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Paynesville Press - Oct. 27, 2010

Paynesville City Council
Jean Soine

Jean Soine, 58, has served on the Paynesville City Council for 14 years. She owns Paynes-ville's Total Entertainment Center in downtown Paynes-ville along with her husband, Paul. They have three adult children, who all live in the area, and three grandchildren.

Why are you running for city council? I feel I add a balance to the council by representing the business community and being a woman. I find it interesting and challenging to be part of the decision making that affects the whole community. I feel my years of experience are important in these difficult budgeting times.

What accomplishments would you point to as reasons for your re-election? Downtown enhancement (flower baskets and benches), the Ethnic Festival (I was involved in starting it), the park shelter at Veteran's Park, my help in building the airport, helping in the development of the Community Park, and the Highway 23 project (choosing bridge colors and aesthetics and lighting).

With decreases in Local Government Aid from the state expected to continue, likely causing ongoing city budget crunches, what do you see as core city services? I feel that our first priorities are public safety - police, fire, sewer and water, and streets - but we can't cut so much that no one wants to live here either.

The city has nearly $1.3 million in general fund reserves. What do you think is a healthy fund balance for the city? The state recommends we have 50 percent of our budget in reserves. The number $1.3 million is deceiving; depending on the time of year or time of month, the number goes up and down. We need the funds in sewer and water and others to plan for future projects when things such as the police car need replacing.

In each of these budget categories, explain your view on making budget cuts as needed.
•Amenities: (lifeguards, Fourth of July fireworks, Summer Recreation, contributions to community organizations such as the Paynesville Area Center and the historical society, etc.) These are all great things, and if there is any way they can be left in the budget, that would be great. They may need to be cut to some degree but hopefully will be left with funds to some amount each year. The lifeguards are a co-op cost with the township and Koronis Lake Association and a safety issue.

•City Infrastructure: (streets, water, sewer, etc.) It is not something we can afford to cut, or it will cost us more in the long run.

•City Staff: I have not wanted to lay off any city staff, but I think realistically, it has become necessary to lay off one or two people. The savings are not great to begin with because of the unemployment we have to pay.

•Parks, Trails, Recreation: We have great parks, and we do need to keep them in good condition, and we have almost completed the trail that we have been working on for over 10 years. Most of the money for it has been grants and a cooperative with the township. Now is not the time to stop; it will be a great asset to the whole community.

•Public Safety: police, fire, etc. Also not a place I would consider many cuts. We have cut about as much as we dare and still be able to provide a safe place for people to live.

What sort of tax increases (if any) would you support as a council member? We usually average 2.5 to 3.5 percent each year, and I feel that's a fair amount without it hurting people too badly. But with all the cuts to Local Government Aid, realistically it will probably need to be higher. I wouldn't vote to go anything above five percent, and we are shooting for 4 to 4.5 percent.

Is annexation an appropriate revenue tool for the city? If so, how is it possible in light of the its Orderly Annexation Agree-ment with the township? With LGA cuts, we can only cut so much from the budget and still continue services, so we need to look at revenue increases. One way is annexation. We do have an orderly annexation agreement with the township, which was just updated. I do not believe we should just take land unless the property onwer wants it. The city does own some properties in the township that we should look at annexing. It will save taxes for the city and only makes sense.

What should be the city's relationship with Paynesville Township? And what, specifically, would you do to foster such a relationship? We have a great working relationship with the township and hope it continues. The biggest thing is communication both ways. We have a number of projects we work together on and almost all of our committees have township people on them, so they are involved in a lot of the recommendations made for council decisions.

What does the city need to do to make Paynesville attractive from the new Highway 23? I don't have any ideas other than signage and attractive lighting, which is being done. But I am open to any ideas anyone may have.

What can the city do to to bring the visions of the Minnesota Design Team to life in Paynesville? They are all great ideas, but in these economic times, they are not feasible. We can keep on the lookout for any grants that become available and start planning financially for some of them, if not all. We know improving Lake Avenue is probably something that will need to be done first.

What will you do, as a councilor, to make Paynesville a better place to live? I already think Paynesville is a great place to live. The main thing is to try to keep taxes down, and we need to try to encourage more businesses to settle here.

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