June 25, 2015 at 12:37 p.m.

Lindstrom City Council Briefs...

Lindstrom City Council Briefs...
Lindstrom City Council Briefs...

Most of the Lindstrom City Council meeting was devoted to discussing the County Road 20 bridge (photo at right).  But, there was an agenda item for an update with MN House Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Lindstrom.

Rep. Barrett  was invited to give council a legislative session recap and he led off talking about $12 million budgeted to “a new type of aid” for lesser populated areas, not now qualifying for Local Government Aid or LGA.   

He said “...the fact it was created is a good thing.”

When asked about who authored the concept of the “Small Cities Assistance Account” Rep. Barrett said he didn’t know who had the idea for it.   Mayor Keith Carlson remarked, that according to League of MN Cities legislative reports, the measure is a one-time distribution after meaningful negotiations on transportation finance legislation failed.  The needs were identified in the governor’s Transportation Finance Advisory Committee Report presented to the lawmakers,  that detailed $400 million in small cities’ street needs.  

Non-state road aid cities (those of fewer than 5,000 population) were targeted to get a portion of license tabs renewal revenues;  but the only small city funds that ended up being appropriated were in the last minute “lights on” bill that passed.

Rep. Barrett also described a $100,000 appropriation he secured for aiding Taylors Falls in efforts at economic development.  There is another of his bills,  calling for a legislative audit of economic development incentive monies, that he said may seem to contradict supporting this infusion.  But, Rep. Barrett added, if the audit reveals  expenditures  for boosting the economy haven’t been very fruitful,  he’ll be the first to direct these funds into more productive areas.

He also asked the council to consider a vote on a resolution-- expressing official support of Sunday liquor sales or opposing it.  Knowing where his district’s local units of government stand on this issue would help;  if and when Sunday sales come back up again for debate.

Rep. Barrett also said the House has looked at enacting a property tax exclusion for the first $500,000 of commercial property valuation in an effort to decrease the state property tax burden.  Commercial-industrial is unlike Homestead or Residential in that the state gets a share of property taxover and above what commercial parcels generate in local tax.  Barrett said in Chisago County $4.4 million was generated in commercial-industrial revenues and $1.9 million can be attributed to state property tax.  “We will be talking about this next year as part of the tax bill,” he said.

Lindstrom City Administrator John Olinger commented that any commercial tax relief is welcome because properties don’t sell due to tax burdens.  “Owners tell me they can’t even rent out (certain structures) for enough income to cover taxes,” Olinger said.

Rep. Barrett noted that the valuation, part of the formula for calculating tax on commercial-industrial parcels is dropping, which should help bring taxes down.  

Olinger responded the valuation is dropping on commercial-industrial because nobody can sell,  because the “taxes scare off the buyers.”

In other business: purchase of an ATV unit for about $26,000 for the fire department was approved. The cost is covered by charitable gambling.  The council was advised that the department lacks a nimble, off-road vehicle should there be an emergency in a wooded or remote area not accessible by road.

The council heard the city engineer is working to address slow water infiltration at the new stormwater pond in Pleasant Hill Park. Engineer Jon Herdegen said the residents are “understandably upset” and there are augmentative measures to help mitigate the flow into the ponding area and to help water settle at a faster rate,  that are being looked into.

The council also adopted two resolutions authorizing annexations.  The parcels coming onto city services are on Minnesota Avenue, behind the Lindstrom Foods/Thrifty White and on Lakelawn Drive, south of the golf course.

Annexation is approved by Chisago Lake Township in these cases,  and the property tax sharing agreement has been adopted.  For five years-- Lindstrom helps the township adjust its budget to this loss of the property tax revenues by giving the township $557 each year for one parcel and $95 per year for the other.

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