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City tax levy expected to increase

The Perham city tax levy is expected to increase a little over 8 percent next year, based on the preliminary levy that was approved at the Sept. 13 City Council meeting.

The preliminary levy was set at $1,210,450. According to City Manager Kelcey Klemm, "much of that (8 percent) increase is due to our debt service levy," which is used to pay for city infrastructure improvements.

Klemm also noted that the council can opt to lower, but not raise that figure when they approve the final levy in December.

Therefore the preliminary levy figure set in September needs to take into account the uncertainty of the status of city Local Government Aid (LGA) funding from the state.

"Our (LGA) funding has been reduced the past couple of years," he said. "We're trying to be proactive in case we are cut."

In other business Monday, the council approved payment of $145,000 as the city's share of the costs for an improvement project at the municipal airport. The remaining 80 percent of the $675,000 project will be funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation's Office of Aeronautics, Klemm said.

The council also accepted the donation of a newly constructed storage building at 602 4th Avenue NW by the Perham Lakes Lions Club.

The Lions Club paid for the cost of constructing the storage facility, then donated it to the city on the condition that the council would agree to lease most of the building back to the Lions for their needs.

The council gave final approval to a 20-year lease on the building by the Lions Club, on a rent-free basis -- with the condition that the Lions pay for their portion of maintenance and utility costs.

The council members also approved a request by the Lions that the city refund their portion of the cost for the building permit on the project, or about $60. The Lions had requested that the city refund the entire $300 cost of the permit, but as Klemm noted, 80 percent of that fee goes toward paying for the services of the building inspector.

"We can't waive it (the entire fee), because that money's already obligated," he said.

A lengthy discussion was held at the meeting regarding what the council would like to do about its locating contract with the Perham-based Precision Locating.

The company provides locating services for all of the city's natural gas, water, sewer, storm sewer and some electrical lines whenever there is any digging to be done in those areas.

The city had switched its contract to Precision in 2009.

"It was a local company, and their bid came in less, so we made the switch," Klemm said.

Concerns about the contract arose this summer, however, when two gas line "hits" occurred.

Klemm made a recommendation at Monday's meeting that the council send out requests for proposals (RFPs) to all area companies that provide locating services -- including Precision -- then make a decision at the October meeting on whether to terminate the existing contract.

Klemm also noted that if Precision were to submit an RFP, they would also need to provide assurances that the problems were being addressed.

Some discussion was held on whether to terminate the contract before sending out RFPs.

"I really have a problem with mis-locates," said council member Fred Lehmkuhl, noting that mis-located gas lines raise particularly serious concerns.

"Gas is no laughing matter," agreed Mayor Tim Meehl.

Lehmkuhl told Precision Locating manager John Schornack there had been "a lot of mismanagement" on the part of his company with regard to gas line locations.

"I really appreciate (having) a local company, but I have to see better, qualified work," he added.

Schornack readily admitted that the council's concerns were valid, but added that his company was taking steps to provide additional training and personnel to ensure that such problems did not occur in the future.

Ultimately, the council opted to go with Klemm's recommendation.

In other action, the council adopted a resolution authorizing local police officers to issue administrative citations for certain traffic offenses.

The administrative citations would carry a less severe fine than state-issued tickets, noted Police Chief Jason Hoaby. However, they could not be issued for all traffic offenses -- only those allowed for by state statute.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454