Mayor lays plan for Superior
Superior's mayor laid out a busy agenda for the final year of his term in office.
Mayor Jim Paine touted success of the past — public safety, economic develop and low unemployment, priority-based budgeting, creation of a housing task force and development of new housing — among those things to celebrate after his first year in office.
But Paine isn't resting on his laurels when he only has one more year in office to guide the community forward.
From fully staffing the Superior Fire Department to lowering the city's landfill fee to coming together as a community for a Memorial Day weekend event, Paine laid out his goals for the coming year.
"I support the idea of a referendum for public safety," Paine said Wednesday, describing his plan in more detail. "One of the few ways we can raise the levy is for citizens to decide to raise it themselves. Because we lost funding from the SAFER grants, the city has never had a plan to replace that funding — the city just removed those positions from the fire department."
The first Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security allowed the fire department to bring its staffing level up to 36 when it was first awarded in 2013. A subsequent grant in 2015 funded three positions; however, when the funding went away, so did the positions.
Paine said three positions were eliminated through attrition when the funding ran out.
"The fire department, the chief and myself all believe that the fire department should be fully staffed, but that requires an increase in funds that we don't have ... I'd like citizens to support that as well," Paine said.
Without the additional funding, Paine said one of the city's rigs won't always be fully staffed, making it more challenging to respond to major emergencies like this week's fire at Cooper Elementary School and drives up overtime costs.
While the mayor plans to ask voters to consider an increase in funding for the fire department, the city's landfill is getting another look to determine if the monthly fee can be reduced when in fact it was slated to increase.
When the Superior City Council implemented monthly fees to cover the cost of collecting and landfilling trash, the $7.75 fee was approved to increase to $9.75 per month Jan. 1.
"We're looking at different projections for the landfill," Paine said. "We're starting to take an honest look at the future of how long that's going to last, how much revenue we're going to pull in, and the fact is, we need to adjust that fee so it's assessed responsibly. We should not be collecting more than we need.
"Not only do I want to stop it from going up; I want to reduce it a little bit ... we're showing strong projections for it, and our citizens' finances matter as well."
Paine said it's too early to know how much the fee might decrease because the analysis hasn't been done.
Bringing the community together was also a focus of Paine's State of the City address Tuesday night. From working together to create the kind of city where people want to live to creating events that bring the community together, Paine said the city is stronger when people come together.
To help make that happen, Paine said he hopes to create an event around Memorial Day.
The idea evolved from discussions with people at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, Paine said.
The idea is to offer a free event for the community to bring people together, such as a picnic on the Saturday before Memorial Day.
Paine said the solemn remembrance should remain, but the importance of the weekend should be recognized as well.
"I believe that Memorial Day needs to be recognized and honored on Monday morning, but it's a chance where we can, as a community, celebrate the start of the summer season — we can have a picnic on a three-day weekend," Paine said. "We should do that on Saturday night."
In addition to celebrating, Paine said he is going to be working with Superior Water, Light & Power to bring a solar garden to Superior.
"It will be a chance for citizens to buy into renewable energy without having to make a major infrastructure investment themselves on their own property," Paine said. He envisions it being modeled after the one in Duluth.
Transportation will also be a focus with complete streets — where cars, bicyclists and pedestrians all have their own space — and road diets.
Paine said the road diet is the one he expects will be most controversial.
"When we build more street than is necessary, that's asphalt we have to maintain, potholes we have to fix, and it costs more to replace," Paine said. He said taking away inches that are unnecessary to drive safely at posted speed limits allows the city to turn it over to bikes and pedestrians, and in neighborhoods, over to property owners.
Both are practices used nationwide to cuts costs and improve transportation, Paine said.