By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN Paul Harvego of the accounting firm, Conway, Deuth & Schmiesing presented to the Cokato City Council the city’s annual audit report during last Monday’s meeting.
“Overall, the city’s doing a really good job,” Harvego said, explaining that the general fund is gaining cash, which is important for the coming year’s budget.
The general fund balance currently sits at $602, 530, up from last year’s $539,977. This means there is about 5.6 months of cash on hand, which is what is suggested.
He also noted that while revenues declined just a bit, it remains steady at $1,351,192, and expenditures have decreased from last year by $190,819, mainly due to less spending in public works.
Even with state funding cutbacks, the city’s been able to maintain, Harvego told the council.
As far as the water fund, the city has had a “nice increase” in the cash balances, but has had less revenue coming in because usage is down, according to the report. Harvego noted that residential usage was down, but Faribault Foods usage was up last year, which helped.
The sewer fund, however, lost $123,000 last year with the city having to spend more money on repairs.
Council Butch Amundsen asked if the council should consider raising rates.
Though he is unable to give management recommendations, Harvego said “It never hurts to raise by the inflation rate,” explaining that it’s hard to recover once the fund starts going down.
Public safety building discussion
City Administrator Don Levens presented the council with information regarding the Litchfield and Annandale public safety building projects as requested by the council at the June meeting.
The recently built building in Litchfield included the expansion of the existing 6,000 square-foot building to 20,000 square feet at the cost of $3,275,000 at a 20-year GO CIP bond with annual contribution from the townships and municipal utilities. No referendum was needed.
A few years ago, when the market was more favorable, Levens explained that Annandale built a 9,800-square-foot building at a cost of $1.2 million. Also in this case, there was no referendum, only a GO bond for 15 years started between townships in the service area.
Amundsen noted that if the city wants to get township participation, it needs to be discussed with them before the townships set their budgets in March for the following year.
“We can’t flip the bill ourselves,” he said.
The council approved a recommendation to send the information to the fire commission to see if there is interest on its part to begin the process, rather than forming another committee.
Council fills public works position
The council approved Jeff Salmela for the public works position that will open as a result of Darrel Miller’s retirement in early August.
It was noted that there were 47 applicants and several good candidates.
“It was a difficult decision,” said Council Member Jesse Bunker.
Council Member Ken Bakke added that he has known Salmela for a long time and that he was a good choice.
Salmela has worked for the city on a part-time basis during the winter months by maintaining the public ice rink.
Bids approved for west side lift station and Lee Ave. storm sewer repairs
Eric Lembke of Stantec presented bids for council approval.
The first bid was for the west side sanitary sewer lift station replacement project. The lowest bid, approved by the council was by CCS Contracting for $168,410.
Lembke noted that the contractor would be starting within the next few weeks and will have the underground work completed by the start of the school season. The switch-over of the mechanics will take place in December.
The council also approved the bid for the Lee Avenue storm sewer improvements project. With extensive flooding occurring in the area of Lee Avenue and Second Street, an upgrade of the undersized collection system will take place. Along with this will be mill and overlay.
The low bid was from Burschville Construction for $103,907.
Work is expected to begin in early August, and will likely take about three weeks.
On a different note, Lembke updated the council on the wastewater treatment ponds, and applying the material to 200 acres of land nearby.
Lembke is waiting for approval by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and should hear by the end of July. Once it’s approved, the next step will be getting a contractor to apply the material this fall.
Library expansion discussion and special meeting
The council set a special meeting for Monday, Aug. 6 at 6 p.m. in the Centennial Room. This will be in conjunction with a workshop with the library expansion committee. The council will also approve claims at this meeting, since the August meeting was rescheduled to Monday, Aug. 20 due to the Corn Carnival.
Odds and ends
In additional business, the council:
• was informed that the Iron Horse, Neisen Liquors, and Cokato Town & Country Club passed recent alcohol compliance checks done by Wright County.
• approved the language related to the special election ballot for Sunday liquor sales.
• announced that Dorene Erickson, wife of Mayor Gordy Erickson, won $1,000 on behalf of the city at the recent League of Minnesota Cities conference in Duluth. Erickson has designated money to the DC Trail Board fund.
• agreed to schedule a meeting with the Tower Center Association to discuss maintenance and repair of the mall parking lot.
• heard from Leonard Wozniak during the public comment period. He addressed the council as a candidate for Wright County Commissioner District 5.
• approved a liquor permit for the temporary sale of liquor to the Cokato Fire Relief Association for a street dance Saturday, Aug. 11.
• appointed two additional election judges, Bev Irvin and Mary Claire Krause.
• approved rescheduling the August council meeting to Monday, Aug. 20 due to the Corn Carnival.