City Council: No public referendum on financing safety center. Will taxpayers petition to reverse that?

Northfield-safety-centerLast June, I was pleased that the Northfield City Council voted 4-2 to have the citizens vote in November on whether or not the city should issue bonds to pay for new police and fire facilities. (In August, they voted to put the Safety Center project on hold.)  Last night, they voted instead to issue Capital Improvement (CIP) general obligation bonds. I’m eager to hear the rationale. 

In this economic climate, I don’t understand why the Council doesn’t want the public to weigh in on such an important decision. Getting it built a little sooner hardly seems reason enough.  I’m not the only one. See this Nov. 19 Northfield News editorial:

Now that the Northfield City Council has agreed on the scope and cost of a new Safety Center, we want to reiterate our belief that the question of how to fund the facility needs to go before the voters…  There’s little doubt that the police and fire departments need a new facility, one out of the flood plain that will allow their staffs to work more effectively and efficiently. But we believe those shouldering the burden need to decide if the added cost is a payment they’re willing to make.

For those of us taxpayers who object, we can gather signatures to try to reverse the council’s financing decision, forcing the Council to put it before the voters in November. The City’s website says:

A reverse referendum petition must be signed by voters equal to five percent of the votes cast in the city in the last general election and is filed with the City Clerk within 30 days after the public hearing. Should the decision be made to issue CIP bonds and should a reverse referendum petition succeed, the question would be put to the voters in the fall general election.

More:

KYMN:  Council opts for CIP, general obligation bonds to finance safety center

Northfield Patch:  Northfield City Councilors Approve Safety Center Financing

Nfld News: Safety Center financing selected

141 Comments

  1. Patrick Enders said:

    Griff, you wrote:

    “In this economic climate, I don’t understand why the Council doesn’t want the public to weigh in on such an important decision. Getting it built a little sooner hardly seems reason enough.

    Based upon a reading of the Northfield news article that you cited, it does seem that “a little sooner” was worth come value to Councilor Zwiefel.

    From the News:

    “A referendum bond, in which voters are asked to OK the financing, was appealing to some councilors, but not as expedient as the chosen method.

    “I like the notion that the time frame could be shorter, “ said Third Ward Councilor Erica Zweifel.

    Mayor Rossing seems to be concerned that if this was put to a special election vote, the vote might not be representative of the wishes (or perhaps of the needs) of the general citizenry. Again from the News:

    “While a referendum bond would give residents direct input into the wisdom of the council’s decision, Mayor Mary Rossing believed that only those who felt strongly would show up at the polls.

    At any rate, as both you and Mayor Rossing have pointed out, Northfield does have a mechanism by which citizens can attempt to change this decision: the CIP bond is subject to reverse referendum. I believe that such a remedy has been attempted in the past, and might be possible if enough citizens disagree strongly with this decision.

    Personally, I don’t know how I should feel about this decision. Based upon my several (voluntary) visits to the facility, the current Safety Center leaves much to be desired, to say the very least. On the other hand, this is a big expenditure, and whether or not this is a good time for such an expenditure seems much less certain.

    On the third hand, perhaps we should simply be encouraged that the Council was finally able to make this big decision, instead of kicking it down the way a little further? Making tough decisions for us is, after all, what we elected them to do – and I certainly don’t claim to have more knowledge or insight into the correct course on this matter than they do.

    February 2, 2011
  2. Curt Benson said:

    I hope there is no attempt at a reverse referendum. Prior to the flood, I was leaning towards the “minority report”–rehabbing the present site and building a cheap facility elsewhere for the FD. But the the flood totally convinced me that that is not a prudent solution.

    I’m glad the council took unified, decisive action–instead of dithering about interminably in typical Northfield fashion.

    February 2, 2011
  3. David Ludescher said:

    Curt,

    I’m with Griff. With this much money at stake, the voters should have the chance to weigh in on the decision.

    I thought that the flood actually strengthened the minority report. The station came through the largest flood in its history in relatively good shape. The additional berming and flood control recommended in the minority report would solve what problems the station did have.

    February 2, 2011
  4. kiffi summa said:

    There was a prevailing view that the lease revenue bond option was not acceptable, as it would carry a cost of 2-3 million extra over the life of the bonds;there was another prevailing view that a referendum would be too lengthy a course to pursue…. Did no one hear the KKE architect, Mike Clarke state that developing the new concept, a single facility on a single site would take 4-5 months to get to biddable drawings?

    Up to this time they had designed for two separate facilities on two separate sites, so now they will start over with the new plan, and of course with what I would imagine would be substantial additional costs.

    This Council does not have to honor last June’s vote that you mention , Griff; however, considering the design time they are facing for a single facility on a single site, I was surprised that only Suzie Nakasian felt strongly about the referendum, and then recapitulated when asked by the Mayor if she could see her way to change her opinion.

    The “expedient” argument should have gone away with the (ignored) architect’s timeline comment; but at that point it seemed like everyone had their ‘case’ prepared, and couldn’t think beyond it.

    IMO,There has been entirely too much talk of “speaking with one voice”; a councilor should feel free to both represent their own, and if so, their constituents differing opinions, if that is what the truth is, without any even implied sense of letting the group down if it is not a unanimous vote.

    February 2, 2011
  5. Andy Kornkven said:

    “equal to five percent of the votes cast in the city in the last general election…”

    I think a petition drive would be a great idea. Does anyone know the number of votes cast in the last general election?

    February 2, 2011
  6. David Ludescher said:

    The Secretary of State has the numbers. It is around 8000, meaning about 400 for the referendum.

    February 2, 2011
  7. Phil Poyner said:

    That was about the same estimate I came up with last night.

    February 3, 2011
  8. Andy Kornkven said:

    I don’t think the Council made a “big decision” at all. A big (difficult) decision would have been to refurbish the current safety facility, or to scale down the current plan in terms of cost and square footage. Instead, they took the easy way– they just said yes to everything, and without letting the voters have any say whatsoever. In other words, instead of making a tough decision, they caved. And as for “kicking the can down the way,” they did that to — they kicked the can down to the future taxpayers who will have to pay this monstrous bill in the years and decades to come.

    February 4, 2011
  9. David Ludescher said:

    Patrick,

    I think Andy makes a good point. It doesn’t take courage to avoid the taxpayers; it takes courage to face them.

    The fact that the Council took this approach speaks volumes about their confidence that the voters want to fund such a project.

    This is especially discouraging when you consider that even in a referendum, the cards are stacked in favor of public expenditures. Many voters don’t pay any property taxes (representation without taxation) and many property tax payers pay a disproportionate amount of taxes (i.e. businesses) and they don’t even get to vote (taxation without representation).

    February 4, 2011
  10. kiffi summa said:

    As to the Council’s decision: all they decided was the financing mechanism to be used for the project.
    There is so much undecided still: the site selection will come first, and then the facility has to be RE-DESIGNED (now a single facility on a single site)

    So… you see , if you think of the political implications… if the councilors who might NOT think the whole project is at a scale they can accept, but want to support the police/firemen… if they vote on ONLY what funding mechanism is to be used (and that is what they did) it does NOT mean they are accepting the project in its totality.
    As a matter of fact, without site or design , there IS NO project in totality…

    IF there are councilors that do object, they have plenty of future decision making opportunities to vote against.

    *** So…if you were a councilor, would you wait to see how things shake out with the public, rather than being accused of voting against police/fire, BEFORE that project approval vote is taken ???

    February 5, 2011
  11. David DeLong said:

    The Last general election –

    Norman Butler 2532
    Rhonda Pownell 3593
    Write in 35

    Total 6160

    5% 308

    February 5, 2011
  12. Andy Kornkven said:

    It ought to be a cinch to collect 308 signatures, especially if an organization like the Chamber of Commerce steps up. Does anyone know of any organized effort yet? My fingers are itching to sign something.

    February 5, 2011
  13. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    What harm is there in a reverse referendum?

    I can understand why the councilors did what they did, and why they don’t want to put it to the voters (who are mostly taxpayers). But, the Council is working backwards. We still haven’t identified the service deficiencies of the current facility to know if we should spend $1.0 million, $3.0 million or $14.0 million.

    As the project stands, the reverse referendum will be the only chance the voters have to tell the Councilors what they think the scope of the project should be and to directly influence the process.

    Sure, there will be public hearings on site selection, design, scope, etc. But, as it stands, there is no public mechanism to stop the Council from doing what they want, when they want, and where they want.

    February 5, 2011
  14. David DeLong said:

    Expediency – shorter time span? The Council could have had a building half way up by now, if they would have been paying attention to what people have been telling them. They had a task force report, they didn’t accept it. They had a vote on funding, apparently didn’t like it. Let’s change council people and run it up the flag pole again. This time the vote was unanimous not to allow a public vote. Unanimous, with only a little cajoling, and it will be still be more expedient than a referendum because we didn’t bother to go down that road anyway.

    The more things change the more things stay the same. What hasn’t changed is the needs of the Police/Fire departments.

    Does the staff or Council really think a petition drive couldn’t be successful in coming up with three or four hundred signatures. The last reverse referendum petition had far more that three hundred signatures. It was declared invalid because of technical errors by the same City Attorney who was repeatedly asked what should be on the form you want me to use? While I don’t think Victor will be involved in any more petitions because of his petition education courtesy of the City of Northfield, there were plenty of signatures against the 880,000 dollar improvement, I think there would be even more for a 10.7 million expenditure.

    A reverse referendum petition is required only after a public hearing and approval of the capitol project. I wonder if the Council would except 300 emails saying let us vote. How many phone calls? Would they accept a list of signatures a the public hear as a straw poll of the likelihood of a successful formal reverse referendum petition. What number of people showing up at the public hearing would they accept as an indicator of support for letting the taxpayers vote on such a large expenditure, 25, 50, 100?

