Council gets update on legislative session

NEW ULM – The City Council received an update on the 2104 Legislative Session from Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) lobbyist Amanda Doerr on Tuesday.

CGMC’s goal was a $57 million increase in LGA (Local Government Aid) to return the program to 2002 levels, Doerr said. CGMC also had a number of development programs and a push for transportation funds.

There was not a lot of support from Gov. Mark Dayton or the Senate on an increase to LGA, but there was interest on the part of the House, Doerr said. The House Tax Bill produced $10.1 million, which is the annual adjustment for inflation and population growth. The Senate Bill did not include any increase to LGA. The final result was a $7.8 million increase for next year.

CGMC pushed for broadband development. The House took the lead with $25 million for broadband development. The Senate bill contained no funds for it. The final broadband bill came to $20 million.

Regarding transportation, Doerr said it was clear early on that neither Dayton nor the House were interested in moving forward with a tax increase or a transportation revenue increase during an election year. Doerr felt the CGMC and other Move Minnesota coalition members had successfully heightened the issue of transportation. “I think transportation is very much on everyone’s radar and on a bipartisan basis leaders are saying it will be a top issue next year.”

Overall, the House had a modest focus on rural economic development while the governor and Senate did not have a lot of interest in CGMC’s agenda, Doerr said.

Councilor Ken RockVam asked why the Senate was reluctant to provide funding.

Doerr believed the Senators were reluctant to commit to any spending because of a previous state deficit. Doerr also felt that the Senate was not as educated on certain issues, such as the broadband initiative.

Doerr described the 2014 session as an “OK” for the CGMC, but the businesses, communities and legislators must stand together in order to get their priorities passed, she said.

Ridgeway Public Hearing

The Council unanimously approved the refinancing for HADC Ridgeway, which has assisted living facilities on South German and 23rd North.

A public hearing preceded the vote. HADC Ridgeway, a nonprofit corporation, sought bonds to refinance the project through the City’s Economic Development Authority.

City Attorney Hugh Nierengarten explained these bonds were related to the Ridgeway facilities. The projects were covered under revenue bonds that went back to 1998. These bonds were refunded to receive a lower interest rate in 2006. Ridgeway is looking to refinance again.

Nierengarten assured the Council that New Ulm would bear no responsibility for the cost of issuance or payment because the liability was a pass through. In addition this action will not significantly affect the City’s $10 million a year bank qualification limit. However, if the City chooses to issue debt that exceed the $10 million limit, Ridgeway will be obligated to reimburse the difference that New Ulm would have received from the bank.

Minnecon Park

The Council approved spending approximately $5,000 to ensure improved water access in Minnecon Park.

On May 21, 2013 the Council authorized an agreement with Minnesota DNR funding $113,000 to develop an improved Water Access Site at Minnecon Park. A small amount of fill is necessary in a wetland area to complete the project. In order to offset the loss of wetland the City must purchase Wetland Mitigation Credits at an estimated amount of $5,112. The Council agreed to approve the purchase agreement and the transfer of credits.

Chicken Sub-committee Formed

During the last meeting, the council decided a special committee would be established to create regulations for allowing chickens in the City limits. Sub-committee members include Councilor Les Schultz, Councilor Ken RockVam, veterinarian Sharon Hurley, Police Chief Myron Wieland and Happy Hens Committee member Tony Guggisberg.

A decision on urban chickens will be made in July.

Other Action

A public hearing was set from 5 p.m., July 1, to discuss a noise variances request to allow construction activities during the night on the tower located at the New Ulm golf course.

The Council appointed Wendi Ringhofer to the Human Rights Commission to fill the unexpired term vacated by Beth Burrows. Sean Fingland was also appointed to the Public Utilities Commission to fill the unexpired term vacated by Norman Melville.

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