Henning sells final lots in Industrial Park

By Chad Koenen

Publisher

The Henning City Council worked overtime last Monday night as they met for over three hours and touched on a bevy of familiar topics. 

Spanning a variety of topics from employee call compensation to the sale of a vacant piece of property in the Industrial Park, the city council also spent quite some time discussing its 2022 year-end audit. The audit was presented by Dean Birkeland of Carlson SV and was quite similar to years past in terms of the city’s financial outlook and findings.

According to the audit, the city’s general fund grew by just under $100,000 last year as total revenues came in at $909,741, while expenses in the general fund were $839,885. The city also sold a piece of property for $29,446. The largest portion of revenue in the general fund was intergovernmental at $377,337, property taxes at $218,582 and contributions and grants at $208,205. 

The largest expenses in the general fund were general government at $226,379 and public safety at $200,154. 

Each of the city’s enterprise funds showed a profit last year with the water fund churning a profit of $86,533, the sewer fund making $47,586, electric fund making $124,819, natural gas fund making $35,804 and Willow Creek making $33,666 (which included a transfer in of $15,000). 

At the end of the year, only the Willow Creek Assisted Living facility showed a negative total net position in the city’s enterprise funds. 

In addition to the financial statements, the audit identified several material weaknesses within the city. Several of the weaknesses routinely appear on the city’s audit, along with most cities Henning’s size, due to its small size and limited city staff regarding segregation of duties. Another finding determined the city had not reconciled bank statements in a timely manner in the second half of 2022. 

When asked by city council members if there was anything the city should be concerned about moving forward, Birkeland said the biggest thing was to ensure the bank financial statements are reconciled monthly as that will help the staff located discrepancies should they be found in the future. He said the finding was likely due to new staff members learning their positions within the City of Henning and said the finding was something to just be aware of moving forward. 

In other news

• Approved a $3,900 fee to Apex Engineering to prepare and submit a grant for the state LRIP program, which provides grant funding for road improvements. City’s can receive up to $1.5 million in funding for road projects from the state, provided it meets a narrow scope of road project guidelines. The city is looking into the grant to create a new truck route through the northwest side of town to get to the Industrial Park. The cost for creating a 10 ton road designed to specs along Balmoral Ave. is approximately $1.33 million. 

• Approved a 50/50 road maintenance agreement with Henning Township regarding Airport Road. The agreement for the shared city/township road was needed as Henning Township is also looking into a LRIP grant to make necessary repairs for that road as well.

• Heard that the final layer of bituminous was scheduled to be laid last week on Inman St. and boring under the railroad should begin as soon as next week. The hope was to install bituminous on the small area near the railroad track by the end of the month. 

• Approved raising the utility deposit from $150 for one utility to $250 for one utility. Should a resident have city water and sewer, electricity and natural gas the utility deposit will remain at $350. The request came from Beth Rose who owns multi-unit family housing units in the community and said that the deposit should be raised to protect landlords from tenants who skip town without paying their utilities. Rose also informed the council that she is looking at constructing a multi-family housing unit near Star City Apartments and the basketball courts. 

• Discussed at length snow removal options for the sidewalks and decks at Willow Creek Assisted Living. After discussing everything from having city staff remove the snow from the sidewalks to contracting out the work to a third party, the city council will have the Willow Creek Commission seek bids for snow removal on the sidewalks and decks at the city-owned facility.

• Discussed getting an appraisal of Willow Creek to find out what the facility is worth on the open market. Henning Mayor Robert Johnson said there have been a few interested parties who would be interested in managing or buying the facility, “but we up here do not know what that thing is worth,” he said. Several people who attended the meeting said the appraisal could be quite costly, leading to further discussion about whether to even seek out a bid to complete the work. In the end, city clerk/treasurer Jenna Kovarik will reach out to several appraisal companies to find out the overall cost of completing an appraisal of Willow Creek. The city council mentioned several times during the lengthy discussion that a sale was not imminent and the appraisal would be more of a fact finding mission should a company want to operate an assisted living facility in town.

• Approved hiring a fourth part-time ambulance employee on a temporary basis to fill open shifts for the department while one of the department’s employees is out on leave. The individual would not be an additional cost to the city since they would be covering shifts already in the ambulance service budget.

• Heard the ambulance service responded to 33 calls in the month of September and has responded to 304 calls for the year.

• Approved the hiring of a private company to collect outstanding Elderly Waiver funds for Willow Creek. City staff estimated during the meeting that deputy clerk Joe Miller spends about 10 hours per week trying to collect elderly waiver, which would free him up to complete other tasks within the city office. The estimated cost to hire the company for the year would be $6,000.

• Discussed at length a proposal brought forward by the Willow Creek Commission to pay Willow Creek Executive Director Lisa Augustus $3 per hour call time when she is picking up call hours that were previously covered by a second part-time RN. Since she has been unable to fill a second RN position, Augustus said she is on call nearly every day and the extra pay would be temporary until another RN is hired. In the end, the city council said it will take a look at the job descriptions for city staff after it was pointed out that utility department supervisor Ted Strand and Henning Police Chief Mike Helle are also working with less employees than they had in the past and are also on call nearly 24 hours a day. 

• Approved the sale of an open field in the Industrial Park to an unnamed individual who was also purchasing the former Pride Construction building. The city council approved selling the land for $5,000 per acre along with all costs associated with selling the land. The sale deviates a bit from past practice of the city council, which required the construction of a business on land in the industrial park. However, council members said this land is different since it is landlocked and there is no easy way to get utilities to the property. The property will be utilized for storage and some of it may be sold to adjacent land owners. 

• Tabled a proposal to sell a triangle piece of city-owned land on Inman St. near the former nursing home to a developer looking to construct multi-family housing. The city said it will discuss the sale next month.