By Jennifer Gallus
HOWARD LAKE, MN - One bill that received some discussion at Howard Lake’s council meeting Tuesday was from MnDOT in the amount of $90,000 for work completed in 2002.
This is the first time the city has been notified it has an outstanding balance for the Highway 12 project completed six years ago, in which the city paid $1 million up-front.
“Through discussions with our engineer and State Representative Dean Urdahl, this is a shared problem with many of the neighboring towns,” City Administrator Kelly Hinnenkamp said.
Hinnenkamp said that she has heard that this is typical and that Cokato has recently received a $90,000 bill, while Waverly and Montrose have both received $250,000 bills recently.
Urdahl made a deal with MnDOT for the City of Cokato, and was able to secure a four-year payment plan with no interest for the city. He has offered to assist the City of Howard Lake with reaching a similar agreement, as well.
“Hopefully, we can get the same deal as Cokato,” Hinnenkamp said.
“I’d like to see an itemized statement, especially since it’s this late in the game,” Council Member Tom Kutz added.
Hinnenkamp assured the council that MnDOT is indeed sending an itemized bill.
“I think this is ridiculous,” Council Member Pete Zimmerman said. “We’ve already certified our initial levy we can’t just add it into our budget now.”
In other business, the fate of Howard Lake’s Municipal Liquor Store was under consideration due to the fact that the state dictates that if a financial loss is experienced two out of three consecutive years, a public hearing must take place, and the future of the store must be discussed.
Only one comment from a resident was voiced at the public hearing regarding the store.
“It would be foolish to close it,” said Howard Lake resident Marvin Robertson during the public hearing. “Because you’ll have to raise my taxes if you close one end or the other.”
“One end or the other” is in reference to the off-sale portion of the store versus the on-sale part of the store.
Hinnenkamp explained that many of the miscellaneous expenses documented for the council to review would be applicable whether one side of the store was closed or not, because they’re shared expenses for the whole business.
During the council meeting, Liquor Store Manager Aaron DeMarais said that before the economy started slowing down, the store, at one time, was a “cash cow.”
“I absolutely see potential for it to do well again,” DeMarais said. “We’re still seeing new faces each week, and the punch-card stack is growing.”
Profits for the liquor store were in the high $70,000 and low $80,000 range from 2001 to 2003. Profits peaked at almost $101,000 in 2004, before declining to $32,204 in 2005. The store then experienced a loss of $26,789 in 2006, losing again in 2007 in the amount of $59,051, and the loss projected for 2008 is $63,004. The fate of the store will be discussed further in a future workshop.
Kutz told DeMarais, “I don’t think it’s anything you’re doing, or anyone else. It’s just the way the times are, and we need to weather this out. I know a lot of bars in the area are experiencing the same thing.”
Regarding other matters, Shelly Reddeman addressed the council about conditions at the compost facility. Reddeman suggested that the council provide a restroom facility there since four hours is a long time for people to work their shift without a restroom.
He also would like the council to consider a pay raise for non-city staff who are currently paid $7 per hour to work a the compost facility. Reddeman confirmed that when city employees work at the facility, they are getting paid their city pay rate, a rate that may be time and a half, if the employee is eligible.
Steve Berg recognized
The city gave Steve Berg a letter of recognition for 30 years of service to the Howard Lake Fire Department and his dedication to the city as a member of the department.
Berg recently retired from his duties at the fire department.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• rescheduled its next regular meeting, due to elections, to Wednesday, Nov. 5.
• reported that some council members attended the open house for the new Winsted City Hall and Police Department, and were very impressed with the building and surrounding grounds.
• heard from Council Member and Weed Inspector Mike Mitchell that he reported his sighting of wild parsnip to the county, and that they were going to eradicate the weed for the city.
• approved a roof repair for the maintenance shop. The work will be done by Wessling Construction of Winsted in the amount of $6,880.
• approved a request by the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Middle School to install a permanent handicap parking space on 9th Avenue by the school’s cafeteria entrance for a handicap student.
• decided to replace the gas line to the warming house due to past damage. The work will be done by Diers Plumbing and Heating in the amount of $793.