12/26/2013 3:05:00 PM West Concord City Council
Trouble with taxes and cats; volunteer tutor available Council hires full-time police officer
By Nan Babcock
The West Concord City Council began their meeting on Dec. 19 with a taxation hearing. Three taxpayers attended to question their tax statements.
A homeowner questioned why the city's portion of her property taxes increased 30 percent when the city budget went up only .9 percent. The owner of ten acres of agricultural land in the city questioned why his taxes increased 30 percent when he said the owners of agricultural land adjoining his were charged 30 percent less than he was. A business owner explained that his building had fallen down this year, and the property is valued one dollar higher in 2014 than it was in 2013. All three said they had been in contact with the county assessor's office and had not received satisfactory answers.
City administrator Kay Hanson attributed the city's high tax rates to the fact that the city was forced to build a $2.4 million wastewater treatment plant, and the payments on the bonds used to fund that project keep property taxes high. "We have very little industry to offset municipal expenses," she noted. The city budget has remained relatively flat for the last several years, and the .9 percent increase this year is the equivalent of $3600.
The council members approved the 2014 tax levy at $550,000. The final tax levy for 2013 was $546,360.
Police officer hired
Officer Mike Erdman was hired for the full-time police position in West Concord. The position will start at $16 per hour with benefits, according to council member Karen Peterson, who explained that this arrangement will save money for the city as well as provide more patrol hours due to having a full-time patrol officer and a part-time chief. Police Chief Shannon Boerner added that this will increase police coverage and visibility on the street.
Problem with stray cats
Dennis Englehart, manager of the local Hardware Hank, was back to address the council for the second month in a row about the stray cat issue. He carried a bag full of cat-related trash he had picked up off the street, and told council members he had refrained from bringing the cat feces he's picked up. "There are ordinances-why aren't they being enforced?" he asked the council. Lengthy discussion followed.
Council member Ryan Faye advocated shooting them. "Cities use their police departments to shoot deer and other nuisance animals," he observed.
"We're not going to advocate shooting cats," Mayor Jeff McCool said.
"You can't shoot cats," Shannon agreed.
"It costs the city about $280 to deal with each impounded cat," Kay said. Costs include ten days of impoundment and then the euthanasia fee. A further complication is that the city impound facility is set up for dogs, not cats.
Dennis wondered if a private party could be contracted with for impounding services at a cheaper fee, and city officials indicated they would be willing to explore the possibility further.
City engineer Joe Palen gave an update on preparations for the West Main improvement project slated for 2014. He is currently developing a right-of-way design. "A typical right-of-way is 60 feet, 30 feet on each side of the center line," he said.
Joe questioned council members about parking spaces at the church on the corner of Highland and Main. The plan shows perpendicular parking, and Joe believes that will be in conflict with state safety standards, because of the hazards of people backing out onto a state aid road. He said parallel parking would be more acceptable.
Tutor help on Thursdays
Karen informed the council members that the public library will have a volunteer tutor coming in to give students free homework assistance on Thursdays from 4-7 p.m. starting Jan. 9. Gary Wallin is a retired teacher from Kasson.
In other business:
State Representative Steve Drazkowski attended the meeting to give the city officials an update on legislative activity;
The council approved the city fee schedule, snow removal procedure, a resolution accepting donations in 2013, the purchase of a police patrol rifle costing $1,157 for the police department; and
The council scheduled the inventory at the liquor store for the morning of Jan. 1.
Regular city council meetings will take place the third Thursday of the month in 2014; however the January meeting will be Wednesday, Jan. 15.