Silver Bay one step closer to adopting new fess for utility use
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
The Silver Bay City Council had a full slate of agenda items for its Oct. 8 meeting, starting with an announcement by City Administrator Lana Fralich, about Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency funding for rehabilitation projects for homes and businesses. The funding for current home owners may be in the form of low interest or deferred (forgiven) loans depending on the household income of the applicant. According to the AEOA website, typical rehab projects might include a new roof, doors, windows, flooring, or upgrades to plumbing, heating or wiring. These funds are available to Lake, Cook and St Louis County homeowners, but exclude those living inside the Duluth city limits. Fralich said there are also funds for energy efficiency-related improvements for businesses. The loans are available to home and business owners across a range of income levels, so it is advisable to contact AEOA for more information. The number to call is Toll Free: 1 (800) 662-5711 or (218) 749-2912.
Lake County Commissioner Rich Sve and Lake Connections Project Manager Jeff Roiland updated the council and Mayor Joanne Johnson about the progress of the county’s broadband project. Roiland said that the work is continuing and they expect to be able to connect the lines in Silver Bay to those nearing completion in Two Harbors, with the goal of connecting to lines in Duluth soon. The lines will have to be tested, but Roiland said they are hopeful of beginning to sell pre-orders for the service to customers within 45 days.
He anticipates that the government shutdown may cause delays in the approval process for the next phase of the project, but in the meantime work continues.
Sve said that when Lake Connections gets ready to “throw that switch,” he’d like to hold a public meeting to answer questions and talk about broadband’s uses and benefits. Until then, he encouraged people to call Lake Connections with questions.
The council had the second reading of a resolution that would impose a franchise fee on users of the city’s natural gas service. After much discussion, the council proposed a flat $3 per meter fee per month. Likewise, a $3 per month fee will be collected each month from the city’s electric customers. The moneys generated will be used for maintenance, repair, and replacement projects for city of streets, curbs, gutters and public parking.
Fralich said that franchise fees are becoming a more popular way for cities to generate revenues without levying taxes. Councilor Steve Marolt, who was not able to attend the meeting, left word with Fralich that he is opposed to the imposition of a gas franchise fee for customers. In the end the council opted to go forward with the fees, which are slated to go into effect after the first of the year
A resolution was passed to approve a service contract between Beaver Bay Township and the City of Silver Bay for fire services. The township has agreed to pay $18,000 for the one-year agreement. Councilor Goutermont suggested that the agreement be revised next year to more closely reflect the actual cost of providing the service. He said formulas exist to guide the process of determining a fair reimbursement amount.
It appears that the cost of converting Silver Bay’s water and water treatment plant from propane to natural gas is going to be more expensive than originally thought. For safety reasons, Minnesota Energy Resources determined that the natural gas lines could not be run along the route originally planned and a new route had to be plotted. The new cost is expected to be approximately $38,700. Fralich estimates, however, that the city will see a return on its investment in the conversion within two years. The council approved the cost.
Last month David Drown appeared before the council to announce that he and his neighbors in the Rocky Wall neighborhood were considering petitioning for detachment from the city. He said that residents of his neighborhood pay taxes for services that are not actually available to them, and he believes that, according to criteria outlined in Minnesota statute, they have grounds to detach from the city. City administrator Fralich said that she has spoken to Drown since his city council appearance and that he and his neighbors are willing to discuss the matter further before petitioning the state for permission to detach. The council passed a motion designating Councilor Gustafson and Mayor Johnson as council envoys, along with Fralich and City Attorney Pete Morris for the purpose