Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Ailene Croup
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

County has cash flow problem


County commissioners approved the consent agenda at last week’s regular county board meeting which revealed the county’s cash balance, as of March 31, 2014.

The consent agenda has items that do not come under discussion, unless a change is made to them or a commissioner asks to have the item put into the regular agenda to be discussed.

Cash balances from a year ago, March 31, 2013, were also included as a comparison.

The general fund has a negative balance of -$182,130.46 compared to -$255,796.64 in 2013. Health and Human Services’ balance is $33,513.40; in 2013 it was $1,249,302.88. The road and bridge fund has $2,242,631.36, in 2013 it was $5,765,822.56. Land management fund is $1,926571.99; in 2013 it was $1,533,649.83.

A total was shown, which includes “non-major funds,” of $4,737,558.13, down $3,832,820.94 from 2013’s total of $8,570,379.07.

Several select people and department heads within the courthouse were sent an email from County Administrator David Minke which said “… the county is experiencing a potential cash shortfall.” Though the email was not included in the board agenda, the Hinckley News was able to obtain a copy.

Department heads were told, to help avoid a cash shortfall, they were to review current expenditures and, if possible, “delay large expenditures until the county’s cash position improves.”

Some county funds are dedicated and can only be used to pay specific bills and thus cannot be put into the general fund or funneled to other depleted funds.

Before the April 15 meeting was called to order, the Hinckley News asked board Chairman Curt Rossow of Willow River if he was aware of the memo and if the county was going to be able to pay its bills. He said he was aware of the memo.

Minke said there were no issues other than a “cash flow” problem. He deferred to Auditor/Treasurer Cathy Clemmer who confirmed his evaluation.

Old courthouse

Commissioners Mitch Pangerl of Pine City and Matt Ludwig of Sandstone, board members assigned to the board’s facilities committee, met with Pine City Council Member Brian Scholin, City Administrator Holly Wilson and Minke. Commissioner Steve Hallan of Pine City also attended.

Discussion centered around a long-term commitment for space Pine City leases from the county in the old courthouse, now known as the Pine Government Center (PGC).

Ludwig said a few options were reviewed to expand the now leased space. Those options were the county remains owner/landlord of PGC with increased rent, Pine City shares ownership of the building and, finally, the county sells the building to the city.

There is a one-year cancellation clause in the lease which concerns the city.

The county could tear down the building. No cost for tear down was available. Rossow asked to have the cost available by May 1, 2014.

Pangerl said the city would like to know the cost of purchasing the whole building and the cost of the second floor which the city now occupies. Pine City is receptive to purchasing the second floor and would be able to make the changes necessary for the best use of the space. The county would own the top floor and the “garden view” bottom floor. Each floor would have metered heating.

“It’s either the rent will be higher or they purchase the building. Either way this would be long term,” he said.

All available space is rented, Pangerl said, adding that Pine City leasing the space was the catalyst for the other businesses going into the building.

Pine City pays $6 per square foot and the other tenants pay $12 per square foot. Utilities are barely covered by the rent and Pangerl said he wants to see Pine City’s per square foot costs equal the other tenants.

Commissioner Steve Chaffee of Hinckley asked what city representatives’ response was to the increased rent.

“Neutral,” Ludwig said.

In other business:

- The board recognized the retirement of Chief Deputy Steve Blackwell, effective April 18.


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