Public Safety Center financing – live blogging the HRA meeting

The next step in the Safety Center financing is approval of the bonding by the HRA (see the agenda and packet here)

Public comments first.

  • Kris Voh, former Councilmember and former HRA member, “after years and years of deliberation” about this project, Mr Vohs urges the HRA to “do it” and approve the funding mechanism.
  • Victor Summa reiterated his request for objective legal advice and opines that the legal counsel from Kennedy & Graven and Ehlers is not entirely unbiased.  He continues to discuss the “statutory slipperiness” and suggests Council member Erica Zweifel who sits on the HRA and all the Council members have a conflict of interest in this transaction.
  • Don McGee (who is a member of Northfield Citizens Safety Center Task Force along with Jerry Anderson, David Ludescher, Joe Grundhoefer, Ken Malecha, and John Machachek)  with a letter in the Northfield News) “concerns of things I think are happening to you” and talks about the interleaving of actions asserting that the HRA approval comes too late (or the Council’s action came too early).
  • David Ludescher, one of my opponents in the Council race, states “we all know what’s going on here” which is, in his opinion, solely to avoid the voters (he asserts this repeatedly as well as misrepresenting the process and burden on the HRA over on Locally Grown).  He continues to tell the HRA this is a “task you’re really not qualified for” and that the Council has made an “unfair request” of the HRA.
  • Patrick Ganey, Council member, notes “loud voices are not always the correct ones” and urges the HRA to act according to the statute which authorizes this action and not be intimidated by a small number of people.
  • Mayor Mary Rossing “we’re all on the same team” and urges the HRA to act for the good of the community and use this “tool you have in your toolbox” (see the Mayor’s statement from the News, too)

Moving on to the first action item which is to authorize that preparation of documents for issuing the bonds and to request the Council hold a public hearing.  Jenny Boulton, of Kennedy and Graven explains the legal status.  Questions from chair Leota Goodney to clarify what might happen if the City decided not to pay (“non-appropriation” is the term – the City would make an annual appropriation to the HRA to pay the debt); the HRA assets would not be available to the bondholders, but the HRA would own the project, the City’s bond rating would suffer, but bond rating agencies view this as a remote possibility.   Ms Goodney also asks about the time commitment for the HRA and Ms Boulton states that the commitment is only the approval process but nothing else.  Mark Ruff of Ehlers addresses the RFP (page 56 in the Council packet for next week) for the sale and the negotiated sale process.

5:50 pm: The HRA gets to discuss…no questions are asked.  Erica Zweifel states that she is “overwhelmingly” in support of the project and the financing mechanism, especially thanking Councilor Vohs.  She also notes that this financing choice IS a response to voters, rather than avoiding them, by acting as many constituents have asked.

Dayna Norvold, who spoke at the Council meeting (see my previous blog post), says the only issue is “does it fit within out mission”? And the answer for her is “no.”  Kevin Fink, “I don’t think this meets our mission” although he is in favor the project and will also be voting “no.”  Susan Crow only states she wished for more time and some concern about ability to manage the information.  Leota Goodney notes she believes the HRA is part of the City and feels she had her questions about impact on the HRA answered. Michele Merxbauer emphasizes the conduit nature of the financing and not adding to the workload of the HRA.

6:10 pm. Competing readings of the statute lead to a discussion of blight.  Ms Norvold has a firmly held belief about what blight is, I think, and I’m guessing it has something to do with delapidation.  Ms Merxbauer points out that the current site can be considered obsolete and blighted as well as the new property, platted 30 years ago, but too small for many current industrial uses. Jenny Boulton encourages a broader use of “blight” and helping development through this financing mechanism.  In response to Kevin Fink and linking the broader mission to housing: public safety is related to the entire community.  Ms Norvold suggests that approving this bond issue would open the door to the HRA being asked to finance many projects.  Ms. Goodney emphasizes that no housing projects are on the horizon – implying that a housing project would be financed first – so it is available.

6:20 pm. Is it worth putting this action off?  asks Ms. Goodney.  No.  Erica Zweifel moves the suggested motion and it fails for lack of a second.  A disappointing result based, I believe, on misunderstanding of the financing authority.  Back to the Council.


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