Will Obama Pay for City Hall Renovations?

ObamaWithFlag.jpegI’ve noticed that our City Officials and Staff have recently suggested breaking the proposed $1.2 million for City Hall renovations into phases. Apparently the first phase will be a few hundred thousand dollars for window replacement. A recent piece on MinnPost makes me wonder…maybe we can get Obama to pay for the windows at City Hall.

One of the City’s consulting firms, Johnson Controls, has run some numbers that suggest that public spending for new windows at City Hall will save the town money over the long term in energy costs. According to the Minnpost story, Obama favors investment projects that support his energy policy; thus there is support for those in which “public buildings would be made more energy efficient”. Perhaps waiting until the new administration has their programs in place could save Northfield a few hundred thousand dollars that could be used for other projects.

I’m wondering if there are additional local projects that might be eligible, even favored, for Obama’s spending plans. Another type of project mentioned in the piece is better internet connections for schools, libraries and hospitals. With the colleges’ super high-speed backbone already in town, perhaps we can get Washington to pay for the “last mile” necessary to make these long-discussed connections a reality.

As you might suspect, my mind quickly returns to the Northfield Industrial Corporation Transportation Task Force’s July 2000 “Recommendations for Improvements in Safety, Access and Quality of Life Issues for Northfield Transportation”. As I’ve mentioned once or twice before, the group identified 12 priority projects, of which only one and a half have been addressed to date. I’ll call out to my Blandin Buddy Kris Vohs and raise the 1998 plan for the Jefferson Parkway Extension from the dead. Do you think if we’d gotten beyond discussion to plans and specs that the financing might have suddenly been available?

But enough about my pet projects, I wonder if some of the folks serving on City Boards and Commissions have some thoughts. Are there any priority projects, related to roads, bridges, water and energy that are actually ready to go? Is the appropriate State Agency aware and supportive? Is the necessary community support in place?

Don’t wait until June. Looks like the time to get them on the table is now.


  1. Robert Hall said:

    Mr. Obama does not pay for anything. The taxpayers pay for every cent the Federal Government and State Governments spend. That includes local Governments. (Northfield) There is no free ride. Someone always pays the freight.

    December 16, 2008
  2. Ray Cox said:

    Darn…..Robert you’ve taken the wind out of my sail! After all I’ve been hearing I thought we were just about ready to start sending receipts for various expenditures—home heating, home repairs, things we want, etc.—to Mr. Obama and be reimbursed. Now you’ve let the cat out of the bag….we, our children, grandchildren, and possibly our great grandchildren will have to pay for the spending. Drats!

    December 16, 2008
  3. Bruce Anderson said:

    Let’s not forget that when George W. Bush took the oath of office on January 20, 2001, the federal debt totaled $5.278 trillion. As of yesterday, federal debt totaled $10. 656 trillion. (Debt data available on the federal Treasury website.) In other words, the federal debt has more than doubled under Bush’s watch, rising by $5.378 trillion in the seven years and just under 11 months he’s been in office. (And he had a Republican House for six of those years, and a Republican Senate for four, so let’s not blame the tax-and-spend Democrats.)


    Let’s also not forget the $700 billion bailout (supported by the Bush Administration, many congressional Democrats, and some congressional Republicans), and the horrifically expensive (in Iraqi and American lives, damaged bodies and minds, and money) pre-emptive war in Iraq. Total cost to date: around $600 billion, with an ultimate cost (including payments for health care, death benefits, etc.) estimated around $3 trillion.

    These are scary economic times, to be sure, but there is broad agreement, not just among Democrats, but also among many Republicans, that economic stimulus is more important than debt control right now.

    I personally look forward to seeing federal (yes, taxpayer-funded, now and in the future) spending on clean energy and other 21st-century infrastructure rather than bailouts of an irresponsible, inadequately regulated financial sector and funding an immoral war that has badly damaged the United States’ standing in the world.

    December 16, 2008
  4. Melissa Reeder said:

    I like to think of infrastructure, inclusive of high-speed Internet access — just like the roads we drive on, we should have access to the information highway. For years we have been asking the State to improve Highway 19. I don’t doubt the need – but what if we could build an information super highway to/from Northfield? How could the reduction of traffic, because people could work from home, improve our standard of living? It certainly meets Obama’s energy outlook.

    Having the Fiber Optic Study results in February will give us some direction on the feasibility to build out our town with ultra high-speed access to all homes and businesses. Who knows, maybe folks like us will have a chance to get in line for funding — that is — if there IS funding.

    December 16, 2008
  5. Anthony Pierre said:

    Ray, you could always tap Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska about getting his home renovations for free.

    December 17, 2008
  6. Ross Currier said:

    Melissa –

    Thank you for overlooking my use of the expression “get Obama to pay for…”. My point was that if the Federal Government is going to use, yes, taxpayer money to prime the pump of economic activity, those communities that are prepared to act are more likely to get their projects funded.

