Watertown council addresses park fund loans

The Watertown City Council last week decided to forgive an interfund loan, leaving roughly $87,000 in the Park Fund because city staff and auditors could not discern exactly when the loan was made to the Park Fund, or which fund the money came from.

Essentially, the decision has little significance on the park fund, since the city has been operating under the assumption for the last several years that the $87,000 was part of the park fund, and that the fund’s balance was about $159,000 this year. That’s where the fund’s balance will stay after the council’s decision.

It was found out during the 2012 audit, however, that of the Park Fund’s $158,923 balance, only $71,337.52 was considered an unreserved fund balance, while the other $87,586.88 was a restricted balance that was “due to” another fund. Generally, that type of restricted balance would have been created by a loan from another city fund, and would have needed a city council resolution.

However, other than the fact that records indicate the loan was made in or before 2009, no information as to the originating source of the money could be found, so the council chose to forgive the loan, thus leaving the money in the park fund, and removing the restricted status of the money and making it available for park-related spending.

As part of the resolution to forgive the interfund loan, the council also addressed a separate but unrelated issue. Last year, the council borrowed money from the park fund — which at that time contained $276,000 — to purchase a property on Hutchinson Road adjacent to Highland Park. The plan was to repay $30,000 to the park fund each year for the next 4 years.

However, city council member Mike Walters said he was concerned to learn recently that the repayment method was never memorialized or made official by a city council resolution. He urged the council to memorialize that repayment plan as part of the resolution to forgive the unrelated interfund loan, which the council did.

While the repayment of that Hutchinson Road loan could still be altered by a future city council during the budgeting process, Walters said he hoped memorializing the plan through a formal resolution would show how important the current council believes that money is to the park fund.

 

In other business:

• The city council approved work to be done by city staff in the Watertown Public Cemetery to address erosion concerns that were caused this summer by storm water from a large portion of the eastern part of the city that flows through the cemetery.

During the heavy rainfalls in June, it was brought to the city’s attention that areas of the bank were sliding into the storm water ravine, and the movement of the soil caused a large tree to topple into the ravine.

The city will address the problem by hiring a contractor to remove many of the trees, and then city staff will put in 60 feet of culvert, taken from a stock pile that the city has accumulated over the years from street projects. The whole project is expected to address the erosion problem and cost the city about $2,800.

• The city council declined to undertake a project to address drainage problems behind Distinctive Wood Products on the south end of Lewis Avenue, next to the site for the future senior residential facility.

The city recently ordered final improvements for the street portion of the downtown redevelopment project, with the contractor expected to finish some final curb and gutter and other finishing touches associated with the Lewis Avenue extension very soon. Distinctive Wood Products, located at 405 Lewis Ave. S, asked the city to consider installing a storm sewer inlet to a gravel area behind the business as part of the final improvements to help drainage of storm water out to the street. The improvements would have cost about $6,000, but the city council decided not to complete the improvements, because those improvements would be to a private property, and the city’s recent street project neither improved the known drainage problem, nor made it worse.

However, the council directed city staff to approach the business with the offer to let them pay for the improvements, since the city can likely have them made as part of the current project for much cheaper than the business could do on its own.

• The council appointed Ned Schroeder to Fire Chief 2 in the Watertown Fire Department. Schroeder has served as a member of the Department for 26 years in various leadership positions. He was the lone applicant for the position, which carries a 2-year term. Wade Stock is the department’s chief.

 

Contact Matt Bunke at matt.bunke@ecm-inc.com

 
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