Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Nov. 22, 1999

Winsted council whittles year 2000 budget

By Luis Puga

Winsted City Council was able to cut more than the $12,000 it needed to balance the budget at Tuesday's meeting.

Looking over pages and pages of a line item budget, the council set out by addressing all expenditures from trees to desks.

Later into the meeting, the council discovered $7,500 on a line item labeled improvements, which was marked for spending on park play equipment. The city had previously purchased those items and opted to cut that amount.

Having already cut a significant amount out of the budget, that item put the council over its $12,000 goal of what it was seeking to cut.

Council Member Jeff Albers urged the council to continue making cuts, saying, "This benefits us all."

Budget cuts were made in the public safety and police department budget. The council discussed with Police Chief Mike Henrich about cutting back on the call time officers are paid for, and turning those periods over to the McLeod County Sheriff's Department for assistance.

Albers said he had discussed the matter with the sheriff, merely to get information, and told the council that there might be a concern if the one car that patrols the area was in a town far from Winsted when a call came in.

Albers noted that an officer from Winsted would still get time and a half if he/she responded to the call, but Henrich noted that if officers are not paid for on-call time, they would not have an obligation to be in town or even to answer the call.

He said he was concerned about the repercussions if an officer, not under obligation to respond to a call, were to opt not to go to work.

"As long as you say, 'Hey Mike, that's not a problem,' then it's okay," he said.

Ultimately, the council decided not to make a cut on call time pay. However, it did cut the monies that go to paying for a part-time officer in the summer months.

A cut of $1,200 will result from eliminating a part-time officer on Fridays during the summer.

The council opted to stop making cuts in the budget after Council Member Bob Kegler reminded the other members that whatever is left over from a budget is returned to the city's general fund.

City Clerk-Treasurer Betty Zachmann said that the city is attempting to build up the general fund. Also, the cuts will not necessarily translate into a decrease in the tax levy, which has yet to be set.

The working budget is now at $1,022,648.

Library grant

The city passed a resolution to apply for a $150,000 grant to make the old city hall handicap accessible. The grant, which may or may not actually be a matching grant, is from the Department of Children, Families, and Learning.

Albers questioned whether applying for such a grant indicated that a decision had already been made on the future of the old city hall. He added that the council should have some dialogue before such a decision is made.

Mayor Floyd Sneer said it would be beneficial to have such grants in place and he believed that the library option for the old city hall would be most likely.

It was also noted that the council is waiting on reports from its engineering firms and the architect to determine how to proceed with plans for the old city hall.

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