Editorial: Support Sales Tax Renewal

Albert Lea residents will get the chance on Monday at the Albert Lea City Council meeting to voice their opinions on whether to renew the half-cent local option sales tax for lake projects in the city. The tax supports the efforts of the Shell Rock River Watershed District to improve water quality and was initially instituted by more than 80 percent of voters in a referendum vote in November 2005. The original tax was extended another five years after approval by the Legislature in 2014. Over the years, the watershed district has focused on several projects. It has educated the public about rain gardens and healthy lakes, focused on upgrading failed septic systems, implemented several fish barriers to control the rough fish population, restored Pickerel Lake and completed the installation of the Albert Lea Lake Dam and fish barrier. Those are just a few of the projects the district has completed. Not to mention, district officials have brought in more than $25 million in outside funding for projects. We encourage you to support the renewal of the tax and the watershed district’s plans for additional projects in the next 10 years — which includes the dredging of Fountain Lake. In addition to the dredging, the Shell Rock River Watershed District has plans to help alleviate flooding and other problems for homeowners in the Stables area, to increase water efficiency through rain gardens and rain barrels and to restore wetlands and lakes. For some of these projects, the district will partner with other entities such as the city to accomplish. Formed in 2003, the Watershed District is required by state statute to operate on 10-year water management plans. With the first established 10-year plan set to expire, the district began its process of updating the second generation plan in early 2015. It was approved in January. At one point, watershed district officials said the sales tax generated about $1.2 million per year or $103,000 per month. That’s a lot of money. Let’s use that money to benefit our lakes. We think everyone will agree that the lakes are some of this city’s greatest gems.
© 2015 Shell Rock River Watershed District, 305 S 1st Avenue, Albert Lea, MN 56007