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Who should pay for Nisswa chamber building?

As reported in the Lake Country Echo on Feb. 14, the Nisswa City Council is proceeding with final design plans to build a combined public restroom/chamber of commerce office building downtown. This would replace the existing building that the chamber presently owns and says is not adequate for their use.

The estimated cost for the basic structure is $446,000. With added options, ranging from a metal roof, ceramic tile floors, built-ins and a gas fireplace, $527,000. The city proposes to pay for this project by issuing 10-year abatement bonds.

The bond payment is estimated to be about $64,000 per year. And as stated in the special council meeting Feb. 4, the $64,000 paid in 2013 would be for interest only.

In the city’s budget for 2013, $57,000 was levied and earmarked for 10-year abatement bond payments. This $57,000 was to cover the proposed cost of building free standing public bathrooms, at an estimated cost of $250,000; badly needed repair, replacements and maintenance for the community center, estimated at $100,000; and necessary repairs and improvements in the city park, estimated at $125,000.

Some comments and questions regarding this project.

Why is it the responsibility of the city to build new offices for the Nisswa Chamber of Commerce? If they need or want a new office, then they should build it. They built the present one in the early 1980s on city-leased land.

In order to cover the cost of these bonds, the city must levy for these payments against your property taxes. The only revenue the city gets is from your property taxes, certain fees for services and a good cash flow from its enterprise business, The Spirits of Nisswa and the Pickle Factory.

Your property taxes are to be used for the services you request or are entitled to such as street/road maintenance, law enforcement, fire protection and general city infrastructure necessities. Your tax dollars are not to be used for building offices to rent or to offer financial programs to assist in such projects.

This project needs to be addressed from a “cost/benefit” point of view. Who is paying for it and who benefits from it? The Chamber of Commerce is the benefactor. As to the need of a “Welcome Center,” each and every business in Nisswa functions as a “Welcome Center.” That’s why people come here.

City taxpayers, keep these facts in mind: a debt of $1,500,000 to be paid for the County Road 18/MnDOT 371 project; $1,200,000 debt for upgrading the wastewater system. The $250,000 covering the cost of improvements for the park and community center have not been added into the above bonding, nor has the proposed upgrading of main street, sidewalks, etc, etc. after 371 is completed. Nor has there been any discussion as to the cost of maintenance for all of the above.

More debt and expense coming. In today’s economy, how much can you afford?

Please watch and be aware for the scheduling of a public hearing to address these expenditures. I would suggest that if you have any further questions or comments that you contact Mayor Brian Lehman or any one of the council members.

(Harold Kraus is a former Nisswa mayor and Nisswa City Council member.)