Park Rapids sales tax proposal referred to city staff

City administrator Angel Weasner presented two options for a sales tax proposal to submit to the state legislature for consideration and, upon approval, a local election.

According to estimates from the Minnesota Department of Revenue, a 0.5% sales tax would generate about $ 440,000 in annual revenue, or $ 8.8 million over 20 years. A full tax rate of 1% would bring in about $ 880,000 per year, or $ 17.6 million over 20 years.

Since the proposal submitted to the state must identify a specific project to be funded through sales tax, Weasner suggested the following:

  • For the 0.5% option, improvements on Main Avenue north and south of downtown at an estimated cost of $ 4,365,000, and on 8th Street from Western Avenue to Forest Avenue for approximately $ 3,298,000, for a total estimated cost of $ 7,663,000.

  • For the 1% option, the same plus improvements on Central Avenue, Kaywood Drive, Forest Avenue, 12th Street, Fish Hook Avenue, and Eastern Avenue, bringing the total cost to around $ 17.5 million.

Council members formed a consensus in favor of the 0.5% sales tax. However, they contested the improvements to the identified streets, noting that they were not included in the city’s capital improvement plan.

Weasner said state law requires improvements to be funded by a local sales tax to be “of regional significance.” She said improvements to Main Avenue and 8th Street would improve visitor access to downtown and the hospital.

State Senator Paul Utke, who would be invited to present the city’s request to the Legislative Assembly tax commissions, pointed out that parts of the identified roads, including South Main, are still gravel.

Council member Erika Randall said it should be up to the council to decide which street improvements are important regionally – like Huntsinger Avenue, which passes next to the high school. She said the city’s voters would only support the tax if it funds a street project they deem necessary.

Council members discuss reordering priorities for funded improvements. For example, Liz Stone suggested paving the south end of Main Avenue and parts of Forest Avenue, Fish Hook Avenue and 12th Street, and giving due attention to the Central ave.

Asked about the urgency of approving a proposal, Weasner said the desired sales tax percentage, dollar amount and scope of the project must be approved by council and submitted to the Legislature by Jan.31.

Erika Randall suggested having a working session in January to discuss plans to be completed with City Engineer Jon Olson and Public Works Superintendent Scott Burlingame, who was unable to attend the December 28 meeting.

Tom Conway has brought forward a motion to send the matter back to staff to prepare for a council workshop before their regular Jan. 11 meeting, and a resolution for council to approve at that meeting. The motion was carried unanimously.

Randall also questioned proposed updates to the Park Rapids Fire Department Organizational Manual, which had already been presented for review and filed in 2019.

The new wording in the manual changes the percentage of annual calls in which volunteer firefighters should attend from 75% to 45%, adding “teeth” to the requirement by creating consequences for firefighters who fail to comply with it, up to the loss of one year of retirement service.

Fire Chief Terry Long said the 45% figure was the result of discussions with firefighters, who thought it was a reasonable expectation to stick to, but still high compared to similar fire departments in the region.

However, Randall said that according to the 2019 council minutes on the matter, she and other council members wanted to see specific numbers regarding the percentage of calls expected from firefighters in other districts. Randall said she still wanted to see those numbers so the board could make an informed decision.

Another issue with updating the manual was with the three categories of honorary members – firefighters, social members, and life members – that Randall saw as unnecessarily complex.

The only change in this article was a brief addition prohibiting the “non-personal” use of the fire station. Randall said that due to liability issues, who has access to the building needs to be clearly defined.

Conway made a motion to send the matter back to staff for report and action at the January 25 board meeting. The motion was carried unanimously.

In points of consent and general affairs, the council:

  • Approved up to 12 weeks of leave for volunteer firefighter Jim Preston. Long said it likely won’t affect his ability to attend the required percentage of calls for the year.

  • Cleared Weasner to consider dissolving the Park Rapids Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) and handing oversight of the River Heights Apartments, 500 Riverside Ave., to the Hubbard County HRA. Council member Tom Conway, who sits on the city of HRA board of directors, said he believes the county HRA is better equipped to oversee a housing project.

  • Paid to the Hubbard County Housing and Redevelopment Authority $ 216,000 for the second payment of a Minnesota housing grant for the completed Meadow’s Edge apartment building.

  • Made $ 193,141 in tax increase funding payments for the second half of 2021, as recommended by David Drown Associates, Inc. Payments include a return of $ 68,135 to Hubbard County, $ 57,462 to KI Senior Living, $ 24,349 at Larmac Industries, $ 24,141 at Pleasant Court of Park Rapids and $ 19,054 at SDG Properties.

  • Paid to Heiman Inc. $ 1,041 for the purchase of five coupled hoses for the fire department.

  • Paid Leading Edge Mechanical Inc. $ 2,998 to replace the burner in a radiant heating system at the municipal airport.

  • Paid $ 5,813 to Lexipol for an annual update of the Law Enforcement Policy Manual and daily training bulletins. According to staff request on the council agenda, last year’s price was $ 6,368.

  • Paid $ 7,226 TKDA for work on the terminal taxilane construction project.

  • Disbursed $ 6,500 in aquatic invasive species funds to Hubbard County Environmental Services for AIS inspection hours in 2022.

  • Renamed LuAnn Hurd-Lof for a two-year term on the Arts and Culture Advisory Board, Gail Leverson for a three-year term on the Library Board and Elmer Schoon for a three-year term on the Parks and embellishment.

  • City Hall designated as the combined polling station for the two electoral districts of the City of Park Rapids.

  • A public hearing has been scheduled for January 11 at 6 p.m. for the first reading of a draft order on drug paraphernalia.

  • City council meetings scheduled for 2022. Regular meeting time is 6:00 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, except for the date of the first meeting in November, which is yet to be determined.

  • Donations recognized to the city until December 14 totaling $ 3,020, including two donations on August 16 that had not previously been approved due to an accounting error. These include $ 2,500 for the Depot Park tennis court replacement project.

  • Approved credits totaling $ 231,965 and advance payments totaling $ 880,199.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 11 at City Hall.