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Council member questions 'red flags' in bills

The routine practice of paying bills was once again not so routine at the Alexandria City Council's March 14 meeting. Council member Virgil Batesole pulled the bills out of the council's consent agenda so they could be considered separately, some...

The routine practice of paying bills was once again not so routine at the Alexandria City Council's March 14 meeting.

Council member Virgil Batesole pulled the bills out of the council's consent agenda so they could be considered separately, something he did at the council's January and February meetings as well.

Batesole said that Subdivision 4 of Article VII in the city's charter states that "it shall be the duty of the council to strictly enforce the provisions of the budget."

Batesole then listed more than a dozen bills that he said either exceed the amount the city has budgeted for them for the year or cause "red flags" for an over-run in the near future.

The city's telephone bills, for example, have amounted to $2,000 after two months, Batesole said, when the budget calls for $8,000 for the entire year.

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Batesole cited similar over-runs for motor fuels, snow and ice removal, fire department supplies, training for the building department, equipment repair and maintenance, electrical and gas utilities, and other categories.

The high price of fuel, Batesole said, caused some of the increases, which weren't anticipated when the budgets were set last fall.

Batesole told the council that he has talked to the city's administrative staff and told them to go to the department heads so they can adjust their budgets or come up with recommendations on how to handle the over-runs.

"We've got to get on top of this," Batesole told the council. "Jim [Taddei, city administator] will work on this."

The council didn't make any comments after Batesole spoke and voted 4-1 to approve the bills. Batesole voted no.

The council has scheduled a work session to discuss the budget. It will take place Tuesday, March 22 at 6 p.m. in the large conference room at City Hall. The council will also talk about how to address possible legislative cuts to Local Government Aid and the Market Value Home Credit.

Because work sessions are attended by a quorum of council members, they are open to the public. However, the public typically isn't allowed to comment during the sessions and no official council action is taken.

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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