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

By A. R. Vander Vegt
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Water tower in Kettle River 'nagging, significant problem'


Chris Clasen of Susan Schiessel, Justin, Clasen & Company, presented the audit of Kettle River at their regular city council meeting on May 8. While the audit of the city came out clean, Clasen did identify “internal control weaknesses.”

Clasen cited segregation of duties and management as two weaknesses within the city. “None of these issues are abnormal for cities of your size,” he said. Small cities are particularly susceptible because of small staff numbers. Without the numbers to support proper segregation of duties, city council members need to be more “vigilant” to check statements coming through. Clasen suggested looking into an “internal control policy” to ensure all involved are “on the same page.”

Mayor George Klaskin inquired of Clasen as to how Kettle River can best manage the debt the city has accrued. “We’re taking one step forward and two steps back it seems.”

The financial check-up comes in the midst of the council looking to refurbish the water tower — a project quoted at $63,000, which includes relining the water tower’s interior, repainting the exterior and other repairs. An additional $15,000 would be spent on the steps.

Clasen referred to Governor Mark Dayton’s bonding proposal, which included a clean water initiative. The funding is out there, he said. It’s a question of qualifying for the funds and the timing.

Kettle River missed the boat on applying for a grant which could have helped to offset costs. Its deadline was May 4. But as a rule, “grant money doesn’t want to fund maintenance,” Clerk Bernadine Reed said.

Regardless, the water tower is a “nagging, significant problem,” Klaskin said.

Todd Lawrence, the Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman, updated council members on an opportunity to purchase Kettle River lots from the county.

There are three lots on the north side of the city, an opportunity for development, Lawrence said. Kettle River would purchase the lots from the county at a reduced cost and would cover closing costs. It would be about a $1,500 purchase on lots estimated to be $40,000.

Lawrence proposed to the council to make the purchase then turn around and sell the lots. “If we sell it for development, the city makes a win for generations to come,” he said.

Carlton County Commissioner Gary Peterson, who was present at the meeting, confirmed that the board of commissioners is interested in selling the lots. He added it’s “difficult” for the county to continue its maintenance on the lots in effort to sell it to someone else.

Councilor David Lucas was in favor of purchasing the lots. “It would be a heck of a shame to lose it,” he said. There are “no assets if it sits.”

He made a motion to buy the three lots. Councilor Jason Montgomery inquired after final costs of the transaction, which were not available. A decision was tabled until the council receives more definite costs of the purchase. Another consideration Klaskin brought up is the sellability of the lots.


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