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City of Jenkins discusses amendment to lodging tax

The Jenkins City Council on Monday, April 8, began discussion that could result in amendment or withdrawal of a lodging tax ordinance within the city.

The city currently has a 1 percent lodging tax in place. The money from this tax is raised through customers at the AmericInn and other lodging establishments. The money is currently paid to Ideal Township, which takes 5 percent and then pays the rest to the Whitefish Area Lodging Association (WALA).

This tax is made possible through approval of the city of Jenkins and depends on a joint powers agreement between Jenkins and Ideal Township.

“According to that joint powers agreement we should have received a financial statement every year from 2000 on and this is the first year, 12 years later, that we finally got a financial statement,” Mayor Jon Lubke said.

The council has yet to see similar financial records from WALA.

Lubke said the documents provided by Ideal Township were not thorough enough and the lack of financial records from WALA was unacceptable. Council member Gary Brown asked Lubke and the other members what they wanted to do about the insufficiencies.

“There’s some questions I have on their financial statements I would like to address before I think we should go ahead with a joint powers agreement with them at this time,” Lubke said.

Council member Gary Hart suggested that the council should again request financial records from WALA. Brown suggested the city should consider taking over responsibility of overseeing the distribution of the lodging tax and raising it to 2 percent so the city could use a portion to fund projects. City Clerk Krista Okerman said the city could legally raise the tax to 3 percent if it chose, but felt that there should be clear plans on where to allocate the additional funds. She also stated that the businesses involved should be contacted and made aware of the potential changes.

It was agreed that financial records were not complete, nor clear enough. The council decided to discuss the possible increase in lodging taxes with those businesses that would be impacted, and demand financial records from WALA. The council decided that, if sufficient records could not be produced, the lodging tax ordinance should be completely withdrawn. A time frame of one month was given before this decision would be made.

In other business Monday, the council:

• Approved the Heartland Animal Rescue Team’s request for permission to manage gambling at Underdogs Bar & Grill in Jenkins.

• Tabled a decision to adopt a policy limiting the amount of maximum time city employees may work until they are able to discuss the policy with city workers.

• Renewed a fire contract with the Pequot Lakes Fire Department at a cost of $13,815.60, approximately $347.83 less than the cost of the contract last year.

• Approved a special liquor license for Underdogs Bar & Grill for a 2 a.m. closing time. Underdogs also requested special consideration for outdoor sales and noise in the future, but the city decided this request should be approved on a per event basis.