Treasurer Jeremy Jude told the Park Rapids City Council on Tuesday that the city’s accounting work is starting to fall behind due to staff turnover.

In a late addition to its consent agenda, the council authorized staff to advertise and interview for a full-time position as an accounting administrative assistant, which became vacant due to a recent resignation.

Jude described the employee who resigned as the city’s senior finance person, who handled a lot of utility billing and data entry. He voiced concern that the farther his staff falls behind, the harder it will be to catch up – especially with work on the 2020 audit starting in January and a workers’ comp audit looming as well.

“If we don’t get caught up by the end of this year, next year will be an even worse situation,” he said, hinting that meeting audit deadlines is tied to receiving local government aid.

“Everybody is doing what they can,” he said, but noted that his remaining part-time assistant is only in her third week on the job. Even with accounting experience, he said, it takes time to learn a city’s internal practices and how to use the Banyon accounting software.

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Interim city administrator Betty Thomsen said she has put out “feelers” about available temps who know Banyon and would come into city hall to work. She said the city has $38,000 in its payroll budget for such a hire, due to another position being cut.

Council member Erika Randall moved to authorize Thomsen to spend up to $38,000 to hire temporary help for the city’s accounting department. The motion passed unanimously.

Jude said the city’s 2019 financial audit will be presented at the council’s next meeting.

Bagstad updates council

The Park Rapids City Council heard a presentation on Tuesday about School District 309’s bonding referendum.

Superintendent Lance Bagstad recapped the process, concept plans and tax impact for the proposed school improvement project, featured in two ballot questions for the Nov. 3 election. The first question proposes to levy $54.5 million to improve the district’s educational facility. If Question 1 passes, Question 2 proposes to raise an additional $3.7 million to replace the school bus garage and the Century School tennis courts.

Bagstad said that if the project goes forward, the bond issue and design should take place in 2021, with dirt work to begin in 2022 and the new facilities ready to move in by fall 2024.

Further details about the bonding initiative, including a tax impact calculator are available at PRoject309.org.

In consent items and general business, the council:

  • Gave Police Officer Austin Rittgers a wage adjustment and step increase to $28.25 per hour, retroactive to July 26.

  • Gave public works street maintenance worker Justin Leritz a wage adjustment and step increase to $23.20 per hour, effective Oct. 10.

  • Authorized the public works department to replace a wastewater pump for Lift Station 14, purchased from Minnesota Pump Works for $5,843.

  • Paid Northwoods Computer Service $1,230 for IT support for the police department from January through September. This service is billed monthly due to the city no longer having its own IT person.

  • Paid Apex Engineering $35,256 for professional services on various projects, including water treatment plant design and basic services regarding Career Path and Deer Road improvements.

  • Agreed to cooperate with the Headwaters Regional Development Commission for a community-wide application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a brownfields environmental assessment grant. A local project identified for this grant is removal of fuel oil barrels from the old boiler plant in the basement of Park Avenue Apartments building 2.

  • Approved a lawful gambling permit for Hubbard First Response and Rescue to have a charitable raffle Nov. 17 at their headquarters.

  • Approved a public facilities use permit for the Park Rapids Downtown Business Association to close the center parking spaces in the fourth block of Main Avenue South from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31 for a Halloween candy giveaway.

  • Approved a conditional use permit (CUP) and two CUP revocations recommended by the city’s planning commission on Sept. 28.

  • Approved payables totaling $74,842 and prepaids totaling $103,278.

The city council’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27 at city hall.