Marshall Council sets 2014 preliminary levy

MARSHALL – The Marshall City Council had a full agenda at its regular meeting Tuesday, with items ranging from adoption of a preliminary budget and levy for 2014, to setting municipal wastewater rates and considering the introduction of several proposed amendments to city codes.

Council members approved a preliminary levy of about $5.1 million, a 2.9 percent increase over 2013. Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig said the total preliminary levy increase would not mean an increase in Marshall’s general fund levy. However, the city would be facing increases in other special levies in 2014, particularly for debt service. The preliminary levy included a total of about $1.2 million for debt service.

Council members also voted to approve a preliminary 2014 budget for the city. The preliminary budget provided for about $10.2 million in revenues, and about $11 million in expenditures. However, Martig said both of those figures would need to go through significant changes before a final budget is adopted.

The council will need to adopt a final levy and budget before the end of December. The final levy may be lower than the preliminary levy, but it can’t be increased.

In other business Tuesday, council members revisited the issue of “special vehicles” like golf carts or utility vehicles on city streets. Martig presented council members with a draft ordinance amendment on the subject. The draft ordinance forbids motorized golf carts, all-terrain vehicles and mini-trucks on city streets and sidewalks. Utility task vehicles (UTVs) could be driven on city streets with a permit. However, they would have to have safety equipment like seatbelts, headlights, mirrors and turn signals. They could also only be operated between sunrise and sunset.

During discussion of the proposed ordinance, council members and audience members called for clarification on whether certain classes of ATVs should be allowed along with utility vehicles.

Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce Director Cal Brink asked council members why they seemed uncertain about allowing Class 2 ATVs as well as UTVs. In past discussions, council members were in favor of doing so, he said. Class 2 ATVs are larger and have more safety equipment than the “four-wheeler” style of recreational ATV, he said.

“This discussion has already been had, and it’s already been sent to the Legislative and Ordinance Committee,” Brink said. “Why take it back to where we were in April?”

Brink also urged council members to rethink the sunrise-to-sunset condition, which he said could hurt the use of special vehicles for snow removal.

The council voted 5-1 in favor of introducing the ordinance and calling for a public hearing on Sept. 24. Council member Mike Boedigheimer cast the vote against.

The council considered an agreement with architecture firm TSP for the design of a new municipal liquor store. Martig said the city now owns property it had considered for building a new liquor store building, and it has worked with TSP in the past. The proposed agreement puts fees for services at 8.75 percent of total construction costs for a new liquor store building. At an estimated construction cost of $1.7 million to $1.9 million, Martig said estimated fees would be between $153,000 and $171,000.

“Have we approved the (liquor store) project yet?” asked council member Glenn Bayerkohler.

The council has not yet approved construction of a new liquor store yet, Martig said. However, he said the contract allowed for termination of the agreement at any time.

Council members voted 5-1 in to approve the agreement, with Bayerkohler casting the vote against.

Council members voted to approve new municipal wastewater rates for 2014. The new rates will be an increase of 2 percent over 2013. There will be no change in municipal storm sewer rates.

Council members considered proposed amendments to Marshall zoning ordinances. The revisions included updates to the enforcement of city zoning ordinances, definitions of terms and zoning codes on “accessory buildings” like garages and “accessory structures” like TV antennas, air conditioners and swimming pools. Marshall building official Ilya Gutman said the updates would correct some past mistakes in the ordinances, as well as bringing the ordinances into compliance with current state statutes.

Council members voted to introduce the code amendments and call for public hearings on them.