City OKs sales tax extension to fund dredging

Published 10:02 am Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Albert Lea City Council approved an extension of the half-cent, local-option sales tax during its meeting 7 p.m. Monday.

The tax revenue goes to the Shell Rock River Watershed District.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed a $1.1 billion construction bill into law May 20 that authorized $7.5 million toward the $15 million cost of dredging Fountain Lake. The local-option sales tax, first approved in 2005, is playing the remaining $7.5 million.

Email newsletter signup

This dredging will improve water quality in Fountain Lake, as it has been compromised with accumulated sediment and large algae blooms. The watershed district is aiming at 2015 for the dredging to begin.

Shell Rock River Watershed District Administrator Brett Behnke said so far the local-option sales tax has brought in $23 million and said it will just keep bringing in more.

However, in 2005, the tax was approved for only 10 years. As the watershed would like to do the dredging in 2015, the tax needed to be extended, he said.

Dayton signed a bill extending the local-option sales tax on May 19, but the City Council had to approve the measure before it could take effect. It provides a half-cent tax on every dollar of taxable retail sales in the city limits of Albert Lea.

This extension extends the tax for five more years, Behnke said. Now that the tax has been approved, the Watershed can start working to get permits to complete the dredge, he said.

These permits, he said, could take up to a year to acquire but the watershed can push forward now, he added.

The Shell Rock River Watershed District was formed by the state in 2003. It covers nearly 250 square miles in Freeborn County.