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City weighs project boost

Every aspect of the city could get major new investment if the City Council approves changes to the capital improvement program.

The Superior City Council weighs changes to the plan for capital investments in city equipment, facilities and infrastructure during the committee of the whole meeting following the regular council meeting at 6:30 p.m. tonight in Room 201 of the Government Center. The Council has the power to act to approve the revised 2018 program and give tentative approval for the 2019 CIP budget.

The proposal would take advantage of growing revenue from the terminal tax to leverage more projects such as streets and sidewalks over the next several years.

"The revenue from the oil pipeline terminal tax is much higher than it's been in previous years," said Mayor Jim Paine. "We're able to increase not just what we know is coming in this year, but also our projections for the next couple of years. We're still being very conservative about it ... it is a great opportunity to invest in our capital projects."

The six-year proposal from 2018 to 2023 includes spending almost $47.8 million to improve city facilities, sidewalks and streets, parks and trails, and other miscellaneous projects. About $18 million — more than one-third of the budget and about $3 million annually — would go to improving city streets alone.

Another $500,000 annually will go into sidewalk improvement, Paine said.

"It has always been funded by the CDBG Program," the mayor said of the city's sidewalk program.

While the city was able to allocate $200,000 annually for new sidewalks, federal restrictions on where the money could be spent — disadvantaged neighborhoods — limited where the city could replace sidewalks. With the new funding proposal, Paine said it would add $300,000 to the program that can be spent anywhere in the city.

Another $60,000 a year will be allocated for parks, and there will be money for trails as well, the mayor said. With work underway to develop a comprehensive plan for outdoor recreation, Paine said the funding hasn't been entirely allocated yet. In addition to allocating money in the CIP for those recommendations, he said the new CIP would include a $2 million contingency, which is about $350,000, Paine said of the previously approved program.

"One of the things I'm really excited about is we're adding a quarter of a million to the Neighborhood Improvement Program," Paine said. "I think we've only done about $50,000 to $100,000 a year — all from the general fund — and that money was always used to tear down buildings that we considered blight. We have totally changed the nature of that program, and we're going to recommend rehabbing properties rather than tearing them down."

Nearly half of the program would be paid for using the terminal tax — paid by Enbridge Energy to the state and returned to Superior. About 39 percent of the cost would come from bonding. The balance of the program would be paid for with grants — about 3 percent — and revenue from miscellaneous sources such as the library fund, special area management plan licenses, property and auction sales and interest earnings.

"Almost every department, almost every aspect of the city, is getting major new investment ... and there will be no increase in taxes to the citizens for the program," Paine said.

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