By Pat Maurer
After hearing several concerns from Clare City resident and former Mayor Al Demarest Monday night, the City Commission adopted the 2014-15 budget totaling $11,722,226.07, more than double the current year’s total of $5,390,124.43 in expenditures.
Both revenues and expenditures are up signifiantly because of the influx of grant funds and a USDA loan for the north end projects including the new water tower, industrial park and road improvements.
During the Public Hearing on the budget, Demarest questioned the two-percent increase in water fees to residents in the budget. “Taxes are too high in this town,” he said.
City Treasurer Steven Kingsbury said the State requires that enough is charged to cover the cost of operating the system. “We held the rates down for several years,” he said, “but we have to charge enough to cover our costs.”
Demarest also objected to the use of $825,446.81 from the City’s fund balance. “At some point in time you are going to run out of money,” he said. “Property values have gone down.”
Greg Rynearson said, “It is going for the improvement of the city. What else should it be used for?” He added, “We have gone through tough times and did well.”
Treasurer Steven Kingsbury explained, “We will be using within next fiscal year’s budget the following funds that have been intentionally saved/accumulated over the past several years.”
In an email he listed:
· $400,000 from the Sewer Fund balance to replace the north sewerage lift station which has surpassed its useful life with a new superstation that will serve the entire north end of the City;
· $350,000 from the Water Fund balance to go towards the $1.5 million cost of the new 500,000 gallon elevated water tank that will be constructed in the North Industrial Park. In addition to providing water pressure for the industrial park the water tank also provides much needed water pressure to the entire north end of the City of Clare (everything north of the Tobacco River); and
· $62,429.50 will be used from the Major Street fund balance as part of the Colonville Road reconstruction.
Kingsbury said, “As a result of the City’s above investment in our infrastructure we will be receiving the $2.6 million grant from the EDA for the construction of the North Industrial Park and a $599,940 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation along with $100,000 in donations from three businesses to reconstruct Colonville Road making it a three-lane, all season road. This is a tremendous leveraging of the City’s funding to accomplish several very needed infrastructure improvements.”
Demarest also said, “The roads are a terrible problem all over. You are putting a lot of money into that one mile stretch [of Colonville Road]. Will there be a possible road millage?”
He said the City is already charging nearly 20 mills. Kingsbury replied, “Because of the Headley Amendment, we can only charge 18.769 mills. We are now at 17.5 mills.”
Demarest continued, but Commissioner Bob Bonham made a motion to close the Public Hearing.
Bonham voted against another item on the agenda. The rest of the Commission approved directing the City staff to initiate the process to get bids for a possible bond issue to begin the first phase of development a recreation complex on property purchased on the south side of the City for the City’s soccer program.
If the bids show that bonding for a first phase to develop two-thirds of the 26 acres for soccer. The cost would be approximately $335,000 to excavate and develop the fields. The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, through donations and millage funds approved by City voters, has about $100,000 of the needed funds. The remainder could be accumulated through a bond issue with millage paying it off.
“We would be using millage money,” said Committee member Michael Craig. “There would be no additional cost for taxpayers.”
The soccer program is presently played on fields at the Clare Municipal Airport. Approximately 315 players participate each year said Chair Carol Santini. Committee member Jon Ringelberg said, the Federal Aviation Administration could shut down our present fields at any time. If we delay now we would lose a full season.”
Plans for more development would include exercise trails, a pavilion, and concession stands. It would be done in phases, said Santini. The estimated cost to develop the entire property is more than $1 million.
Other business at the Clare City meeting included:
*A Public Hearing and approval of the Single Lot Assessment Roll.
*Adoption of the 2014-15 Fee and Rate Schedule.
*Approval of the Residential Waste Services Contract.
*A second reading and approval of the well protection ordinance amendment as recommended by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.