Hinckley city council members approved 2018’s preliminary budget at their regular meeting, Tuesday, September 12.
The preliminary budget “represents a two percent tax rate increase over the 46.61 percent that the city levied last year,” coming to a proposed levy of $800,063. Some highlights from the projected budget include a negotiated increase of two and a half percent for all wages, a $12,500 increase to the supplies budget to cover the cost of crack sealing blocks and a policing contract with Pine County set at $185,712, which will “maintain our current level of coverage, 10 hours a day, seven days a week.”
As a next step, the city will submit their preliminary budget to the county auditor for certification.
A preliminary budget for the council shows the city “where we got to be at the highest end,” council member Dave Hopkins said. It’s better to overestimate than underestimate.
Other business included sharing the details of the letter the council drafted and sent to state and federal legislators regarding the DNR’s proposal to remove the dam on Grindstone River. It was sent on August 18.
The letter expressed the council’s disapproval of the DNR’s proposal, seeing it as “direct contradiction to the City’s Comprehensive Plan.” The letter then quotes, “A fundamental goal of the city is to preserve and protect the environmental features of the community including sensitive habits or ecosystems of the natural environment. To the extent possible, natural features should be enhanced and treated as an amenity.”
Not only does the city believe the dam removal project to be in violation of the comprehensive plan, the letter also cites concerns with flood control and the recent cost of improving Dunn Avenue North, which leads back to the dam. “The city questions why the DNR would spend money improving a road to a recreational area and then remove the feature that makes it a recreational area?” the letter states.
Money for the road was secured by a State Park Road Account Grant. Removal of the dam, the city believes, would put the city out of compliance with the grant money, “which authorizes funds for ‘... the reconstruction, improvement, repair and maintenance of county roads, city streets and town roads that provide access to public lakes, rivers, state parks and state campgrounds …’”
Even after Morell and Zeman attended a meeting with local DNR officers, the council remains hesitant to support the proposal. The DNR, Zeman said, “view(s) this as a way to get currently eradicated species back upriver.” While that isn’t a bad goal, Zeman doesn’t see the DNR considering any species above the river’s surface — namely residents who feel a strong attachment to the history of the dam.
The council has reached a long-term solution for the city’s brush pile as well.
Previously, the council considered closing down the city’s brush pile due to high cost of maintenance and misuse. After the new gate at the sewer pond, where the pile has been located in the past, is installed, the pile will be open for use again.
Having residents drop off their waste at Jones’ Construction, a local business south on Highway 61, was considered as an alternative to the city’s brush pile. Instead of burning the waste, like the city, they cut the waste into mulch. Morell shared that while people were “OK with going down to Jones’ (Construction), they would prefer it if we had (a brush pile).”
A new electric gate is being put up at the sewer pond. Once installed, residents of Hinckley will be able to check out the key at city hall after their ID is checked for a Hinckley address. Otherwise, the gate will be opened at announced times when a city worker will be present to maintain the pile and check IDs.