Silver Bay City Council considers franchise fees on utility customersThe Silver Bay City Council met on July 1 with all councilors present. Also in attendance were City Administrator Lana Fralich and City Attorney Pete Morris.
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
The Silver Bay City Council met on July 1 with all councilors present. Also in attendance were City Administrator Lana Fralich and City Attorney Pete Morris.
Due to complications in the permitting process, the July 4 fireworks display was postponed until July 12.
“It’s been a lengthier process than we anticipated,” said Fralich, who suggested that the city’s fireworks be rescheduled for July 12, during the annual Bay Days celebration. She acknowledged the importance of Fourth of July and honoring veterans’ service, but Fralich said the complication was unforeseen and would result in just one week’s delay.
A motion was passed to proclaim July 6 “Water Appreciation Day.” The proclamation was issued in conjunction with the Twin Ports Bridge Festival, which aims to promote “community unity through our shared humanity, appreciation of Lake Superior and commitment to the economic, environmental and social sustainability,” according to the event website.
Next, the councilors debated the merits of applying to the State of Minnesota for an electronic lottery machine for the municipal liquor store. While none of the machines are currently available from the state, an application must be completed in order to be eligible when one does become available. The non-refundable application fee is $100. Councilor Marolt asked if the machine would result in more work for city employees.
Councilor Goutermont said that once the machine is “up and going”, employees are only taken away from their duties when a winner wishes to cash- in a ticket.
Fralich said that a separate fund would be set up for pay-outs, but the prize money would ultimately come from the state. The city would be responsible for ensuring that internal controls exist to account for the money coming in and going out and would benefit by receiving a percentage of ticket sales.
The motion to go forward with the application and $100 fee passed unanimously.
The council also considered allowing Fralich and City Attorney Pete Morris to go forward with preliminary planning for a possible franchise fee for the city’s public utilities users. The city currently charges a franchise fee to cable subscribers, with the funds collected going toward projects and equipment to improve communications in the community, said Fralich. Depending on the amount charged per user, franchise fees on electric and gas facilities could generate funds to tackle other necessary city projects. A $5 per meter fee could generate between $120-125 thousand dollars per year, Fralich said. The idea appealed to Goutermont.
“After one year, if you put this money toward sidewalks we could start seeing something being done. We’ve got to build up money somewhere to do something,” he said.
“I think you’re going to find that people have a problem with that,” said Marolt. “I think it’s a roundabout way to get money and I think we should just do it in one shot. This might be better as a levy.”
“It’s a lot to think about,” said Councilor Carlene Perfetto.
“I have a problem looking at a bill and seeing these extra charges,” added Mayor Joanne Johnson. She asked if it would be possible for the council to take some action to reserve the option without actually moving forward with imposing the fee.
After much discussion a motion carried to permit Fralich and Morris to do the preliminary planning, but stopped short of making any further decisions about adding the fees to utility users’ bills. Marolt was the single dissenting vote on the motion.