Herald JournalHoward Lake-Waverly Herald, May 13, 2002

HL council urges residents to 'sharpen look'

By Lynda Jensen

Letters will be arriving in Howard Lake residents' mail soon to announce a new "Sharpen Your Look" campaign launched by the city council at its meeting Tuesday.

The campaign is spurred by the fast growth of the city.

To attract more businesses and new residents, the council is asking property owners to add spit and polish to the town's look.

"We are asking people and businesses alike to take a step back and take a look at their properties to see if there is some way they can help us achieve this goal," commented city council member Don Danford.

This is a separate effort from the public nuisance and spring cleanup projects, although it was noted in a positive way that many of the same people cited for public nuisance used the spring cleanup day to trade in large appliances, Administrative Assistance Kelly Bahn said. This was viewed as a big success.

During the clean up day, the following items were collected, among other items:

· 38 television sets

· 28 refrigerators

· 45 car/truck batteries

· 76 assorted tires

· 34 bicycles

· 32 box spring mattresses

About 69 percent of the people participating were from the City of Howard Lake, 19 percent from Victor Township, and 12 percent from Middleville Township, Bahn said.

There were about 52 people notified of public nuisance infractions.

In a related item, the council was informed that it was approved $279,000 over a two-year period from the Central Minnesota Housing Partnership, which is a non profit organization.

The money is available for buying and rehabilitating houses, which are sold to low-income buyers. The houses are chosen on a voluntary basis, Bahn said.

The partnership works with Minnesota Housing Finance Agency in the program.

It is possible to incorporate school construction classes into the project, it was noted.

The city agreed to waive any permit fees collected by the city in exchange for the funding.

Clinic asks to borrow city's tax-free status

During the meeting, two representatives from the Ridgeview Medical Clinic asked the council to consider lending the city's tax-free status for $5.6 million in bonds.

There is no financial impact or long-term liability to Howard Lake residents, since the financial implications are strictly liable to the clinic itself, explained attorney Stefanie Galey of Faegre and Benson of Minneapolis.

The city does not guarantee the bonds in any way, and if the clinic goes into default, taxpayers are not liable for the debt, Galey said. It also does not affect the city's bond rating, she said.

This arrangement is available only to 501(c)3 non-profit organizations, and cities routinely can offer its bonding abilities for such projects, Galey said.

There is no limit to the amount, but generally those under $10 million are preferred because the state allows extra financial benefits for projects less than this amount, she said.

This same financial arrangement was used by the City of Cokato to secure low-interest financing for a large expansion of the Cokato Charitable Trust, which is also a non-profit entity.

The clinic plans to use most of the $5.6 million to expand its clinics in Delano and Chanhassen, with a smaller amount tagged for Howard Lake.

It would have approached the other cities for the tax-free status, but Waconia, Chanhassen and Delano already committed most of their $10 million for other projects, Galey said.

Resident Gene Schmidt objected to the arrangement, asking why Howard Lake should commit its tax-free status to a project that was going to be used for projects in other cities.

Mayor Gerry Smith pointed out that the funds are reset in January, with Howard Lake being able to offer the $10 million in tax-free status again, and that there are no other major plans in the works right now anyway.

Any expenses incurred by the city related to the tax-free status arrangement will be paid for by Ridgeview.

It would also allow the clinic to free up more money to pursue an expansion in Howard Lake and make it more likely that the clinic could take occupancy with the bank sooner, Smith said, which greatly benefits the city's TIF district.

There is a public hearing about this issue set for Tuesday, June 4, which is also a city council meeting.

The clinic is still in the middle of negotiations with the bank, although Tim Gronseth, vice president of finance for Ridgeview, indicated that the clinic was hoping to have the funding arrangements completed by June 30.

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