Mayor pro tem Rhonda Pownell chaired the meeting in the absence of Mayor Dana Graham.
Issuance of Tax Abatement Refunding Bonds: This complex item attracted a lot of public questions prior to this meeting and the presence of a number of people tonight. It also resulted in extensive council questions and discussion.
City staff proposed that the council authorize sale of general obligation bonds to replace previously authorized revenue bonds that funded the swimming pool and the wastewater treatment plant. The main purpose of refunding these two bonds is to reduce the interest, estimated to be an annual savings of $35,000.00. Rather than partially paying the debt from revenue from each (pool fees and utility fees), the debt would be spread citywide.
The pool had been funded originally by lease revenue bonds issued by the Economic Development Authority, meaning that that body actually owned the facility. With the tax abatement, the city will own the pool.
A public hearing is required as is notification of property owners within a certain area around the pool. This resulted in confusion, with those property owners fearing that their property taxes would be affected. Finance Director Kathleen McBride acknowledged that this was an unfortunate confusion, but assured everyone that those property owners would not be affected any differently from other taxpayers.
Councilors David Ludescher and David DeLong peppered with questions Jenny Boulton of bond counselors Kennedy and Graven, as well as Mark Ruff and Nick Anhut, of the finance advisory firm Ehlers, Inc. Both councilors stated their opposition to city taking on debt without taxpayer vote. As she had at the April 23 work session, Councilor Suzie Nakasian said this matter is difficult to communicate clearly and suggested that this funding mechanism, in particular public notification, be the topic of a work session.
At around 8:30, the council took action to approve the abatement and to issue sale of bonds both for refunding the pool Lease Revnue Bond and wastewater Public Facility note, and to finance street projects. Councilors Ludescher and Delong voted no on both measures.
Temporary Liquor License for Defeat of Jesse James Days: Mayor pro tem Pownell voted against this action because of concern that among other events during that weekend, alcohol would be served at a private Fire Department function, held in the area behind the safety center for emergency personnel, city employees and their families. She said she had no problem with DJJD, but that her issue was use of the safety center site and that she would prefer that the function be held elsewhere.
TIGER Trail actions: There were many cyclists in attendance, some of whom spoke, and one (Lin Bruce) sang their support for the completion of the trail which they deemed critical to pedestrian and bicycle traffic from the west side. Two west side residents, Noah Cashman and Jon Denison asked the council to vote against the relevant motions, which passed with Councilors Ludescher and Delong voting no.
Lashbrook Park Rezoning: This action sets in motion the rezoning from high density to a public benefit district of a small out lot abutting Lashbrook Park, thus incorporating it into the park.
Because of the lateness of the hour, (9:45), the final agenda items which were scheduled for and deserved discussion, received short shrift.
Charter Commission Proposal: Commission Chair Tony Becker briefly outlined the commission’s proposal to amend the charter to create a code of ethics and a review process. The draft ordinance is included in the council packet: http://mn-northfield.civicplus.com/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/833.
NDDC Downtown Parking Conversation: Shortly before 10:00 p.m. and once the meeting was extended by vote to 10:15, Ross Currier, Executive Director of the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation outlined the themes of the report. Council comments and suggestions indicated that there would need to be further discussion of the recommendations. Councilor Jessica Peterson White suggested that the council’s subcommittee and city staff assess what items might be actionable and report back to the council.
The meeting adjourned around 10:15 without the council discussion on the Paperless Agenda Process.