    February 5, 2011
  15. kiffi summa said:

    David L: in reply to your 1.2.2, I wrote a long rationale for a process before going to reverse referendum on the ‘Council’s decision on financing’ article on the NFnews website; I just think there is a lot that could be done before that RR step is taken.

    I do know something about this, and the last person who went that route almost landed in jail because of outright persecution by city gov’t entities, while the notary who signed a lot of blank pages in one of the petition packets got no reprimand at all!

    From that same petition drive it is obvious that it would be easy to get the required number of signatures; about 450 were obtained in approximately 2 weeks; but I really think a reverse referendum should NOT be pursued until other tacks are taken.

    I think it is pretty much agreed that the space in the current facility is inadequate for both uses.
    But it is the magnitude of this current proposal, and the insistence that it be commensurate with NF’s “specialness” that is driving the cost, as well as the insistence that the current building not be reused AND this time, maintained.

    The public needs to first require, IMO, that the council offer the costs of reuse of the current building for the police, and building an inexpensive, but spacious, new fire hall elsewhere.
    There were studies done on protecting the building from the river; I think even a fairly extensive project to do that was around 350K. New roof, new air exchange system… improvements up to a million?

    The minority report from the first Safety Center Task Force had the right idea, but unfortunately, there was no one on the council then who wanted to listen;they were ‘dissed’ and rudely.
    I think it is apparent the council makeup has drastically changed.

    I truly believe … to use the buzzword of the day… that there is a more EXPEDIENT route than a reverse referendum IF the goal is to get the needed space at the least cost.

    February 6, 2011
  16. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    What would motivate this council to pursue the course of action you suggest? They voted unanimously to proceed without a referendum. Why would they consider input from the public?

    February 6, 2011
  17. kiffi summa said:

    David: because they voted on a funding mechanism ONLY, and that funding mechanism is subject to a reverse referendum. And immediately after they voted last Tuesday, rumblings, and emails started flying around.

    Up until this time the new councilors have not heard from the general public, only the few that have spoken at open mic at council meetings.

    A second factor is that this council has new members, and if there is a voting block, it appears to have a different viewpoint on some things, and may track things differently, as well as not having been exposed to the ‘minority’ opinion of the SCTF that was presented by Ray Cox.
    They have been influenced, it would appear , by the dramatic rhetoric surrounding the flood implications, but did not hear all the early projections about flood walls, and those relatively minor mitigation costs, etc.

    The power point presentation that has been showing around is persuasive IF you accept any info at ‘face value.
    One can take a photo of a couple of inches of water creeping into the lower level police garage, and write two entirely differing scenarios for that photo caption: i.e. “This photo shows the beginning river encroachment into the Safety Center’s vital lower level during the worst flooding ever seen in Northfield”…
    OR: “this photo shows how the vital lower level of the Safety Center was successfully defended from flooding in the recent 500year flood event.”

    I think it would be only reasonable to consider input from the public, if they think they will be faced with a successful RR; I also think they were possibly apprehensive of the referendum failing… and I believe they would have to wait a significant period of time (is it a year) before they could legally bring the issue back.

    Given all the indecision, changes on sites and single or combined facilities, I think they are feeling a bit insecure, and possibly deserving of some criticism (sorry, just my opinion), and are just trying to make it happen.

    Remember, there isn’t a site yet, although there will be one selected soon, and there is no design for a single facility; there are a lot of points to adjust the scope of this project yet to come in future months.
    I think an engaged public at this point will do more to come to a good solution than a reverse referendum, which leaves everyone defensive and blaming the other ‘side’.

    February 6, 2011
  18. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    I don’t have much confidence that the Council wants public input. After all, a referendum IS public input, and the Council voted unanimously to proceed forward without it.

    What else can an “engaged public” to do regarding financing, siting, and scope?

    Ray Cox has had the minority report out there for over a year, and it hasn’t received a serious look from the Council.

    At the Chamber forum over a year ago, then administrator Walinski refused to even discuss Ray’s thoughts, and talked about the process building a new building.

    Jerry Anderson had his own study done of the flood mitigation. There has been no serious public consideration of that either.

    It seems to me that a reverse referendum is the only possible way to start the serious debate about what is best for the town. I just can’t see that any other avenues are going to be fruitful.

    February 7, 2011
  19. kiffi summa said:

    David: you and I arguing back and forth about this is not very productive except for possibly putting ideas in the public mind.

    On each of your points: The public has NOT done much speaking with THIS council… why does the Chamber not come to a work session or at least speak at open mic?

    The public can, and should, offer their opinions to this new Council.

    The minority report should be brought back to the Council.

    Joel Walinski is in Washington state; and was in philosophical ‘lockstep’ with the Mayor. The Chamber needs to invite the Tim Madigan to a ‘work session’ on this topic.

    I am pretty involved, and did not know of Jerry Anderson’s flood mitigation study, and I don’t see how there would be “public consideration” of it, if it has not been presented to the public.

    My bottom line here is: You are speaking of old grievances , with a previous council and a previous administrator.
    I really think the Chamber always backs down when it comes to giving a PUBLIC opinion… sorry, again just my personal opinion… if one attends a chamber forum, people are very vocal before and after the meeting, at the coffee bar, but few ask questions during the forum, and afterwards say it is hard to speak publicly.

    A former Chamber president was thoroughly ignored when speaking at Safety Center steering committee meetings; the ‘powers that be’ just waited for him to be through speaking and then went on without responding.

    So, if the Chamber, and you, have such a ‘burr’ about this issue ,and I certainly understand that, you need to make a public case that will enable other citizens to be public in their questioning.

    But there is also this: Although the cost seems to me to be unnecessarily high, the yearly cost on a RESIDENTIAL tax is NOT so oppressive, as it is for the commercial, so residents may not have the need to be so concerned on a purely financial basis.

    I wish some people who do not have commercial tax burdens on their mind would comment … both on concept and cost.

    February 7, 2011
  20. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    I would like to hear more from people about whether they think the Council made the right decision by not going to the voters before we discuss the concept and the cost. I, like Griff, don’t understand why the Council doesn’t want the public to weigh in on this very important decision.

    Regarding the Chamber – please remember that the Chamber is a business organization of its members. It’s not a political action committee. Many of the Chamber members don’t pay any property taxes, and we have to represent those folks also.

    February 8, 2011
  21. kiffi summa said:

    David: It seems to me that when you bring up an issue and advocate for a position , as you have on this, you then back off on taking any action… If that is not so, excuse me for incorrectly seeing that.

    You have been indicating that there is a lot of unrest that would support a reverse referendum; I have been advocating the expression of that to the Council, regardless of the fact that they have voted for no referendum, but chosen a method that allows a reversal.

    Who do you want to hear from, and how do you intend to get ‘them’ to say something?

    I just think a RR is not a complete dialogue… which this issue deserves, IMO; it is just a “NO”.

    February 8, 2011
  22. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    I can’t speak for the Chamber or its members. However, about a year ago the Chamber had a forum, and Councilperson Pokorney asked for a show of hands on how many people wanted a referendum. About 3/4 of the people in an audience of close to 100 raised their hands.

    A reverse referendum appears to be the only avenue left for “dialogue”. I don’t see it so much as taking sides as it is finally forcing the Councilors to be accountable to the taxpayers.

    School boards have to bring referendums like this to the public and have to remain neutral in the presentation. It seems to me that the same rationale applies here.

    I would be interested in hearing from more people like Curt on why a reverse referendum isn’t a good idea.

    February 9, 2011
  23. Griff Wigley said:

    Today’s Strib: Northfield council OK’s public safety bonding

    Project floor plans and costs will be provided at a public hearing scheduled for March 1. By that time the council will have chosen a site and negotiated the land price, said interim City Administrator Tim Madigan. He said the $10.7 million maximum bonding would cover land and site preparation, administrative and construction costs.

    If residents oppose the project, they have 30 days from the hearing to conduct a petition drive for a reverse referendum that could stop the project. They would need the signatures of 398 registered voters, which is 5 percent of those who voted in the last city election, said City Clerk Deb Little.

    February 9, 2011
  24. Andy Kornkven said:

    David,

    It’s a great idea. Let’s quit talking about it and start gathering signatures. All that’s needed is a leader, and I think you, David, fit the bill perfectly!

    February 9, 2011
  25. Griff Wigley said:

    Today’s Nfld News: City Council weighs options for new Safety Center site

    A Monday morning tour of 16 possible sites for the Safety Center had council members peppering the city’s public works and public safety directors with questions about landforms, accessibility and re-routing traffic. But time and again, many of the sites that at first blush seemed ideal, turned out to be anything but.

    Topography and accessibility to Hwy. 3 were the most challenging to overcome, said city officials, but then there was cost. While the cost of a parcel may not be prohibitive, buying land housing an existing business would add to total costs for a new Safety Center. State and federal laws allow the city to purchase land for a Safety Center at fair market value, but it would also be required to compensate the seller for disrupting and relocating their business.

    February 9, 2011
  26. David Ludescher said:

    Andy,

    Technically, I don’t believe that a petition has any validity until after the public hearing. In the meantime, maybe some folks could could offer rationales for not doing a reverse referendum (assuming the Council goes forward).

    February 9, 2011
  27. Patrick Enders said:

    David,
    As someone who does not feel a personal need for a reverse referendum, I see no reason why you should not pursue a reverse referendum, if you feel strongly about this.

    If 400 or so people feel strongly that this should go to referendum, then it will go to referendum.

    If you can’t find 5% of local voters who want this to go to referendum, then there is no need for a referendum.

    Sounds like democracy in action.

    February 10, 2011
  28. David Ludescher said:

    Patrick,

    If I were a public official, I would want something this large to go to the voters. Wouldn’t you?

