Fairmont coming to aid of CER

FAIRMONT – A City Council work session Tuesday on the 2015 budget evoked an impassioned plea for financial help for Community Education and Recreation from Councilman Chad Askeland.

Askeland, who serves on the CER board of directors, said activity rates charged by CER are scheduled to increase.

“CER is involved in absolutely everything in Fairmont, and the city does absolutely nothing to help out,” he said.

He mentioned after-school enrichment, summer reading, adult education and computers, as well as various sports leagues, as only a few of the programs CER offers.

“Chad is absolutely right. There’s so many things CER does,” said Councilman Darin Rahm.

Mayor Randy Quiring echoed his support, calling CER’s benefit to the city “phenomenal.”

Askeland requested that a donation to CER be included in the budget to prevent a fee increase and ease some of the program’s financial strains.

“It’s something we overlook [in the budget],” he said. “A small donation from the city would help them tremendously.”

Askeland suggested $8,000, but his fellow council members offered their support by amending the amount to $10,000.

“Every single one of those dollars will go to the betterment of Fairmont,” Askeland said.

The council got an initial look at the proposed budget, which calls for a levy increase of 3 percent, or slightly less than $100,000.

“We’re not making any decisions tonight. We’re just going to talk about what needs to be included,” said Mike Humpal, city administrator.

City finance director Paul Hoye explained the various revenue sources and expenditures for various departments. Total revenue is estimated at $12.6 million, with expenses at $12.7 million.

The proposed budget will be presented officially to the council on Sept. 8. It must be certified to the county auditor by Sept. 30, with the final budget set for approval at the council’s first meeting in December, Hoye said.

One of the items scheduled for purchase, a second leaf vacuum for $45,000, brought some protests from the council.

“If you want to continue with the leaf pickup, you’re going to need two,” Humpal said.

“I think there’s a better way,” said Councilman Terry Anderson, suggesting the possibility of having people bid for the job.

“When we contract it out, we lose control,” Humpal said.

“I’d like to see what the bids come back,” said Councilman Joe Kallemeyn. “I think it’s time for another option. Offer a one-year contract, if it doesn’t work.”

Planned upgrades to shelter houses and playground equipment prompted Councilman Wes Clerc to ask for an inventory of all the equipment in all the parks in Fairmont.

“Ward Park was a good start, but we need a more comprehensive plan,” he said, referring to $30,000 in new playground equipment installed this summer.

The Kot Soccer Complex is scheduled for a walking path from the concession stand to the bleachers and additional parking lot lighting.

More lighting also is on tap for the Winnebago ball diamonds, and funds have been proposed for the dog park and Sioux Avenue park playground equipment.

All of these improvements would utilize revenue from the municipal liquor store.

The other proposed park upgrade is set for Cedar Park with a new roof, windows and air-conditioning on the drawing board.

Meanwhile, Anderson lobbied for improvements to the airport.

“I would like to see the airport move up in priority. It’s a valuable, valuable asset,” he said.

He predicted business growth around the airport if city sewer and water lines were installed to the facility.

City staff will research the potential cost and timeline for the endeavor.