By Tom Hintgen
Otter Tail County Correspondent
The main issue of the Henning City Council, on Monday evening, March 15, was the city’s annual debt payments.
The gathering was held at the community center, to accommodate more city residents. The meeting also was available by Zoom.
Several people in attendance voiced their opinions, in addition to members of the city council.
Mayor Darren Wiese reiterated his budget cut suggestions.
His first proposal, amounting to $170,000 in cuts, would result in city residents being responsible for $265,000 of the $435,000 in debt payments.
A second proposal, amounting to $114,000 in cuts (a lower amount than the first proposal), would result in city residents being responsible for $320,543 of the $435,000 debt payments. This would be a larger amount for city taxpayer responsibility than scenario number one.
Each proposal would include city staff cutbacks, Health Savings Account (HSA) contributions and other cuts.
The first scenario would include cutting one of four public works employees and the second proposal would keep all four public works employees, but hold each of their hours to no more than 36 hours per week.
Wiese said that last spring, when the fourth employee was hired, the city of Henning was experiencing losses in water, sewer and electric.
“We knew this and still hired,” Wiese added. “Since then we have borrowed $3 million.”
According to the city engineer in attendance at the March 15 council meeting, an estimated $4.3 million will be needed for the remaining projects.
Cuts also are needed since revenues have not been enough from Country View Apartments, ambulance and Willow Creek.
In regards to the latter, Willow Creek, the quandary would develop if the facility brings in more residents with special assisted living needs. This would bring in more revenue but, at the same time, this might require the need to hire a part-time LPN.
Said one resident, “If we as a city borrow money we have a moral obligation and responsibility to have a solid long-term plan in order to pay it back.”
Henning council members said at the council meeting that, in coordination with city staff members, Henning officials have met with city staff and council members in nearby Battle Lake to see how they are handling debt issues.
Battle Lake officials offered their suggestions. Among them was advice on how to obtain more grants for Henning
Others at the city council meeting made more suggestions such as an analysis of city properties, additional cut proposals, increasing city revenues, looking at insurance costs, increasing city efforts with Henning economic development and taking close looks at city airport operations.