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Northfield City Council Meeting and Work Session - July 10, 2012

July 11, 2012 at 10:26 am
By Jane McWilliams

Review of 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and Management Letter:  With recent news of the bankruptcy of cities in California, the Northfield 2011 Audit Report was reassuring. Tom Olinger, partner with the city’s audit firm, Abdo, Eick & Meyers, LLC, highlighted their report to the council, saying that it was “unqualified or ‘clean’ – meeting all requirements as it had during recent years. For example, the general fund ending fund balance as a percent of the budget in 2011 was a healthy 61.6% of next year’s budget.  The state auditor recommends a fund balance be between 35 and 50%.  Mr. Olinger said that if this keeps increasing the city could look at this – and perhaps transfer funds for other purposes. With the uncertainty of local government aid, it is good that the city has maintained this balance. In response to Mayor Mary Rossing’s question, the city has no policy in place but Mr.Madigan said staying within the recommended range is good practice.

The city will receive a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association at the council’s next meeting. According to their website, the GFOA established the certificate in 1945 “to encourage and assist state and local governments to go beyond the minimum requirements of generally accepted accounting principles to prepare comprehensive annual financial reports that evidence the spirit of transparency and full disclosure and then to recognize individual governments that succeed in achieving that goal.”

To see the full annual financial report and management letter: http://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/assets/2/2011-FINAL-Audit-Report.pdf

Second Reading of Proposed Charter Amendment:  During public comments, Jon Denison questioned the propriety of the provision for preparing applications to be sent to the Chief Judge of the Third Judicial Court. Although candidates apply through the city clerk’s office, the chief judge makes the appointments. The new language authorizes the chair of the charter commission to oversee the process for receiving, verifying eligibility and forwarding applications to the judge. Mr. Denison said that it was the city clerk’s responsibility to verify eligibility and the language runs counter to statute.  City Attorney Chris Hood said he read the language differently and while the clerk would verify eligibility, the charter commission chair doesn’t have exclusive control, but it is part of council’s job. It doesn’t prohibit someone else from submitting a nomination directly to the district judge and doesn’t run against the statute in his opinion. The council approved the second reading unanimously.

Approval of Economic Development Authority Budget Amendment:  The council took separate actions on the request from the EDA. They approved unanimously the allocation of $32,000 for environmental assessments and remediation action plan for property at 1740 Riverview Drive.  However, Mayor Rossing and Councilor Patrick Ganey had concerns about funding a request from Save the Northfield Depot for $14,000 for a Phase II environmental assessment and title work for land the city owns on the Q-Block and which will be the future site of the depot. Both felt STND had not put any “skin in the game” as Mayor Rossing put it, and should share the cost. She noted that STND had raised $35,000 and could make a contribution.  Councilor Betsey Buckheit countered that should the STND project fail, the work would be done on the city’s land, making it ready for another development. The request was approved with Mayor Rossing and Councilor Ganey voting no.

Website Contract:  The council authorized staff to sign a Services and License Agreement with CivicsPlus for the development and maintenance of the city’ website at a cost of $30,474 for project development and $4,661 for the first year’s annual support, maintenance and hosting costs. CivicPlus staff will begin work on July 30. This action follows the June 12, 2012 recommendation by the city’s IT Strategist, Loren Lovhaug.

Closed Meeting:  The council held a closed session at 6:00 p.m. to consider offers or counter offers for the purchase or sale of real or personal property located at 305 Water Street,   There was no information forthcoming at the special meeting following that meeting.

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