Mayor's Statement in Support of Extension of Sales Tax for District Projects

“We are setting the pace for the future and I think everybody up here is in agreement that 15 year/$15 million dollar, whichever comes first to complete the plan as it is written is really the main goal here.” Mayor Vern Rasmussen, March 28, 2016 City Council Meeting.

 https://youtu.be/K5XDIPAbCbc?t=40m8s

 

I’d like to clean up a couple things that I’ve heard here tonight. First of all, I don’t think that I have heard from the City Council that we are interested in adding another form of government in trying to oversee projects. I think it’s been pretty clear the watershed board throughout this that our intent is to have more clarity to the public with some of the options that are bringing forward. I don’t know that anybody up here wants to approve projects or anything like that. We’ve asked that the watershed board look at prioritizing their projects so the community can sift through this. If you’ve been through this, there are a lot of projects in here. There’s all the way from making a bird’s nest to dredging a lake. And so I think one of the things the Council was looking at doing is trying to get a little clarity for the community so that they would understand a little bit better, our main priority is going to be if it restoring Fountain Lake that’s maybe number 1 priority, number 2 might be Goose Lake, whatever they might be. And so that’s really what the Council’s been looking for. I don’t think the Council is looking to approve those projects. I think we got enough on our plate here. We understand there’s a lot that goes into these projects and deciding what is to be done. I don’t think that has ever been, correct me if I’m wrong Council when it’s your turn to speak tonight, but I don’t think that has been the initiative. That being said, myself, I personally think that option 1 is a fine option for me. I think that when you look at this 10-year plan, they cannot function outside of the plan, so we all know what types of projects they are going to do; they have to be contained within in the plan. This plan is already approved by Minnesota department of soil and water and also reviewed by DNR and MPCA. They bring back recommendations. I have a letter here with recommendations that were made to the watershed. The watershed then in turn went back and revised their plan and brought that forward. So there have been many different agencies that have been over this plan. So I think the plan itself is solid. I do think that they have said that the previous 10 year plan was taken care of. For us as a board to look at that and try to add more projects, I don’t see that value. I do think that there have been communication problems. I will take responsibility for that as the mayor of Albert Lea. I have not asked formally or repeatedly to the watershed to come forward with different updates and I’ll take responsibility for that. Likewise, I think the Shell Rock River Watershed District can also take responsibility for that. So there has been communications. I think the biggest thing the Council is asking for right now is that we move forward with rebuilding that communication piece. Not necessarily for us but for the public. That’s not been the goal of the Council. So I want to clear that up. I don’t think that anyone here wants to be picking out projects for the watershed because we know that they are contained in here. But I do think that if we move forward with a formal agreement between the two groups to lay out exactly what it is that’s going to happen and we can figure that out with 3-4 update throughout the year, we would like to see a public hearing so that the public knows that there is a day they can come to the council meeting and talk about that and maybe at that meeting we have an opportunity for the watershed board to present their projects for the year or whatever it might be. That would be one big meeting to do that type of thing. I think that we would like to see this at the general election vote. I think that’s an important thing and I think as I read the statute too I think that Mr. Erdman is correct that needs to be done at a general election and should be done before it goes to the legislature. I think that’s an important piece too. My personal feeling is that we can figure this out between the two boards and I also think that the Council has the ability if that is not being carried through and we are carrying through our part and we aren’t getting return from the watershed board then we move forward to the state legislature and we say these are concerns, we’re not getting the interaction from the watershed district. They’re not responding to the things that were agreed upon and then we take that up with the legislature move forward from there so my opinion is that we can accomplish this with option number one and I know that my councilors are only looking out for the best the taxpayer. We’ve had a lot of concern expressed to us and for whatever reason; we get a lot of concern expressed to us from county commissioners. I’m sure they might get it about us. But we get a lot of questions about other jurisdictions and so this is a time when we are stepping in and saying we need to have a better situation for the community. Not for this board that sits here. Because we all are going to change. The watershed is going to change. We are setting the pace for the future and I think everybody up here is in agreement that 15 year/$15 million dollar, whichever comes first to complete the plan as it is written is really the main goal here. So I’m going to open it up to the Council but I wanted to lay out what my personal opinion is and I also want to lay out that the Council has only the concerns for the community and anything that they have different then what I said is because they have well thought out plans. I don’t think anybody up here is trying to take this and get rid of it. Everybody up is trying to move forward so the community can support it.

 

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