Rushford Village renews contract with RP Valley Chamber, discusses budget issues

By : 
Scott Bestul

Though the last few meetings of the City of Rushford Village Council have been surprisingly brief, the Nov. 13 session was anything but. Council members discussed several topics at length, in a meeting that lasted over an hour.

Marketing contract with RP Valley Chamber

Jen Hengel, executive director of the Rushford Peterson Valley Chamber, spoke to the council during the Public Comments portion of the meeting. The council has used the marketing services of the chamber in the past to promote living, business, and tourism opportunities in the area. Hengel was addressing the council to request that this relationship continue. While the council had contracted with the Chamber services at the rate of $652 in 2017, Hengel had a lower figure in mind for 2018.

“This year we propose cutting back the size of some ads and are focusing on areas where we can be more efficient,” Hengel said. “For example, last year we purchased a couple of TV spots and, while they were nice and well done, they were expensive and we’re not sure they were that effective.” Hengel noted that other ads, such as those on Facebook, are much less expensive and generate greater results. “Facebook is the top source of referral for people visiting the Valley,” she said. “We’ll also continue to enhance online listings, on websites like Root River Trail Towns and our own website.” Hengel noted the chamber will continue to have a print presence, in tour guides like Destination Bluff Country, Commonweal Theater playbills, and promotional brochures distributed at tourism/visitor centers.

Hengel presented the council with a proposed budget of $586.32 for 2019, and this amount was approved in a unanimous vote.

Budget issues

Treasurer Judy Graham presented her monthly financial report to the council and, in the process noted several shortfalls and potential areas of concern. Between the purchase of equipment and salary/overtime expenses, there will likely be insufficient funds to purchase a planned-for CD that would be used for road equipment in 2019. Graham pointed out several reasons for this shortfall, such as $17,000 spent for cleaning and maintenance of vehicles and equipment. Lengthy discussion followed about whether the budget was being followed, and if hourly (overtime) wages paid to village employees were being used wisely. 

While the general agreement among council members that employees were working hard, they had faced unusual challenges over the year, due to weather and unexpected projects that arose. Councilor Smith wondered if the issue was less a personnel issue than one of budget. “I see the (mention of) the $17,000 as a shot at Travis (Scheck) and I disagree. He does an awesome job. But if we need to have a closed session meeting to discuss personnel issues, then let’s do that.” 

Mayor Johnson agreed. “Judy’s point is well taken,” Johnson said. “When we hired a second person, we need to make sure we’ve got the money to pay him. It doesn’t surprise me to learn we have extra (labor) hours this year given the weather issues and the need for more sand and salt, plus the equipment purchases. I think we need to put together a game plan address these issues accordingly. When we look at the budget at next month’s meeting, we can take a closer look at that, plus maybe go into a closed session to discuss personnel issues.” The council agreed to examine these issues in greater depth at the next meeting. 

New business

The Benson Lane project, started last month, is finishing up for the season. Treasurer Graham reported that Derek Olinger of Bolton & Menk, Inc., had expressed concerns about the strength and construction specs of the concrete on the span and will continue to check if this work is being done properly. Also, concerns about proper drying of the concrete due to colder weather were noted. Rip-rap was being applied by crews and the project was going to be finished for the season.

Mayor Johnson noted that there had been requests by residents using the Village Hall facilities that folding chairs be available for those not comfortable in the present chairs. Graham had researched several models of folding chairs and presented her findings to the council. The council approved the purchase of 10 chairs made by the Hercules company for $124.

Mayor Johnson reported that he, Graham, Clerk Mary Miner and Councilor Overland had attended a meeting of CEDA (Community Economic Development Associates) and learned that their current representative, Bryce Lang, is resigning. Johnson said, “We had discussions about how we benefitted from the relationship. I know we have development prospects on several properties in this area, and we might need (CEDA’s) assistance on things like that.” Johnson also expressed a desire for more frequent reporting from CEDA about happenings and updates, as this would help the CRV board determine if the relationship was indeed beneficial. Graham said she would express those concerns.

The final matter of the evening was the request by a non-resident of the village if they could be placed on one of the village’s trash pickup routes. The home is located in Norway Township, but outside village limits. Clerk Graham noted that another non-resident currently enjoys such a relationship, purchasing the cart from the village and paying the contractor (Harter’s) a monthly fee. The council agreed to extend the same courtesy to this family. 

Schedule

The next regular meeting of the City of Rushford Village Council will be Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. Following this meeting, the CRV council will hold a Truth in Taxation meeting at 7:30 p.m.