Duluth city council approves street fee implementation

By KBJR News 1

June 23, 2014 Updated Jun 23, 2014 at 9:53 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Duluth homeowners and business owners will soon be paying a new fee to help pay for street repairs.

Monday night the Duluth city council voted to implement a street maintenance fee.

The vote passed six to three.

City officials say the fee is really a short-term solution to pay for street improvements until a final resolution of casino litigation is made.

Casino payments from the Fond du Lac Tribe stopped in 2009 when the band and the city entered into an on-going court battle.

Councilors say implementing this street maintenance fee is a small step in the right direction to begin generating some sort of revenue for street repairs this year.

The fee will cost $5 each month for residences and between $30 - $240 for commercial properties.

People in the community were upset with the councils' decision, saying the fee is really another word for an additional tax, creating a greater strain on those who are trying to live modestly.

"Creating a new fee is not in the best interest of growing the city. It's time we look at the elimination of amenities and get back to paying for the programs that are necessary and not niceties," said Jim Booth, a Northlander opposed to the street fee.

"You've got to focus on how you can use the existing money you're getting to take care of our streets," said Northlander Jerry Schlafen, who's also opposed to the fee.

"I do see this fee as investing in our community in a time of really big financial insecurity," said Duluth city councilor Emily Larson.

It is unclear how long this new fee will be charged to people living in Duluth and businesses... councilors hope this will be a short term solution until other funding can be found.

City councilor Howie Hanson said Monday night he's asked the city attorney to write a letter to the Minnesota legislature for approval to open a for-profit casino at the DECC.

He says those profits could be used to pay for street improvements.

Elsa Robins