March 19, 2007

City hall issue draws large crowd in Montrose

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

A proposal to build a new city hall in Montrose has generated controversy in recent weeks, and an estimated 70-100 city residents attended Monday’s council meeting to express opinions and ask for answers.

Among the issues raised during the open forum portion of the meeting were:

• the timing of the project;

• the cost of the project;

• questions about the cost of remodelling the existing city hall;

• financing options; and

• tax increases that would result from the project.

One theme that was raised by several residents was a desire for more, and particularly more detailed, communication from the city.

Mayor Charlie Nelson stated that there would be a vote during the meeting regarding soliciting bids for a new city hall.

Nelson said that a workshop regarding financing was conducted prior to the meeting and said it does not appear that there will be any increases in the tax rate for next year.

City Administrator Barb Swanson reviewed the process that has taken place so far.

Swanson stated that no response was received from the public regarding planning a new city hall. She stated that during the past year, a committee was formed, and there have been several phases in the planning process. The planning included making sure that there is room for future growth.

City Attorney Kristen Carr reviewed financing options. She stated that she received information from Todd Hagen of Ehlers and Associates, the city’s financial consultant, who indicated that the three most common options for financing a new city hall would include:

• issuance of a general obligation bond upon approval of a referendum by members of the public.

• issuance of a capital improvement plan bond, which does not require a vote by the public.

• issuance of a bond by the Economic Development Authority (EDA), which has bonding authority under state statutes. This does not require a vote by the public.

Carr stated that the document she reviewed regarding financing options will be available at city hall for review.

Nelson asked those present for a show of hands indicating those opposed to, in favor of, or indifferent to, a new city hall.

The vote was 51 opposed, four in favor, and 10 with no opinion, according to City Clerk Wendy Manson.

The council tabled consideration of a resolution to seek bids for the proposed city hall project on a vote of 3-2, with council members Andy Kauffman, Sharon Knodel, and Cindy Beaton in favor, and Nelson and Council Member Jeff Petersen opposed.

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