by Dave DeMars
The St. Joseph City Council took up two budget items at its regular Nov. 5 meeting: The 2019 draft Enterprise Budget, and the proposed 2019 budget of the Park Board. Total proposed Park Board budget for 2019 is $309,460.
In previous actions the Council had accepted the proposal for what is known as the East Park concept. Now the Park Board presented a contract for reforestation and prairie growth as part of the East Park plan. The Board reviewed costs for the East Park seeding and recommended acceptance of a bid from PrairieScapes for a three-year cycle with a total cost of $23,200. The first part of the cycle would cost about $5,300.
The Park Board conducted an open house on Sept. 24 to gather information and provide direction for the future. To that end, the Board has added a proposed skate park in 2021.
Council Member Bob Loso expressed reservations about committing to a skate park and asked how its use would be monitored and what kind of use it might get. Is it really worth pursuing and committing money to that project, Loso wondered.
“I just think skateboarding is a thing of the past,” Loso said. “I grew up with skate boarders – and I grew up with the punk rockers and all this happy crap, and I think it’s a phase of teenagers. Personal opinion.”
Mayor Rick Schultz interjected the Council was putting a substantial amount of money into the East Park project and the Council had already had discussions on the matter.
“We know there is youths to be served by skate parks even if it is a small number,” Schultz said. “I think this is a discussion the Park Board will have and they will figure it out in the end.”
It was also pointed out St. Cloud will be moving its skate park to the east side of St. Cloud and that would make it even more difficult for the St. Joseph skateboard community to utilize.
Finance Director Lori Bartlett said she had visited three area skateboard parks and found them all to be busy with skateboarders.
Proposed spending areas are as follows: Monument Park – $250; Community Center – $600; East Park $296,610; Trails System – $10,000; tree replacement in various parks – $2,000.
City Administrator Judy Weyrens briefed the council on the 2019 Enterprise Fund Budget that will total $4.1 million, representing a 3.5-percent increase over 2018.
The enterprise funds include services for water, sewer, refuse/compost, storm water and street-light utilities and operates similar to a commercial business. It charges fees for the services that typically cover all expenses of the funds, including depreciation. Fees collected for the refuse/compost and street-light utility funds cover the expenses incurred for the fund operation. Expenses for long-term debts and capital projects are partially covered by the funds’ reserve accounts and connection fees reported in separate funds (as required by Minnesota law).
Several areas of the Enterprise Fund are on-going and subject to change. Among these items are budgeted operational sewer-treatment rates which will be reviewed at a Nov. 8 meeting with representatives from other cities.
The refuse contract with Republic Services continues through 2020. Staff is reviewing spring and fall clean up options. This is an ongoing issue for the city, according to Weyrens.
Discussion centering around refuse/compost collection noted that cost for refuse has been increasing in part because of refuse that is being brought into the city and dumped at various sites. Rental properties where there is often a large common container were mentioned as particularly significant offenders.
In rental units, tenants throw garbage and refuse into open containers, Weyrens said. The city is going to have to look at the way landlords are being charged because they are generating much larger amounts of garbage than single-family homeowners, Weyrens said.
The Council was informed C& L Excavating will continue contracting with the city for composting. Union contracts end Dec. 31, 2019. The council needs to prepare for the upcoming round of negotiations. The operational budget is set to allow for the implementation estimates.
Water and Sewer rates are anticipated to increase in 2019 per the Rate Analysis completed by Carl Brown Consulting. Preliminary analysis of the rates shows no increase is necessary for water, and sewer may see less than a 1-percent increase. Between the development rates and current usage fees, the increases are expected to be less than anticipated in the last comprehensive rate study.
Annexation area services will continue to be minimal service areas.
In other actions, the council:
• Approved exterior modifications to the Bad Habit Brewing facility.
• Approved a preliminary plat for the Oaks development formerly known as the DelWin site. Two apartment units are proposed on two different 2.7-acre sites.
• Approved installment of a protective barrier in the development known as 24 North. The danger is cars will back into structures that support the building. The cars would be on public property and placement of the protective barrier requires city approval.
• Reconsidered and approved publication of a summary of the modifications to the Rural Residential District Industrial and Commercial language as it relates to the stockpiling of materials for newly annexed properties. Cost of publication for the entire resolution was estimated to be in excess of $2,000. A summary would reduce the costs substantially and fulfill the city’s obligations to publish.
• Withheld action on approving the Comprehensive Plan Matrix in order to further study the proposal.