    February 10, 2011
  29. Patrick Enders said:

    David,
    I’m not a public official, and I likely never will be. Speaking only for myself, I don’t much care one way or the other whether or not this goes to the public.

    However, if you do feel that this bonding should go before the public, there is a perfectly simple process in place for putting this to the voters: petition for a referendum. It only takes 400 signatures.

    If you can’t find 400 people who want to change this plan, then it’s probably an acceptable plan.

    February 10, 2011
  30. David Ludescher said:

    Patrick and others,

    Part of the reason to put it to the voters is that there is NO PLAN. The Council wants to write itself a blank check for $10.7 million.

    February 10, 2011
  31. Griff Wigley said:

    Today’s Nfld News: City Council to talk Safety Center location

    Two potential sites for a new Safety Center come to the council’s table on Tuesday. That evening, the council holds a closed meeting to consider the sites, both just off Hwy. 3 South.

    The more northerly parcel, at 1480 Hwy. 3 S, is the Central Valley Co-op. The other, in the 1600 block of Riverview Drive, has been called the Cowles site after property owner Bill Cowles and lies just behind Perkins restaurant.

    February 12, 2011
  32. Ray Cox said:

    One of the biggest reasons to have a public vote on spending this amount of money on a city facility is to force the city to develop a plan. As David L pointed out, there is no real plan right now…other than to have a blank check for $10.7 million. The city told themselves they needed to do several things before moving forward, including: identify a site, work out agreements with both colleges, work out a new agremeent with the rural fire association, etc. As far as I can determine, none of these have been completed.

    School districts cannot build large projects without going to the voters for approval….and there is good reason for that. Most people are supportive of schools, but that doesn’t mean they would be if schools started ignorning the taxpayers. To make sure they don’t, schools must seek voter approval for most large projects.
    That essentially forces them to do all the proper leg work, make sure all issues have been thoroughly vetted, and present there best plan to the voters for approval. It keeps a good working relationship in place for an important function. And generally, good school plans presented to voters gain support at the polls.

    The same should be able to be said for city projects. It does take courage to face the voters with a building request….but it most assuredly should be done. To undertake a project that may be of this scope without voter approval is not a wise plan.

    February 13, 2011
  33. Griff Wigley said:

    Ray, is it likely that the City will have a fully developed plan by March 1, the date for the public hearing?

    February 14, 2011
  34. Ray Cox said:

    I don’t know if they can complete work with the groups by that time or not Griff. I know they have started work talking to the Rural Fire Association, but considering they are ‘updating’ an agreement that dates back to the 1970’s there is probably a lot of clean-up language and issues to address. I would consider it a fairly major item to include Rural Fire Association funding for a facility, and as such, I would think adequate time should be allowed for the development of a mutual agreement.
    As far as the college agreements I know the city has had exploratory talks with both of them, but again I am not aware of any agreements that have been put in place.

    But, there are what I consider to be some major issues that I have not seen the city address at all:

    1)If we do in fact spend $11 million on a facility, what assurances do we have that the city will take care of it properly? They are telling us that their 40 year old building needs to be ‘thrown away’…will we be throwing away this proposed new building in 40 years? Why can school districts take care of their buildings for nearly twice that time without difficulty, but the city is asking us to throw this one away?
    2) What plans does the city have to upgrade the fire fighting equipment? Some of our trucks are approaching the end of their useful life and need replacement. What is the plan to replace necessary safety equipment?
    3) Shouldn’t we take the time to educate the population on the needs of the fire and police departments and get acceptance of a sensible facility plan, which in turn can result in voter approval at the polls.

    February 14, 2011
  35. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld News: Council wants costs defined

    Even after an hour-long closed meeting on the topic, council members on Tuesday continued to ask questions about the optimal spot for the proposed Safety Center…

    City staff are expected to bring firm numbers back to the council by next week’s meeting, said city Administrator Tim Madigan in preparation for a March 1 public hearing on the city’s 2011-15 Capital Improvement Plan. The council must approve the plan, along with associated bond documents, in order to finance the project as it agreed.

    Once the CIP, which sets costs and timelines for anticipated city projects, is OK’d, the 30-day time frame for a reverse referendum petition to be submitted begins.

    February 16, 2011
  36. kiffi summa said:

    From the Council meeting last night: There will be a public hearing on the bonds to be issued for the Safety Center project at the Council meeting on March Ist, 7: PM.

    This public hearing was noticed in the 2.12 NFNews, but the notice only announces the amount, $10,890,000., of the CIP bonds to be issued, and does NOT say it is for the construction of a Safety Center.

    Ms. McBride, the City’s Finance Director said that on the advice of their bond counsel, only the amount of the bonds need be noticed, not for what they are specifically to be used. It does say the bonds will be used for “various capital projects”.

    February 16, 2011
  37. Griff Wigley said:

    Some leaderless citizens of Egypt Northfield are getting organized to mount a petition drive to reverse the referendum. I’ll be attending a meeting early next week and will likely have a something posted here on LoGro so people can submit a request to be contacted to sign the petition.

    Stay tuned!

    February 19, 2011
  38. kiffi summa said:

    I’m not going to reiterate all my earlier comments, but I can assure you that if a number of people would turn up at the March 1 Public Hearing on the bonding which would finance the new Safety Center, and if those people would ask the Council to reconsider the scope of this project , together with its tax impacts on the business community, … to reconsider the re-use of the existing building for the Police, improved (and benefitted by the flood mitigation engineering study that the city did years ago, and building a modest but spacious fire station elsewhere… I have to believe there would be Council support for that position.

    That would be so much more positive, with the same end result, and without the all the hard feelings a reverse referendum brings.

    This is a very different Council, philosophically than the previous one, and it votes very differently.

    Get ON the side of those councilors, and support them in their questioning of the process as it HAS been.

    February 22, 2011
  39. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    When you say, “Get ON the side of those councilors”, who are those councilors likely to “question[ing of] the process as it HAS been”?

    The vote was unanimous to spend $10.7 million dollars. As I understand the vote, the money isn’t even dedicated to a Safety Center. It could be used to build a new library or a new City Hall.

    What makes you think there is Council support for a modest new fire hall combined with a remodel and reuse of the existing facility?

    February 23, 2011
  40. kiffi summa said:

    David: re; the previous unanimous vote… a lot has happened since then…

    1. the economic recovery (not) has been slower than expected

    2. the process , site selection etc, has continued to become increasingly UN-clear.

    3. the previous unanimous vote May have just been an expression of support for the police/fire, a recognition of some level of need, and a expression of support … therefor … of the concept of a new P/F facility.

    4. Two of the ‘older’ councilors, Buckheit and Zweifel, (sorry, ladies… maybe I should have said longer term) have been increasing their level of questioning

    5. The two new councilors , Nakasian and Ganey, have raised a lot of questions; last night Councilor Nakasian said she saw no acceptable option for a site at this point.

    As to the public hearing announcement and dedication of the money/bonding to a new Safety Center, Victor spoke to this issue at the open mic two meetings ago, received an email from Tim Madigan last week saying that the city felt it had legally complied with the information necessary for a PH announcement , but was going to put a revised, more specific announcement in the paper this week… and indeed, you will find that in the Public notices in today’s NFNews.

    As to your third question, I think the answer to that is rolled into my 1-5 comments. After all, the bonding vote must be a super majority : 5 ayes.

    Do you think there is a possibility of NOT achieving that super majority?

    February 23, 2011
  41. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    Maybe I am confused. Was the 7-0 vote on Feb. 2 just a vote for having a public hearing (on the $10.7 million), OR was it a vote to proceed forward with the $10.7 million, and the public hearing is merely a formality?

    Are you suggesting that there are at least 3 Council people who want to have the public hearing, and are going to vote down the request?

    February 23, 2011
  42. kiffi summa said:

    David: the vote to which you are referring was ONLY on which financing method to use. and yes, it was 7-0 to use General Obligation Capital Improvement bonds.
    So… that triggers the Public hearing.

    The amount stated for the Public hearing is $10,890,000.

    I am suggesting that the public hearing is the place where the public might give support to councilors which appear to have doubts about the magnitude of this project.

    February 24, 2011
  43. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    Is the vote for $10.9 million or can the number be changed to a smaller amount? And, is it true that the $10.9 million could be baited and switched to another use, say to build a new City Hall?

    February 24, 2011
  44. kiffi summa said:

    David : see my comment #22 for more background on the PH announcement/public notice.

    It’s my understanding that the number used for the public hearing is a “not to exceed” amount, so it could always be less.

    February 24, 2011
  45. Griff Wigley said:

    City Council vote to proceed w/ $10.8M CIP Bond for safety center facility fails 5-2; Rossing & Vohs supported it; Ganey, Buckheit, Zweifel, Nakasian, Pownell opposed.

    March 1, 2011
  46. Griff Wigley said:

    In subsequent discussion, Councilor Patrick Ganey voiced support for locating police facility at the current safety center location and building a fire facility elsewhere. Zweifel and Nakasian echoed some of his comments, with the issue of ‘centrality’ for public safety getting more attention, especially since no other sites seem suitable.

    March 1, 2011
  47. Griff Wigley said:

    Today’s Strib: New safety center eludes Northfield council

    Among those casting nay votes was Erica Zweifel, a council member for two years. She said about 20 people had called her recently or stopped at her downtown to voice concerns about the safety center proposal…

    Many residents want the safety center downtown, which has a scarcity of available parcels large enough for a single building. That led some council members to consider erecting a smaller building for each department on different sites, Zweifel said.

    March 9, 2011
  48. Griff Wigley said:

    Today’s Nfld News: Safety Center reuse too costly, says council report

    A council-appointed group that included two city councilors has recommended against renovating and reusing the current Safety Center built in 1970.

