The Crosslake City Council approved a 5 percent general revenue tax levy increase for 2018 on Monday, Dec. 11.
Council members met with City Administrator/Treasurer Mike Lyonais before their regular meeting Monday to look over and approve the 2018 budget. The total levy was set at $3,692,137, which is an increase of $175,816 from 2017. This increase will raise the tax rate less than 1 percent, from 28.1 to 28.9 percent.
Lyonais said the budget includes a deficit of $1,775,511 because the city plans to use $1.5 million of its existing money for the sewer project and spend about $100,000 in cash to balance the budget.
The council set its preliminary levy at a 7 percent increase in September but directed Lyonais to lower the final amount before final adoption.
After disagreement last month, the council approved a 6 percent raise for Lyonais, effective immediately and retroactive to July 2017. Last month, the council disagreed about whether the raise should take place before or after an employee review in February. But because all city employees are to be reviewed in February, the council voted to begin Lyonais' raise now.
Lyonais was promoted from finance director to city administrator/treasurer in July.
Mike Rardin, of Bolton and Menk, addressed the council during the public forum and asked about the firm's role as the city's official engineering firm.
The council appointed Bolton and Menk as the city's engineer in March, after a lengthy discussion because some council members wanted a change from Widseth Smith Nolting. The council maintained that it would still go out for bids on big projects and hire whichever firm gave the best bid.
Monday, Rardin noted an item on the agenda about a proposal from WSN for a road inventory plan. WSN estimated the cost at $14,800. Rardin said Bolton and Menk included this service in its engineering contract to the city at no extra cost and wondered why the city would spend money with WSN instead of going with its official firm. He added that he would like to sit down with the council and discuss what Bolton and Menk's role with the city entails.
Later in the meeting, Public Works Director Ted Strand said the road inventory system Bolton and Menk wanted to provide would be proprietary and thus owned by the engineering firm. The city, Strand said, wants its own system where employees themselves can plug in data for day-to-day use.
Then, Strand asked the council to consider reinstating Widseth Smith Nolting as the city's official engineer for 2018, as the firm is already contracted for road projects, but to keep going with Bolton and Menk for the wastewater treatment plant updates.
"I want to go back to the way it was," Strand said.
Council member Dave Nevin said he didn't feel Bolton and Menk has had a fair chance to prove itself as city engineer because there haven't been any new big projects since March.
Mayor Patty Norgaard and council member Dave Schrupp said they support the recommendation from Strand, as he is the one working most closely with the engineers.
The measure to reinstate WSN as city engineer failed 2-3, with Norgaard and Schrupp in support and council members Nevin, Gary Heacox and Brad Nelson opposed.
The Crosslake Police Department responded to 162 calls in November, including five property damage crashes, one personal injury crash, on burglary, one theft and one traffic arrest.
In Mission Township, police responded to 45 calls in November, including 12 traffic citations and one trespassing.
The Crosslake Fire Department responded to 19 incidents in November, including 17 medical assists, one motor vehicle crash and one smoke detector activation.
In other business Monday, the council:
• Listened to three Crosslake Community School students - Austin Ballis, Taylor Max and Emma Schott - who read essays titled "If I Were Mayor for a Day."
• Gave the chamber of commerce permission to serve soup during WinterFest.
• Received a $1,113 check for the Parks and Library Foundation for park benches around town.
• Signed a resolution supporting the development of a National Loon Center in Crosslake. The newly created National Loon Center Foundation has been working with the University of Minnesota to develop the design and define the scope, scale, marketing and feasibility of the center.
The council then approved a staffing agreement with the National Joint Powers Alliance for a student intern from the U of M to work on a marketing and feasibility study for the National Loon Center. The city will receive funds from NJPA and pass it on to the University of Minnesota.
• Designated both the Northland Press and the Echo Journal as the city's legal newspapers for 2018. The council also learned the Northland Press - the city's current legal newspaper - will be shut down Dec. 23-Jan. 9, during which the city will post any legals with the Echo Journal.
• Accepted the resignation of Leigh Martineau, heavy equipment/sewer operator who is to retire Dec. 15 and allowed the city to post a notice to fill the position.
• Allowed the parks and recreation department to spend $11,673.76 on new computers for the Crosslake Community Center. The center currently has two desktops from 2008 and a laptop from 2012. The money will come from unused money in the 2017 parks budget.
• Approved a pay increase for Donna Keiffer, instructor of The Silver Sneakers Program at the community center, from $24 to $26 per class. Keiffer has been an instructor for more than 20 years.
• Heard from John Graupman, of Bolton and Menk, that the wastewater treatment plant update project is on track. Workers have identified $7,701 worth of unforeseen costs, but a $70,000 contingency was built into the original budget, so the project's total cost will not increase.