An auditing of finances, a second public hearing on annexation and a legislative update dominated much of the July 8 meeting of the Princeton City Council.

Princeton 2020 audit

Princeton received a clean audit from Jackie Knowles with BerganKDV, though she noted two findings of interest.

The first finding was that not all closed meetings were recorded in 2020, which was out of compliance with state statute. She pointed out that issue appears to have been fixed this year, according to the presentation.

Knowles also found the city did not meet auditing standards when it came to the segregation of accounting duties. But that is a common issue seen in smaller cities that do not have the staff to meet those standards, Knowles said.

Overall Knowles found the general unassigned fund balance increased by 3% in 2020. It was roughly 60% of the previous year’s budget.

Revenues increased in 2020, much of that coming from to coronavirus relief funding. Revenue from service charges were down, mostly due to the closure of the splash pad, according to Knowles.

Liquor sales increased by 29% over 2019. Record breaking increases were seen in a lot of municipal stores due to shifts from bars and restaurants to off-sale, according to Knowles.

Expenditures increased by over $500,000 across all programs due to coronavirus relief spending, additional staff and construction of a storage shed, according to Knowles.

Sherburne Village public hearing

The Princeton City Council held a second public hearing to discuss an annexation application by the owners of the Sherburne Village in Baldwin Township. The second hearing was held after the city learned the legally-required notification for the first hearing had not been sent to one contiguous homeowner.

Cartell Cooper spoke first, raising many of the concerns he brought up during the first hearing regarding a few technical challenges to the legality of the annexation. His challenges included a claim that because a county highway ran between the border of Princeton and the village they were not considered adjacent and noted a lack of a public petition to detach the property from Sherburne County.

City Attorney Damien Toven re-addressed those concerns, pointing out that state statute governing annexation allows properties to be considered adjacent even if a road separates them and that the detachment petition was not required for this, because it is an annexation by ordinance.

Cooper also raised concerns about safety on the road, and if it would become more dangerous after the annexation. Councilor Jules Zimmer said he wants to see data from police department about the calls for service to the area. He said he did not want the city to be blindsided by a sudden increase in costs for law enforcement due to the annexation.

The council ultimately agreed to pass the first reading of the bill, with the expectation that the data on calls for service to the area by law enforcement would be presented at the next meeting.

Legislative update

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, which represents 109 rural cities in the state, updated the council on what happened during the recent legislative session. The big priority was preventing cuts to local government aid.

The coalition was very concerned about LGA getting cut, because the funds are usually first on the block when budgets get tight, according to the presentation. This year the state not only avoided any cuts to LGA, the Legislature also passed a one-time supplemental aid package to prevent formula-based funding from being reduced to any city, according to the presentation.

Stout Storage annexation request

A petition calling for a public hearing related to an annexation petition from Stout Storage, LLC passed unanimously. The hearing will begin at 7 p.m. Aug. 26 in the Princeton City Hall.

Face painting at Mark Park

Councilors unanimously passed the special event permit to allow a 12-year-old girl to offer face painting and temporary tattoos in Mark Park. The booth will be open Fridays and Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. Her booth is expected to be open through Labor Day.

Donations

The city accepted roughly $2,000 in donations to local projects and events during the meeting.

The Princeton Public Utilities and Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency donated $1,204 to Princeton for establishing pollinator habitats in Reibe Park.

The East Central Regional Arts Council donated $600 to Princeton for the 2021 Rockin’ on the Rum River event.

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