Council gets update on levy adjustments

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

With the deadline approaching for the Chatfield City Council to set the final 2020 tax levy and budget, city clerk Joel Young gave an update at the Nov. 25 council meeting about efforts to pare back the proposed 8.47 percent increase in the preliminary levy approved earlier in the year.

“We’re getting closer to adopting the final tax levy and budget,” he told the council, noting that reductions had been made in specific departments to trim the property tax percentage slightly, with increases being made for the ambulance service to keep it solvent and able to properly respond to emergencies with the right equipment. 

“One goal is to reduce the tax rate from 112 percent to 90 percent, and to reduce the city’s debt per capita, keep the long-term costs of city services below 3 percent (increase), and the general fund has been subsidizing the sewer fund.  The sewer fund is coming to a close, so that will soon (correct itself), but we want to maintain positive reserves in the water and sewer funds,” he said.

Young stated that planned street projects may be spaced up to five years apart, beginning with Grand Street in 2023, concluding after making the point that the city is aiming to reduce its per capita debt.

“I’m not asking for any decisions tonight, of course,” he concluded.

The 2020 final budget and property tax levy will be approved after the annual Truth in Taxation hearing Monday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m. The council can’t increase the levy from the preliminary amount, but it can reduce it.

Fire calls total 52

Chatfield Fire Chief Ryan Priebe gave the department’s annual report and cited that from Oct. 31, 2018, to Nov. 1, 2019, the department answered 52 calls, with 10 building fires, one passenger vehicle fire, one wildland fire, six medical assists, eight motor vehicle accidents, one carbon monoxide incident, nine canceled en route, three weather watches, one UTV rescue, six false alarms or malfunctions, four gas line ruptures and two public service. 

Priebe presented the list of 2020 officers, with himself continuing as chief, Luke Thieke as first assistant chief, Peter Erickson as second assistant chief, Chris Musty as training officer, Steve Schmiedeberg as safety officer, and Jason Baldner and Cole Mckean as captains. 

“We had one firefighter retire – Tim Danielson – and we have replaced him,” he said.

Equipment on the department’s wish list includes overhead doors, entry doors and openers, as well as another four sets of turnout gear – with the hope that more turnout gear may be purchased within the next two years. 

“We have been awarded a grant from the state fire marshal’s office for a gear washer-extractor.  This extractor will remove all of the cancerous carcinogens from our fire gear.  It’s basically a fancy washer to do that,” Priebe said. “The grant is for $4,275, and we have a match of about 10 percent, or $475.  It will fit in the same closet where our washer and dryer are right now.” 

In separate motions, the council voted to approve the officers’ list and the grant.  

Zoning request

Kristi Trisko, Chatfield’s Planning and Zoning coordinator, came to the council with a request from a resident of 605 South Main Street to convey a part of her property to two lots – the original 60-foot wide lots, lots four and five – as described in the original plat of Chatfield.  The resident’s home is at the intersection of Main Street and Sixth Street, with the proposed lot just south of her existing home. 

The resident wished to have her property conveyed to allow her daughter to construct a home next door, and the zoning summary found that the lots both meet original lot standards of 60 feet by 128 feet.  Trisko shared that the existing home meets the current side yard setbacks of more than 15 feet from Sixth Street and more than 6 feet from the proposed lot line. 

Ultimately, findings showed nothing out of the ordinary, giving the council reason to approve the conveyance. 

Snow policies

It was evident that snow would soon be falling and council members and the mayor offered up numerous reminders to residents during the meeting to park their cars in driveways to make way for snowplows to clear the snowfall from the following evening’s predicted snowstorm. 

Mayor Russ Smith pointed out that residents should “watch for notifications to get cars off the roads,” as did city maintenance supervisor Brian Burkholder. 

Other business

Other business involved granting payment of change orders for the new municipal swimming pool, one for $6,078 and another for $120,402.58, and hearing the public services report from Councilor Pam Bluhm, who related that the committee discussed what constitutes a public nuisance and when the city should or should not get involved in attempts to mitigate them. 

Also, Councilor Josh Broadwater gave the Park and Recreation Committee’s update, telling about how the city is seeking a new pool manager now so that the position will be filled when the pool opens in June.