Tower City Council approves two percent property tax levy increase, payable 2019

MONDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2017 — Three members of the Tower City Council met in a special session, Monday, December 18, and quickly adopted the year 2018 city expenditure budget in the amount of $1, 766,284.28. Following the approval of this budget the city council gave its unanimous approval towards adopting a two percent levy increase for taxes payable 2019. It is expected that property taxes will bring in $295,516.95 in revenue. Other revenue sources of city revenue include Taconite Municipal Aid, licenses and permits, cabin, airport hangar and other leases, civic center rentals as well as revenue from a myriad of other sources.

The city council first looked at the proposed budget at its regular meeting, December 12, but deferred any action until they could take a week to review it. At the special meeting the city council was in agreement in revising the proposed numbers slightly upwards to include a $3,000 increase for city sidewalk repairs and a $565.70 increase for streets and sidewalks maintenance supplies.

The city also finalized its action in expanding its corporate limits by holding the second reading of Ordinance 81A. This ordinance will add slightly over 36 acres to the city. The lands being annexed currently reside in Kuglar Township and are owned by the City of Tower and the State of Minnesota. The annexation will be complete upon the approval of the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings.

December 12, 2017, regular Tower City Council meeting

At its regular meeting, December 12, the Tower City Council revisited two issues it has been deliberating over several meetings. The city council gave its approval to renting a house in Tower to house paid-on-call ambulance personnel. Ambulance Director Steve Altenberg has been proposing to expand the service by adding the paid staff to accept lucrative hospital transfer business.  Each transfer the ambulance service accepts brings in about $1,000 in revenue. The ambulance service has turned down over 140 transfers, over the past year, according to Altenberg. It is expected that a partial paid-on-call staff, Mondays through Fridays, will allow the ambulance service to accept additional transfers offsetting the costs of the paid staff and the rent required to house the staff during their on-call shifts. The city learned that just two ambulance service volunteers conducted over 400 runs during the past year. This number does not include all of the volunteer runs, only those completed by just two volunteers. It is expected that the paid-on-call staff will help alleviate some of the responsibilities volunteers currently manage, and expand the professional level of care currently experienced by local residents. The rental will cost the ambulance service $1,937, plus utilities, for a six-month period. Altenberg is hoping to have the paid-on-call staff, and the required housing in place by the end of the first quarter, 2018.

The city council approved allowing the Tower Economic Development Authority to seek funding for a 8,500 square foot building which the city anticipates building to lease to Lamppa Manufacturing for an expansion of the long-time Tower wood stove manufacturer. While Lamppa’s current needs do not fill a facility of that size, the extra space can be offred to other, potential, customers, or be readily available if Lamppa determines it needs to further expand its operations. Building the larger building is expected to be more cost effective than expanding the facility later, should the need arise for space in the future.

In other action, The Tower City Council:

• Adopted resolution 2017-022 certifying the 2018 water budget at $123,007.50 and the 2018 sewer budget at $93,400

• Approved St. Louis County’s request to cross city owned land with a temporary logging road so it may access county land which borders city land and harvest timber

• Declined to take responsibility to place additional lighting at the Highway 169 Marjo Motel driveway. This is the third time the city council has rejected a request for lighting in this area

• Approved moving forward with legal action against the owner of property, located at 205 North Third Street, to force the relocation or removal of a fence which has proved to be, in part, on the neighboring property

• Learned that Surley Brewing Company, Minneapolis, is interested in holding an event in Tower to debut its new 60 Below Zero brew on February 2, coinciding with the date where Tower measured a record-breaking 60 degrees below zero temperature in 1996

• Denied a request to reimburse a hangar owner for brush removal adjacent to a hangar lease site

• Provided a letter seeking support of the proposed Lake Vermilion Trail Joint Powers Agreement from St. Louis County Commissioner Tom Rukavina

• Approved paying $148,658.09 to Utility Systems of America, Eveleth, for the work already completed on the Hoodoo Point Campground expansion

• Approved a pre-application to the Federal Aviation Administration for grant money to be used on airport improvements

• Approved changes suggested by the airport commission to hangar leases and institute a tie-down fee at the airport

• Passed Resolution 2017-023 implementing an increase to water and sewer rates

• Approved increasing longevity pay, to assist with high medical insurance expenses, for the city’s maintenance supervisor

• Acknowledged that the City Clerk, Linda Keith, will now be represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union, rather than the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, currently offering representation.