Emmetsburg City Council adopted a budget with $9.233 million in expenditures at a joint meeting Monday with the City and Emmetsburg Municipal Utilities Board of Trustees. The budget reflects expenditures for both the city and utilities.
Approval of the budget came after over 20 minutes of discussion on various portions of the proposed budget. In the end, the budget was adopted on a 5 to 1 vote.
Val Newhouse, chair of Palo Alto County Economic Development, and Harry Bormann, treasurer, attended the council meeting to discuss funding.
"We had heard there was the thought that the council was not going to support economic development in the future and we're requesting that you give that reconsideration, not just for the financial component. We can move forward. We just need the partnership" said Newhouse. "It's critically important that we have cities and counties working together for economic development. I'm asking from each of you tonight for you to reconsider and offer your support financially as well as your ongoing partnership to Palo Alto County Economic Development."
Councilman Mike Hermansen asked City Administrator John Bird to give a synopsis of a meeting held last Friday with members of PACEDC and city officials.
"I think we had a pretty good meeting," said Bird. "We covered issues from the past and tried to focus on the future. At the conclusion of the meeting, it was agreed we would go forward, try to improve communications, which was the crux of the problem from our standpoint, and then perhaps, if we see that improvement, and we're already working toward that, perhaps the Fiscal '18 budget could be amended at some point to include funding. We tentatively have a meeting scheduled for March 31 to continue discussion that took place Friday morning."
Newhouse added, "Our board is also going to go back and refocus on our goals, based on the conversations that we had, the input we received from a few of you, as well as others. We'll come up with a plan that focuses on both entities working together moving forward."
"I think we decided it (the Friday meeting) was a good thing to have done," said Mayor Myrna Heddinger.
"We don't want to take anyone or anything for granted," added Newhouse."?We just want to keep moving forward and looking at the future. We are excited about the things we've accomplished, but we know there is a lot more that needs to be done and it take everybody working together to get that done. We appreciate any ongoing support we can get from the city and we will stay in touch."
Councilman Hermansen brought up another area of the budget for clarification.
"One of the things that has my attention is our building inspector and supporting his salary. Do we charge a fee for building inspections?"?asked Hermansen.
"We've always charged a fee for building inspections," answered Bird. "The proposal is to increase the building permit application fee. We now charge a minimum of $30 or 5-cents per square foot, excluding garages. The proposal in the budget is to increase that 5-cents to 8-cents per square foot. So they will go up somewhat."
Hermansen asked if this is for new construction. Bird answered this is for any construction that increases the footprint of a structure.
Hermansen then asked about inspections, noting there are numerous bad facilities in Emmetsburg.
"Does Clint (Young, building inspector) have any responsibility there?"?he asked.
Bird answered, "We're kind of expanding the role of building inspector to also serve as the city's compliance director. He is going to assist us with nuisance abatement going forward so that maybe we can be a little bit more pro-active as opposed to being reactive."
Hermansen asked about inspecting rental properties. Bird answered that will only happen if the council adopts an ordinance.
The preliminary budget included a salary increase for Vicky VanOosbree, Community Center director. Councilmen discussed not awarding that increase at their last meeting.
"My personal feeling on this since we're hiring another assistant director, I'm not sure she needs a raise at this point," said Councilman Bill Burdick. "I don't want to single out a single city employee and give a raise at a different time than everybody else.
Councilman Todd Bell concurred.
"I think she's doing a wonderful job, I just don't think we should single out a city employee to get a raise at a different time than everyone else," Burdick said.
Councilman Brian Malm said, "I'd like to leave it as it is. It was the recommendation of the board."
Bird pointed out, "There is no other employee that's working holidays, weekends and 60+ hours a week without being compensated for it. She's the only one. During the prime season of golf, Matt Pugh also works weekends and holidays."
Burdick made a motion to omit the raise for Vicky VanOosbree from the budget. Voting yes, to omit:?Councilmen Burdick, Bell and Campbell. Voting no, to leave it in the budget:?Councilmen Malm, Berkland and Hermansen.
Mayor Heddinger broke the tie, speaking of the good work Vicky VanOosbree does. She voted against omitting the raise from the budget.
Burdick then commented, "I think we could have done a better job tightening our strings on the budget."
He cited the mil levy of $14.38, an increase of 73-cents from the current year.
Voting on the resolution to adopt the Fiscal Year 2017-18 budget:?Councilmen Bell, Berkland, Campbell, Hermansen, and Malm voted yes; Councilman Burdick voted no.