The mayor's monthly update.

A fair amount of attention has been given to the 12th Avenue NE crossing project in the last couple months. This project would open the street in front of the hotel and Event Center to the north, across the railroad tracks to Home Cemetery, and then west along the cemetery to connect to St. Mary’s Street on the west end of the cemetery.

We were so fortunate to learn this past week that the City has received an LRIP (Local Road Improvement Program) grant of $750,000 toward the 12th Avenue crossing project. Adding that to the DEED grant of $900,000 that we already knew we were getting, brings the total grant dollars for this project to $1,650,000 for a $3 million project. Grant dollars will pay more than half the cost of this project.

We extend thanks to David Palm of Bolton and Menk for his work in helping the City secure this grant for the betterment of the community.

Also, this past week we learned that the City was the recipient of an $11,000 grant to purchase a new lawn mower for the airport. Our City Manager, Mark Kober, deserves thanks for writing that grant on the City’s behalf.

The City Council will finalize the budget for next year at the December meeting. There are two new numbers added to this budget, including $100,000 for street improvement and $100,000 for downtown development (loans). Not wanting to complicate this more, this addition of $200,000 will really only cost $113,000 in taxes because the City has a number of revenue streams. Projecting this increase into a comparison of cities in our area, our City taxes will still be lower than all our neighbors. That is a goal that we always want to maintain.

At issue in this matter, I believe, is not whether these two projects should be funded, but whether we should take this $113,000 from a contingency fund (a rainy day fund) the City has built up. If we take the money from this contingency fund it will eventually deplete that fund as there is no revenue stream to build it back up. Depleting that fund will leave the City less prepared to deal with an unplanned and unusual situation that could come up.

It seems most responsible to budget for those things that we feel are important. That leaves this rainy day fund available for what it was intended for — a rainy day.

Mark Kober, Kurk Kramer, Tom Larson and I attended a three-day workshop in Winona, focusing on preservation of downtown districts. At the conference we learned lots about projects, planning, and overall revitalization of downtown districts. Our downtown challenges are really common across the state. But there are ideas out there that have worked. But nearly all involve some financial commitment on the part of the City to move them forward.

Maybe you noticed the PIX marquee being worked on this past week. It will be exciting to see that lit up as the Armbrusters continue their effort to revitalize that building and open a brew pub and coffee shop.

Also this past week, there was a meeting with Elia Bruggeman regarding the Orchid Inn. She has not received any large grants as of that meeting, but suggested that some grants might be dependent on the City or the School District “having some skin in the game.” Our response was that the City is offering the Orchid Inn as our investment in this venture.

My wife and I recently hauled a load of tree branches to the City compost area. We were there maybe 10 minutes to unload, but during that time seven other cars came and were hauling out leaves and branches and other yard waste. We met another pickup loaded with branches on the way back into town. I bring this up because I recently helped my son who lives in the Twin Cities on a similar tree trimming venture. He paid $25 to unload the pickup at their designated area. What a good thing it is for the City of Sleepy Eye to offer that dump site to our residents for free. And the added bonus is that they have compost free for the taking there, with the same non-existent price tag attached.