Council Approves Placing Sales Tax Extension on Ballot

The Shell Rock River Watershed District’s request for an extension of its half-percent sales tax will go before the voters in November’s election.

The Albert Lea City Council Monday night unanimously approved placing the request on the ballot. The Watershed District’s request is to extend the sales tax for either 15 years or until $15 million has been collected. The money goes toward water quality improvements.

In addition to being approved by the voters, the extension must also get state approval. The request is planned to come before the Legislature in 2017.

Prior to the vote, Shell Rock River Watershed District Administrator Brett Behnke expressed his support of the measure being placed on a special election ballot in 2017.

“Moving forward, we will accept what happens tonight,” Behnke said, noting the request for an extension typically goes before the Legislature first before public approval is secured.

During the process to extend the sales tax, Lakes Foundation and Watershed District officials have told Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams that they wanted the ballot measure to come in November 2017 in a special election to give the district more time to react if the Legislature changes legislative language.

Second Ward councilor Larry Baker said he supported the measure because of public support, but he noted there has been a difference in opinion on whether the ballot measure should be in 2017 or on November’s election ballot.

Prior to the vote, Watershed District Director of Field Operations Andy Henschel presented an overview of the progress of the Fountain Lake dredging project, project plans and other district operations, such as the use of electric fish barriers.

In other action, the council:

Heard an update about whether to installs top signs at the intersection Frank Hall Drive and Eighth Street, where 8-year-old Sophie Stultz was struck and killed July 2.

Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said city officials have still not received the “necessary reconstruction of the investigation report,” noting that until they receive the report they will likely not be able to act on the request, either at the intersection of Eighth Street and Frank Hall Drive or the greater Frank Hall Drive corridor.

He said a recommendation could be made at the council’s next meeting Aug. 22.

Frank Hall Drive resident Rich Chapman said he disagreed with putting a stop sign at the intersection because “it doesn’t make any sense.”

He suggested placing watch for children signs at the intersection.

Amended the Broadway Ridge Grant Fund policy to give the Heritage Preservation Commission authority over design review for properties in the district.

Accepted a $750 donation for the Albert Lea Fire Department from Southeast Minnesota Association of Realtors to purchase carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms for senior citizens and low-income families who either need a replacement detector or who do not have one.

Accepted a $12,060 Minnesota Historic Preservation Fund grant to be used for expenses for the annual statewide Historic Preservation Conference in September 2017 in Albert Lea.

Authorized the satisfaction of a mortgage for Victor Wildman.

Heard a quarterly budget presentation by Adams.

© 2015 Shell Rock River Watershed District, 305 S 1st Avenue, Albert Lea, MN 56007