Northeast Wyoming slated for proposed road upgrades

Council approves raises for two city workers

 

Alice Pickering
Wyoming Reporter

At its Tuesday meeting, Wyoming City Council authorized engineer Mark Erichson to prepare a feasibility study that will identify roads for future improvement.

Erichson anticipates focusing on the northeast quadrant of the city; north of Viking Boulevard and east of CR-30. This is roughly two blocks east of “old” Highway 61. Greenway Avenue is also to be evaluated as one of the city’s state aid roads.

The process considers soil borings, topographic study, preliminary design and cost estimates. Erichson wants to time this to take advantage of bids and to get work done during the middle of construction season. Decisions must be made about funding before any construction is authorized.

Council member Linda Yeager lives in one of  the areas being considered and wondered if she should abstain from the vote. Attorney Mark Vierling indicated there is no conflict of interest in her vote about the feasibility study itself. The vote was unanimous.

Personnel Items

An adjustment to the annual wage of Brenda Frechette, accountant/bookkeeper, was approved by the City Council. Frechette was hired in 2011 and was approved as a full-time employee in November 2011.  A 3-percent increase was effective as a result of the change from probationary to full-time status.

Other city employees received adjustments to their respective salaries in 2012. However, the city did not adjust the pay scale for her position in 2012. Craig Mattson, city administrator, explained that the timing of the hire was part of the lapse. Full-time pay for Frechette is now $27.04 per hour, effective January 2012. Council approved the action by a vote of 5-0.

Council approved changing the status of Administrative Assistant Nicole Miller from probationary to a regular full-time employee. Miller was hired May 7, 2012 and has fulfilled all responsibilities in this position. Her contributions include implementation of a laser fiche system to convert city documents on main frame computer for further access, assisting with primary and general elections, and working with Municipal Code Corporation to update the city code for use on the internet.

Yeager thought the proposed increase was too large; moving to full-time, plus an additional step of 3 percent. Councilman Joe Zerwas was concerned about the amount of the increase as well, referring to former assistant Sandy Berry.

Mattson explained that Miller came to the position with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. She was also hired before the pay-equity study was completed and at a rate below her established skills ($23.88).

Mayor Eric Peterson commented that the Miller is coming off a probationary period and also referred to the completed pay-equity study.

Miller’s status change from probationary to full-time was approved unanimously. This is effective as of Nov. 7, 2012. In a separate vote, council unanimously approved a 5-percent increase in pay to $25.08 per hour, less than the $27.65 originally proposed.

Forum Discussion

During the meeting’s Open Forum, there were discussions about commercial tax rates in the city. Peterson summarized estimates of property tax increases likely if a proposed $500,000 is included in the 2013 levy, dedicated to help pay for bonds issued to repair city streets. He estimated $10-12 a month for a home valued at $150,000.

He believes a tax to support bond payments for street repairs makes the most financial sense for everyone. The taxes would be deductible and everyone would avoid a large financial hit from assessments.

Rodney Hestiken, resident and business owner, believes any proposed tax increases would be very hard on residents and businesses in the city. He had calculations which showed the impact on commercial property at about four times the tax rate of residents. He estimated that tax increase on apartments he owned to be just under $6,000 a year.

Dan Babbitt said he had read that only about 33 percent of people itemize their taxes so the deduction would not be utilized much. He thought that the majority of businesses are on county or state roads. He seemed concerned that the city would sell new project bonds each year and not be able to cover payments.  Peterson explained that any road projects would be completed in stages, before new ones were proposed.

Jerry Owens said that commercial traffic using city streets into businesses causes a lot more wear and tear that just driving to and from home, so it makes sense that businesses generating the traffic help pay for the streets.

Several residents also had questions about the city’s $8 storm water assessment. The surface water fund is like other city enterprise funds; user fees fund operations and maintenance of the systems and their depreciation. Storm water (surface water) fund pays for routine maintenance like street sweeping and ditch clearing, and also culvert replacement.

Peterson observed that Wyoming’s storm water utility is much less than many surrounding cities. Forest Lake has an annual fee of $32.

Yeager added that the fee is likely to be increased, since there have been no changes in it since the 1997 ordinance was established. There were comments that city staff needed to make more timely announcements about these fees.

Reports

Linda Yeager reported on progress on the Rush Line. Bus routes 285 and 275 are to be combined into a single route. There will be three trips in the morning and in the afternoon. Met Council takes over the administration of the routes on Dec. 12.

At the most recent EDA meeting, Jim Garrison was honored with the organization’s third quarter business award. Garrison is owner of Wyoming Drug. Ray VinZant has submitted a letter of interest in the open seat on the EDA.

Steve Zerwas had news that finally, an agreement has been reached between the Chisago Lakes Joint Sewer Commission (CLJSC) and Pentair regarding the failed pump shafts for the lift stations. Both pumps together would retail for about $43,000, however, the CLJSC will be able to purchase the pumps at a cost of $17,906.

The Wyoming Truth-in-Taxation Hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4. If necessary, a continuation will be scheduled for 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 18. The final budget for 2013 will be adopted at the council meeting on Dec. 18.

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