City infrastructure spending outpaced funds

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 24, 2002

With a great deal of expansion in the last two years, the city of Albert Lea has had to spend a lot of money in order to build and improve infrastructure. In order to guard against spending most of the money set aside for those projects, the city council decided Monday night to use part of the general fund to pay for some of those projects.

&uot;This year we saw a big jump in the number of projects we’ve had,&uot; said city manager Paul Sparks. &uot;We’ll have to absorb that in the general fund. We have to be more watchful of development or we may run into this same difficulty in the future.&uot;

The general fund has a section which is dedicated to capital projects. Each year when infrastructure projects are done and the payments are made, there are sometimes costs left unpaid. That money is taken from that section of the general fund. In the last few years that amount of money taken from that section has grown, according to councilman Dave McPherson.

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&uot;In the past we’ve built up a lot of money in that reserve,&uot; said McPherson. &uot;But since we had so many projects in 2001 and 2002 we have a lot of projects to pay for. So we decided to use some of that fund to pay for these projects.&uot;

The council agreed to reduce the designated fund for 2002 by $1,743,913 and use that money to pay for the large street, sewer and water project assessments from 2002.

The city will use that money to pay for $1,105,094 of the assessments that don’t fall on any particular property. They will use the $638,819 that is left over to pay the contractor for the deferred assessments on those improvement projects which will be paid back at some point by property owners.

Other actions:

– Tax increment financing district 5-7, the East Main Street redevelopment area, will be given a $30,000 advance to finish land improvement projects in that area.

&uot;This is the final portion of tax-increment activities for that area,&uot; said Sparks. &uot;So far, with our redevelopment project, we’ve put in three new buildings …

and are waiting on a third.&uot;

The district’s new businesses are the Country Inn and Suites and Northstar Power Sports. Sparks said that a restaurant is soon to come into the area as well.

&uot;We have one small piece of this long project that has yet to be completed,&uot; said Sparks, addressing the council before they passed the action. &uot;That area is looking significantly better and the projects, so far, have turned out as well or better than we expected.&uot;

The money put into the TIF district pays for some of the costs of development, with the understanding that the increased property taxes after the development will make up for the investment.

– Albert Lea will be getting two new microturbine generators for the wastewater treatment plant.

&uot;This project will help to make our facility more efficient,&uot; said Sparks. &uot;These microturbine generators will be much better than the generator we have now, which was installed when we built the plant 20 years ago.&uot;

The microturbines will use the methane generated by wastewater treatment and turn that into electricity. In the past, according to McPherson, that methane was just burned off.

The microturbines will cost the city $62,000. Alliant Energy estimates that after two years of use, when the capital cost is covered, the generators will save the city $30,000 to $60,000 a year in energy costs.

The project comes from the Minnesota Conservation Program, which, in cooperation with Alliant Energy, is using these generators to help save money and test the technology.