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City Council addresses tax abatement, vacant seats at recent meeting

The Lennox City Council met Monday, February 26 in the Lennox Boardroom. Council members heard agenda items including partial abatement of property taxes, annual audits, lease agreements and more.

The City of Lennox received an application for partial abatement of property taxes under SDCL 10-6A from Lincoln County. 

“This application is for parcel, this is a multifamily property fourplex at the corners of Center and Cherry. The abatement only applies to 25 percent of the property if that’s what is owner occupied or was owner occupied. Following discussions with Lincoln County, we’re okay proceeding with this abatement. Note though, that the property has closed, I think last week, and that effectively ends the abatement. It’s kind of a moot issue at this point, but we do need to take action on it,” said City Administrator, Nate Vander Plaats. 

With no discussion, the motion was approved. 

The City of Lennox has been asked to sign an annual Audit Engagement Letter with Schoenfish & Co. 

“We have used Schoenfish for our audit for several years now and would like to continue doing so. We’ve been presented with their engagement letter in anticipation of this year’s audit. As we expected, and as we noted last fall, the price has increased to the addition of federal grant dollars we received. Once you reach over $750,000 in federal expenditures, then you need to have a federal audit, so that increase was included in our budget this year,” Vander Plaats said. Motion approved.

Vander Plaats was asked at the Feb. 12 meeting to speak with a local Human Resources (HR) consultant regarding their services and reported back to the council. 

“Several communities have been using a local firm alternative HR for some time and so I reached out to them. I don’t have a service agreement at this point, but if there’s no objections from the City’s Attorney to what agreement we want to proceed with a couple of services that they provide. The first is an HR risk assessment and that’s to take a look at our full HR practices. They’ll look at our files, audit those, look at our hiring practices, our advertising and recruitment, benefits, all that stuff all together and provide feedback on where we are compliance wise and best practice wise. On top of that they have an on-demand service for $99 a month that I’d like to enroll in. I think the risk assessment is very important and I do have some training in human resource management, but I’m far from an expert in that field so having an outside resource would certainly be beneficial,” Vander Plaats said. 

Motion tabled to look into options that may be available through the City’s insurance company.

The City’s lease for the Legion Hall for use as the Senior Center is expiring and action is needed.

“Unfortunately, I missed the deadline for the lease renewal notification on the agreement. We both feel the lease continues to be beneficial, we’ve actually seen several new attendees at the lunches at the Senior Center, so things seem to be going well there. We did request a change in the new lease language, I’m just waiting for Brett to okay the language that I put in there that changes the term to an automatic renew every year with a 60-day notice to terminate by either party so we don’t every year have to go through the exercise of do we want to keep doing it or not,” Vander Plaats said. 

Motion approved.

Will Ericksen with the Lennox Police Department, joined the meeting to request approval to move forward with purchasing and installing a stand-alone server for the Police Department. 

“Currently, the Police Department has a small portion of the City’s server that we are using. For a Police Department aspect of things, that’s not good practice as we have sensitive materials, and we have no control in essence of those materials. After some conversations Nate and I have had over the situation, we’ve discussed finding the appropriate ways to move forward to make sure that we can get these in place,” he said. 

To make room in the budget for the server Ericksen has set aside $15,000 from a radio agreement he found for free and had bench tested. Council asked how this server would be different from the existing server they share. 

“It will be a stand alone server for us, and there is a web-based platform Lincoln County is using so they don’t have to keep as much in-house storage, but it’s still all your information, it you decide to split ways, you can bring all that back to your site. It would save us a huge cost savings than to keep expanding ours out every time we fill it up,” he said.  

Motion approved.

Next up for discussion was the vacant City Council seats, which include Ward 3 and the mayoral seat. 

“We want to try to keep this as exposed as possible, so it’s not a good old boys club,” said Councilman Bill Daugherty. 

The two seats that would be appointed would serve for one year and have to run for reelection at the next election. 

Vander Plaats noted that there are applications available, as well as a vacancy filling process or procedure. 

“What what do you think we do here? Start with an advertisement and get the word out just to the entire community and if that doesn’t net anything interest at all we have discussions and try to figure out individuals to contact direct,” said Daugherty. 

The council members continued discussion on letting potential candidates know about the roles and responsibilities of city council and mayor positions.

The meeting concluded with a motion to go into executive session at 7:55 p.m.


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