By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN “We currently have 25 members on the department, one of which is a probationary member,” Fire Chief Chad Engel told the Winsted City Council Tuesday. “We hold a full roster at 30, and we currently have no applicants.”
Volunteer firefighter applications are available at Winsted City Hall. All training and equipment is provided.
As of the end of November, the department had responded to 224 calls in 2013.
In other fire department business, Engel reported that interviews for six officer positions took place Nov. 12. Several firefighters applied for multiple positions. Due to its narrow focus, the office of ladder captain was changed to third captain.
Engel also reported that he’s been working with city staff and the State Fire Marshal regarding the donation of the fire department’s old extrication equipment. Winsted no longer has a use for it, and a small city with no equipment has requested it.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the council approved a $7,000 feasibility study for a hotel in Winsted, to determine the level of lodging demand in the community.
The study, to be performed by Hospitality Consulting Group, will take into account several factors, including demographic data, potential sites for construction, current overall demand for hotel rooms in the market area, other hotels in the area, meeting and conference facilities available in the Winsted area, other nearby proposed hotel developments, size and range of amenities that would be suitable, estimates of future lodging demand, and more.
When the study is completed, the consulting firm will review its findings with the city.
(Another story about the hotel feasibility study appeared in the Nov. 25 edition of the Herald Journal.)
City Administrator Clay Wilfahrt reviewed the city’s 2014 budget plans during the truth-in-taxation hearing portion of Tuesday’s council meeting.
The council plans to adopt the 2014 budget and levy at its Tuesday, Dec. 17 meeting.
The total preliminary 2014 levy is $1,103,432, which is the same as 2013. This amount is less than the 2011 and 2012 levies, which each totaled $1,117,629.
As a whole, the city’s budgeted expenditures in 2014 are about $45,000 higher than in 2013.
Revenues have also increased, primarily due to an $80,000 increase in Local Government Aid (LGA).
In 2014, 43 percent of the city’s budget is expected to be funded by LGA, while 53 percent will be funded by property taxes. The remaining 4 percent will come from fees, permits, and fines.
Winsted’s tax rate (which is based on the tax levy, the taxable market value, and the local tax capacity) for 2014 will be about 85.5 percent, which is lower than the tax rate in 2013 of about 87 percent.
This means that a residential property valued at $150,000 will see a city tax reduction of about $21.
Commercial properties will also notice a decrease. A building worth $500,000, for example, will pay $157 less than in 2013 for city taxes.
A hangar owner at the Winsted Municipal Airport who lives in Excelsior inquired about potential airport improvements during the open forum.
“I came out about 15 years ago and built a hangar, and I’ve had nothing but good experiences at the airport for the first 10 or 12 years,” he said. “I’ve been very satisfied.”
The past couple of years, however, the pilot said he has noticed a deterioration of the runway.
“We’re badly in need of rules and regulations out there,” he added.
Wilfahrt said the Luce Line State Trail project (which runs near the airport) will determine the next steps for the turf rehabilitation of the runway. Establishment of airport policies is also planned.