By Caroline Wigmore
WAVERLY, MN - A newsletter went out to Waverly residents earlier this month, explaining that water and sewer rates would be nearly doubled starting this month.
This attracted a small crowd at the city council meeting Tuesday, voicing their opinions.
The water deficit is currently $113,000, and the sewer deficit is $151,000. The city had previously been dipping into its general fund to offset the water and sewer bills, but now the general fund has a deficit of $413,267.
A big part of the reason why taxes have gone up is due to the fact that the city’s growth has come to a halt, according to Mayor Ken Antil.
There was an expectation that the city would grow by approximately 12 to 15 homes per year based on the growth the city had been seeing during the past several years. Last year, there was only one new home, and there are currently about 50 homes sitting vacant.
In response to questions from the public concerning why the council is taking action now in regards to the deficit, rather than having done something sooner, Antil said that previous administrations had not wanted to raise taxes at all over a period of about 10 years and now the city has to make up for it.
Council member Gary Olson said that it would be a big help if some of the vacant homes could be filled.
“Now the sewer and water have to pay for themselves,” Antil said, explaining that the city’s state funding will be decreasing, and using money out of the general fund is no longer an option.
Following questions from the public about how the city might generate revenue to offset the city’s expenses, Antil said that the city had recently added an industrial park for this purpose, but that, with the economy in its current state, bringing money into the city is proving difficult.
The public questioned why the municipal liquor store was not generating more of a profit, and Wanda Tussing of the liquor store explained that she stays up-to-date on the prices of area stores and remains competitive with prices. The store suffered greatly during times over the past years when road work made it inconvenient for customers to get to the store.
It was suggested by the public that the liquor store raise its prices, and Tussing said that if she raises her prices by even 50 cents per bottle, she loses five customers to one of the other area liquor stores.
The discussion concluded with city engineer Barry Glienke offering to put together a report that would allow residents to see when taxes would start dropping.
Auditor reports on the city’s deficit
“I haven’t seen deficits this significant before,” said the city auditor, Matt Mayer, referring to the water and sewer deficit.
Mayer was in agreement with the council’s decision to raise taxes and had been recommending that the city raise them for several years.
Regarding the general fund, he said that by raising taxes, the city’s general fund could be back on track by 2012.
Mayer said that the municipal liquor store was in the black, which is an accomplishment.
“It’s mostly breaking just even right now, but it’s moving in the right direction,” Mayer said.
Repairs to North Shore Drive
Maintenance supervisor John Rassat was pleased with a bid for repairs to North Shore Drive that is roughly half what he expected to pay. The bid came in at approximately $30,000 when he had expected it to be about $60,000.
When Rassat was given the bid, he was told by the company that if he waited even three more years to do the road work, the road would be done for.
“We’re at a point of do or die, and I don’t think we could get a better price,” Rassat said.
The work will include repairing cracks and sealing.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council approved:
• request from Jill Doering to have a plant sale event at Railroad Park Saturday, May 2.
• resolution regarding fencing retention ponds, where the council decided not to fence them.
• public workshop at city hall Monday, May 4. The council economic development authority, planning and zoning, parks, city staff, city engineer and all residents are encouraged to attend to discuss city issues.
• city cleanup day, set for Saturday, April 25 from 7 a.m. to noon at Railroad Park, where residents can bring items for recycling such as old mattresses, appliances, and brush.
• meeting with Woodland Township to discuss the Emerson Avenue maintenance agreement at the township hall, Monday March 30 at 7:45 p.m.
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