    The current building, at the southeast corner of Fifth Street and Hwy. 3, is in poor condition, needs extensive repairs, new parking and protection from the Cannon River which sits just yards to the east, according to the report discussed at Tuesday night’s council meeting. The structure, which sits in the flood plain, has often been infiltrated by water when the river floods.

    The report also found that repairs to the building, whether it’s reused solely for police or the fire department, would exceed the cost for free-standing facilities.

    July 27, 2011
  49. Ray Cox said:

    Surprise, surprise. I guess the school district needs to start making plans to abandon Greenvale school….after all, it was constructed at the same time as the current safety center.

    July 30, 2011
  50. Kathie Galotti said:

    Actually, Ray, the physical Greenvale Park building has many critics and few fans. Seems like 1970s was not a good year for architecture that could stand the test of time!

    July 31, 2011
  51. kiffi summa said:

    Ray: here’s my question: their numbers call for the flood “mitigation” that costs $192K and fills in the basement of the building with sand, abandoning it, thereby creating a need for building an additional 9K square feet to replace the lost space.

    If the calculation was instead to use the $320K flood ‘mitigation ‘ of building a flood wall, thereby being able to use the basement, wouldn’t the additional $130 K (spent in flood protection) be a lot cheaper than the costs of building the additional square footage needed which included the lost 9K square feet ‘lost’ from the Basement non-use?

    July 31, 2011
  52. Ray Cox said:

    Kathie, I know there are a lot of people that are not fond of Greenvale….I was one of them when it was the fully open configuration. We made some changes while I was on the school board that tried to address noise levels, etc. But, do you ‘throw away’ a 1970 building, that was constructed to last 75 years at a minium away because it isn’t perfect for everyone? If that is the way we are going to deal with public buildings in Northfield then there is certainly no reason to construct the buildings to last 75-80 years.

    Kiffi, you are correct in your analysis of the flood mitigation. The $320K floor wall/work would allow the entire lower level to be utilized. As far as I can determine, there was only one time flood waters breached the building…last September. All other ‘floods’ were caused by failure to maintain the sump pump equipment.

    I personally know several firefighters. I believe without exception the firefighters would be perfectly happy in a sound, simple structure that keeps them dry and safe. A building like the street shop would be perfect. Doing that would allow Northfield to upgrade fire fighting equiipment and properly maintain what we have. I think it is far more important to have excellent equpment for our firefighters than it is to have a fancy new building.

    August 1, 2011
  53. Jon Denison said:

    So, refresh my memory…how many new schools have been built since 1970 to address the growth of Northfield and how many new police and/or fire stations have been built due to the growth of Northfield and the need for more and bigger equipment not to mention a little thing that happened on 09/11/01 that completely changed the nature of police/fire protection dramatically?

    August 1, 2011
  54. David Ludescher said:

    Jon,

    Thanks for joining the discussion.

    My beef isn’t the need for additional facility space; my beef is the idea that the current facility cannot meet some of the facility need, and that a brand new Taj Mahal has to be built for fire and police.

    A new $3.0 million dollar facility can be built to house the fire department. That move would almost double the police space. Once the fire department is gone, the Safety Center can be upgraded.

    When I took a tour of the facility, not one person in the group thought that the building had problems so significant that the building was unusable. And, that was with a City-paid tour guide whose purpose seemed to be to convince us that we should support a new building. If the building were unusable, we would be having service issues now. We aren’t.

    Ray and Jerry have made a fairly compelling case that our facility needs can be met by a $6.0 million dollar expenditure instead of a $12 or $14 million dollar Taj Mahal. I have yet to hear a good rebuttal.

    August 2, 2011
  55. Jerry Bilek said:

    well said Ray and David.

    August 2, 2011
  56. Ray Cox said:

    Jon, your comments don’t address the issue about throwing a building away. The school district is also using Longfellow school, which has portions dating to the 1940’s. Yes, we have constructed new schools as more were needed—BUT we did not ‘throw’ away a 40 year old school. We did abandon the old Middle school, but that was essentially used for its entire usefull life. Portions of it dated to 1912, with additions in 1936, 1956 and renovations and maintenance most every year.

    I don’t hear anyone disputing the need for new safety space. I am one that advocates clearly for a new, modest firehall—and some new equipment for the firehall. I also advocate for adaptive reuse of the existing facility for police, creating many thousands of additional new space for the police. You are correct that the police need additional space.

    August 2, 2011
  57. Kathie Galotti said:

    Ray,

    I wasn’t seriously suggesting abandoning GVP–not in these economic times. I just wanted to say that it’s also NOT an example of a “perfectly good” old building. Yes, it has to be lived with, but it’s got a lousy floor plan, there are persistent rumors about mold in it making staff people sick, and though it’s not completely open any more, noise is still an issue.

    It’s not a great building. The fact that it hasn’t been fully used up doesn’t make it any better as a building. The fact that we have to live with it doesn’t make its problems go away.

    August 2, 2011
  58. David Ludescher said:

    Kathie,

    If we aren’t seriously considering abandoning buildings like Greenvale Park school, why do some people favor abandoning the Safety Center, especially in these tough economic times?

    It seems to me that the answer is primarily political. A school district cannot advocate for any bond referendums. They have to put the information out to the voters, and they have to let the voters decide. This forces them to carefully consider alternatives – pro and con.

    On the other hand, the City Council doesn’t have the same obligation of neutrality. They don’t even have to put their decisions up to the vote of the people if they don’t want to. (And, this council does not seem to be in any rush to let the voters decide how to spend the voters’ money.)

    I think that explains why, to date, we haven’t had a comprehensive, knowledgeable study on how we can keep the building functioning. We have only had committees studying where else it can be located, and why we cannot save it. No one in a decision-making position has followed up on Ray Cox and Jerry Anderson’s suggestion that we see how we can save the building. The Council has become an advocate for a new Taj Mahal.

    August 2, 2011
  59. Griff Wigley said:

    Ross, Tracy, and several other Northfielders are fans of a MN-based organization called Strong Towns. I noticed this yesterday on their Mission Statement page, as it seems relevant to this discussion about the current Safety Center structure:

    The current approach to growth emphasizes investments in new infrastructure to serve or induce new development. This approach uses public dollars inefficiently, destructively subsidizes one type of development over another and leaves massive maintenance liabilities to future generations.

    A Strong Town approach emphasizes obtaining a higher return on existing infrastructure investments. We can no longer simply disregard old investments in favor of new, but instead we need to focus on making better use of that which we are already committed to publicly maintain.

    August 3, 2011
  60. David Ludescher said:

    I do find it ironic that some of the strongest opponents of annexation of land for private development don’t seem to be bothered by the annexation and development of land to build big boxes like the hospital, Middle School, and now the Safety Center. At least with private development there can be a recapture of the dollars spent for infrastructure. Infrastructure spent on public buildings is never recaptured.

    August 3, 2011
  61. Barry Cipra said:

    David, are you saying there is no return on investment in restoring people’s health, educating children, or ensuring public safety? I’d call that a miser’s view of the social contract.

    August 3, 2011
  62. David Ludescher said:

    Barry,

    I’m saying that public buildings cost much more than the initial public expenditure. The ongoing infrastructure costs, combined with the ongoing costs of maintaining a larger building create additional financial costs. When infrastructure is built for private enterprises, tax revenues recapture the initial public expense.

    The same people who hesitate to allow private expansion because of the costs to the City seem to have no problem with public expansion that is much more expensive to the City.

    August 3, 2011
  63. Barry Cipra said:

    David, thank you for the clarification. I’d make just one change in what you say: When infrastructure is built for private enterprises, tax revenues *may* recapture the initial public expense.

    August 3, 2011
  64. David Ludescher said:

    Barry,

    Change accepted. It should be noted that businesses pay taxes at a higher rate thereby providing a much better “investment” than residences.

    August 3, 2011
  65. Ray Cox said:

    I’m with David on this one. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to abandon the existing safety center instead of renovate it and continue to use it for a police station. It is in a perfect location for police…right in the middle of town. It absolutely supports the strong town concept by keeping the police in this location.
    It isn’t so great for fire trucks going in and out in emergency situation, or for the volunteer fire fighters getting to the building in their own vehicles. Police don’t do that. They occasionally ‘rush’ out of the space in a vehicle, but it is a regular car with good visibility and maneuverability—unlike a fire rig. I’m solidly backing a new fire barn in a good location.

    August 4, 2011
  66. Kathie Galotti said:

    David,

    I don’t know enough about the previous committees’ work to comment intelligently–I was under the impression, though, that there were persuasive reasons about why the current location isn’t going to work. (The fact that you aren’t persuaded doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons).

    But, I take your point about City Council not being bound by taxpayers’ opinions. Very unfortunate, I agree.

    August 4, 2011
  67. David Ludescher said:

    Kathie,

    I read Ray’s minority report, which was joined by Jerry Anderson. That report, combined with my tour, was enough to convince me that the current building is more than serviceable if we move the fire department, and make more room.

    To date, the City hasn’t focused upon making it continue to work. The focus has been on trying to convince the public that a new building can be justified. When the public didn’t seem to be convinced, the Council started looking for ways to do it without the public.

    Jon, perhaps you would want to give us a different perspective. I know that you were a strong advocate for a new building.

    August 5, 2011
  68. Barry Cipra said:

    David, where does one find a copy of Ray’s report to read?

    August 5, 2011
  69. Kathie Galotti said:

    David–
    I have not read the report, which is why I hestitate to comment. Knowing Ray’s expertise in construction, I’ve no doubt that there are several cogent points in there. I, like you, would love to have a current or former City Council person respond to such points. (I assume they have in the past, or I assume they’ve discussed the Minority report, but I’m willing to be proven wrong about this).

    August 5, 2011
  70. David Ludescher said:

    Barry,

    I don’t know. Ray?

