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Akeley audit shows utility rates are not adequate headline

By Jean Ruzicka

This summer’s campers on 11th Crow Wing may have an opportunity to rent a pontoon, canoes, fishing boats, paddle boats or kayaks, a dock at the city campground the proposed launch site.

Aaron DeRoo, owner of the Akeley Angler bait shop, approached the council on the matter this month, earning strong support.

In a memo to council members, DeRoo said he saw “4,200 campers passing through our town who had many unmet needs,” boat rental among them.

He anticipates the service would draw more campers, increasing city revenue.

“This would cost the city nothing, as I would provide the boats, dock sections, labor, etc.,” he wrote in the memo.

Council member Trygve Karl asked for proof of insurance and mayor Brian Hitchcock suggested an attorney draft a contract.

Canoes, kayaks and paddle boats have less safety concerns than ski boats and jet skis, DeRoo pointed out, and are campers’ preferred watercraft, he said, based on requests he’s heard.

In other action, the Akeley Council:

n Reviewed the city’s annual audit, which shows the city had operating losses in both water ($23,429) and sewer ($31,745), despite rates having been increased for both last year.

“Technically, we are out of compliance,” clerk-treasurer Sebrina Hegg said of maintaining funds for repairs and depreciation.

A base utility rate for a home in Akeley is $56, Hegg said. “But it should be about $81.”

“Laws or regulations require that the pricing policies…recover costs,” Judi Moravec of Mathias C. Justin told the council.

Moravec recommended the city council “continue to implement oversight” at the liquor store, which is a cash business. This, she explained, presents financial risks that other city functions may not.

She also cited a fund balance deficit of $31,740 in the city park fund. “The state auditor recommends that at year end, local governments maintain an unreserved fund balance in the general fund and special revenue funds of approximately 35 to 50 percent of fund operating revenues, or no less than five months of operating expenditures,” Moravec reminded the council.

The park manager is currently treated as a sub-contractor, she pointed out, suggesting government entities “correctly determine whether individuals providing services are employees or independent contractors.”

She recommended using a credit card, as opposed to a debit card (which provide fewer protections), and adopting a credit card policy.

The city may not pay dues to the Chamber of Commerce, she reported, but may appropriate up to $50,000 to promote the city. She recommends the city document how the funds will be used.

Moravec commended Hegg. “The clerk did an excellent job,” she told the council. “Everything balanced perfectly.”

n Reported Kelly VandenEykel passed the Class C water license test for maintenance of the water plant.

Learned recycling will be encouraged at the park this summer, based on county waste disposal costs rising appreciably.

Will offer Mike Lenander the deputy clerk position, Sally Watson having tendered her resignation.

n Learned the new fire truck, a brush rig, has arrived.

n Took no action on hiring a building inspector, as had been proposed by a party at an earlier meeting.

n Learned VFW members are looking into constructing public restrooms, and will explore financing options for construction and maintenance.