Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities wants Little Falls back

CGMC offers half-price dues for first year

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor 

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) has been in existence for more than 30 years and Little Falls was one of its charter members.

But Little Falls has not been a member for a number of years, after a newly-elected Council voted down the membership in 2007.

Cathy VanRisseghem was just elected as mayor and said she and then-city administrator Rich Carlson “fought so hard” to maintain the city’s membership.

“When I first came on board in 2007, (former city administrator) Rich Carlson and I went down to a meeting with all the legislators, especially the new ones, and they (CGMC) explained a lot of issues with local government aid (LGA),” said VanRisseghem.

“When the Legislature goes and fights, it’s not Democrat and Republican,” said VanRisseghem. “It’s the Cities and us.”

That’s where the CGMC comes in. The sole purpose of the CGMC is to create a strong Greater Minnesota.

The CGMC is an advocacy organization for Greater Minnesota cities,  Bradley Peterson of Flaherty and Hood, P.A., told the Council during its Monday work session.

Currently, 81 cities are members of the organization.

Over the past few years, local government aid (LGA) for cities has been cut and then frozen. Peterson said the CGMC understands the complicated formula for LGA and therein lies one of its strengths.

Peterson said metro areas often say LGA is “welfare” for Greater Minnesota.

VanRisseghem agreed, saying that a local legislator a few years back told her when she asked about LGA, that “Little Falls is like a pig at the trough of LGA.”

She couldn’t believe what she heard, the mayor said.

The CGMC advocates for Greater Minnesota so no city loses its LGA, a cornerstone of many small cities’ budgets.

All 201 legislators are up for election in 2012, said Peterson. In 2010, he said, 50 new legislators were elected. “There will probably be that many this year,” he said.

The CGMC works and lobbies to educate legislators, even legislators who represent small cities, what the issues and challenges are for cities in Greater Minensota.

“Without the Coalition, cities would have a lot more LGA cut,” said Bruce Ahlgren.

Ahlgren is the mayor of Cloquet and is the 2012-13 CGMC president.

The CGMC educates new legislators on what LGA is and what it means to Greater Minnesota. It is a share of the taxes Minnesotans in Greater Minnesota pay when they are in the Metro area.

“We’re trying to get the benefits we’re supposed to be getting — like the Cities get — the things like the Vikings Stadium,” said VanRisseghem. “We pay taxes on that — and there are other things we should be getting for our communities. We go down there and spend our money.”

This year, for new and returning Coalition members, the dues were set at one-half of the regular price, which is $5,800; 75 percent for 2014 and then to 100 percent in 2015.

Dan Vogt, Little Falls interim city administrator, once served on the CGMC Board. He said he was a strong supporter of the Coalition and recommended putting its membership dues in the 2013 Little Falls budget.

The Council will make a decision as it goes through its budget before setting its final levy in December.

Little Falls City Council Briefs
In other business at Monday’s meeting, the Little Falls City Council:

• Heard a report during its work session from Interim City Administrator Dan Vogt about the policy items he and city staff were working on. Being reviewed and updated are the city’s information technology policy, which hasn’t been updated since 1996, before cell phones became a big item; data storage; licensing data management and backup; prohibited uses of the Internet at work and cell phone usage and activity. The purpose he said is to set the standards for use and protect and maintain security;

• Learned the city’s taxi ordinance is not up to standards and is being updated to meet Minnesota law;

• Were presented with about 30 resident requests for data Vogt and staff have been working on;

• Approved a resolution adopting the assessment roll for the Third Avenue Southeast project which is an extension of sewer and water lines for the future site of Faith Lutheran Church. Faith Lutheran will pay $32,374 at a 5 percent interest rate over 15 years. The city will also pay $32,374;

• Approved hiring Traut Wells of Waite Park to complete rehabilitation work for the city’s Well 4, at a cost not to exceed $20,495. This reflects a $5,000 savings since the work was done in conjunction with rehabilitation of Well 7. The work on Well 7 cost nearly $13,000 less than anticipated;

• Set a public hearing on the environmental assessment which evaluates a proposed Little Falls/Morrison County Airport Improvement Project. The public hearing will be held Wednesday, Oct. 24, from 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. in Meeting Room 1 at the Morrison County Government Center in Little Falls;

• Authorized a grant agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration and Minnesota Department of Transportation for airport improvements;

• Accepted a $3,570 grant from the Minnesota Board of Firefighter Training and Education;

• Approved, upon the recommendation of the Planning Commission, adding underlying zoning districts for several planned unit developments (PUD) including: Central Minnesota Together Encountering Christ – Noncentral – Business District (B-3); Little Falls Housing Partnership, Ann Marie Circle and Highland Court Townhomes, Fifth Avenue Southeast – Multiple-family Residential (R-3); IStar Minnesota LLC (IWCO), Haven Road – Heavy Industrial (I-2); Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau, First Street Southeast, Linden Hill Historical Event Center, Highland Avenue and 706 Highland LLC – General Business (B-2);

• Denied underlying zoning, as recommended by the Planning Commission, for MDI Limited Partnership #88 on Riverwood Dr. – R-2 and for the Holy Family Parish cemetery – R-2 designation, as a request for B-3 zoning was received; denied an R-2 designation for Holy Family Parish on Riverwood Drive, as a request was made for a B-3 designation. The Planning Commission took no action on underlying zoning for the Little Falls Lift Station #1, because the parcel was zoned R-2 and was not a PUD; and

• Received requests from three residents on Fifth Street Northeast for the installation of a city water main and fire hydrant on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifth Street Northeast.

The next meeting for the Little Falls City Council will be held at City Hall Monday, Oct. 1, at 7:30 p.m.