The Fergus Falls City Council held a work session Monday afternoon to discuss sales tax projects in 2020. The group also held its first public council meeting of the new year.

With the Minnesota Legislature set to convene Feb. 11, the Fergus Falls City Council jumped into what promises to be a busy year Monday as they attempt to gain state approval for some projects.

Fergus Falls legislative lobbyist Joel Carlson  joined the group by speaker for a work session at 4 p.m. dedicated to considering strategies for getting the Legislature’s blessing for a sales tax question on the 2020 ballot.

As the year began council priorities included a Fergus Falls Fire Department renewal project ($6.1 million), a trails project for pedestrian and bike travel ($2.5 million), an outdoors aquatics center ($7.1 million), a streets and infrastructure project ($4.3 million) and improvements at DeLagoon Park ($5 million).

The caveats of gaining legislative approval for the various projects are:

• Is it regionally significant?

• Will it have public support?

• Is this a priority of the city?

• Is it a well-defined project?

• Will the project by ready by the end of 2020?

City Administrator Andrew Bremseth, speaking for the Legislative Committee, pointed out the $23 million needed to make all five projects fly was “too high” and proposed cutting it to $16.6 million - a commitment that would require 12 ½ years of a one-half of 1% sales tax beyond December 2023 when bonds for the public library renewal project are paid off. 

One of the projects that would be abandoned if the $23 million proposal is cut is the street and infrastructure work - which at this point would include a $1.6 million roundabout at the intersection of Fir Avenue and Union Avenue. 

Because work on Fergus Falls streets and infrastructure would have no regional appeal it would not be a strong card for the city.

Councilman Brent Thompson was in favor of letting the residents of Fergus Falls know what the local option sales tax being proposed can and cannot be used for by state law.

“I think we’ve got to get it out there,” Thompson said. “I think a little education is going to make this easier to swallow.” 

The aquatics center was expected to have a regional appeal and the fire station renewal project would benefit not only the city but surrounding communities and townships.

Councilman Tom Rufer was optimistic about support for the projects.

“I think people will want to step up to the plate and help out,” Rufer said. 

Councilman Scott Kvamme encouraged the council to hold its course despite having to cut costs in some projects and abandon others.

“I think our best bet is to go for it right now,” Kvamme said.

The city council has until Jan. 21 to come up with a sales tax proposal for the Legislature.

The Monday evening meeting of the City Council saw the second reading of Ordinance 95 approved, along with a motion accepting summary of the city administrator’s Dec. 16 performance evaluation, a motion to appoint Karoline Gustafson the acting mayor in 2020, a motion approving Mayor Ben Schierer’s 2020 council appointments and a motion in favor of the eight appointees to the Regional Treatment Center Master Plan Management Team - Kvamme, Patricia Wahl, Michele Anderson, Chris Schuelke, Laurel Kilde, Scott DeMartelaere, Wayne Hurley and Bill Aasness.

Fergus Falls Public Works director Guy Taylor capped the meeting with announcements that Christmas tree pickup around Fergus Falls will be held Wednesday and work Jan. 20-21 to return the stop lights at the intersection of Tower Road and West Lincoln Avenue to three-color function.

Consent agenda items approved by the council included:

• A resolution designating The Daily Journal as the 2020 legal publication.

• A resolution designating 2020 depositories.

• A resolution delegating the city administrator, finance director and assistant finance director the authority to make electronic fund transfers on behalf of the city.

• A resolution adopting the 2020 elected officials out of state travel policy.

• A resolution accepting a $7,000 quote from Bergren KDV for a Pebble Lake Golf Club 2019 Basic Financial Statement audit.

• A resolution setting date for tax rebate program request for 205 and 212 Anna Court for Jan. 21 at 5:30 p.m.

• A resolution setting 2020 tax rebate request public hearing dates.

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