Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

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The Tower City Council, at a special meeting on Monday, approved a new contract with Stephanie Gubrud for management of the Hoodoo Point Campground. The contract spells out the responsibilities of the city and the manager, who is an independent contractor. Gubrud has been managing Hoodoo for the last nine years.

The contract has only a few changes from the previous contract. The new contract gives the city a larger share of campground receipts, 45 percent, up from 40 percent in the previous contract. This will mean more income flowing into the city’s general fund.

While the city owns the campground, it has been contracting out for management duties. The manager is responsible for most campground operational expenses while the campground is open (May through September). The city does provide some maintenance at the campground, up to four hours per week of mowing and other general maintenance work. The city is responsible for major repairs and long-term maintenance.

The contract is for two years, with a third year as an option.

Hoodoo Point has generated $56,778 for the city so far this year. The city did spend about $30,000 to renovate the bathroom facilities at the campground this year. The city has also upgraded the water and sewer connection at each campsite this year to comply with state regulations.

The council also approved an updated Capital Improvement Plan for the Tower Airport. The city receives $150,000 per year in federal grant money for airport improvements. The city must provide a five percent match on these projects. The city currently has $402,679 in available funding, some of which needs to be used in the next year, or it will expire (the funding can be banked for up to four years). The top project on the aiport’s list is relocating Hoodoo Point Road so it doesn’t encroach into the airport’s safe zone, at a cost of $265,000.

Budget

While the city’s 2011 budget was on the agenda for the meeting, little discussion of the actual budget took place. The council did decide not to change the $200 event fee, for organized events like the Lake Vermilion Harbor Festival, Depot Days and the Tower Farmers Market, so that individual vendors do not have to pay the city’s $25 vendor permit fee. There had been a discussion about changing the policy, but event organizers noted this would make hosting such events much more difficult.

Council member Tom Heinowski again spoke to the council about rethinking the ways the city approaches its budget process in order to meet city goals as set forth in the long-term comprehensive plan. He said the city is looking for two kinds of people: investors willing to come here and start a business, and tourists who want to come here to have fun.

Heinowski asked the council to set up five new committees, each headed by a council member, which will focus on five main areas. After a lengthy discussion, the council set up committees as follows: tourism (Richard Hanson), business investment (Tom Heinowski and Steve Abrahamson), marketing (Sonny Nevala), city operations and infrastructure (Bill Hiltunen) and city staff support (Heinowski and Abrahamson). Each chair will recruit community members to work on the committees, as well as develop a list of actions to be taken along with what role city staff will play on each committee. Formal committees would then be established at the council’s reorganization meeting in January, when the newly-elected council members and mayor will be seated.

Heinowski would then like to see the city’s budget priorities aligned to the needs of each committee. He also said the city should be doing more to support community events and festivals.

Richard Hanson said it would be nice to see the city being more proactive, not just responding to a crisis. He said the city needed to be supporting efforts such as the charter school. He also brought up the issue of the expansion of the sewer ponds, which will be needed for the expected hotel development at the new harbor.

Two city council seats, along with the Mayor’s seat, are on the Nov. 2 ballot. Four are running for the two council seats, incumbents Richard Hanson and Tom Heinowski, along with challengers Josh Carlson and Lance Dougherty. Mayor Steve Abrahamson is being challenged by Steve Altenburg.

The next regular city council meeting will be held on Monday, Oct. 11 at 5:30 p.m. The council will also hold a second monthly meeting on Monday, Oct. 25 to discuss budget issues.