Weekly Memo 3-16-2012

Each Weekly Memo to the City Council is also provided on the City Council web page.

WEEKLY UPDATE:

Huntsville Township

The City Attorney and I met with Huntsville Township on Tuesday afternoon regarding the proposed 14th Ave SE (Huntsville Road) paving project.  The township board opted after much discussion to amend the agreement so that the township’s obligation to the project is capped at the current project estimate.  In other words, any excess costs would be solely the City’s responsibility.  The current estimate includes a contingency of 10 percent that the township’s proposal incorporates.  The Council will consider the amended agreement at the next work session and subsequent Council Meeting.

Legislative Update

Friday is the last day for the Legislature to introduce new bills in the current session without special rules.  The House Tax Committee is considering a delete-all tax bill (HB 2337) that contains two major provisions for Cities.  The first change is that the state would freeze Local Government Aid (LGA) funding for fiscal year 2013 at 2012 levels. Overall, cities would lose about $1.2 million in 2013.  Ironically, East Grand Forks would benefit at least in the short term.  The current LGA formula would reduce funding to East Grand Forks by approximately $86,000 due to growth in the City in the last 10 years.  A funding freeze at previous levels would keep East Grand Forks at an artificially high rate.  Nonetheless, other cities lose significantly under the proposal.  And, the long-term trend of this bill represents a downward spiral for LGA funding.  The short-term benefit to East Grand Forks is no cause for celebration.

The proposed tax bill also would begin the “phase out” of the state commercial property tax.  Generally, cities are not opposed to cutting commercial property taxes at the state level.  However, the Department of Revenue projects additional deficits of up to over $700 million in future fiscal years for which alternative funding sources are not identified.

Update: The House Tax bill has been updated since the weekly memo was drafted. The current version calls for cities to receive in 2013 the greater of either the 2012 LGA appropriation or the 2013 formula distribution.  This is a slight improvement.  But, the long-term implications still are disturbing.

DEPARTMENT REPORTS:

Library, Charlotte Helgeson

The Library hosted “Attracting Birds in Your Backyard” on Monday, March 12 to a standing-room only audience.  More attendees were turned away due to lack of space.  The presentation was done by the Director of the Agassiz Audubon Society.  Discussions have started to create a series of birds and/or other series on wildlife or flora of the region.

The Waiting List for the Campbell Writers Workshop is growing.  The class filled within days of notice going out to the public.

The Library is now checking out e-books.  A small collection is available for patrons.  The site can be reached by going to the city web site and traveling to the library’s pages.  The e-book page looks just like the other city pages and has had a positive response from patrons so far.  Patrons say it is much easier to use than similar sites.  Library patrons must use a 5-digit valid library card (add 10,000 to a current number) to checkout e-books.

Police Department, Chief Mike Hedlund

Flood Control Levees/River Safety

While it is unlikely that we will have significant flooding problems in the GF/EGF area the EGFPD would like to ask people to try to stay off the flood control levees, and especially to keep all motorized vehicles (ATV’s, trucks and golf carts) off of the levees as they are very soft right now and can easily be damaged.  While there is still ice on the majority of the river and on local ponds the ice has thinned greatly and should not be considered safe anywhere at this point.  Please stay safe and stay off.

EGFPD Training

The East Grand Forks Police Department’s in-service training for March 2012 will focus on responding to domestic violence incidents.  Domestic violence situations are one of the more common complaints for officers but are frequently quite volatile and can be very difficult to deal with.

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