Sept. 18, 2006

Winsted council OKs city center project

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

It was an exciting and momentous occasion for the town of Winsted, when City Administrator Brent Mareck received a unanimous show of hands, by those attending last Tuesday’s Town Hall meeting, giving approval to move forward with the city center project.

The project has been in the works since 2004, when the city began looking at the possibility of building a new city hall.

A Design Team visit, followed by the adoption of an action plan and formation of a city center focus group, determined that the site of the new city center should be where the existing public works building is located.

Beginning the fall of 2005, a city center and lakefront promenade design committee met to consider space requirements and floor plans for city administration, the police department, and community room.

Now, the fall of 2006, and moving forward with the overwhelming support of those present at the Town Hall meeting, Council Member Tom Ollig made a motion to schedule a public hearing to consider using its authority to use capital improvement bonds to construct the public works facility this fall.

Once the public works facility is done, the original building can be removed to make way for the city center.

Also, part of Ollig’s motion is to obtain special legislation from the State of Minnesota in 2007 to issue general obligation bonds to construct the city center and lakefront promenade.

The motion also included a provision for a possible referendum on the city center, lakefront promenade portions of the project if registered voters were to petition for one. The option to petition would not be available until special bonding legislation from the state was obtained.

There were a number of concerns, comments, and questions throughout the meeting.

A tax increase question came from Lyd Laxen, who expressed concern about senior citizens being able to afford another tax increase in addition to the recent school referendum.

Mayor Don Guggemos responded first by telling her that city taxes have not increased in five years, with the exception of 2004, when the state had some cuts.

“All of us will be affected by the school taxes, but I personally do not want to see Winsted stop progressing because of what the school does, or the county. Will it raise taxes? Yes, but only a minimum,” Ollig added.

“People around us pay a lot more in taxes than we do. . . I would like to see a new city center, but I feel there should be a referendum,” Carol Kappel said.

Steve Mattson, Winsted fiscal agent, pointed out when a referendum is passed, everybody pays the same in taxes, both home-owners and businesses.

If there is not a referendum, the businesses would be taxed about 30 percent more than the homeowner, and that should be considered.

Appearance of lakefront

Jan Cartwright, a resident of Winsted for one year, and Petie Littfin, a lifelong resident, were both concerned about how the lakefront looks today. Both felt that something should be done to improve its appearance and make it more inviting to both the townspeople and visitors.

Linda Juncewski asked, “do we need something quite so extravagant?”

The architectural group researched how the building would be used and what square footage is necessary for the building to be functional for at least 50 years, Guggemos said.

Also, the three corner buildings adjacent to the city center were taken into consideration so that the building would compliment them. There is the old city hall, Holy Trinity Church, and Holy Trinity School. They are all brick buildings with some outstanding architectural designs, Guggemos said.

Dave Mochinski asked if the number of houses in the area will make a difference in taxes, and Guggemos replied that it certainly would. The housing growth has been worked into the equation over the next 20 years and included in the additional tax levy needed.

Praise for city council

Chris Schultz had nothing but good things to say about the council.

“It has really been a long process and the city could have gone many different routes. They have done a great job of providing everyone with all of the information necessary from the beginning. As a business owner, the center will have a very positive affect on my business,” Schultz said.

Guggemos looks ahead to the future and feels that sometimes, we have to use an opportunity when the time is right. It is very unique for a city like Winsted to be debt-free, and the city has worked hard to get to this point, Guggemos said.

At its next meeting, the council will call for a public hearing held on Tuesday, Oct. 17 to consider using its authority to use capital improvement bonds to construct the public works building this fall, Mareck said.

At this time, the construction of the new public works facility would not increase taxes.

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