    August 5, 2011
  71. David Ludescher said:

    Kathie,

    I know that the Chamber invited the then City Administration to come and speak about the Safety Center. All he wanted to talk about was the new center. When asked about Ray’s report, his comment was something like, “The Council has already decided, and I don’t want to discuss old business”.

    So, if there has been a discussion about the Minority Report, I haven’t heard about it.

    August 5, 2011
  72. kiffi summa said:

    Ray: the reiteration in all reports of the repetitive ‘flooding’ in the building is just so infuriating when even during the building tour one of the staff on the lower level said it had never ‘flooded’; prior to last Sept, water in the lower level was always due to lack of maintenance on the sump pumps… so that agrees with your information.

    It is that kind of just one of the examples of not entirely straightforward information that makes the public so wary of the decision making throughout this safety center process.

    I think the reuse committee council members were ‘Hornswoggled’ … that’s an old-fashioned term I’ll bet almost no one remembers. You know there’s only so many times a council person can stand alone saying, “but the Emperor has no clothes on!”

    Now the process is, as the Mayor stated last week, that these are the facts that we (as a Council) will agree to accept.
    I just don’t know what is to be done. And what the firefighters would be happy with does not seem to be the issue any longer…

    What to do, what to do?

    August 5, 2011
  73. kiffi summa said:

    Kathie: I have watched most of this process while doing the LWV observing; David is correct when he says: “To date, the City hasn’t focussed upon making it continue to work.”
    And that, the focus on what goal, is what makes all the difference in what the outcome of various reports will show.

    I see no reason that the current facility can’t be used for Police, with modifications, and those will cost significantly less than a new police station.

    August 5, 2011
  74. Kathie Galotti said:

    David and Kiffi,
    I am going to have to defer to you guys–you’ve followed the issue much more closely than I have. If no one from the City or the Council has responded to the minority report, then I think that is pretty unfortunate and bad process.

    August 6, 2011
  75. Jon Denison said:

    What part of minority do I need to define for people. There were at least 12 people on the first task force of which I was a member. Councilors and citizens both. Two members of that task force wrote and submitted “the minority report” to the council after nodding in affirmation in front of the entire group that they had no problem with submitting the report to the council that recommended one joint facility and that reuse was not a viable alternative. In city government it only takes four votes to go in any one direction. That means majority rules and the minority needs to get over it. The democratice process at work.

    August 6, 2011
  76. David Ludescher said:

    Jon,

    If I recall correctly, all committee members were appointed by the mayor, and the majority of the people on the committee were public employees. And, if I recall correctly, Ray Cox and Jerry Anderson were the only members with construction/development experience.

    It showed a lot of courage on Ray’s part to blow the whistle on the committee’s report. I don’t have the expertise he does, but it sure looks as if the building has a lot of useful life. Before we spend $12 – $14 million on a new Taj Mahal, what is the harm in getting a second opinion?

    August 6, 2011
  77. Jon Denison said:

    Steve Schmidt was also on the committee.

    August 7, 2011
  78. Jon Denison said:

    I knew there was another that escaped me for the moment…Jim Gleason as well.

    August 7, 2011
  79. Curt Benson said:

    Pasted from a NFN story:

    “The members are: councilors Jon Denison and Kris Vohs, Police Chief Mark Taylor, Fire Chief Gerry Franek, Planning Commission member Greg Colby, Jerry Anderson (member of the Northfield Rural Fire Association and former Northfield mayor), Andy Yurek (director of Northfield Ambulance Service), Ray Cox (former state representative, school board member and owner, Northfield Construction Company), David Hvistendahl (attorney and businessman with knowledge of building reuse), Fred Rogers (vice president and treasurer, Carleton College) and Janelle Teppen (Northfield resident, assistant city administrator, city of Inver Grove Heights, and staff liaison to its safety center task force). Inver Grove Heights is in the midst of planning to build a $20 million facility.”

    August 8, 2011
  80. kiffi summa said:

    If there is no ‘substance’ to the so-called minority (Cox and Anderson) report, then let the powers that be deal with the questions which are raised by that report, and either acknowledge them or put the issue to bed, once and for all.

    But just doing new reports which only look at the original desired outcome … NO re-use of the current facility… is a disservice to the taxpayers that will have to fund it, and the firefighters who will be held hostage to a more lengthy process if the joint facility just won’t fly.

    August 8, 2011
  81. Ray Cox said:

    Jon, you are getting committees mixed up somehow. Steve Schmidt was not on the first safety center committee that I served on.
    There are reasons that I had to submit a miniorty report, which are as follows:
    The Mayor asked me to serve on the safety center committee. I didn’t ask a lot of questions, but decided I had the time and a good background and agreed to do it. When we met for the first time, I discovered the following things about the committee (which you, Jon should certainly remember):
    1. We were forbidden from taking votes.
    2. We were forbidden from electing a chairperson…the architect acted as the chair.
    3. We had to operate under consensus rules….all agree or essentially stay cooped up in the room every week until we die or ???
    4. The committee incldued many city people, including city councilors, police and fire chiefs, administrator, etc.
    5. The committee included only 2-3 people that owned commercial property in town.

    In hindsight, I should probably have pressed all this immediately, as the rules and composition of the committee were so strange. I had never been on a committee without a chairperson or that operated by consensus.

    When the report of the committee was presented, I did not withhold my consent, simply to allow the others in the room to be released and go about their lives. I did however offer a minority report, as evidence of my dissent. This is no different than a Judge issuing a dissenting opinion.

    In my mind, the whole deal was cooked up ahead of time and the committee was put together, with the listed restraints, to lend some manner of substance to the city plan. There never was any objective analysis of the existing facility.

    Since that time things have only gone downhill. We are having things pushed down our throats big time.

    As Kiffi notes, it is unfortunate. If a sensible plan had been agreed to by the city, I expect the fire fighters would about now be moving into a new fire barn. And we would be getting ready to renovate portions of the existing facility to accommodate the police.

    August 8, 2011
  82. Jon Denison said:

    And spending 2-2.5 million more for the privilege of retaining a facility for MAYBE another ten years that would have absolutely no room or opportunity for growth, hindered by MNDOT’s rules and regulations concerning access and in my opinion should never have been built in a flood plain in 1970 to begin with just because it was excess right-of-way land that MNDOT would allow the city to build on for free.

    Yes, I did confuse the two safety center committees. Ooops, my bad. But, the only reason we needed the second one was because of the blind-siding approach of the “minority report”. And I believe both of those safety committees essentially came to the same end-game conclusion. Too build two seperate free-standing facilities maybe in some people’s eyes penny-wise, but in the end is pound foolish.

    And neither one of those committees even got into what would be the operating expenses for the city for TWO free-standing independent facilities over the 20-30 year initial lifespan of those facilities.

    But, you all can rest easy. In my opinion, this council will never get that infrastructure need addressed. They’ll spend who-knows how much time and staff resources on more sub-committees to study, dissect and evaluate the need while waiting for MNDOT to think about being ready to sell the Woodley St. property to the city for its “strategic value”. They would rather spend time and money regulating the sale of items that are already dealt with in state statute instead of giving the safety professionals of this city the tools they need to provide the best possible service that the people of this city demand and deserve.

    August 8, 2011
  83. kiffi summa said:

    One of the major issues is that I hear NO ONE in the citizen category demanding any better service; I think we all are grateful for the good work our public safety people do for us. and especially for the good fire ratings which impact positively our insurance rates.

    It is the firemen who deserve a better working environment for the sake of everyone’s safety, and the police for their own daily working environment… but I have never heard them express these needs publicly, except at the committee level, and then not to the extant of the new facilities “grandness”; they only ask for space.

    The Council has not ever dealt with the facts of the ‘minority report’, and they must, in order to provide a balanced view which looks at the needs being satisfied within the smallest amount of dollars possible.

    People,and cities have NO extra , or even sufficient dollars at this time, and the costs must weigh equally with the need.

    August 9, 2011
  84. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    In fairness, the police can use better facilities also. I think Ray’s report addressed that for another $3.0 million the building can be upgraded and give the police double the space, and a more than adequate facility for years to come.

    August 9, 2011
  85. David Ludescher said:

    Jon,

    The building has worked for 41 years in the flood plain; I see no reason that it won’t work for another 41 even without flood mitigation.

    August 9, 2011
  86. Barry Cipra said:

    Griff, it seems to me it would be a great service to the LoGroNo community if someone could provide a copy of the Safety Center Task Force “minority report” that you could post for all to behold. There’s been so much pious reference made to the Book of Ray that it would be awfully good to have an Authorized Version for the Canon of the Canaan on the Cannon. In its absence, we run the risk of experiencing what happened with the Jesus myth, where everyone with an ax to grind or a sect to establish came up with his (or her) own version. We’ve already seen snippets of the Gospel According to David (not to mention the Revelations of Jon). I’d like to see what Our Savior himself (a humble carpenter by trade…) had to say.

    August 9, 2011
  87. kiffi summa said:

    yes, David… I did say the Police need a better working environment for their day to day ops.

    I fully support remodeling the current building for the Police; but last night’s Council discussion shows the difficulty of even getting the facts straight on that building.
    The Council seems loathe to even listen to, or consider, Mr. Cox’s construction expertise, although perfectly willing to accept the consulting architect’s numbers.
    Two members objected last night to the architect’s info, but got nowhere substantive with their objections.

    August 10, 2011
  88. Barry Cipra said:

    Bless you, my son!

    August 10, 2011
  89. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    I must say that I was encouraged when the City Council decided not to go forward with CIP bonds.

    August 10, 2011
  90. john george said:

    Kiffi- Ray probably wrongly presented his minority report to the council. He should have attached a $50,000 consultant fee to it.

