By Sally Sedgwick
The Grand Rapids City Council met on Monday, Dec. 16 with all councilors present.
Councilor Tasha Connelly thanked volunteers, donors and the Grand Rapids Police Department for a successful Shop with a Hero event to help over 180 children buy gifts for their families. Councilor Rick Blake congratulated the snow removal staff for excellent work.
In the Consent Agenda, the council approved the 2020 tax levy, and General Fund, Special Revenue and Enterprise budgets as presented at a public forum on Monday, Dec. 2. Due to additional local government state aid, the increase in levy is limited to about 1.96 percent.
Sonja Merrild, chair of the Arts and Culture Commission, presented a 10 year road map developed for placement of public art in the city including theme development, site selection and processes to select artists. Working with a consultant, the commission selected the first public art, installed this year, but in a response to Commissioner Dale Christy’s question, members from a neighborhood, cultural or special interest group could be part of the selection committee in the future. Commissioner Michelle Toven remarked that the plan was well-researched and she appreciated the time and thought it represented.
Rob Mattei, director of community development, presented a proposal for Tax Increment Financing District 1-12 supporting a $27 million, 119 unit senior housing facility with underground parking: Pillars of Grand Rapids, operated by Oppidan of Excelsior. The facility, located west of Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital, would have independent living and assisted living apartments, memory care and one guest room. Although $4 million was requested, the need was reduced to just over $1.75 million after analysis. Commissioner Dale Christy pointed out that in eight years the city would start receiving tax payments of about $390,000 benefitting the school and city where currently it receives nothing since the property is owned by the hospital and is tax-exempt. A public hearing was opened and received no public comments. The TIF district was approved.
The city approved a resolution which would request state preauthorization for a Local Sales and Use Tax to fund improvements at the IRA Civic Center. The tax, suggested as a unanimous recommendation of the steering committee for funding the improvements, would be for up to one percent until it reached $10,980,000 or for six years, whichever comes first. The amount may change depending on requested state bonding. If preauthorized, the suggested tax will be on the ballot in the fall 2020 general election.
In other business, the council:
• Approved claims for Nov. 26 to Dec. 9 totaling $647,655.22.
• Approved exempt and non-exempt non-represented employee increases of 2.75 percent plus extended medical benefit changes consistent with five bargaining unit settlements for 2020.
• Approved an agreement with Grand Itasca Clinic & Hospital to provide sports medicine services at the IRA Civic Center for student athletes.
• Authorized adding delinquent 2019 Storm Water Utility charges as assessments to those property owners’ tax statements
• Authorized creating an eligibility list for Firefighter advertised through February. Successful candidates will pass orientation, and written and physical agility tests.
• Authorized razing of the house at 2408 SW 18th St. pursuant to court order.
• Approved a change order to increase existing boiler pipe size in the City Hall Security Project for $25,906.
• Approved application for a federal grant to purchase bulletproof vests for the Police Department. With a state grant the cost should be covered.
• Approved a lobbying services contract with Loren Solberg Consulting, LLC for 2020.
• Approved a letter of support for ISD 318 in a planning assistance grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation for a Safe Routes to School plan.
• Hired or rehired various part time positions for 2020.
• Approved temperature control system upgrades for the city hall, the fire hall and the library for $28,472.
• Approved accessory equipment like lights, siren, etc. for a new pick-up for the Fire Department and a new smart board for the fire hall meeting room.
• Approved adding Building/Fire Inspector and HazMat Officer to Fire Chief responsibilities and making the position full time.
• Extended a preliminary development agreement with Unique Opportunities LLC, which is considering building a 48 unit housing on a city-owned parcel at 21st St. SE, to April 30, 2020.
The next city council meeting will be on Monday, Jan. 13 at 5 p.m. in the Grand Rapids City Council Chambers.