City mulls $650,000 bond issues, city manager search, tax distribution
Cherokee's City Council forged ahead through three major items on the agenda on Feb. 26, including resolutions fixing a date for a meeting on the proposition to authorize a Loan Agreement on the issuance of Notes not to exceed $250,000 for a fire department equipment truck, and a similar resolution not to exceed $400,000 for Community Center improvements.
The Council also discussed at length the current city manager search and decided to explore the possibility of the Siouxland Interstate Metropolitan Planning Council (SIMPCO) lending its expertise to the search. City Clerk Deb Taylor will contact SIMPCO and invite a representative for a question/answer session at the March 25 City Council meeting.
To date, the city has paid Storm Lake head hunter Clarence Krepps $13,500 to help in the search for a new city manager, minus $1,350 after the initial search failed to produce an acceptable candidate. To extend the contract for the Krepps services would cost an additional $9,300. It is understood by Council members that the city's membership in SIMPCO will allow that body to help in the search at no charge.
City Attorney Wally Miller Jr. also will contact Krepps regarding the information already collected by Krepps to be turned over to the city.
In this time of lagging city revenues and a proposed already lean budget needing further reduced by $140,000, the fire department's request for a bond issue to finance a $250,000 vehicle has been a bone of contention for some members of the Council and the general public.
Fire department officials and some Council members have been exploring less expensive options and Tuesday requested more time to get more information together.
The Council then unanimously adopted a resolution fixing the date of March 11, at 7 p.m. for a meeting on the proposition to authorize a Loan Agreement and issuance of Notes not to exceed $250,000 for the vehicle.
The Council also unanimously adopted a resolution fixing the date of March 11, at 7:15 p.m. for a meeting on the proposition to authorize a Loan Agreement and issuance of Notes not to exceed $400,000 for the community center improvements.
The Council reviewed the bids for the Community Center improvements, with Haselhoff Construction of Cherokee submitting the low base bid of $378,800, plus an alternate bid of $10,200 for theater lighting. Haselhoff expects to complete the project by August 31 of this year. A contract with Haselhoff Construction will be submitted for Council approval in the near future.
The Council also heard from Mark Buschkamp, director of the Cherokee Area Economic Development Corporation (CAEDC), regarding the fact the Council is considering cutting back the distribution of the local hotel/motel tax revenues to CAEDC and the Chamber of Commerce.
The current distribution is 25-percent to the Chamber, 14-percent to CAEDC, 10-percent to the business incentive program, and 51-percent to the city.
Buschkamp asked the Council to consider what grants from this local tax money has done for the community, and what businesses have been assisted by CAEDC through the years. Buschkamp referred to the hotel/motel tax distribution as an investment in the community. CAEDC receives $9,000-$10,000 annually from the tax, which is an estimated 60-percent of its marketing budget.
Mick Samsel, Chamber, and Tourism Board member, strongly recommended that the city continue with the funding. The grants gleaned from such monies have funded 39 local organizations that help attract tourists to town, explained Samsel.
Mayor Pro-Tem Bob Leach, speaking as a citizen, said that as part of the Arena Committee in Cherokee, that group has received grants from the Chamber for bleachers and lighting which have greatly enhanced the horse arena and its popularity.
Dwight Varce, Chamber member and former city council member, said the Chamber has a lot of positives going on right now and feels that the many local volunteers would lose enthusiasm if the distribution of the tax was reduced and their many goals diminished.
Chamber member Tim Gaydo said a lot of diligence goes into choosing grant recipients as they try to decide which events will bring the most people to town.
In other action, the Council voted to designate the Bacon Aquatic Center and Gillette Park a smoke-free zone. Appropriate signs will be posted in the near future.
In continued budget discussions, the Council asked department heads about the proposed General Fund budget cuts.
Dan Rollison, Recreation Director, expressed concern about increasing the daily admission fee to the aquatic center from $4 to $5. He said some communities are decreasing such fees, and that Cherokee has yet to have a full season to better peg revenues. He said the $4 fee often left $1 to be spent at the concession stand. Regarding the proposed cuts in wages for pool staff, Rollison said that would be workable because he is restructuring staffing.
The Council also heard from Police Chief Steve Schuck and Library Director Mary Jo Ruppert concerning proposed cuts to their budgets.
Ultimately, the Council approved the proposed budget adjustments to the General Fund on a 4-1 vote, with Council member Greg Stieneke voting no, and Linda Burkhart, Mick Mallory, Jim Peck, and Leach voting in favor.
Taylor asked the council how it wanted to proceed with the Debt Service levy. As presented, the levy shows an increase of $2/$1,000 over the current year. With the proposed bond issues for the fire truck and community center, the levy would hike another 75-cents/$1,000.
The Council has the option of using an additional $200,000 from the local option sales tax toward street improvement debt to decrease the levy.
The Council then instructed the City Clerk to advertise the public hearing on the 2008-2009 budget for March 11 at 7:30 p.m., without using any additional local option sales tax funds. After the public hearing, the Council has the option of decreasing the tax levy, but can't increase it.