    August 10, 2011
  91. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld News: No decision, same questions on new Safety Center

    Nakasian asked that McGee, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, be brought to the table to discuss his findings and later suggested that the council thoroughly vet his report and the so-called “minority report” authored in 2009 by Northfield contractor Ray Cox. The report opposed a Safety Center Task Force recommendation and called for separate facilities: A new fire station and renovated Safety Center for police. Only Zweifel and Nakasian expressed interest in getting further input from McGee and Cox.

    August 13, 2011
  92. Griff Wigley said:

    I missed this Aug. 1 Nfld News editorial: Safety Center: One and done

    Given the city’s geography — its river and railroad — there doesn’t appear to be a perfect site for a new Safety Center. Council members must look hard at the trio of sites put forward Tuesday and determine the best of the lot.

    The council must act swiftly and decisively. New information shows that the Safety Center floor isn’t strong enough to hold the weight of fire vehicles now parked inside, making a decision imperative.

    August 13, 2011
  93. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: Did you also miss Don McGee’s guest opinion column in the following NFNews, and the City’s Safety Center project Architect’s response to Mr. McGee’s letter?

    The response from the ‘city’ perspective appears along with Mr. McGee’s letter in the Council packet from last week (Aug. 9). The architect, Mike Clark, was invited to the Council’s work table, but Mr. McGee, who was also present ,was not invited to the table to defend the architects refutations of his (Mc Gee’s) letter.

    August 13, 2011
  94. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks, Kiffi. I did miss it. Here’s Don McGee’s guest column in the Nfld News: Safety Center report numbers seem to be skewed

    The directions to the Reuse Committee were clear. They were directed by the Council to pull together the facts regarding the reuse of the present facility. The “Reuse Report” contains major factual errors to reach invalid conclusions.

    The numbers used to arrive at the cost of reuse of the Safety Center are incorrect. The report states that a $3,000,000 addition is needed to provide the projected space needs. However, there are gross errors in their space calculations that arrive at the conclusion that a 17,000 square foot addition is required. The architects have estimated that the police department will need approximately 24,600-27,500 square feet in 20 years.

    August 14, 2011
  95. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: in looking for a place to post a comment about the Public Safety Center process, I came across this post of yours… which seemed as good a place as any…

    People should look at the letter in item #8 on this weeks (10.4.’11) City Council packet.(You can access this through the City Website)
    It tells of an offer to the city from the owners of the former RytWay property on Armstrong Road; the offer is to sell that property to the city for $1.00, if used for a public purpose; i.e., the Safety Center.
    The letter indicates some ‘reluctance’ on the part of the mayor/administrator to seriously consider this offer,( I have no idea of the veracity of that impression as expressed by the letter writer) but Tuesday is the first time it will come as public information to the Council.

    Some will say it is too far on one edge of the town, but one of the primary sites being considered by the Council at this upcoming meeting is behind Target, i.e., on the opposite far edge of town… and it is over a million dollars to purchase.

    At Tuesday’s meeting, Councilors will make motions on how to proceed with the Safety Center project, site selection, etc. The project will move along depending on the outcome of those votes, and I do not believe a super majority is required.

    Given the strange absence from the Firefighting community in any of the recent conversations, and their reluctance to talk about what has been going on with regard to their participation in the dialogue, this is something that everyone should be paying attention to, with great interest.

    So take a look at the letter in the Council packet for this Tuesday, October 4, and follow this new option in what has been a long, and IMO, fairly tortuous ‘trip’.

    October 1, 2011
  96. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    What do you mean by “strange absence from the Firefighting community”? It strikes me that the Council silenced the fire department when it appointed a policeman to be Northfield’s Fire Chief.

    October 1, 2011
  97. kiffi summa said:

    David: I agree that it was non-sensitive to make the Police Chief the Dept director of Public Safety, and that it was not a positive move; IMO, it would have been better to leave the two separate Chiefs in place and hire the administrative support service that is supposed to be needed now (an 89K request to be added to the budget).

    I value the firefighters at the highest level; they are the ONLY group I have never heard criticized in the 16 years I have lived here; and people who have lived here 35-50 years say the same. Their work is highly valued not only by the public, but by our insurance companies.

    But I was speaking now of the very obvious absence of the firefighters from the dialogue, and at the table, both metaphorically and physically.

    What is the truth of the “gag order” placed on them and their Chief?

    Is it true that he will be considered, and marked , as ‘insubordinate’ if he gives his advice or opinion, now that the other Chief is the Department head?

    This is a place where I fault this council… with all their very responsible smarts and competence … these allegations must come out, and be dealt with publicly, to either put the very credible rumors to rest, or correct the situation.
    Hard questions need to be asked and answered, at other than the Open Mic.

    OK… it’s difficult… life’s difficult… ask any old person 🙂

    But there have been too many glitches in the Safety Center process for the public to feel comfortable; and obviously that holds true for some of the Councilors also, or we would have had a confirmed direction some time ago.

    October 2, 2011
  98. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    Northfield should be using the same standard for the building of the Safety Center that school officials have to use for a referendum. By law a school official cannot advocate for or against a referendum.

    In the case of the Safety Center, the push for the new Safety Center is being led by the Police Chief. There is no way that the Council or the public are going to get accurate facts from the Police Chief. Why wouldn’t he want a new building?

    I don’t get it.

    October 3, 2011
  99. Kathie Galotti said:

    David : Re 47.12 I’d really like an explanation of what it means for a school official (say, the Superintendant) NOT to advocate for a referendum. IMO, he’s coming very close to doing exactly that. What makes you hold that up as an example?

    October 3, 2011
  100. David Ludescher said:

    Kathie,

    I think it is inappropriate to have the Police Chief being the primary supplier of facts to the City Council on the question of needing a new facility. Why wouldn’t he want a new facility if the Council will give him one with taxpayer money?

    October 3, 2011
  101. Kathie Galotti said:

    Couldn’t agree more. My point is that exactly the same thing is happening with the local school levy.

    October 3, 2011
  102. Griff Wigley said:

    FYI, I’ll have a new blog post up shortly for the school levy.

    October 3, 2011
  103. kiffi summa said:

    But no one… well almost no one … will say this to the Council, and they aren’t saying it to each other, at least in the public discussion…

    October 3, 2011
  104. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    We had a Chamber forum with about 100 business people there. I think the vote was about 4 to 1 against building a combined facility. When we invited the Council back, Joel Walinski gave a presentation on the “new” facility.

    So, the Chamber people have been out there.

    October 4, 2011
  105. kiffi summa said:

    I was at both those forums, David, and although the Chamber membership was quite outspoken in their chats with other members, or visitors like me, they did not really speak up to the City representatives.

    And now it is many months (years?) later, and the process just keeps moving along.

    The “Chamber people” have not been appearing at the Open Mic at Council meetings, or writing letters to the editor, and if they are complaining to their Council people it is not highly reported. I can think of only one councilperson who regularly says people tell her they are not happy with the Safety center process and proposed costs.

    As much as I disagree with much of the process and the decision-making, it is absolutely unfair, IMO , to let the process just proceed without the Council having heard all the complaints, and then have a wrench thrown in the works at the last minute.

    Last night at the Council they did get to an agreed-to decision on a joint facility, but will be negotiating with 4 property owners for purchase prices; well, three … because the Gleason site would be a gift to the City.

    October 5, 2011
  106. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    The entire Council was invited to both Chamber forums. No Council member seemed seriously interested in the Minority Report.

    October 6, 2011
  107. kiffi summa said:

    You are absolutely correct about that , David… and to my mind they should have been VERY interested in the so-called “minority- report”.

    And by voting last Tuesday (10.4) to build a single new joint facility, they told the public that they still are NOT interested in the minority report ; I have found that very disturbing all along this long and tortuous way that seems to be leading to yet another huge commercial tax increase.

    We have come to a point where how much money is available to pay… whatever…really matters.

    The Council talked a bit last meeting about how to reduce the total cost, but that discussion was ultimately postponed ’til the next meeting, because of the late hour.

    All of the major deferred maintenance on the current building should never have been a part of the costs of the reuse of that building and allowed in any way to skew the outcome, but it always entered the conversation.

    October 7, 2011
  108. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    I went on a building walk-through with a bunch of other building owners. Frankly, we did not see much “deferred maintenance” issues. The walk-through convinced me that the building has lots of good years left. The problem that I saw was space – especially for fire equipment.

    Regarding costs, my personal opinion is Northfield could get some significant financial help from non-tax sources if it built a separate fire facility. But, it is not going to get the help if it builds a combined facility. Plus, if the Council commits to a new facility, there is no incentive for the Rural Fire nor the colleges to join the the “community effort”.

    The last point I don’t understand is this – if we aren’t going to stick any money into the building, shouldn’t we at least use it until it is no longer serviceable?

    October 7, 2011
  109. Randy Jennings said:

    David, I’ve no doubt you are a fine attorney, but I’m not as familiar with your engineering expertise. I’d suggest that when you toured the building, you saw what you wanted to see (nothing) and lack the expertise to recognize the problems. The actual engineering firm that studied the building (you can still find its report on the city’s website) found several million dollars of repairs and deferred maintenance just to bring the structure up to code. An engineer at a different firm reviewed the report and found that he might quibble over the priority given one item or another, but on the whole found the report reasonable. The bottom line, though, is that such spending would do nothing to provide the public safety facilities Northfield needs to meet today’s standards for police and fire service, much less the future.

    You and Kiffi both continue to trumpet the self-proclaimed “minority report” as if it was written on tablets and handed down from on high. It’s really just the opinion of two members of one of the task forces to have looked at this issue. Those two people (out of the couple dozen who have been involved) FAILED to persuade their fellow task force members of the validity of their opinion. We live in an age when anyone with a complaint can yelp about it, so I suppose it’s to be expected that the “minority” would not respect the findings of the majority. Maybe it’s time to get over it and move on.

