Council approves call for sale of $4.98M in bonds for various improvements in city

Published 8:55 am Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Albert Lea City Council voted Monday to call for the sale of about $4.98 million in general obligation bonds to pay for a series of improvement projects in the city.

Projects include the East Main Street resurfacing and trail improvements, resurfacing and flood mitigation on East Main Street, reconstruction of Pillsbury and Freeborn avenues, the city’s 2022 overlay project, the resurfacing of the Washington Avenue and Main Street parking lot, 209th Street and Happy Trails Lane and replacement of the City Arena’s roof and flooring.

Rebecca Kurtz with Ehlers & Associates, a public finance advisement firm, said a public hearing will be held June 13 to establish tax abatement for the arena portion, which is similar to those done for economic development projects.

After that date, Kurtz said the whole bond sale would move forward, and she would return about two weeks later with the results of the sale.

The bonds will have a 10-year term, and will be callable in February 2031.

She anticipated an interest rate of 3.36%, which includes a cushion for if the rates increase from the 2.8% they were as of earlier that day.

Kurtz said Ehlers continues to look at any funding or repayment options that can save the city money.

The city presently has a AA- rating with Standard & Poor’s. An entity with an AA rating has a very strong capacity to meet its financial commitments.

In other action, the council:

• Approved the removal of three structures in the city.

– The first, at 924 Fountain St., was initially placarded in August 2012 as structurally unsafe and was noticed again in 2019 and again in 2021 when ownership changed.

City building official Wayne Sorensen talked about several concerns with the property, including problems with the foundation.

He said the owner signed voluntary consent to demolish the structure and has agreed to take on the assessment. The house was vacant.

– The second, at 604 Giles Place, was originally placarded in November 2020, after a fire in 2020 and has extensive damage. The house was vacant.

City Attorney Kelly Martinez said the homeowner did not have insurance on the property.

The cost to remove the structure will be assessed to the property owner.

– The third property, at 819 Bridge Ave., would include removing the remains of a garage that was partially removed after its roof collapsed, Sorensen said.

The rest of the home, which is occupied, would remain, though some repairs would be needed of a roof over a door and the exposed wall. He said he hoped the effort would help save the rest of the house.

The cost will be assessed to the property owner, though Sorensen referenced potential grant dollars if the family was income-qualified.

• Voted to increase the benefit level for paid on-call firefighters vested in the Statewide Volunteer Firefighters Plan.

The resolution increased the benefit level for volunteer firefighters to $3,500, $4,000 and $4,300 effective Jan. 1, 2023, 2024 and 2025 respectively.

The last time the benefit level was changed was in 2018. The increase will more closely align with neighboring communities.

• Voted to adopt and implement the Shell Rock River and Winnebago River Watershed Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan. The plan was recently accepted by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

• Approved an agreement with the city of Manchester for enforcement of the city’s ordinances.

• Approved a $250 donation from Zion Karen Baptist Church to the reserve police program.