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City of Blackduck receives A+ rating from S&P on city's financial stability

Blackduck city councilman Daryl Lundberg, left and City Administrator Karin Elhard p;proudly show off the plaque the city received during the Dec. 7 city council meeting from Shelly Eldridge of Ehlers, Inc. for having an A+ rating.

The Blackduck City Council received good news at its regular meeting Dec. 7 when they were told the city had been given an A+ from Standard and Poor's Ratings Services.

Shelly Eldridge from Ehlers, Inc. came before the council to update the council on its rating and also to present a plaque to the city for its rating.

"Let's give credit where credit is due," said vice mayor Kevin Beck when the plaque was presented. "Karin (Elhard) and our former administrator have done a very good job and I really appreciate their efforts," he said.

Eldridge said is all boils down to good team work. "The city has that (team work) when it comes to its financial outlook," she said.

According to the S&P report, "Blackduck has been able to maintain strong reserves over the past three years" while operating on a small budget. Eldridge explained to the council that this was a good thing.

Given the city's overall debt burden, excluding self-supporting utility debt, is a low $1,942 per capita or a moderate 4 percent of market value, the report stated.

The A+ rating reflects the "city's stable local economy with its participation in the Bemidji metro area; adequate market value per capita indicators; very strong reserves, albeit on a limited budget and moderate debt levels," the report explained.

The report also cited the city's relatively stable population in the past nine years and that the rating received was limited due to the city's high carrying charge and moderately concentrated property tax base.

With debt amortization below average, the plan is to retire 46 percent of the principal of the bonds over a 10 year period.

Eldridge handed out the four bids that were received for the city's general obligation refunding bonds sale.

Four bids were received with the low bidder being RBC Capital Markets of Minneapolis who came in with a low bid of 3.4058 percent.

"We received more bids with the A+ rating," explained Eldridge. "You would not have gotten this many bids without it." she said.

Others bidding were Dougherty & Company, LLC of Minneapolis with an interest rate of 3.4381 percent; Northland Securities Inc. of Minneapolis with a 3.5237 percent rate and Bernardi Securities, Inc. of Chicago, IL with a 3.9820 percent rate.

By this refunding bond sale, the city will save about $5,000 of the principal amount of the bonds.

After listening to Eldridge explain the process and the end results, the city council voted to approve Resolution 2009-18 providing for the issuance and sale of the general obligation refunding bonds, series 2009A.

The council thanked Eldridge for coming to the meeting and giving them the bond award and plaque before moving on to the public works report.

City Maintenance Supervisor Bob Klug, Jr. and City Administrator Karin Elhard met with the city's engineers the previous week concerning the municipal infrastructure improvements. Klug reported that it would be in the city's best interest to put in an application with Rural Development to see what grant dollars would be available to the city.

He assured the council that there would be no strings attached to put in an application.

"Have we prioritized the project then?" asked Beck.

"We haven't done that yet," Klug explained, "We are not at that point yet. We have to get our application in first."

Klug then moved on to a subject that was brought before the council some 9½ years earlier.

"We looked into getting a snow plow truck years back and everyone was on board with it," Klug began. "Then the tranny went out in the backhoe and the truck was put on hold as we had to buy a new backhoe." he said.

Klug had researched the city's options and found a couple of possibilities.

"It will cost between $20,000-$40,000 for a nice truck," he said. "One with a sander, a wing and a plow. The one I was looking at has about 38,000 miles on it," he told the council. "It has a sander, a 10 foot box, a wing and plow and is a single axle. We can get it for around $39,000." he said.

Klug also told the council that he had talked with the county's highway department supervisor about the type and size of a truck that could be used by the city for plowing. "Ed said an automatic would be better than a seven speed on the city's streets and for what we would be using it for," he said. "We could haul snow or gravel and it would save wear and tear on the grader. We could use it and save and add a number of years to the life of the grader," he said.

He also explained that it would cut down time in the backhoe as well as wear and tear on it.

"I think it is a great piece of equipment," said Beck. "I'd like to see us pursue something like this," he added.

Klug asked the council for permission to take a day and go over to Duluth to look at the truck in person and get some pictures of his own. He also said that the salesman at the truck dealer in Duluth said he may have a few more trucks for him to look at once he gets over there.

The council approved Klug to take a day and go over to Duluth to look over what the dealer had.

Minnesota Extension Educator Art Nash came before the council next with a presentation on programming towards the community bettering the business climate.

Nash gave some handouts to the council and others present, explaining what he program was all about.

"We would like to help you become a healthier community," he said. Nash highlighted a few of the programs available through the extension on how to strengthen the community -- teaching how to focus on all of city's assets to have a healthy community.

Nash, himself, teaches workshops on a variety of topics such as business retention and expansion, economic impact analysis, public finance education, retail analysis and development as well as a tourism assessment program

Along with those workshops, they also offer leadership and civic engagement programs such as training, professional consultation and local assessments, all dealing with a strong community.

Before leaving, Nash presented the council with a worksheet they could work with to help them discover areas in the community that could use attention.

The Joint Powers Agreement from the Kitchigami Regional Library Board was brought to the council for approval.

Following a short discussion, the council agreed it would be best if Mayor Scott Palmer signed the agreement upon his return.

Before adjourning, the council was updated on the Truth and Taxation hearing which was held Dec. 8.

Elhard gave the council the agenda for the hearing which was the presentation, followed by public comment, if any, and then the approval of Resolution 2009-18 Adoption of the Final Levy.

The meeting was then adjourned.