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Two Harbors City Council Has Its Hands Full at Monday’s Meeting

Truth in Taxation, the costs of building a new liquor store, the Capital Improvement Plan for 2024 – 2028, and a status update on the High School Project with the Two Harbors HRA were all part of a long and, at times, meandering Two Harbors City Council meet­ing on Monday night.

Finance Director Miranda Pietila presented a proposal that would allow for a property tax increase of 2% in 2024. This presentation was in conjunction with the Truth in Taxation public meeting. There were few in attendance to ask questions or take issue with the increase and the Council voted to approve the levy at 2%. Additionally, Pietila presented the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for 2024 – 2028.

The CIP is essentially a living document that helps the city plan and budget for needed improvement projects for Two Harbors. This type of plan is developed with city officials and public input and assists with strategic planning when it comes to seeking funding streams, and determining what projects to pri­oritize and when to implement them. It also helps the city avoid levy spikes. Components of the CIP include things like the ongoing Street Improvement Projects, the Water and Wastewater Improvement projects, the replace­ment of city-owned equipment like Fire En­gines, and maintenance and repairs to city-owned properties. The Council unanimously approved the proposed CIP.

Erik Wedge, Principal Architect with DSGW Architecture, Duluth, was on hand to talk with the Council about the Municipal Liquor Store project. Six contractors have submitted bids for the project. The projected construction cost of the new store was around $5,400,000. The bids ranged from $6.4 million to $5.3 million. A protracted period of discussion ensued over the possibility of implementing cost-cutting measures by reducing the liquor store footprint from 16,000 to 9,000 square feet. Other possible cost-cutting measures could have included using less ex­pensive siding and roofing materials. How­ever, choosing to change design parameters in the hope of reducing costs would trigger additional architectural fees for the redesign. Inflation costs remain high in the construc­tion industry and with the likelihood that re­bids would come in higher than the current bids, the Council voted 4 to 3 to accept the bid for $5.3 million for the construction of the liquor store. The current municipal liquor store generates about $2.3 million a year in revenue for the city.

Last month, Mayor Lew Conner asked the Council to accept a request to authorize the transfer of $50,000 ($45,000 for the High School Project, $5,000 for insurance and attorney’s fees). The Council accepted this request with conditions to the City HRA. A resolution to rescind that decision was on Monday night’s agenda. The resolution to re­scind was due to the fact that, this semester, there are low numbers of students enrolled in the Industrial Arts class that would be in­volved in the project. Some Council members wanted to rescind the previous resolu­tion until next year when there will hopefully be more students to work on the project. Oth­ers wanted to simply delay the transfer of the funds. Council member Derrick Passe pointed out that not having access to the $5,000 for legal and insurance fees will tie the hands of the City HRA because they won’t have money to “get their ducks in a row”, which is one of the conditions that the Council has asked them to meet. In the end, the Council agreed to delay the payment of $40,000 until the High School Project is reaffirmed next Fall.

The Council recognized eight city employees for their years of service. Included are:

Randy Hedin; 5 years.

Miranda Pietila, Curt Cavallin and

Nicole Anderson; 10 years.

William Ruekert; 15 years.

Richard Hogenson; 25 years.

Steve Hedin and Gary Ganser; 30 years.

The downtown Two Harbors area is looking very festive with the installation of new holiday lights and decorations. Thanks to Lovin’ Lake County, area businesses, and a hard-working crew of folks for their efforts! The official lighting ceremony was held this past Wednesday. If you haven’t ventured downtown Two Harbors recently, come see for yourself. The place looks beautiful!

Rick Evans
Rick Evans
My wife, Marsha Kinzer (a proud DEHS Greyhound, class of ‘77) introduced me to the North Shore on vacation in 2012. It became our regular escape when the stress of our careers in education became overwhelming, and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the breathtaking scenery, the nice people, and “salad” containing Jell-o and marshmallows. So you can either blame or thank my loving wife for my being here, because when we needed to choose a retirement hometown, Marsha advocated hard for her beloved Duluth, and here we are, six months later. Yes, this will be my first northern Minnesota winter. Yes, I welcome thoughts and prayers. Government, public policy, and social justice weighed heavily in the curriculums I taught at the high school level over a thirty-eight year career. In addition, we were a laboratory school focused on critical thinking in conjunction with technical and scientific writing. So when I found myself adrift on the great ocean of retirement and spied a raft, I jumped at the chance to take up what I’d left behind…minus the bad teachers’ lounge coffee. My position at the NSJ allows me to combine my passions for government and writing, and it’s helping me to feel less out of touch in new surroundings. When I’m not being “Cubby” (Marsha’s favorite new nickname for this green reporter) I enjoy pointing at eagles and saying, “Look, honey. There’s an eagle.” I’ve had an active side hustle as a professional musician for almost as many years as Charlie Parr. As a guitarist/singer/songwriter, I graced the stages of clubs and festivals around southern Wisconsin, including an appearance on A Prairie Home Companion. Should I even mention A Prairie Home Companion, or am I the only one here old enough to remember what that is? Look! An eagle!
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