Language in Sales Tax Renewal to be Center of Discussion

The Albert Lea City Council has several options to act on Monday in connection with the proposed extension of the Shell Rock River Watershed District’s half-percent sales tax.

Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said the council will likely vote on its direction in the process.

Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr. said the council could vote to not change legislative language for the tax renewal, which includes a separate agreement with the Watershed District that would possibly address public meetings and communication expectations.

The City Council could approve legislative language without the agreement, or tweak the language to include biannual meetings to discuss revenue uses or expenditures.

Third Ward Councilor George Marin said he proposed the change Thursday night to ensure accountability to the taxpayers.

He said the proposal is not meant as punishment to the Watershed District.

Watershed District Administrator Brett Behnke said he is not in favor of the change in language because it could be accomplished with a joint powers agreement.

Marin said he has appreciated the renewal process thus far, because it has forced city and Watershed District officials to talk to each other, and added he has gained a greater understanding of the district’s operations.

Adams said having the prioritized list of projects discussed by the entities would publicize the Watershed District’s projects to the public. He said city officials will not have the power to approve Watershed District projects.

Fifth Ward Councilor Larry Anderson said he would like the council to select wordage Monday that will go forward in the process.

He said while the renewal process has been slow, it has been needed.

“We have to do it right,” he said.

Anderson said the agreement should provide a more formal way for the Watershed District to present its projects to the public.

Adams said final legislative language could be approved April 25.

The City Council supports the Watershed District’s request to extend the half-percent sales tax for either 15 years or until $15 million has been collected, and for the public vote to come in November’s election.

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners approved supporting the Watershed District’s request Tuesday.

Behnke said he applauds the City Council’s efforts to learn more about their projects.

He said the Watershed District is entering into the most exciting stage of lake cleanup the community has ever seen with the planned dredging of Fountain Lake.

“I value the historical good relationship we have with the city of Albert Lea and hope that Monday night the council decides to continue down this path of collaboration,” Behnke said.

 

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