    And Kiffi (re: 48.1.6), before the current city council formed its own committees to look at the issue, two prior citizen task forces have recommended a single facility. I know it can be a little bit of a shock when the central committee concurs with the recommendations of citizens, but maybe that indicates that it would have been the right decision in 2008, in 2010, and, on this occasion, it’s still the right decision.

    October 8, 2011
  110. Based on Randy Jennings’ comment, it looks like everyone is on board for a new single use facility– except for the people who are going to have to pay for it. Which brings up the question, how are they going to pay for it? Last winter the idea of using CIP bonds was shot down due to the threat of a reverse referendum. As far as I am concerned, all these decisions are quite hollow unless they are backed up with a concrete plan for financing that the tax-paying public is aware of and supports.

    October 8, 2011
  111. Griff Wigley said:

    Andy, while the Council could reverse itself again, they approved the financing method back in Feb: issuing Capital Improvement (CIP) general obligation bonds.

    See the blog post at the top of this discussion.

    October 8, 2011
  112. Randy Jennings said:

    Andy,
    Could you not talk about “the people” as if you (or I) represent them? I described the work of two specific citizen task forces which made recommendations on what they determined would best serve the long-term interests of the community. A specific city council — nominally elected to represent its constituents’ interests — has also reached the same conclusion. There is a lot I don’t like about the way this council works, but in this case I hope they have the backbone to act in the public’s best interests and move forward without a referendum. You clearly disagree. There’s a ballot box for that.

    The reason I oppose a referendum is that I don’t think this issue should be defined as one of narrow self interest, no matter how vociferously the anti-tax crowd (and I don’t mean to imply you are or aren’t part of it) wants it to be. There is a certain level of public investment required to operate our city. One can argue over what the priorities should be, but public safety is clearly near the top of the list, and it carries with it fixed costs that we just can’t wish away. In this case, a couple of fairly rigorous processes have found that a new facility scaled to meet Nlfd’s needs for the foreseeable future (20-40 years) will cost between $10-12 million. That’s not a Taj Mahal, although I’d argue that the cost of a nicer-looking building isn’t that much more than a less-nice looking building.

    One could argue that for the past 20 years, tax payers in Northfield have been paying lower taxes than we should have because the city hasn’t properly captured the costs of maintenance. (I don’t know if that’s actually true, but there has been considerable griping about the city’s ability to care for its facilities.) So, for the next 20 years we’ll have to pay a little more. That’s the cost of having police and fire protection. I expect “the people” want that, whether or not “they” want to pay the taxes necessary.

    October 8, 2011
  113. kiffi summa said:

    Your opinion, Randy….

    Was Ray Cox, the author of the ‘minority report’ not the most experienced contractor/builder on the ‘citizen’ committee?

    Don Mc Gee, a career engineer professional, and a member of the Design Committee, has raised many of the same issues to the ‘City” and has been called in to several meetings with administrator and architect.
    Why?

    You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but you need to disclose your contractor status for the City during the time in question, indeed up to just recently. You have done that in the past, but need to include that , along with your ‘opinion’, IMO.

    October 8, 2011
  114. Ok, I admit I’m confused. I attended a meeting in the winter in which it appeared the council backed down in the face of the threat of a reverse referendum. I guess I wasn’t paying attention to the details. Is a reverse referendum still an option?

    October 8, 2011
  115. Randy Jennings said:

    Kiffi,
    I worked with Joel Walinski on the Safety Center issue, and he’s been gone for a year and a half. I think the statute of limitations on that conflict has past. Perhaps you could let it go…

    The only residual is the fact that I’ve probably read the relevant reports more closely than a typical citizen. Everything I’ve said above is based on publicly available materials about which reasonable people might disagree. I’m simply responding to your and David’s consistent effort to give more weight to a “minority” opinion than I think is due.

    Do you have anything of substance to say about the report of the engineering firm? If not, let’s move on and get a new Safety Center built. If the city had done this in 2008, the police and fire depts would have moved in and we could be having a more fruitful conversation about making the current building the transit hub, or a welcome center, or a branch library, or the municipal liquor store…

    October 8, 2011
  116. David Ludescher said:

    Randy,

    Admittedly, when I walked through the building, I was looking with a critical eye towards keeping the building. When the tour was finished, a group of us talking afterwards all came to the same conclusion – not only was the building “salvageable”, but that it probably had another 40 years of use.

    Those of us talking were all building owners ourselves. Some problems, like space, were real. Other problems, like the flood plain, were annoying, but manageable. Other problems, like the lack of parking and having a jail, have only become problems since the police have been requesting a building.

    I read some of the engineering report; I was less than impressed. Engineers, like lawyers, can be hired to say what you want them to say. The engineering report didn’t address service inadequacies; it addressed the wish list of the police.

    The simple fact is that the police and fire are using this facility now without any significant service issues (from what I have read). If the fire department moves out, the police are going to have the same building they have had for the last 40 years – with a lot more space, and an opportunity to update it and remodel it.

    October 9, 2011
  117. David Ludescher said:

    Randy,

    The other thought is that the Council could put the vote up on a split ballot:

    1. A new fire hall at $3.0 million or so, and
    2. If #1 passes, a new combined facility at $12 – $14 million.

    The school board did it that way a number of years ago.

    October 9, 2011
  118. kiffi summa said:

    Randy: you say you have “read the relevant reports more closely than a typical citizen”. ..
    What then about the opinions of Ray Cox, and Don McGee?
    Are they possibly ONLY ‘typical citizens’? One has a lifelong career in construction, and the other in engineering…You would dismiss both their opinions as being ONLY a difference of opinion.

    You continue to dismiss comments with which you disagree as having no “substance”; I wish instead of just taking that dismissive tone, you would speak, with ‘substance’ to the engineering issues in the current building which you believe cannot be corrected.

    Also, please do not continue to characterize me as “anti-tax”; owning a DT building has made certain that I have paid more taxes in this community than you, and paid them consistently , on time, and I have no delinquent taxes.

    I believe in taxes; that’s how gov’t is funded; but I also believe substantial buildings that are only 40 years old, should not be wasted.
    I am not convinced, as many others are not, that the current facility cannot serve the Police.

    Also, in 48.2.1, you talk about the reuse of the building for other needs… are you not aware that the thrust of the conversation has that building being torn down?
    If it is considered adequate for reuse, then that undermines the reasoning that it cannot be reused for the Police.

    October 9, 2011
  119. David Ludescher said:

    Randy,

    I have heard the “public safety” argument, but it has never been explained. Are there currently public safety issues with the present building? Other than the fire trucks being parked too closely together, I haven’t heard of any problems that the building has caused with public safety.

    I don’t know what services we are going to get for $12.0 million that we couldn’t get for $3.0 (a new fire facility). It is not as if the police are going to be much more effective in a big box, strip mall facility than they are going to be in their historic building.

    October 9, 2011
  120. Ray Cox said:

    The city will continue pushing for an elaborate combined facility until the voters take away that option from them. This is how the enduring aspects of administrations work. From what I can gather, the elected city officials do not have the support of the taxpayers or the fire fighters. This whole issue started out by looking at safety concerns with the fire headquarters. It has taken a life of its own as city administrators see this as a ‘time to get something’ and not just ‘let the schools get all the dollars.’

    By playing the safety card to the public they believe this will be a slam dunk. Hopefully people will wake up and either convince enough of the city council to step back from their plan, or take away the funding option by a reverse referendum.

    We have no business throwing away a 40 year old building. It is strucutally sound and has a lot of life in it for use as a fire hall or police station. We can accomplish all that we need for $6 – $6.5 million—and that includes $1 million of new fire fighting equiipment, which I believe we should be talking a lot more about.

    Folks, please remember that a fire hall never rushes out and fights a fire. A police station never arrests a criminal. We cannot lose sight of that. Yes, both police and fire need safe, warm, pleaseant facilities. But they both need top qualilty equipment, good public support, and appropriate administrative support to do their jobs.

    Earlier comments are correct….the city has all the information about the existing building to make a good informed decision. The problem is they are either ignoring it or not reading it. I had a phone call this week from one of the architects who designed the building. He said it was sad to see the city taking this twisted approach to trying to get what they want.

    And Randy, it is intersting that you are advocating for reusing the building as a transit hub, liquor store, etc. If the building is ‘completely unworkable’ for a police station, how is it workable for the uses you suggest?

    October 9, 2011
  121. kiffi summa said:

    Ray: this may be a sore point with you, and one that you may feel you cannot be completely open about, but I’m going to ask for an answer, and I hope you can give some information….

    Why was the ‘minority report’ completely ignored by the Council, even those who did not want anything but a central location? and also…
    Why, given you were the person with the most construction expertise on the citizen committee, and Don McGee (an engineer) the person with the most engineering expertise on the design committee… WHY were, and are, the two of you ignored?

    The only reason would seem to be that it was not the answer that was wanted, but is it that simple?

    October 9, 2011
  122. Randy Jennings said:

    Kiffi,
    You stumble over so many issues that it’s hard to know what warrants a reply. First, I didn’t characterize you as “anti-tax.” That phrase was in a response to Andy not you (and even there, I specifically said I was NOT characterizing him one way or another). Please read more carefully before you cast your aspersions. And the finger-wagging about tone? Give me a break.

    Second, I don’t consider any volunteer members of task forces and commissions to be “typical citizens.” They work hard to understand the issues before them. Their collective efforts deserve more respect and their formal opinions more credence than those of the “typical citizen.” I wish this community paid more attention and gave more weight to these processes from the beginning, rather than waiting until the end to complain, or worse, trying to circumvent the work by trying to influence the city council.

