After the resignation of Eric Reetz at the March 6 council meeting, the Eden Valley council passed a resolution declaring a vacancy on the council. This vacancy must be filled by special election; the earliest possible election date would be Aug. 6. The council will publish a notice of filing, inviting individuals to file for the office. The vacant seat will be for a term through the end of December 2014, and the succeeding term will be for two years in order to keep in synch with council terms
Steve Wischmann of KDV, the city’s auditor, presented the results of their recent audit of 2012 for the city: “a clean opinion.” The city has a total of $977,337 in cash available; that’s 7.5 months in reserves which Wischmann described as “healthy.” He explained that the city is $26,000 under budget from a true operational standpoint. The usual “lack of segregation of accounting duties” is part of the report, as it is for all small towns. The only point of legal compliance mentioned is the fire department did not obtain a performance of payment bond; Wischmann described this as a minor point. Taxes and assessments for the city were $18,697 lower than 2011, partly because the market value credit went away.
Wischmann’s final analysis is that Eden Valley is “doing a good job living within your means, both in total and between the departments as well.”
When asked for two ways the city could improve its financial status, Wischmann responded (1) stay within your means on the Highway 22 project coming up, and (2) consider looking into extending bond payment times to increase cash flow.
Mayor Pete Korman pointed out that the city has not increased a levy for three or four years now, and that the city is still living within its means. “Not an easy thing to do,” commented Wischmann.
The council heard from Dennis Miley, CEO of Paynesville Area Health Care System (PAHCS). PAHCS also received a “clean audit” for 2012, with a healthy operating margin of 6.6 percent (other critical access hospitals in Minnesota average 2 percent). PAHCS received a Medicare rebate of $1.978 million for meeting electronic medical records criteria. They have 81 days of operating expense cash on hand, 23 days better than last year. PAHCS had 3.3 percent uncollectable rate in 2012, which comes to $925,000. Their bottom line was helped by the sale of the Watkins Clinic and Hilltop Care Center in Watkins, to the tune of $775,000 in proceeds that went toward paying down PAHCS’s long-term debt. There are renovation projects going on at several PAHCS facilities.
PAHCS and CentraCare are still looking at merging services since their July 2012 letter of intent. They are in the “due diligence” process now. Physicians from both groups are meeting with each other to see if it’s a good “fit.” They are looking into merging medical records electronically; PAHCS will go live with electronic medical records Oct. 1, regardless of a merger with CentraCare. No decision will be made on a merger before the PAHCS board meeting May 29. A community forum is tentatively scheduled May 16 at the Paynesville school auditorium. The earliest a merger would take place is Oct. 1 (and the latest is Dec. 31), if such a decision is made. PAHCS is currently a public entity but would be privatized as a “tax-disqualified LLC” if it merges with CentraCare. The new name for PAHCS would be CentraCare Health-Paynesville. There is no plan to close any locations if the merger goes through.
Kent Louwagie of Bolton & Menk, the city’s engineering firm, presented an update on the main street project. The council approved an agreement with CP Rail to bore a steel casing 9 feet under the railroad crossing on Hwy. 22 into which the new water main will be placed; no excavation will be needed there.
Plans have been submitted to MnDOT which has made comments; the engineers have addressed the comments, revised and resubmitted the plans, and now await review and forwarding of the plans to the main MnDOT office for review and final approval. “We’re hoping for final approval in time for a late-May letting (bid opening) date,” explained Louwagie. The council gave approval to advertise for bids without holding a special meeting, to keep things moving along. Louwagie noted that there are a few property owners along Hwy. 22 who have not yet signed an easement; he will contact those who haven’t yet. He noted that no trees will be removed, that turf will be replaced, and that all properties will be returned to their pre-construction state as the project is completed.
A public informational meeting will be held, date not yet set. Louwagie explained that the priority right now is to get the paperwork through MnDOT.
Police chief Ernie Junker reported on the status of hiring on Zach Schwartz as a part-time, third officer for the city. His training will begin in May.
Junker told the council he recommends adding a city ordinance requiring training for anyone serving alcohol in the city, even as volunteers at community events. The city is liable, and so is the individual serving, if there is an accident or something as a result of being served alcohol at a city event. Junker will hold a training session for the fire department June 3.
The next regular meeting of the Eden Valley council is May 8. They will meet April 10 for the Board of Review. All meetings are open to the public, and are televised on Arvig’s channel 14 (Thursdays at 11:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.).