Duluth City Council Tackling Priority: Streets

By KBJR News 1

October 1, 2012 Updated Oct 1, 2012 at 10:08 PM CDT

DULUTH, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) Duluth City Councilors have begun work on one of their biggest priorities.

Monday they started the discussion of how to pay for Duluth City street reconstruction, since the old method of payment is no longer viable.

To give some background, next year's city budget proposes no major street reconstruction.

That's because the funds to pay for that have been coming out of the Community Investment Trust Fund, which was funded by the city's portion of Fond du Luth casino revenue.

The CIT Fund has already been depleted to almost 20 million dollars.

With ongoing litigation with the Fond du Lac Band, City administration proposes its best to leave the trust fund alone, and find a new alternative to fund Duluth's streets.

While 2013 will likely have no reconstruction, councilors hope to have a set funding plan for 2014 that can extend decades into the future.

Councilors agreed they want the public's input on the process, and plan to have a resolution of intent passed by the end of the year.

That resolution would give some idea of what the final plan could look like, while allowing complete flexibility.

Public meetings and a final vote would then follow in the first quarter of next year.

"If you live in the City of Duluth, you clearly know how bad our streets are. You know how bad the streets have been and how little we've done to help them, so clearly we need to do something, so the council, I'm very proud of the council, who have really come together to say, we're going to try to solve this or at least take a big dent out of it," said Council President Dan Hartman.

There are a number of options the councilors are considering including, bonding, levies, and cutting expenses.

City administration suggested the final proposal stick to doing two miles of milling and overlay for every one mile of major reconstruction.

Hartman said he wants the final plan to be able to get a 9-0 vote from the council. Councilor Jim Stauber said Monday he would not approve a plan unless it has at least $2 of cuts for every $1 of new revenue.

The case between Duluth and the Fond du Lac Band could also have a major impact on any funding plans.

A final court decision is still up in the air, but one administrative officer pointed out the courts have so far agreed the Band should pay the city more than $10 million in back rent payments.

If that money is paid, it could be placed into the Community Investment Trust Fund.

The city also has old street-related debt to pay off, which adds up to about the same amount the city would get from the Fond du Lac Band in back payments.

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