City Council vote on local option sales tax approachesThe Red Wing City Council will soon decide whether to put the question of a new sales tax to the voters.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
The Red Wing City Council will soon decide whether to put the question of a new sales tax to the voters.
The council has a special meeting Monday to vote on a referendum question for the local option sales tax. The meeting will start at 5:30 p.m. in the Red Wing Public Library.
This week, the council met with the Local Option Sales Tax Advisory Committee to discuss project ideas and the group’s recommendations.
The advisory group started working in late June to develop criteria for evaluating ideas for using funds from the potential tax. It then accepted submissions, ranked proposals and formed its recommendations.
There were six projects that the group said work well together.
The first includes rebuilding Levee Road between Levee and Bay Point parks, creating an off-road trail along the Mississippi River separating pedestrians from Levee Road and reconstructing the small boat harbor wall.
The next is creating a trail connecting Levee Park to the east end Barn Bluff trail entrance, extending the levee wall and building new boat dockage along Levee Park.
The third plan includes building a new marina building.
There were questions about that project, which Council President Ralph Rauterkus said was “a bit fuzzier” than the rest. The group questioned how big the facility should be, for example, or whether it should be completed in phases rather than all at once.
But there is plenty of flexibility in that and other plans, said Council member Mike Schultz, one of the people who proposed the idea.
The fourth project focuses on making it safer and easier for pedestrians to cross Highway 61 and to walk along the road. It involves improvements from Potter Street to Old West Main Street.
“It’s such a high-visibility change,” advisory committee chair Marilyn Lawrence said.
Repairs at the Sheldon Theatre, such as flooring replacement, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning upgrades, tuck-pointing and handicap-accessible restrooms, also made the list.
The sixth project recommended is a partnership with the Red Wing Area Seniors and Red Wing Collectors Society Foundation to purchase and develop the Pottery Place Annex for a new senior center and pottery museum. The city would own the building but the entities would be responsible for maintenance, operations and renovations.
The timing of the purchase could be tricky, members said, but in the end they believed it would be a beneficial partnership.
“We saw it as being a catalyst to improve that area,” committee member Mike Murphy said.
@Sub heads:Working together
@Normal1: The projects recommended all work together to revitalize the area, advisory committee members said.
“It makes sense to combine those,” Council member Marilyn Meinke agreed. “They just make a terrific package.”
There were 13 project ideas submitted in total. Five were not recommended and two would not be ready for a fall 2012 referendum, Planning Director Brian Peterson said.
The recommended projects total roughly $14.8 million needed from the tax.
At the half percent recommended, the city estimates it would raise roughly $1 million per year.
“We want to make sure we spend the money so it’s an opportunity for the community to grow,” committee member Scott Adkisson said.
Cities typically bond for the projects and use the local option sales tax proceeds to pay that back.
There would be a predetermined end point for the tax, and to extend it after that would require another referendum question.
The council will consider 2012 referendum language at its meeting Monday. The projects should be decided upon in general, but there is flexibility in the details, Finance Director Marshall Hallock said. If voters approve the tax in November, the Legislature still would have to give its consent.
Those projects not recommended included renovations at the Friedrich City Center, a housing project called the North Star development, capital projects at Mississippi National Golf Links, road work at the Spring Creek intersection and the West Red Wing Fire Station.
Though the group said those generally were good ideas, they didn’t fit with the local option sales tax goals such as spurring economic development. Others weren’t fleshed out enough or it would be difficult to explain why sales tax funds would go toward it, members added.
The other two proposed projects not ready for the referendum were the Red Wing Civic Center and Red Wing River Museum.