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Council passes $30m budget

By Staff | Mar 18, 2020

The Estherville City Council passed a budget of $30,642,402 at Monday evening’s city council meeting. Monday was also the date for a public hearing on the budget. No members of the public appeared to speak on the budget.

The fiscal year begins July 1, 2020 and ends June 30, 2021. The budget represents a 33.10 percent increase in expenditures, with adjustments for transfers, over last year’s budget, with a 330.02 percent increase in the grant, loan and construction fund due to the airport taxiway and the pool. Other major increases include a 17.32 percent increase for snow removal, storm sewer, vehicle maintenance and operations; an 18.81 percent increase in solid waste, due to landfill charges and wages; and with a 50 percent decrease in miscellaneous general government charges.

The council also discussed at length the municipal pool project. The bids for the project came in at over $700,000 over the engineers’ estimate, plus additional engineering fees of just under $100,000. City administrator Penny Clayton called Burbach Aquatics, the pool contractor, who agreed to waive the additional engineering fees, which were based on the increased price of the pool. Excel Estherville this week came in with an additional rescue for the city, agreeing to add $500,000 paid over five years to its additional pledge of $150,000 for the project.

At press time, the Estherville Parks & Recreation board was scheduled to have a special meeting Monday, March 23 to review their fund balances for other projects and determine how much they can reallocate to the pool project.

Council member Roy Gage said, “If I was dictator for a day, I’d have walked away. It’s not because I don’t want a pool in Estherville, but because those bids were so far off from the estimate.”

Council member Gary Heckard said, “Making that kind of money, [Burbach Aquatics] should be a lot closer to the estimate. I’m not against the pool. I consider it a failure on their part for not being closer to the bids.”

City administrator Penny Clayton replied to Heckard, “There isn’t an engineer in the country who will guarantee the pricing. But I understand why you might feel this is a fail.”

That, Clayton said, is why she called Burbach about the $98,641.31 the low bid would have netted the company due to their percentage formula of the total cost of the project. Burbach waived that fee on the overage.

The council tabled the awarding of contracts until the parks & recreation board could return with real numbers on their fundraising pledges to ensure the city has the funds to pay the contracts.

Ricchio Construction of Gurnee, Illinois submitted the low bid for the pool vessel and mechanical work, and Christensen Construction of Estherville submitted the low bid for the bathhouse and other structures on the pool property.

City voters approved the pool bond issue with 67% August 6, rolling over an existing bond for $4 million.

In other business, the council authorized the city clerk to make interfund transfers of sums for fiscal year 2021, set a public hearing on a proposed amendment to the city urban renewal area plan for its April 6 meeting, which would give new multi-family residential buildings a 100 percent exemption on property tax for 10 years; created a list of parking spaces for persons with disabilities; reviewed updates from Mayor Joseph May on the beginnings of a youth center idea and from Estherville and Emmet County economic director Lyle Hevern on economic development progress.

The updates are detailed in other stories in this edition.

During public forum, a citizen blogger spoke to the council about a perceived lack of response from the mayor about his concerns.

The next meeting of the Estherville city council will be Monday, April 6 at 5 p.m. in the council chambers of city hall, unless further changes are required due to COVID-19.