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

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

Sturgeon Lake continues budget work


September 20, 2018

Budget talks resumed at Sturgeon Lake’s regular city council meeting on Tuesday, September 13, in addition to regular business.

Since the last budget meeting, Clerk Carole Lahti, Treasurer Kathy Lake and Mayor Elizabeth Cisar made changes to the spreadsheet to present once more to the council.

Councilors once again focused in on roads and blights — mostly shifting any extra funds found to those budgets. Going through the expenditures spreadsheet line by line, the council narrowed down their dream budget into a workable proposal for the upcoming year. While many lines were rearranged, reduced or increased, certain lines received a highlight, indicating the flexibility of those funds.

Beginning with the salary budget, the technology officer took a pay cut. The position is currently filled by public worker Scott Helfman. Because this is a relatively new position, the arbitrary salary of $20,000 was placed in the category. Helfman advocated to reduce it. It was decided to keep $500 for the position. In the future, if Helfman decides to step down from technology officer, the category is already there and can be increased.

Helfman also suggested the Public Works Assistant category be highlighted. Currently budgeted for $15,000, the position has historically not reached payout of that amount as it is an hourly position.

Notable increases included upping the City Attorney allocation from $5,000 to $7,000 in preparation for drafting an agreement between the city and Verizon. Also budgeted in was $1,000 under Technology for a purchase of a new computer in the upcoming year and a QuickBooks update. Under the Storage Building category, $3,000 was added for capital improvement and maintenance/supplies.

In the solid waste category, Councilor and Solid Waste Officer Russell Correira slashed the $900 meant to reimburse him for his work and the $100 for training and travel costs. He requested the $1,000 to go into legal fees and certified letters under solid waste, bumping that category up from $200 to $1,200. Correira has a strong desire to address blight issues. His repositioning of the funds to legal fees will allow a wider reach to confront blight properties.

The Streets, Sidewalks and Utilities budget again received a lot of attention during the budget discussion. In a move to nail down specific uses for funds, the miscellaneous category was cut from $3,000 to $1,000. Meanwhile, the budget for street lighting electricity was bumped up from $8,200 to $8,500 and street sweeping increased from $1,000 to $1,200. Money allocated to replace and repair signs and barricades saw an increase of $1,250 — from $750 to $2,000. Under the Road Maintenance and Repairs subcategory, the $18,000 budgeted for 2019 was increased to $21,000. The $18,000 was already an increase upon last year’s budget.

Rearrangement also occurred under the Other Expenses category. Previously Helfman used his own vehicle for city work. A city truck has now been purchased, so the payments going to Helfman for use of his personal vehicle no longer need to be made. The $1,500 that would have previously gone to Helfman will be put into the city vehicle subcategory, upping that allotment from $1,000 to $2,500.

Increases also happened under Water and Sewer Expenses Administration. A category for Contract for Labor was added in the amount of $1,000 in preparation for work needing to be done in 2019. Legal expenses under this category jumped from $0 to $2,000 as the city looks to extend the water and sewer line to include DekTek. A contract will be written up for that extension.

The next budget meeting is planned for Thursday, September 20 at 7 p.m.

Beyond budget talks

Thursday’s meeting wasn’t all budget talk. Regular reports were still given.

Cisar shared with the council that the city attorney gave the go-ahead to pursue blight enforcement of Embassy Bar. Wallace Anderson, proprietor of Embassy Bar, entered foreclosure and within the last few months, filed for bankruptcy. These developments left the city of Sturgeon Lake in a state of holding, unsure of how to pursue delinquent water and sewer bills, as well as bringing the property up to code.

Sturgeon Lake’s city attorney informed Cisar that the city can go ahead and assess water and sewer bills onto Anderson’s taxes and enforce blight codes. Correira planned to put the blight clean-up into motion on Monday.

Councilmembers made and passed the motion to allow Councilor and Road Commissioner Jessica Langhorst the authority to make basic spending decisions on road maintenance without council approval.

At the meeting, Langhorst presented the need for gravel loads to be placed on the roads before the snow flies. The council approved her request, and Councilor Marsha Helfman suggested the motion. “As long as she (Langhorst) is in her budget, I see no reason to hold up on (basic decisions) until a meeting.” The motion passed unanimously.

Along with this decision, Treasurer Kathy Lake will give monthly updates on the road budget so Langhorst and the council can more easily keep track of spending.

A community resident brought up a concern for how the purple basalt will hold up for the winter. Already, he noted, there is loose gravel in the ditches on Cemetery and Logan.

Scott Helfman of Public Works acknowledged he noticed that as well and will be a factor in the upcoming season. “It’s going to be out in the ditches for the winter.”

As a general consensus, though, the purple basalt has fared well against rut-ripping four-wheelers. Time will tell how it holds up in the winter months.

A motion was passed by the council to execute an agreement between DekTek Tile and the city for use of a general line. The city is shooting for a November assessment date.

The next regular city council meeting will be held October 11 at 7 p.m.


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