By Chad Koenen
One month after not supporting a request from Mary Nilson to detach from the city limits, the Henning City Council reversed course last week and approved supporting the detachment of the property on the southern part of town.
During its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday night, the city council learned it would be responsible for paying half of the attorney fees to contest the detachment from the city. An email to city clerk/treasurer Kim Schroeder stated the cost could be $6,000-8,000 for just the hearing proceedings. Any costs for mediation is also split between the two parties as well.
Councilman Jim Haberer asked what happened if the council let Nilson detach from the city and more people wanted to leave the city limits in the future. Currently, Nilson doesn’t receive water, sewer or electricity services from the city of Henning.
Haberer said the city would lose additional tax dollars if more people requested to leave the city limits in the future.
“If they all followed suit, pretty soon, how many do you lose for taxes,” said Haberer.
Henning Mayor Darren Wiese said the council needs to look at itself and see if there is a reason, like increased debt, that is causing people to want to leave the city limits. He said if the city were to ever expand water, sewer and additional services in that area, the city could annex the property back into the city limits.
Henning city councilman Scott Hart said he was originally against supporting the detachment, as the council thought it wouldn’t cost the city additional money to not support the request. Now that the city is on the hook for half of the attorney fees, and since Nilson doesn’t receive very many services, he would be in favor of allowing her to detach from the city.
“When we made the decision last time my thought was if there was no cost to the city then let her explore this on her own. Now they want us to split the cost then that’s a red flag,” said.
The council approve supporting Nilson’s petition to detach from the city limits.
The city council heard a report from Hart concerning what a potential sales tax could look like in the city of Henning. The city could seek a sales tax in the city limits for specific projects, which would need to be approved by the council and later the voters in the city of Henning.
“It’s like a referendum for a school,” he said. “It goes to the people and what they want.”
If the city were to adopt a local sales tax he would like to see the city focus on bringing in additional residential and commercial properties. Hart said the idea of a local sales tax came up after he explored purchasing a side by side. He received a quote from Bluffton Hardware, as well as a business in Fergus Falls.
When the difference between the quotes was $150, he began exploring the reason as to why there was such a difference in price for the same item. He later learned that Fergus Falls has a local sales tax. He said even with the sales tax it wouldn’t have deterred him from purchasing the item in Fergus Falls.
“In Otter Tail County there is only three or four cities that have the tax and they had specific projects in which they did,” he said. “Further out state you go, and the further north you go, the more towns that have something in place.”
Many of those communities have projects like a bike path, a pool, hockey arena, recreation centers or other community oriented projects.
Wiese said the city needs to get its financial situation in order before moving forward with an additional tax in the community.
Hart said he will continue to look into the local sales tax option and encouraged the council members to come up with potential projects that a sales tax could benefit in Henning.
In other news
• Approved giving City Clerk/Treasurer Kim Schroeder until the Sept. 13 meeting to find out why the city’s audit determined that the main bank account reconciliation for cash and cash equivalents did not agree with the book cash and cash equivalents by approximately $31,000. The city’s auditor said the first six months of the year is when the most of the difference happened. He said the $31,000 is the difference between the bank reconciliations and the city’s books. Schroeder said she has a reason to believe the difference was caused by a journal entry that was entered incorrectly and will determine what caused the discrepancies.
• Heard a summary of the city’s audit from its auditor. The audit was presented last month by Schroeder after the city’s auditors were unable to attend the meeting.
• Heard the Willow Creek report from executive director Lisa Augustus. Hart asked Augustus about the debit card the city issued last month and encouraged Willow Creek to continue to purchase items locally whenever possible.
• Approved a lease with Eckhoff Farms LLC for $50 per acre for 86.27 acres of tillable land near the Henning airport.
• Approved setting a budget work session for Aug. 23 at 4:30 p.m.
• Approved changing the city’s regularly scheduled meeting for September to Sept. 13, due to Labor Day.