a grant of $50,000 for the purchase of new Public Works Department equipment.

The funds will be used to purchase a paving hot box trailer to keep asphalt hot for fixing potholes and street issues, as well as a track skid loader for clearing snow.

Discussion was held on a proposal by Blue Earth Light and Water on a plan to do energy upgrades of LED lights and new HVAC equipment at city owned properties at a cost of $478,000. The cost would be covered by energy savings over the next few years.

The council learned the city was the successful bidder on a house at 906 Upper Valley Drive. The bid was at $38,400. The funds come from the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA).

Also discussed was the possible bid on a business property on Seventh Street that is now in possession of the county. Mayor Rick Scholtes and Kennedy will attend the next County Board meeting to discuss a possible bid on the property.

During their work session before the start of the regular meeting, the council heard their annual city audit report for the 2019 year from a representative of the CliftonLarsonAllen auditing firm.

The audit showed overall revenues were stable last year and there was a positive bottom line.

The city’s municipal liquor store, Blue Earth Wine and Spirits, showed a modest increase, but also continues to be a good source of income. The fitness center stayed pretty much break even, the report showed.

Overall the city’s financials are looking very good and should continue to be that way, the report stated.

Councilman Gaylord questioned why the audit was coming in so late in the year, and the answer was both the COVID-19 shutdown, and the fact the city had several vacant periods in having a city administrator in 2020.