By Clay Schuldt
The Caledonia City Council held a Truth in Taxation meeting at the Dec. 10 city council meeting.
First, the council made amendments to the 2012 budget and added an additional $133,730 to revenues and included $154,740 in expenses. Taking reserved funds into account, Caledonia’s net surplus for 2012 is $70,165.
The council received no comments in person or in writing regarding the proposed taxed levy for 2013. The council unanimously approved a 4.28 percent increase to the tax levy, amounting to $715,922.
Next, the council approved assessments of two properties. The first assessment was for the removal of a diseased tree stump at the cost of $1,665. The second assessment, for a fallen electrical line caused by a falling tree limb, was $181.37.
The council approved a six-year note of indebtedness at 3 percent interest on a $130,000 purchase of a cruiser, end loader and plow truck.
During a special budget meeting Nov. 28, the city council listened to a presentation from Police Chief Kurt Zehnder, who was asking for a fifth full-time officer in order to ensure 24/7 coverage. Zehnder had an alternative plan for a permanent, part-time officer with no health benefits as well.
During the regular meeting the council discussed the various options and felt a permanent, part-time officer would best fill the position while ensuring 24/7 coverage for the city. The position was approved for no more than 70 hours in a two-week time period.
The city council voted to approve Smith and Schafer as Caledonia’s auditing firm for 2012-14. Caledonia received five quotes for the service, three of which were lower than Smith and Schafer by $1,000. City accountant Stephanie Mann said she felt Smith and Schafer provided the best service. In addition, this firm is the only one who visited Caledonia to offer advice and assistance at no extra charge. The council voted 4-1 to hire Smith and Schafer, with Mayor Robert Burns voting against.
After a year of negotiations, the city came to an agreement with Operating Engineers Local 49, who will now represent city employees at the bargaining table. City employees had previously represented themselves, but this change actually saves the city money and benefits the employees, City Administrator Ted Schoonover said.
“They always had their own agreement; now they have joined Local 49,” he explained.
The employees received a 1.5 percent pay increase retroactive in fiscal year 2012. They will also receive 1.5 percent increase in fiscal 2013.
The biggest benefit of all, however, deals with medical coverage. Employees can now be a part of Local 49’s package as opposed to the city’s plan. This saves the city an estimated $70,000 to $90,000 each year.
“It’s a better plan than what the city can afford to offer them,” Schoonover said. “I think it’s going to benefit the city and employees. I think it’s a win-win for everybody.”
WWTP internet access
Two options for providing internet access to the wastewater treatment plant were offered to the city council. The first option was a one-time payment of $3,000 to connect the facility to another computer by a hardline. The other was to enter into a two-year deal with Ace to provide Internet access at $39.95 a month. The council chose the two-year commitment. Councilmember Paul Fisch commented that in a few years a cheaper alternative could be available, and the two-year agreement with Ace would be the cheaper alternative now.
Liquor license renewals
Prior to renewing liquor licenses, Schoonover informed the council that the licenses for Elsie’s Bar and Grill would now be for two names. Mayor Burns commented that this would require additional background checks and was concerned that a background check that does not pass state law could result in a void on the liquor license. Without the liquor license the bar would be shut down as of Jan. 1.
The council intended to bring the issue to the next EDA meeting. The liquor license renewals and changes were approved pending background checks.
Schoonover recommended raising certain city fees. The Houston County Collection Site fee will be raised to $3.25 a month because the account is in the negative every year. The change will allow the account to break even. The fee raise was approved by the council.
• The council approved lift station repairs to Griffin Construction as part of the 2012 Sanitary Sewer Rehabilitation project.
• Houston County wants to put an eight-foot fence between the Justice Center and the nearby residence to block out the light from the building. In order to build the fence, the county needs a two-foot variance from the city. The council approved the variance with the stipulation that both parties sign an agreement approving the fence.
• The council approved an $85,607 payment to Griffin Construction for the 2012 Sanitary Sewer Rehabilitation project.
• The last regular city council meeting of 2012 is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 27 to close out any additional business for the year, which includes a closed session discussion regarding an employee.
Emily Bialkowski of the Caledonia Argus contributed to this story.