    Third, on the topic at hand, the substantive point which you continue to ignore is that the first $3 million or so sunk into the current building just gets us back to square one. No one has ever said it couldn’t be done. Ray, you, and the “many others” you cite, are absolutely right that it is possible to renovate the building. Anything is possible, if you have unlimited money. We don’t, so the question is whether or not remodeling would be smart money to spend. The engineers’ report doesn’t express an opinion, it simply documents what is required to get back up to code. (As a tax-paying commercial property owner, you wouldn’t want the city’s buildings held to a lower standard than the city applies to yours, would you?)

    I think it’s a waste to spend that much on this building. You disagree. Ray disagrees. Don Magee apparently disagrees. These are ALL just opinions. Sure, Ray’s opinion about whether or not the building COULD BE remodeled is more valuable than yours or mine. He’s an expert remodeler, after all, so he knows well what is possible. But his (and yours and my) opinion about whether it is a sound investment is no more or less valuable than any other’s. Unfortunately, the underlying public safety services are lost in the bickering.

    Fourth, (and Ray, if you’re reading, this addresses the question you raised) there are many possible reuses, all of which would take a certain amount of spending just to get to what it would cost to fulfill the requirements of the reuse. Even tearing it down will take money. My point was simply that if we’d built new facilities the first time around, back in 2008, we’d be having a different conversation about whether or not renovating the existing building for another use is a worthwhile public investment. I just threw out four space issues that have been discussed recently. Maybe we open it to the marketplace and see if there’s any commercial interest. (That assumes MN-DOT, the DNR, FEMA, the Historic Preservation Commission, the Planning Commission and any other agency with jurisdiction would allow such a thing.)

    Is this clear enough? I agree the building CAN be renovated. The question is whether it is smart to do so.

    October 9, 2011
  123. David Ludescher said:

    Randy,

    It doesn’t make any sense to me to have the police abandon the building because of the cost of updating (due to the supposed deferred maintenance, flood plain issues, etc.), and then spend $3.0 million additional City funds to remodel the building for a different tenant. If if can’t be updated for the police, then it should be torn down.

    October 10, 2011
  124. Ray Cox said:

    Kifi, my personal opinion about the way the council and administration treated the minority report was simply because it went against what they want. That is not unusual. The same holds true for Don McGee’s information. And the same thing is going on with the city indicating the building has ‘flooded’ many times, when in fact it has not, ignoring their own engineers analysis of site mitigation, etc.. People like to control what information they want to let out as “facts” and ignore other information.

    In hindsight, I do wish I would not have caved on the committee, but rather held out forever, preventing the committee from reaching consensus. However, at the time I didn’t think that was a good plan. But I also didn’t think the city would be doing some of the things they have been doing to try and get their way for a new facility. The city demanded that the task force not have a chairperson, operate by consensus, and be steered by their architect. If I would have held out maybe the committtee would have just collapsed without any recommendation and the council would have stepped back and taken a real look at what was being promoted.

    I keep trying to get people focused on the real issue….the fire department. What would you rathter have for your town, a nice shiny $12 million building sitting on a field, or top quality, safe, efficient fire fighting apparatus? We may end up looking at an either or situation of the council goes ahead with the $12 million plan.

    October 10, 2011
  125. Randy Jennings said:

    David,
    In general, I agree. But… if we ever build a new safety center we could sell the existing one and let a new (property-tax-paying) owner decide whether it’s worth renovating or should be torn down.

    October 10, 2011
  126. David Ludescher said:

    Randy,

    Maybe there is a compromise in there someplace. If we could find a buyer for the building now, that money could be used to build a new police station.

    My guess is that the present value of the building to the City is in the $3 million range. ($1.5 million for the fire department; $1.5 million for the police department.)

    Let’s build the fire station. In the meantime, we can look for a buyer for the building. The police get a new building when we find a buyer in the $3.0 million range.

    October 10, 2011
  127. Randy Jennings said:

    David,
    I think there’s an appraisal that puts the value of the current safety center somewhere south of $1 million. If/when the city decides to sell the building, I’ll bet we’ll be in the same position as the USPS with the Nfld post office. It will be an asset we want to sell for its full value, but someone will want to buy it for $1. Would the city take the deal we have vilified the USPS for rejecting?

    Conditioning any part of the construction of new public safety facilities on the proceeds of the sale would have the effect I’m sure you intend: indefinite delay.

    October 10, 2011
  128. Ray Cox said:

    For some reason the most recent posts don’t seem to appear in the thread, just on the sidebar. But, Randy, a couple of things:
    1. The 2009 task force was given information that showed the Rice County Auditor listed the value of the present building at $1,949,200. Those valuations are typically a bit light, so a value of around $2.5 million is probably realistic. I seem to recall that the city also carries insurance of $3 million on the building.
    2. The same task force was told that the existing site has to be used for city purposes…if not it must revert to MnDot. I believe MnDot essentially donated the site to the city to use. So some decent city use could be found for the building. But then if the city feels it is too far gone and must be thrown away, I don’t know how they could justify putting maintenance dollars into it for some other city entity to use.

    October 10, 2011
  129. john george said:

    Ray- It appears any new comments are coming up on a second page. If someone replied to another comment on page 1, it will show up there. It’s a little confusing at this point in the discussion.

    October 10, 2011
  130. David Ludescher said:

    Randy,

    My goal isn’t delay; my goal is to get serviceable facilities within the smallest budget. I would have been willing to vote for a new $3.0 million fire facility 2 years ago. And, if it had been presented, it would have passed overwhelmingly.

    But, if the combined facility goes forward, and if it fails, we will have wasted time and energy.

    In my opinion, the best thing that could happen is to have the Council put forth the fire facility as one bonding issue, and put the combined facility on as an alternative. If the Council really wants this Taj Mahal, and the voters agree, then that is what we get; if the voters reject the Taj, but vote for the fire department, at least we get the fire building built.

    October 10, 2011
  131. kiffi summa said:

    Randy: Back in #48.2.4 you say: “As a tax paying commercial building owner, you wouldn’t want the city’s buildings held to a lower standard than the city applies to you, would you?”

    If you read our listened to the OSHA/Consultant’s report on the condition of the current facility, you would find that indeed the city does NOT hold their own buildings to the standard that is applied to mine, and that is just a fact. There are things in that report that I would cause me to be denied my building license until corrected… even a simple thing like an uncovered electrical outlet… and there in lies some of my irritation about the costs associated with reuse of the current building.

    The fact that the ‘city’ allowed the current building to build up the level of deferred maintenance that it has affects the rehab/reuse of the building, relevant to regulations about percentage of rehab as related to new DNR permitting, etc.

    And… that level of deferred maintenance costs , and the problematic re-permitting makes it an unattractive purchase opportunity, if not a fiscally impossible one for a new buyer.

    Another problem… the costs re: the imagined value of the building are different in various scenarios ; the city values it lowly for their own use, but a higher price has been quoted as a value for sale, although that went away fairly early on because it became apparent that it would be hard to convince the public that the building could not be reused, if it was highly priced.

    At the task force meetings I attended, it was a given that the building be torn down; after all if it was reusable, how could the city defend choosing NOT to reuse it, as any rehab costs are lower than new construction.

    I will continue to maintain that the citizen committees each had people with specific professional expertise on them, but in the ‘consensus’ situation that prevailed could not prevail with their opinion.

    See Ray Cox’s statement in #’s51 and especially 52.

    October 10, 2011
  132. Randy Jennings said:

    Ray,
    I stand corrected on the value of the building and the restrictions on a potential sale of the property. I was mis-remembering the 2006 appraisal by Redalen Valuation Services valuing the property $865,000 as vacant land only. That value would probably be moot if it can’t be sold for any other than a public purpose.

    October 10, 2011
  133. Randy Jennings said:

    Kiffi,
    I have followed the OSHA reviews of city facilities, and I am pleased to agree with what I take to be the thrust of your first couple of paragraphs: that building code requirements should be applied equally to government and private sector buildings. That they were not evenly applied in the past is quite clear, and we are all suffering the consequence. (We’ve probably also had some small benefit. See prior comments about the relative tax break we have probably enjoyed due to the underspending on maintenance.)

    I think we will have to respectfully disagree about whether or not the task forces did their work properly. To my thinking, the objective was for each task force to make a recommendation to the city council based on its collective judgment. That will almost certainly result in a recommendation closer to the center than to any outlier opinions. Frustrating to those out-voted or out-consensused (if that’s possible), but it seems — and yes, this is just my opinion — an appropriately rigorous process with a reasonable outcome. That the city council, after its own triplicative review, came to the same conclusion seems to validate the work of the task forces.

    October 10, 2011
  134. David Ludescher said:

    Randy,

    If I recall correctly, the task force was originally commissioned by the mayor to find a new site for a combined facility. There has never been a task force commissioned to look at rehabbing the building for the police.

    October 11, 2011
  135. kiffi summa said:

    But david, there was a City Council subcommittee to study reuse of the current building, and they decided…. with the information provided to them… that it was not an option to reuse.

    Key phrase: “with the information provided to them”.

    October 11, 2011
  136. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    I think the strongest argument in favor of the police using the building is that they have been using it for the last 3 years – through the worst Cannon River flood in history – without any significant issues.

    October 12, 2011
  137. kiffi summa said:

    I totally agree, David.

    I was just raising the issue of questioning why the Council subcommittee on re-use just found that consideration so impossible. They did not make a convincing case when I heard it reported, but as I said, it all depends on what information you are working from to come to your conclusion.

    Do you think it is possible… that after all this ‘sturm und drang’, the Police will stay there in enlarged, remodeled quarters, and a new Fire Hall will be built somewhere else?

    Is it possible, that in the end, Reason will prevail?

    October 12, 2011
  138. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    The only way I can see a new fire hall and a remodeled Safety Center is if a joint facility referendum fails by a significant vote. If the vote is close, I would guess that the Council will try to take another run at a joint facility.

    October 13, 2011