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Council gives debt plan OK

Superior's City Council on Tuesday did "something historic," according to Mayor Dave Ross. The council adopted a plan to eliminate the city's debt over the next 12 years and create a fund for economic development. The plan utilizes newfound money...

Superior's City Council on Tuesday did "something historic," according to Mayor Dave Ross.

The council adopted a plan to eliminate the city's debt over the next 12 years and create a fund for economic development.

The plan utilizes newfound money from the Enbridge Energy Terminal Tax to recoup $2.8 million currently spent to repay debt -- about 11 percent of the city's annual budget -- in 12 years.

The goal is to reduce taxpayer-supported debt, said Finance Director Jean Vito.

Two-thirds of the estimated $652,000 in revenue granted to the city in 2006, and $1.3 million in annual payments from the state will go toward debt reduction. The balance will go into a fund for development projects, covering city expenses such as infrastructure and blight elimination to encourage economic growth in the city.

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After years of lobbying the state to give the city taxes collected from Enbridge Energy's terminal in Superior, Gov. Jim Doyle and the state Legislature in 2005 included the payments to Superior in the state budget. The decision gave the city a source of revenue intended for the city since 1974, when former Gov. Patrick Luce introduced legislation on behalf of the city.

A single word in that legislation prevented the city from collecting that money until last year.

In the past, the city didn't have a fund for economic development projects, said Councilor Dennis Dalbec. He said developing the plan, which included a great deal of input from the council, took a lot of work, but he believes it's the best plan for the city's future.

The city has received a great opportunity, said Councilor Nick Milroy, who appreciated the amount of input councilors were given in crafting the plan first introduced by Ross in September.

Ross originally conceived the idea and worked with city staff to develop the main concepts, but said council input proved invaluable.

The plan includes an option to pay off additional debt if the economic development fund grows larger than needed during the next 12 years. Ross credited Council President Ed Anderson with coming up with the idea, which could eliminate the city's debt sooner.

"I do think this is a wonderful idea," Anderson said. He said the additional $2.8 million would provide the city with resources to do much more for city residents.

Ross said the council's decision shows foresight for the city's future, and he's hopeful 12 years from now, the council and mayor will invite him and councilors back to city hall to thank this council for its foresight.

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"We could have mortgage-burning party," Anderson said.

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