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Brainerd City Council: Former council member presents financing advice to council

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Even though a petition halted proposed capital improvement bonds the projects are still possible, said Bob Olson, a former Brainerd City Council member and one of the people responsible for the petition.

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At the Brainerd City Council meeting Monday, Olson presented alternatives he said the city can do to get those projects completed without “putting an extra tax burden on the city taxpayers.”

A small group of residents attended the meeting to show support.

The capital improvement bonds would have funded HVAC upgrades for city hall and the police and fire departments, repairs to the front entrance at city hall, emergency preparedness upgrades at the public safety facilities and a salt/sand storage building.

The December petition collected 311 valid signatures; needed were 294 signatures. It was circulated by Olson and Jan Burton, a former candidate for Brainerd City Council.

It’s the first time the city has received such a petition, said City Administrator Theresa Goble.

At Monday’s meeting, Olson provided the council three pages listing several areas he said could be adjusted to move funds to cover the cost of improvement needs and other items. Some of those include:

• Use $120,000 from the park dedication fund to buy the field groomer and satellite lifter. Use $26,000 to pay for construction of a sand and salt building.

• Use the $41,000 in DUI and drug forfeiture funds to buy the police department squad video system. That will leave funds available to buy the generator for the building, Olson said.

• Use the fire equipment capital fund to buy HVAC units for the fire station.

• Instead of buying two city staff cars at $38,000 and an inspection vehicle for $19,000, buy just one staff car and an inspection vehicle. Use the other $19,000 to pay for upgrades to the HVAC system at the police department.

Olson also suggested reductions in payroll and levy transfer. Then, Olson said, the $545,000 City Hall HVAC system could be installed:

• Don’t fill the accounts payable clerk position, save $50,000.

• Reduce staff throughout other city departments, save $250,000.

• EDA levy of $80,000 transferred to general fund.

• There is a $100,000 surplus in the 2014 budget, Olson said.

Olson said his 12 years as a council member made him knowledgeable about city finances and fund balances of city accounts.

“Expenditures should be based on needs, not wants of politicians and government bureaucrats,” Olson said.

Olson said the council, “finds it easier to increase taxes for purchasing equipment rather than utilize funds that are available.”

He said with the numbers he presented, the council could buy most of the equipment they wanted to with the bonds. He also said staff should provide a needs assessment of the items.

Since Olson spoke during open forum, the council could not take any action or make any movement on what he presented.

Council President Bonnie Cumberland said staff will look over the numbers he presented and “deal with addressing those things.”

Council member Mary Koep said Olson raised issues that staff need to address, and if they disagree, they should present their positions.

“This should be addressed in a very serious way,” she said.

JESSICA LARSEN, staff writer, may be reached at jessica.larsen@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brainerdnews.

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