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Superior council tackles money matters

Tapping state programs for funding and setting aside money for affordable housing were among the issues councilors tackled Tuesday.

Government Center in Superior
Government Center, Superior, Wis.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — Officials agreed to tap state programs to fund local projects and set aside money for affordable housing during a 24-minute meeting of the city council Tuesday, Sept. 6.

Councilors gave unanimous approval to borrow $5 million from the Wisconsin Clean Water State Revolving Fund for projects to improve Lift Station 3 and to replace combined sewers on Hammond Avenue over the next two years.

They also approved filing a grant application with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Harbor Assistance Program for a project at Fraser Shipyards and extended the life of two tax increment districts to raise money for affordable housing.

Sewer projects

The environmental services division is preparing two applications for the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund.

The first application would cover a planned project to relocate the Lift Station 3 and the force main; to install a valve vault; and to replace pumps. The total cost of the project is estimated at $2.5 million. The remaining $2.5 million the city is seeking would cover the cost of construction and design engineering to replace combined sewers during the Hammond Avenue reconstruction project in 2023 and 2024.

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The Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund offers principal forgiveness of 30% to 40%.

Steve Roberts, director of the environmental services division, advised the council the city could save between $750,000 and $1 million on the lift station project and $1 million on the combined sewer replacements.

No anticipated rate increases are required as a result of these projects, Roberts said in a memo to the council.

Fraser Shipyards

Fraser Shipyards is planning a project that would expand the productivity of vessel repair, maintenance and new construction by offering a barrier to weather hazards.

The shipyard is planning to procure three tents 65 feet in length, by 120 feet wide and 50 feet high to sit over the forward end of one of its dry docks. With the dry dock cover in place, painting, welding and other trades would not be subject to delays because of weather and other uncontrollable conditions.

The cover would permit Fraser to accept additional work because unpredictability and duration of execution would be eliminated, said Jason Serck, economic development, port and planning director.

Estimated project costs are $1.4 million. Fraser Shipyards would provide matching funding for the grant. The city’s only role is to facilitate the process if the project is approved.

Affordable housing

Superior has sufficient funds to pay all project costs to close two tax increment districts, officials said Tuesday.

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Councilors, however, approved extending the life of those districts for one year to contribute to a fund created to pay for affordable housing and improve the city’s housing stock.

One special taxing zone was created in the North End in 1996 to encourage development. Another includes the area between the Blaine Business Center and Grand Avenue south of North 13th Street, including the site of Onyx Apartments.

Mayor Jim Paine said this is the final stage of the tax increment districts. When they expire, state law gives a bonus year to the municipality to capture all the taxes for affordable housing.

“When we closed the first of out TIDs about two years ago, we did this, and we created an affordable housing fund to just set the money aside … as something of an economic development fund for affordable housing projects,” Paine said. He said by adding to the fund with the one-year extension it will provide even more money for the city to incentivize affordable housing development.

Once taxes are collected next year from the tax increment districts, the city will begin the process to close them and development that has occurred since the districts were created would be added to the general tax roll that supports Northwood Technical College and city, county and school district budgets.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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