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PR City Council moves meetings to noon hour as cost-cutting measure

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In keeping with the idea to be creative in saving money, the Park Rapids City Council will now meet during the day to save on overtime pay for employees.

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The measure should save about $7,500 in overtime pay per year, said city administrator Bill Smith. Department heads attend most of the council's meetings. By having meetings during the regular workday, the council hopes to cut overtime costs.

The city council will now meet at noon the second and fourth Tuesdays instead of 7 p.m. Meetings will be at the Park Rapids Area Library basement room instead of the Hubbard County Courthouse.

Smith said it hasn't yet been decided what will happen with some of the workshops or public hearings the city has.

"At this point we'll probably be trying to keep them shorter," he said.

A committee has been meeting to discuss the city's budget and brainstorm areas to save money. It has met about four to five times already, Smith said.

"The city was first responding to the governor's proposed $201,000 reduction in spending," Smith said.

Since then, the House and Senate have proposed budgets with less of a reduction in Local Government Aid.

"We're no longer assuming the worst case scenario," Smith said.

The city is now looking at $125,000 as a ballpark figure. The city will also need to contribute $27,000 to the Firefighter's Relief Association after their retirement funds didn't produce as well as expected.

"Everything is on the table," Smith said of budget reductions. Staff cuts are the last resort but are being considered, he added.

As another cost saving measure, the council decided to eliminate the Western Avenue Trail project from the city's planned spending for 2010 and 2011.

The Western Avenue Trail project was selected a few years ago for funding by the state for the Transportation Enhancement Grant program. It is programmed for 2011. However, the grant only pays 80 percent of the construction costs and no funding for overhead such as engineering, right of way acquisition, legal fees and more.

By eliminating the project, the city will save between $12,000 and $15,000 in 2010 and the balance of the construction in 2011.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation should be able to use the funding for a different project in the district.

The committee also looked at reducing street lighting but determined that wasn't feasible. City staff will continue to meet and discuss the budget.

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