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January 17, 2018

12/11/2017 10:39:00 AM
Council considers lodging tax, park smoking ban; OKs street project

Two proposed new ordinances had their first reading at the Nov. 28 Chisago City Council meeting with public hearings set for Jan. 23.

The first ordinance would establish a three percent lodging tax to help fund a tourism bureau under the Chisago Lakes Chamber of Commerce. Other communities in the Chisago Lakes School District also have been asked to support the tax. Taylors Falls council supports the tax, Center City Council opposed it, and Lindstrom is taking a wait-and-see stance.

City Administrator John Pechman explained, “Members of the ABC Committee and the Chamber have appeared before the council previously in support of the tax.” City staff has also been working with the Chisago County HRA and EDA on the initiative. If the tax is implemented, the city would collect it from lodging facilities in the city, and retain five percent of the funds with the rest going to support promote local tourism.

Mayor Bob Gustafson wondered if the county was considering taxing lodging. Pechman replied the possibility has been discussed. A Chisago Lakes visitor’s bureau would have more impact if the tax was collected from facilities within the school district boundary (rather than being dispersed across the county), Pechman said.
The council voted to set a public hearing for Jan. 23.

The council’s response to reading of a new parks ordinance was less than unanimous. The reading of a proposed ordinance to ban smoking within 500 feet of an educational building nearly failed for lack of a second. Hearing no second from the council, Mayor Bob Gustafson seconded a motion made by Councilmember Marie Rivers so that the proposed ordinance could be discussed.

The proposed ordinance springs from Wolf Creek Trio Charter School asking the city to prohibit smoking in Rotary Park located across the street from the school. Currently, 18-year-old students at the school cross the street to the park to smoke in full view of the school. Rather than prohibiting smoking in all city parks, the park board recommended banning smoking within a set distance of a school.

Councilmember Mark Anderson, liaison to the park board, opposes the new ordinance saying, “I feel it’s bad policy to make an ordinance for one single entity.”

Councilmember Jeremy Dresel said, “I tend to agree but this was a recommendation from our park board.” Councilmember Rivers and Mayor Gustafson spoke in favor of the ordinance. Gustafson said that stopping smoking was high on his list and “sometimes we have to do something because it’s for the public good.” Rivers felt it was right because it might help keep some students from starting smoking.

Ultimately, the motion to give the ordinance a second reading and set a public hearing passed, with Anderson voting no.

In other business:
- The council approved a pension increase for members of Chisago City’s all volunteer fire department, increasing the pension from $3,500 per year of service to $4,000 per year. The pension is paid out upon retiring or to those vested leaving the department. A firefighter is eligible for the pension after five years of service. Currently the department has only 18 active firefighters, and the fire chief said the pension is essential to help retain members.

- A half dozen residents attended a public hearing on next summer’s improvements to Main Street, Old Towne Road (from Stinson to Highway 8), Isabel and West streets and Railroad and Stinson avenues. Some of those attending the Nov. 27 meeting had not been able to attend an earlier neighborhood meeting. They asked how much the project would cost property owners and whether all the streets would be worked on at the same time.

City Administrator Pechman said the assessment to property owners is $6,570 per lot after the city picks up 50 percent of the total construction cost. He also responded that all of the streets would be worked on at the same time “with some staging.” He said the council had decided that completing the street project in one year would be difficult but less painful to local businesses than stretching it over two years.

He also told residents, “We will have more meetings, especially with businesses, as plans get finalized.”

The council approved a resolution ordering the improvement and preparation of plans for the improvement of Main Street, Old Towne Road, Isabel, West, Railroad, and Stinson.

- The council approved 2018 licenses for Kwik Trip, Chisago Warehouse Liquors, Smitty’s, Scooter’s, Chiko’s, Northern Lake Tavern and Grill, and Don Julio’s, and for Brink’s Market, Family Dollar, Schmidt Oil and Casey’s.

- The council extended the city’s lawn care contract with A-ffordable Lawn Care for 2019-2022 at a price of $1,040 a week during the lawn care season. A-ffordable has provided the city’s lawn care for 21 years.

- The council voted to certify delinquent utility bills to property owners taxes payable in 2018. Bills in excess of $300, or with no payments had been made in the past year, were listed as delinquent and totaled $23,923.

- The city’s standards for driveway width, trail lighting and street lighting were updated in anticipation of next summer’s construction work. Pechman explained that contractors find formal, accepted standards helpful.

- The council authorized the mayor and city administrator to sign a resolution accepting Chisago County’s All Hazards Mitigation Plan. The countywide plan has been under discussion for months and will make cities eligible for FEMA disaster relief.

- Because the cost of this summer’s resurfacing of James Court came in considerably under original estimates, a new assessment hearing will be held at the Dec.12 council meeting, to reduce the assessments on James Court by approximately $1,500 per lot.

- The council approved a low bid purchase order for a new portable generator for City Well Number 6 from RDO for $45,230. The RDO bid was substantially lower than others received. Pechman added that $10,000 in grant funds from the Minnesota Department of Health to help defray the cost, should be available in April.

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