The Mabel City Council reviewed the proposed budget and tax levy at its regular meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 12.

Jim Narum, the city clerk, explained the budget for the upcoming year was $649,020. Considering non-taxable income and certified state aid, the amount needed to cover the general fund budget is $317,820, an increase of only $6,697.

He said the major change came from an allowance for double wages in the spring while he is training in a replacement clerk as Narum does plan to retire in March.

The city hall fund also has costs associated with repairs, maintenance and landscaping. Those spent this year are a bit inflated as it was the first year and more has been done than will be needed in future years. "It did all come in as we projected," Narum added.

There was also a slight increase in the law enforcement contract with Fillmore County in the amount of $3,900.

The budget also included a 3 percent wage increase for city employees.

The city also levies $6,600 a year for the ambulance reserve fund, creating a proposed levy of $324,420, a 2.06 percent increase from last year.

However, Narum reminded the council that the city could reduce that amount through the truth in taxation hearing in December.

He explained the state recommends keeping a half-year of expenses in reserve and the city reserves are getting a bit high, giving the city some room for cutting that levy. "If our projections work out," he said, "we could levy the same as last year and be fine."

The council approved the proposed budget and preliminary tax levy.

A gift of appreciation

In another matter, Mike Gjere presented a $1,200 donation to the city of Mabel as a gift of appreciation for use of the Steam Engine Park for the Gjere auction held in August.

"It worked out beautifully," he said. "It meant a lot to my dad to have his treasures sold here in his hometown. It would have been difficult for us to haul everything to another location."

Gjere said the city is free to use the donation in any manner it sees fit and he and the rest of his family are very grateful for the support shown from the community as they prepared for and held the sale. "From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you," he concluded.

Request for utility waiver

The council considered a request from Jeff Engen, owner of senior apartments in town, to waive service charges on his utilities while apartments are unoccupied.

Narum explained half the apartments are currently empty and Engen is billed the base charge for these units even though there is no usage.

If turned off, the utilities have a reconnect fee as well.

Narum told the council that he was not supportive of the request. "I don't think we can waive our policy," he added. "It is part of our rate schedule and I don't want to set a precedent for future situations."

Terry Torkelson, filling in for Mayor Liz Folstad, noted he would consider it if the time period was longer than the three months these apartments have been vacant. However, he did agree it could set a bad precedent, especially if those who go south for the winter would want the same conditions.

"I feel for him," agreed Kris Nolte, "but I don't feel it's the right thing to do."

The council agreed not to grant the waiver for the utility service charges on the accounts.

City maintenance report

Bob Mierau, the city maintenance director, reported that the wastewater treatment plant permit will expire in March. The city needs to reapply by October, but he does not anticipate any changes or problems. The city is now monitoring phosphorous levels in addition to the other chemicals in the water and in the wastewater discharge.

He also noted he would be meeting with Davy Engineering to go over the construction plans for the water and sewer project. He said there will be more discussion regarding the new water tower and said it looks like a Harvester-type tower might be a good option for the city. Mierau added bids should be solicited in the spring for a summer and fall construction.

Small items

The council approved the times and location for the general election, as well as the slate of judges. Narum noted everything will be the same as the primary, with hours of voting to be 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the community center on Tuesday, Nov. 6.