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Lake Shore: City’s tax levy to jump 22.5%

Need to repair roads, drives increase

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Most Lake Shore City Council members and staff wore festive Christmas attire to their Dec. 23 meeting. Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal

Only two people attended a public hearing regarding Lake Shore’s 2020 budget and general revenue tax levy Monday, Dec. 23.

After hearing comments from Bob Grussendorf and answering questions, the council at its regular meeting unanimously approved the 2020 budget of $1,512,215 and the general revenue tax levy of $1,281,278.

That tax levy number is nearly $16,000 less than the preliminary number the council adopted in September. It represents a 22.5% increase from this year’s levy. The 2020 budget is 19.2% higher than this year’s budget. The main reason for the increases is to repair roads.

The council also approved a 2% cost of living increase for city employees.

Grussendorf asked questions about the city’s healthcare coverage for employees, who decides employee wages and employee staffing. He asked the council to think outside the box and consider how many employees the city really needs - for example, the number of police officers - and look closely at numbers. He cited other cities’ and townships’ staffing numbers as an example.

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Police Chief Steve Sundstrom said his department has three full-time officers in the summer when the population rises, including two who can provide emergency medical services, and people want that type of police department.

Grussendorf said it wasn’t his intent to put people on the spot and on the defensive. He wants the council to consider the points he brought up, saying it’s money and people are concerned about money.

The council had further discussion on the police department, with Sundstrom explaining all his department does.

“The reality is we pay for the quality of life we have,” Mayor Kevin Egan said.

Increases in the budget and levy are related to operational costs in the following areas:

  • 2% cost of living increase for employees. Last year employees received a 1% increase.

  • 4% health insurance increase.

  • 1.6% increase for the Pine River Area Sanitary District (sewer).

  • 3% increase for the audit.

  • $2,250 for trail maintenance (capital outlay).

  • $7,500 increase to $10,791 from 2018 for elections.

  • $3,000 for liability insurance.

  • $5,000 for snow and ice removal.

  • $3,400 for zoning ordinance.

Other increases to operational and capital outlay expenditures include: $50,000 increase for road maintenance as recommended by the road and wastewater committee; $20,000 for government buildings; $1,000 for technology (iPads for council members and upgrades at city hall); $5,000 for a new irrigation system at the cemetery; $7,500 for contract labor for special projects; $100,000 for road bonds, depending on the bond amount and number of years for financing; $1,000 for software.
The Initiative Foundation requested $1,025 from Lake Shore.

Public safety

Police had 70 incidents in November, a month that typically sees lower activity, Sundstrom said. Calls included 44 traffic-related incidents, including 34 traffic warnings, two traffic citations, five motor vehicle non-injury crashes and one DWI arrest. The department’s 26 miscellaneous calls included four suspicious activity and one trespassing complaint.

Lake Shore police assisted other agencies three times.

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Nisswa firefighters, who cover Lake Shore, had 22 calls in November, including 18 emergency services calls, two vehicle accidents and one each gas smell call and carbon monoxide call.

Roads

The council approved a proposal for engineering services for 2020 road work with Widseth Smith Nolting engineering firm for $195,500. Roads identified for improvement include Jacobs Road, Pamela Drive, Wienzel Point Road and Ebert Road.

It’s likely the city will issue bonds to pay for the road improvement costs, so the council approved a resolution declaring its intent to reimburse certain expenditures from bond proceeds.

The council accepted the road/wastewater committee recommendation that the council deviate from the following road standards for the proposed Port View Road improvement: 18-foot pavement width instead of 20 feet, 2-foot clear zone instead of 10 feet, no additional ditch work and no culvert replacement.

Rationale for the deviation is the extremely low daily traffic count, the road is considered to be a dead-end road with minimal likelihood of development.

Road residents offered to contribute $90,000 toward the project.

The city engineer will now revise the feasibility report for the road improvement to reflect the changes.

In other business Dec. 23, the council:

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  • Learned Nisswa and Lake Shore did not receive Legacy grant funding for the Gull Lake Trail. The cities will work to obtain a matching grant and try again.

  • Learned the Gull Chain of Lakes Association wants to talk to the city about regulating wakeboarding. Sundstrom asked if GCOLA has talked to Cass County, but Egan didn’t know.

  • Learned the city issued two land-use permits in November for a total valuation of $1,255,000.

  • Learned the city’s financial audit will be Tuesday, Jan. 7, and Wednesday, Jan. 8, if needed.

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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