City: More funds needed

FAIRMONT — Faced with a growing number of improvement projects, the Fairmont City Council gave approval Monday to a preliminary levy of 12.1 percent to fund the proposed 2018 budget. The levy will rise an additional $489,000.

Mayor Debbie Foster offered a clarification on the double-digit levy.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean your taxes are going up 12.1 percent,” she said.

Paul Hoye, city finance director, supported her statement, noting that the 2017 levy of 9 percent resulted in a 5.3 percent impact on property taxes.

Hoye offered the council an overview of the proposed budget and identified the need for additional funds.

A new roof and upgraded lighting at the senior citizens center will cost $27,000. The addition of a K-9 unit for the police department, including a dog and training, and replacing a squad car each carry a $30,000 price tag. New helmets and other gear for the fire department will cost $31,000.

Almost $400,000 is earmarked for the street department for a new plow/dump truck, skid loader trailer, skid loader blade and building replacement design. Replacing the splash pool heater at the aquatic park will cost $30,000.

“General fund revenue is up almost $900,000, but general fund expenditures are up $1.1 million,” Hoye said.

Health insurance costs for city employees are going up 18 percent, and 3.5 full-time employees will be added.

Liquor store funds will be used for several projects: repairs at the SMEC building, $40,000; replacing the Pioneer Bridge, $225,000; adding safety features at the Winnebago Avenue Sports Complex, $30,000; resurfacing the tennis courts at Veterans Park, $50,000; contribution to Adventure Playground, the accessible playground proposed for Gomsrud Park, $150,000; refurbishing the three almost 20-year-old pool slides at the aquatic park, $83,000.

City Administrator Mike Humpal noted that Fairmont will receive an additional $31,000 in local government aid from the state in 2018, an abrupt change after annual cuts of more than $100,000 for several years.

“Fairmont is in a good financial point,” Humpal said. “We’ve got strong reserves for a community our size.”

He added that, once adopted, the levy can be lowered but not increased.

In another matter, Brandon Edmundson and Mike Edman, members of the Fairmont Community Center Action Committee, asked the council for $125,000 to hire Tegra, Inc., a Minnesota company, to work with the committee to navigate the process from design to construction. Tegra would analyze information on various amenities necessary and desired in a community center.

“What’s the bare minimum that we could build and still be worth building?” Edmundson said. “Who’s going to run it when it’s done — the city or a private foundation?”

Tegra would present three models, from basic amenities to all the extras.

Edman said he hoped Tegra could complete the analysis in a year.

“We will know where we’re at when it’s done,” he said, adding that the information would be vital in determining whether a community center is feasible.

The council took no action on the request, due to the fact that a vote was not on the agenda.

Councilman Bruce Peters encouraged citizens to email their council representatives with their view on the matter. Email addresses are available on the city website, www.fairmont.org

In other business, the council:

o Heard a presentation from Kinship about the need for additional mentors willing to commit to three to six hours per month to continue the work in supporting youth in the county. Currently there are 19 children on the waiting list. More information is available by calling the Kinship office at (507) 238-4440.

o Approved a parade permit for Fairmont’s homecoming celebration. The parade will start 4 p.m. Sept. 29 and run from Ward Park through Downtown Plaza to Fourth Street.

o Set a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 9 for property owners assessed for 2017 street improvements.

o Approved a conditional use permit for Head Start for a nursery school at the Christian Church, 625 Johnson St., which is a B1 zone.

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