Council member Warner gives resignation
By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN With a number of factors affecting the revenue of the city’s water fund, the Dassel City Council decided it was necessary to raise water rates by 4 percent for 2012.
During last Monday’s meeting, Mayor Mike Scanlon explained that the city needs to stop dipping into its reserve fund to cover the water fund, which it has been doing for several years. The fund needs to sustain itself, he said.
City Administrator Myles McGrath told the council that a 4 percent increase would put the city back in the black if water usage remained the same for next year.
The 4 percent increase amounts to 52 cents added to the water base rate, and 32 cents added to the per-1,000-gallon rate. This would put the water base at $13.42 per month (currently $12.90), and water usage rate at $8.12 per 1,000 gallons.
Council Member Jason Benzing said that he expected the rates to fluctuate each year so the need for an increase wasn’t a surprise to him.
McGrath recalled that usage was much higher in 2006 and 2007, and interest on investments have gone down considerably from what was once 6 percent to roughly 1 percent. In addition, the city was used to getting $60,000 a year in sewer and water access charges, which is no longer coming into the city because of the lack of new development.
“It’s a perfect storm . . . everything has gone against us,” McGrath said.
The council unanimously approved the 4 percent increase to water rates starting January (February billing). Council Member Alesia Warner was absent.
In related business, the council approved the 2012 enterprise fund budget.
Council Member Warner resigns
Mayor Scanlon read a letter of resignation to the council from Council Member Alesia Warner, effective Dec. 31, 2011. In it, she wrote: “After multiple days of discussion, I feel that the city deserves someone’s undivided attention, but as a family with five children, I know that I have too many days with conflicting schedules which prevents me from being as active as I desired.
“I value this town and I have enjoyed being a part of such an amazing group of individuals. I thank the many who have been so understanding and supportive throughout my past few years . . . . I wish the best for our residents and have confidence in those who are on our council, and the mayor . . . I have been forever changed with having the opportunity to serve as a council member.”
The city will seek a replacement to fill the remainder of her term through December 2012.
City to hire clerk/treasurer position
The council approved a letter of resignation from Sherri Bjork, who has served the city for more than 23 years, many of which were as deputy clerk.
The city will seek a person to fill the combined positions of clerk and treasurer. See the classified ad for details of the position and minimum qualifications.
Applications will be accepted until 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16.
Food shelf update
Brenda Voigt, director of the Meeker County Emergency Food Shelf, gave an update on the Dassel Area Food Shelf.
For usage from January through the end of October, the Dassel Area Food Shelf served 390 individuals, 165 households, and handed out 7,263 pounds of food, according to numbers provided by Voigt. This averages to about 15 to 20 families a month, and the food shelf is getting more households each month, she said.
Meeker County as a whole served 2,437 individuals, 1,067 families, and 29,244 meals during the same 10-month period.
It’s been very busy this month, Voigt said, adding that she anticipates this being a record year.
Donations have also been good, she said, and that the area pretty much takes care of filling the shelves to where she needs to bring very little from Litchfield.
She also noted that this year, the food shelf was informed money would not be available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Typically, the federal agency provides $3,000 to $10,000 a year to the Meeker County Food Shelf and this will be the first in 15 years that the food shelf won’t recieve any, she commented.
Scanlon gave his appreciation to the volunteers and those who donate to the food shelf, and informed the council that the food shelf has signed another year’s lease for 2012.
He also mentioned that shoppers can choose to donate their Red Rooster Foods points to the Dassel Area Food Shelf; they just need to inform the owners of the change.
In closing, Voigt reported that the fall/holiday food drive is underway. This is one of two food drives it has throughout the year, the other is in March.
Deputy warns of parking tickets
Meeker County Deputy Gordy Prochaska warned residents during the council meeting that violators of the winter no parking ordinance will be ticketed. He told the council that he has been giving out warnings so far for the no parking ordinance, which took effect Nov. 15. The ordinance states no parking on city streets from 2 to 6 a.m.
He also noted that public works employees can have vehicles towed if in violation during overnight snowplowing.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• discussed adding a franchise fee to Xcel Energy bills as allowed in the renewal agreement. The proposed fee would be a nominal fee per household, depending on what the franchise fee is set at.
Mayor Scanlon suggested this would be a good source of revenue for the city since it has very few revenue streams.
The council advised McGrath to receive some comparables from other cities that apply a user fee.
• adopted a policy referred to as GASB 54 (Government Accounting Standards Board) related to the city’s fund balance.
It was noted that the city already follows the procedures outlined, but must have a policy in place to be in compliance with the audit.
• approved unpaid utilities charges from four foreclosed properties to be certified for special assessments in the total amount of $1,242. 92.