7/30/2014 2:22:00 PM Police liaison, library among short-term goals
Discussion focused on a school police liaison, library expansion and drafting budgets at the Rice Lake City Council special 2015 goals meeting Monday, July 28. The council set a goal of working with the Rice Lake Area School District to fund a permanent police officer position to work in local schools. Rice Lake Police Chief Steve Roux said re-establishing the full-time position has been a goal since he became chief 2 years ago. "It's just whether we can financially fund it and sustain it," he said. The council supported bringing back the position, but agreed the school district needs to be active in achieving that goal. "We will be getting an employee for less than 100% of the cost," said Alderman Mike Diercks. "Right now we're sending officers there routinely and covering 100% of the cost." Roux said the officer would be retained in the summer to help with investigations and fill shifts, which could help to cut down overtime in the department. When the position existed from 1997 to 2006, the city covered 25% of the cost not funded by grant money. The school covered 75%, but when the grant money was lost so was the officer. Roux said the value of the liaison is the connections made with students, which helps resolve issues before they escalate. "There's a lot of connections where the officer and school can work better with our department and vice versa," he said.
Library The council has held a long-term goal of expanding the library for 10 years. But discussion Monday resulted in a decision to make it a short-term priority. Library director Dawn Wacek said the library board and staff have done much to move the project along. "We've taken the step of purchasing land. We have the concept design finished. Now we've done the feasibility study. We're relying on the council at this point to take any more steps forward," she said. City administrator Curt Snyder said the city's status as a small issuer of bonds does not enable it to move forward until 2016 or 2017. Issuing library bonds of $2.5 million sooner might take the city above its annual debt limit of $5 million. That would require bond yields to be paid to the federal government under arbitrage rules. The total cost of the project would likely be split between the city and private fundraising. Wacek said feasibility study survey groups showed that the community by and large supported a 50-50 split between private and public funding.
Budget A number of goals touched on how the city makes a budget. After failing once at the meeting, a goal to set the city mill rate at the average of comparable cities was re-considered and passed. Council members disagreed on the merit of the strategy. "We're always comparing ourselves to other cities when we should be comparing ourselves to ourselves," said Alderman Bruce Willers. Diercks said moving toward the average mill rate of cities similar in size can keep the city up to date. "If we have more dollars, we can fix more roads," said Diercks, who also mentioned funding needs for the city's placemaking efforts. "We are offering good things to the community. If we have to go up in our tax rate some to accomplish that, I think it's a good thing," he said. Snyder said the city may not get to the average of comparable cities right away because of levy limit restrictions. He said a 1 mill increase is projected for next year. Alderman Dan Schwab also proposed a goal of keeping department budget increases at a maximum 2%. The limit would help uncomplicate the budget process, he said. "I want to give a guideline to city departments in order to avoid nitpicking through budget proposals," said Schwab, who stressed that it is only meant as a guideline. "Can we hold this across the board? I don't know," he said. Snyder said a 2% increase in department budgets is forecast in 2015. Both goals were approved with Willers and Stu Durkee as the only council members voting against the proposals.
Short-term goals Short-term goals are meant to be accomplished within 2 years. Investigate merging community services and utilities. Motion passed to create four-person ad hoc committee to consider options. Approved motion to evaluate/re-organize city cab program, including requests for proposals for contracted shared-ride taxi services beginning in 2016. Explore hiring chief financial officer. Develop policy for personnel needs. Explore intergovernmental opportunities and encourage department heads to bring forward cost saving opportunities. Create succession plan for full-time employees. Update specifications and billing procedures for special legal counsel.
Long-term goals Long-term goals are meant to be accomplished in more than 5 years. Stormwater management planning and review. Extension of water/sewer to Rice Lake Airport. Indian Mounds Park renovation project. Explore financial assistance for third Hwy. 53 interchange near North Industrial Park.
Complete The following were designated as completed goals and removed from the city's year-to-year list. Relocation of two UW-Barron County softball fields. The softball field at Rice Lake High School covered one field and another field is planned at UW-Barron County in the near future. Succession plan to create department of public works. 10% reduction in police budget. 0% increase in 2014 department budgets.