City sets budget at $12.6 million

Jason Ferguson

The Custer City Council passed the first reading of a $12,613,465 budget for 2023 at its Sept. 6 meeting, a figure that is around $2 million higher than last year’s budget.
Proposed general fund expenditures are set at $3.3 million, which is down around $1.7 million from a year ago, when the city had budgeted funding for improvements to Harbach Park.
There is $699,570 budgeted for general government, and another $708,450 for public safety, which includes law enforcement. Highways and streets has $959,000 budgeted for 2023.
The city is actually budgeting for a surplus revenue of $300,000, as many of the projects the city is working on that would have funding come out of the general fund (such as the Harbach Park improvements) will have only engineering and design work done in 2023, with more construction likely in 2024.
The largest portion of the increase in the city’s budget comes in the city’s enterprise funds, which is set for $8.6 million. That is an increase of over $5 million from last year due to a project, in this case the ongoing wastewater treatment plant/line improvements that are needed for the city to meet more stringent Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources requirements regarding treated wastewater as well as aging infrastructure and the project changing discharge location from the current Flynn Creek location to French Creek.
The city is asking for a total levy of $1,075,930, which is $30,000 more than last year. Nearly $70,000 of that is an annual opt out to help pay for the city’s law enforcement contract with the Custer County Sheriff’s Office. The city will also take the full CPI increase and growth for next year’s budget as well.
The budget can be modified anytime before the second reading is approved. The second reading is scheduled for the council’s next meeting, which is Monday.
In other news from the Sept. 6 meeting, the council:
• Heard from Chris Nerud, who said he lives on Hazelrodt Cutoff in Custer County, three-quarters of a mile from the proposed new effluent release of the renovated city wastewater treatment plant. The proposed new release is on Lower French Creek Road just past the Glen Erin Schoolhouse.
Nerud said he reviewed a lot of the information regarding the wastewater treatment plant, and nowhere in the environmental assessment did he see anything regarding county residents along the creek, and, specifically, their wells.
Nerud said the area is made of granitic terrain and the people who have residential wells in the area come primarily from fractures. Those fractures communicate for quite a distance, Nerud said. His wife later added that her husband is a geologist.
“I’d like to say to the City of Custer, that could be a problem for you in the future if any of the E. coli or ammonia was to migrate into those residential water wells,” Nerud said.
Nerud said he read that monitoring stations on the creek are seven and a half and 13 miles from the proposed discharge area, which he said would include drainage and other influxes of native waters, resulting in reduced or diluted measurements.
Nerud praised the city’s proposed new Submerged Attached Growth Reactor (SAGR) system to treat the effluent, and encouraged the city to attempt to meet even more stringent water regulations by meeting state surface water quality requirements.
“It would be healthy for all of us to look at water wells around Lower French Creek,” Nerud said.
• Approved Black Hills Gravel as the low bidder for for furnishing granular materials for the planned SAGR system. This came after that portion of the wastewater treatment project had to be rebid after there was an error in the bidding documents. Black Hills Gravel was the lowest bidder out of three companies that submitted a bid.
• Learned from Nina Nielsen during committee report time the 1881 Courthouse Museum will raise its admission fee, as it struggles financially. The museum is also in need of volunteers.
“They’re struggling like any organization with volunteers,” she said. “We get older and no one replaces us.”
• Heard from Tim Hartmann, who said asbestos removal has begun on the former Custer Elementary building that was going to be the Custer Community Center. The building should be turned over to a demolition crew to be razed this fall.
• Learned there will be a ribbon cutting for the Harbach Park renovations next Thursday, Sept. 22 at 2 p.m. at the park.

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