Wyoming council to study preliminary budget Sept. 3

Alice Pickering
Wyoming Reporter

At the Wyoming City Council’s Aug. 20 meeting, resident Dan Babbitt asked if the $170,000 of local government aid the city is scheduled to receive in 2014 would be used to reduce the city’s levy to benefit taxpayers.

Mayor Eric Peterson indicated that LGA money cannot be counted on from year to year, so it’s more likely to be used for one-time projects. He also observed that the city’s budget has not kept up with inflation.

Babbitt had other questions about the budgeting process for the city. His perception is that the staff is “driving what the budget is,” a “wants” rather than “needs” list. Babbitt asked if all the places cuts can be made have been explored. He again asked for more open discussion on the budget in council meetings

As part of business, the council scheduled a budget workshop for 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3. The City Council meeting will follow at 7 p.m.

The council set a special meeting for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, to discuss the proposed 2014 budget and to adopt the not-to-exceed amount for the 2014 levy. This must be filed with Chisago County by Sept. 15.

The staff and council will continue to work at paring down the budget before the final amount must be certified with the county late in December.

Bonding for street work

During the meeting’s open forum, resident Arne Lahd asked Councilwoman Linda Yeager if she objects to selling bonds with assessments. Yeager said she has objections to selling bonds when it would put the city into debt. Her reference was to selling bonds to directly support street reconstruction.

Flyers were sent to city residents reminding them of the Aug. 27 referendum on a bond sale for street reconstruction projects. Text was developed by the city’s bond counsel to explain the referendum. At the meeting, it was learned that some residents did not receive this information because it was sent by zip-code.

Resident Ken Anderson asked what the cost per linear foot would be for residents if the city assessed for the street repairs. Mayor Peterson recalled an early rough engineering estimate of about $10,000 per lot.

In earlier discussions, the position of the majority of the council is that working only with the amount in the street reconstruction fund each year is an inefficient use of funds, because it would take a lot longer to complete the planned street and sewer repairs, with construction disrupting traffic for multiple years, and the heavy equipment being run over completed streets. The bids are also usually higher because the projects are smaller. There would be savings on every mile reconstructed if the referendum is passed.

The money to make the bond payments is already built into the levy if residents approve the bond sale. If the city were to assess for street repairs, the cost to affected residents would be in addition to property taxes.

Comfort Lake quality

Mark Lobermeier, Comfort Lake Forest Lake Watershed District liaison, reported that the district completed a budget workshop at the end of June. Washington Conservation District monitored Comfort Lake in 2012. The lake received a C grade and is listed as impaired by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The report indicated that the lower water quality may be due to the warm, wet spring.

The board approved a permit for DaVita Dialysis clinic in Wyoming. Plans were in compliance with the watershed rules.

Truck traffic

Ed Hein, a resident who lives on Comfort Drive, thanked Public Works for putting up signs on Pioneer Road targeted at the heavy-truck traffic. These are usually belly dumpers.

The city recently amended street ordinances to limit heavy truck traffic on residential streets. Hein observed that Pioneer Road is “usually a shortcut” for the heavy haulers.

“We have been fighting that forever,” he said.

Police Chief Paul Hoppe indicated that it may be possible to arrange for a saturation by State Patrol troopers to keep the routes free of the heavy truck traffic.

Debt service

The council unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing an internal loan to cover debt service payments for the Tax Increment Financing District 3-1.

Bonds were sold in 1999 to pay for the Viking improvement project. For several years, nothing was included in the city levy for the bond payments, even as the city was making the payments. Since 2006-2007, larger amounts have been included in the city’s levies in order to catch up.

Assistant City Administrator Robb Linwood said the interdepartmental loan allows the city to retain the collected tax increment from the improved value to the land, while making payments on time. Abdo, Eick, & Meyers, LLP, the city’s financial consultants, recommended the loan.

The combined principal and interest payment through February 2015 is $442,273. The city is levying $130,000, $126,000 and $25,000 in years 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively. The levied amounts, plus the tax increment collected and interest, will cover the last three bond payments. The loan will be repaid from tax increments.

Sewage treatment

Wyoming is a member of the Chisago Lakes Joint Sewage Treatment Commission. As part of the meeting business, the council adopted a resolution authorizing the commission to issue, sell and deliver general obligation utility revenue bonds (series 2013A) in the amount of $816,000 to finance improvements to the joint treatment facility. Most of the projects are to be completed through mid-2014.

Wyoming’s share of the joint powers agreement is 23.12 percent, meaning its share of the annual payments on the bond is $14,218.80. The term of the loan is 15 years at an interest rate of 2.5 percent.

A land purchase, which had been discussed at earlier commission meetings and at the City Council meeting, was tabled indefinitely. All other members of the commission must also agree to the bond sale. Council members unanimously approved the action.

Other business

At the beginning of the meeting, Joe Zerwas requested a closed session for a performance review regarding Police Chief Paul Hoppe. No other information was provided. Attorney Mark Vierling indicated that there could be discussion, but no closed session. Zerwas agreed to wait until City Administrator Craig Mattson is back from vacation.

Building Official Fred Weck reported a temporary certificate of occupancy was issued for the large addition to Polaris Industries. The steel work for the shell of DaVita Dialysis Clinic is being erected. Remodeling of the interior of the Shell Station has begun.