The Mabel City Council adopted the 2014 budget and tax levy during its meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 11. The 2013 general fund budget was set at $682,300. Of that amount, $356,800 is either state aid or non-tax income. The remaining amounts will be raised through the city's tax levy.

For 2014, the city's total tax levy will be $331,100, which is a slight, 2.15 percent increase from the 2013 tax levy. No residents showed up to speak during the council's truth in taxation hearing.

"I did make some changes," said City Clerk Karen Larson. "In the street department, when we saw we were going to be under, we did increase....(also) the wages, to take into account Chuck's (Dahl) wage increase. And then we did increase a few things administrative in preparation for next year."

An interesting breakdown showed the majority of the budget is spent on streets with 34 percent; 14 percent is spent on law enforcement; 10 percent is spent on city hall; 9 percent on administration; 9 percent on the ambulance service; 6 percent on the library; 5 percent on community development and 4 percent is spent on the fire department. The remaining areas, with less than 3 percent are EMS, legislative, parks and recreation and miscellaneous.

The budget and levy passed with minimal discussion from the council.

Local 49 membership approved

The council unanimously approved a contract to allow three city employees to join the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 49 in Minnesota, North and South Dakota. The union membership was first discussed during the council's meeting in October as a way to offer quality health insurance to employees at a lower cost.

"It's good for the city and it's good for the employees, both. I think it puts some guidelines in for the employees and the employer," said Mabel Public Works director Robert Mierau, who will be covered under the union's health plan along with Chuck Dahl and Nathan Manning.

Local 49 representative Dean Grover said new city employees will be eligible for the union plan after 30 days. The plan would also offer a significant improvement for the employees - offering a $250 deductible, dental insurance and limited vision coverage.

Because the union does not offer insurance for administrative positions, Larson, as clerk, does not qualify for this policy. Larson said she will therefore be purchasing her own independent plan.

Mabel is not the fist city in southeast Minnesota to offer employees health insurance through the Local 49 union. Employees from other cities have joined, including Byron, Caledonia, Rochester and Stewartville. Fillmore County and Houston County also offer insurance through the Local 49 union.

Parking sign

In old business, the council approved LeAnn Jevne's request for a parking sign outside of her business, Mabel Floral and Gifts. The request for a sign was tabled at last month's council meeting for the council to do more study.

Jevne's request for a limited parking sign is due to an issue of non-customer vehicles that are parked outside her business for long periods of time. "If there's not something outside (such as a sign), there will be something in my window," Jevne told the council as she spoke of continued parking issues outside her business over the past month.

Council member Terry Torkelson suggested a "customer parking only" sign be erected outside of Mabel Floral and Gifts, to which council member Laura St. Mary objected. "I am 100 percent against the customer parking only sign...I just think it sends the wrong (message)," St. Mary said.

After discussion, the council voted unanimously to grant Jevne's request for a parking sign that restricts parking outside of Mabel Floral and Gifts to two hours from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

St. Mary asked that all downtown business are informed that they may request parking signs as well if they have parking issues outside their businesses.

"I know anyone can come to the council, but just that they know that (any business owner) can request that sign," she added.

Public Works report

Mierau reported the city has a pre-construction meeting on Dec. 17 with the contractors hired to fix the city sewer plant. While he said the cold snap has slowed thing down, they may be able to get to work on the sewer plant in January.

Mierau also suggested that the council make a motion to advertise for bids on the standpipe the city is rebidding. The council unanimously approved the advertising for bids on the standpipe and the contracts will likely be awarded at the council's Febuary meeting.

Other business

In other matters, the council handled the following issues at its meeting.

• The council approved current Mabel Fire Department Assistant Chief Tim Mengis as the new department fire chief on a unanimous vote. Mengis will start as fire chief effective Jan. 1, 2014.

• Larson noted the 1994 Improvement Fund balance was overdrawn by $20 and recommended $20 be transferred from the general fund to make it zero. The second is a routine transfer of the balance of $16,229.99 in Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) district three to be transferred back into the nursing home reserve fund. The third and final transfer would borrow money from the nursing home reserve fund for the city's water and sewer project. All three transfers were approved unanimously.

• The council unanimously approved liquor and/or cigarette licenses for Highway 44 Bar and Brill, Mabel American Legion, Mabel BP and the Mabel Municipal Liquor Store.