By Kris Goracke

With little discussion, the Starbuck City Council approved the proposed 2023 tax levy, increasing the levy from 5 percent in 2022 to 8 percent for 2023. The total levy payable in 2021 was $829,377. Payable in 2022, the total levy is $870,845. The council’s preliminary budget increases the total levy to $940,513 for 2023.

Yet to be assessed is the 2020 Road Project. Of the estimated $1.9 million local cost for the 2020 Road Project, an estimated $645,000 needs to be assessed. Once the city has the final costs, they will hold a public hearing concerning this tax assessment, it was stated.

One increase in the preliminary budget is the council’s wages. Earlier this year, the council approved a raise increasing the budget from $9,000 to $14,850. Another increase is for a new squad car for $65,000. A large portion of the budget is wages. Total wages for all employees, excluding benefits, insurance, PERA, payroll expense and other miscellaneous costs, is $530,075. 

With the final budget due at the end of the year, the council cannot increase the proposed 8 percent levy, but they can lower it.

Speaking before the council on behalf of the Minnewaska Lake Association (MLA) was Fred Anderson. Anderson addressed two points: the funding of the lighthouse marina and the finding of Starry Stonewort outside of the marina. “We (MLA) want to help the city finance the lighthouse. I understand the city is seeking bids at this time. Once the final cost is known, we are interested in helping financially,” said Anderson.   Anderson then went on to discuss the Starry Stonewort issue. “There has been a detection of Starry Stonewort on the north side of the marina,” he said. “At this time, the lake association has not secured a company to curtail the invasive plant, but it is our hope we can in the future.”  

Nick Koos from Widseth gave an update regarding the 2020 Road Project, stating he has “not a lot to report. We are still waiting to hear from MnDOT regarding the concrete status due to the shifting of the pavers. They (MnDOT) told us they should do the work soon, so we hope it will be this year.”

The council asked Koos about the crosswalk markings by the Starbuck Dairy Queen and if MnDOT intends to mark the crosswalk. Council person Jill Hansen inquired about having a crosswalk by the Starbuck City Beach, as the subject has been discussed at previous meetings. “I am just wondering if that is still something we are pursuing,” said Hansen. Answering both concerns, Koos stated he would check with MnDOT regarding the crosswalk by the Dairy Queen. As far as the crosswalk by the city beach, it was determined to be quite costly, and that project had been shelved. “We certainly have the preliminary work on the beach crosswalk, and if it is something the council wishes to pursue, we can pull it out and talk about it,” said Koos.

Being inclusive at the city beach and park was the focus of Starbuck resident and beach supervisor Linda Hoffmann. Hoffmann presented an idea that helps those in wheelchairs reach the water. “It is 2022, and I think we need to start thinking about inclusion in our community,” said Hoffmann. She proposed a Mobi Mat, a sturdy but flexible mat that runs from the edge of the bike path down to the water. “The mat rolls up, so it is available for the beach season but removed for winter. I have some community organizations willing to help financially if the city is also willing to help,” said Hoffmann. The cost for a 50′ mat is approximately $2,000. In addition to making the beach inclusive, Hoffmann asked the council to consider purchasing an adaptive swing for children. “With all the festivals and visitors coming to our community, it would be nice if the Starbuck Lakeshore Park offered an adaptive swing. Every child should be allowed to swing,” she said. The suggested swing is designed for children 2 – 12 years of age, costing approximately $1300.00. Hoffmann indicated there is also interest from community organizations to help with the finances. Without taking action, the council thanked Hoffmann for her time.

Starbuck Chief of Police Mitch Johnsrud reported to the council the number of calls for August was down from July. “The Kids Safety Camp was a big success. We have several activities to offer the kids, and it continues to grow each year. We have received a lot of positive comments about the camp. I thank all our donors for their generous donations in funding this.”

Johnsrud then addressed the need for another squad car. “Currently, our Durango is out of commission. We have been waiting for parts, and it sounds like it will be at least a few more weeks. And, while that one is in the shop, we had an issue with the Charger as the starter went out, so we lost that squad for a half day. This situation left us without a squad, a situation we do not want to happen again. Luckily for us, the City of Glenwood loaned us a squad,” said Johnsrud.

Johnsrud continued, “I checked into costs for a new squad, and we can purchase a new 2023 Ford Explorer outfitted for approximately $65,000. In addition, Fergus Falls is selling a 2018 Ford Explorer squad for $9,500. I would ask the council to consider purchasing the new and used squads. This would give us four. The vehicles run all the time, plus they sit outside year-round, which is hard on them. We could rotate the four and perhaps have one just for driving to conferences and training,” suggested Johnsrud. “Do you feel four squads are necessary?” asked Starbuck Mayor Gary Swenson. “I guess we will see, but I would like to move ahead with these two purchases so we are not in the same situation as we are,” answered Johnsrud. With discussion, the board unanimously passed purchasing the new squad with the 2023 budget and the used vehicle with 2022 monies. Currently, Starbuck has four full-time police officers.

Johnsrud also asked the council to purchase new body cams for the department. “Our current body cams are old, and often we have issues retrieving the data,” explained Johnsrud. The council approved the purchase of new body cams for $16,000.

The council then discussed a draft ordinance concerning THC edibles. Several concerns were addressed, but finally, the council suggested Johnsrud spend time reviewing the ordinance and share his opinions with the council at the next meeting. Some considerations the council did discuss were a licensing fee, what the administrative penalty could be, and zoning. 

In other business, the council:

•Approved inter-fund transfer, per spreadsheet to fund 2013A and 2017A bonds

•Approved the subdivision of parcel #27-0538-000 

•Approved Resolution 2022-17 to accept a donation from the Starbuck Men’s Auxiliary for new signs, slide and swim platforms at the Starbuck City Beach

•Approved Resolution 2022-18 to urge the Minnesota Legislature to convene a special session to pass a bonding and tax bill increasing local government aid.

The October regular city council meeting is Tuesday, October 11, due to Monday, October 10, being a Minnesota state holiday.