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Nevis may see increased sewer rates

The Nevis Council learned the city is in a "decent financial state" this week, but may need to look at raising sewer rates.

Don Zierke of Miller McDonald arrived with the 2011 city audit. The city's disbursements, for the most part, were under projected costs. The general fund budget of $309,782 was $695 under the actual $309,087 disbursements.

While the water fund is "fairly adequately funded" the sewer fund saw a decrease in net assets, Zierke told the council.

The water fund's cash equivalents at year's end were $117,275 in 2011 compared with $102,766 in '10, a $14,509 increase in cash. This compares with a $5,373 decrease in the sewer fund, from $173,262 to $167,889 in 2011.

The sewer fund "is not generating enough cash to cover debt service," he cautioned. "You may want to look at this," he said. "You may not have adequate charges to meet cash flow operations."

The liquor store "is making good inroads," he said of net assets increasing from $68,977 in 2010 to $106,309 in 2011, but he said the amount is not yet "adequate."

He commended the "quite substantial" 12 percent increase in "net assets before operating transfers out," citing the increase in sales as the factor.

Gross profit from sales was up approximately $45,000 - $186,481 in 2010 compared with $231,411 in 2011.

Operating expenses decreased from $170,585 in 2010 to $168,578 in '11.

The fire fund, with receipts of $285,831 and disbursements of $275,906 is "in good shape," Zierke said.

In other action, the council:

n Took strong exception to a recent letter from the Nevis Senior Citizens "making serious accusations about the administrator," Carol Fridgen.

Mayor Paul Schroeder addressed the issue, stating while he "did not want to drive a wedge" between the city and the seniors, "I have concerns and issues."

The letter, signed by Nevis Senior Citizens officers ElVeda Bliss, Everett Miller, Bev Romer and Lillian Juelich, states, "For the past three years we have submitted a request to the city administrator to inquire if it would be possible for the city of Nevis to financially assist the Nevis Senior Center with a monetary contribution."

Former mayor Ray Melander initiated the city's annual contribution during his term in office.

"We had been told by the administrator that because of tight budgetary constraints that additional assistance would not be feasible and would not be considered for a budgetary request," the letter states, drawing fire from the mayor.

"This is a serious accusation about the administrator," Schroeder said, addressing former council member Bev Romer directly on the matter. (Romer, who arrived with the other seniors, apologized, saying she'd not read the letter carefully before signing.)

"It's hurtful and I believe inaccurate. Carol is not in charge of what goes on an agenda," Schroeder said, asking for an apology. He indicated matters of this nature should be brought to members of the council.

"It's currently not an annual budget expense, and I'm not sure it's a good idea," he said, noting the C&C contributes $3,000 annually to the senior center.

"There are a lot of moving parts in the city," he said of the council's approval of the purchase of a new truck, water tower painting, "while not raising taxes for families.

"In my opinion," the center "receives generous, substantial help. I take exception to the comment that we don't care for seniors," Schroeder said.

The letter from the seniors was, for the most part not accusatory, but expressed gratitude. "We are very appreciative of what the council has granted us in previous years and are also very grateful for the assistance the city provides in clearing our parking lot in the winter," the letter states.

"We think Carol has done a fantastic job. We are behind Carol 100 percent," Romer said.

Schroeder stated requests of this matter should be brought in a written form.

But his next statement, in a conciliatory tone, was to suggest the city make a $600 donation to the senior citizens, which was approved.

He would later joke, after the seniors' departure, that the city should send seniors down to the city dock to inspect boats for zebra mussels as a means of repayment. (This follows last month's meeting when the council was apprised by members of COLA of the dangers of aquatic invasive species.)

n Approved the purchase of a truck from Park Rapids Ford at a low bid of $25,989, with the installation of a plow for a total of $30,885.

n Took no action on a requested contribution for the SAFE Parks Program, Schroeder stating he would take it to the C&C.

n Reported liquor store earnings of negative $1,996 in February, positive $2,696 in March.

n Approved extending the bar to the parking lot for summer season events, May through September.

n Approved extending offsite (Muskie Park) liquor sales during summer events.

n Approved the liquor store being open Sunday, July 8 for the pig races.

n Approved hiring the band Rock Bottom for the Memorial Day weekend and during Uff da Days. "Uff da Days has done a lot for us," Schroeder said of donations and volunteerism from the committee.

n Learned firefighters recently underwent state certification, with all but one member of the department passing. "I'm proud and impressed," fire chief Kerry Swenson told the council.

n Approved a resolution authorizing sponsorship of trails operated by the Nevis Trailblazers.

n Approved purchase of dram shop insurance from Ebner Insurance.