City looks to make use of surplus

It’s not always easy deciding how to spend $325,000 in a surplus fund, especially when there are so many places it could be spent.

The Princeton City Council last Thursday discussed just that, how to use a $325,000 surplus in a tax increment financing (TIF) project fund. They didn’t come up with an answer.

Each of  the suggested uses that the council looked at also far exceeded the $325,000.

The city’s administration department consisting of City Administrator Mark Karnowski, city treasurer Steve Jackson and city Development Director Carie Fuhrman, suggested the following possible uses for the money:

1. Extending 21st Avenue from just south of First Street, on south to the industrial park.

2. Restoring the civic center.

3. Rebuilding a stretch of Smith System Road and part of Old Hwy. 18 including transforming the sharp corner at Old Hwy. 18 and Northland Boulevard into a gradual turn.

4. Offsetting part of the cost of building a safety center.

5. Water main looping for a planned East Birch Estates rental housing project near West Branch Street.

Council member Thom Walker suggested it could perhaps be used to pay the city’s up-front costs that the city could later recoup in projects.

Jackson mentioned that the money could be used to pay down some of the city’s Economic Development Authority’s $570,000 budget deficit. Most of the EDA deficit is from purchasing land to build the Aero industrial park along a short stretch of 21st Avenue just south of First Street on the city’s west side. The idea was that industrial/business clients would buy lots in the park and those sales would reimburse the EDA’s expenditure. But the sales haven’t happened.

Council member Paul Whitcomb said he thought a good use for some of the $325,000 would be for a looping water main at the planned East Birch Estates project. Turning dead-end water mains into a loop in that area would significantly improve water pressure for use in fire protection, according to the city.

Council member Dick Dobson also brought up the cost of the city Visionary Committee’s proposal to build an amphitheater in Riverside Park, as a use for some of the $325,000. The cost of relocating a city water main to make the project possible will cost $100,000 alone, Dobson said.

Karnowski told the council it didn’t have to make a decision right away on how to use the $325,000.


Where the money came from

The $325,000 is money from land sales in a TIF project started in about 1991, according to Jackson. The project involved the construction of single-family and multiple-family dwellings on a strip of former railroad that runs from near West Branch Street on the city’s northern edge, on south to the Mille Lacs County line near the Highway 169 bypass.


More surplus money

The council, while discussing how to use the surplus $325,000, also drifted into the subject of what to do with the approximately $60,000 remaining in the city Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) grant project. The approximately $60,000 is what is left from the city using a $796,254 NSP grant it received in 2009 to rehabilitate or destroy foreclosed and dilapidated homes. A number of homes were rehabilitated and some destroyed to use the lots for either more homes or other uses. Some of the money was to have the Lakes & Pines Community Action Council, in Mora, administer the program.

Fuhrman mentioned that there are some spots along Rum River Drive North with rundown and abandoned buildings north of the north Casey’s General Store. One of the dilapidated buildings is a house, one is a structure that was a gas station many decades ago and is not boarded up, and another is a dilapidated building that once was the office for a tractor-sales business.

The council focused most on the idea of destroying the house. If removed, the lot would have to benefit the community, rather than an individual under the NSP grant rules, Fuhrman told the council. The council made no decision on what to do with the remaining NSP money.