    You are correct, we are all still speculating about the potential funding. However, I believe you are also smart to prepare for a possible position in the big line.

    I hope Northfield will move beyond the usual “study” step, even beyond the less frequent but admittedly more productive “recommendation” step, to the full “plan” step. In my mind, a plan has specific action steps or projects, clear timelines, solid cost estimates and potential sources of funding.

    Thanks again,


    December 17, 2008
  7. Robert Hall said:

    Have you witnessed a taxpayer funded government program that has worked, and worked effeciently? Wait and see how many of Mr. Obama’s programs actually become reality. As for the National debt, the Congress signed the tab. Maybe that is why they have an 8% approval rating? Lower than President Bush. I don’t see the “Hope and Change” coming. Looks like the same old bunch of beltway boys we have watched for the last forty years. However, if we can get the windows fixed in city hall it will all be worth it.

    December 17, 2008
  8. john george said:

    Robert- In reality, all government programs are taxpayer funded. There have been some successful ones, depending on how you judge success. The reconstruction programs for Europe and Japan after the war were successes, for one example. As far as efficiency goes, that is may be another matter.

    I just read some headlines in the Strib this morning about Obama proposing a $850 billion economic stimulus package. I just don’t understand the reasoning behind this. The economy is in the sewer because a bunch of financial experts decided to invest a bunch of money that did not exist on investments in properties that were hoped to acrue in value to pay off the bills. The properties actually decreased in value. Now, we are going to give away a bunch of money that hasn’t yet been taken from taxpayers, in the hope that the taxpayers will actually have the money to pay when the time comes, to invest in a bunch of projects that will not increase the production of wealth. Did we not learn from this last fiasco? Or are we still stuck putting our hopes in some priciples that have yet to produce results? It is little wonder that a lot of people in high places are running scared.

    Perhaps, if we want new windows in City hall, we should just send a collection plate around town and eliminate the Federal Government middlemen.

    December 18, 2008
  9. Bill Ostrem said:

    Some plans that are ready to go: the council-approved Parks and Trails Master Plan indicates bike lanes and routes on city streets. These could be striped and signed quickly and at low cost.

    As far as I know, the greenway corridor plans are not ready to go, though there’s no certainty these could be included in stimulus spending. Alternative transportation advocates are asking that stimulus spending include trails and other infrastructure that would benefit more than just motor vehicle transportation. Mass transit should be included too – no local plans there either.

    December 18, 2008
  10. Ross Currier said:

    In a front page story in today’s Star Tribune, “Obama seeking $850B package”, the author, Jim Kuhnhenn of the Associated Press, says that “Obama is promoting a recovery plan that would feature spending on”, among other things, “new and renovated schools”. I’m wondering if we can get Obama to pay for the Sibley expansion.

    I am well aware of the fact that Obama is spending taxpayer money. I also understand that for every dollar that Minnesota ships off to Washington, only change comes back to be invested in this state. Therefore, I’m thinking that if Northfield is strategic and aggressive perhaps we can get tax dollars from other states to pay for projects in our state, thus adjusting the “balance of payments” and leaving Northfield’s tax dollars available for other projects.

    If there are worthy projects that are ready to go, and appear to qualify for the stimulus spending, let’s move quickly to get in the front of the line. It seems to me to be just another variation on the theme “Keep Your Money in Northfield”.

    December 18, 2008
  11. David Ludescher said:

    Ross: Arguably, public officials have an obligation to stand in line for handouts, even if Northfield has less need than other communities.

    Of course, the citizens could always decide that they don’t want their public officials to beg for money when there are more needy communities.

    I, for one, would prefer that we be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

    December 19, 2008
  12. kiffi summa said:

    I can’t imagine that there would be any more talk of City Hall renovations if the NFNews is correct in their announcement of Northfield losing $365,000 of their Local Gov’t Aid from the state. I would also think only the repairs of the Muni would be considered, rather than a new facility.

    Re: the $365,000: This is money that had already been committed, figured in the current budget, i.e. ‘spent’ for all practical purposes.
    It will be back to the budget cuts for Kathleen McBride, the city’s Finance Director, and the council.
    The council should rethink the $30,000 portion of the raises that Senior staff offered as reasonable (‘non-raises’ , not cuts) for their (Sr. staff) salaries, and which the council re-instated in the budget after the Staff’s offer. Every $1,000 helps at this point.

    Ms. McBride has stated that no further cuts are possible at this point without affecting service to the public.
    Council will have to meet in a special session the last week of December.

    December 20, 2008
  13. kiffi summa said:

    Surely you jest!

    But they (city hall) keep talking about those federal funds for all other sorts of uses; some mentioned are: fiber optics infrastructure, transit hub facility, and the most active because a proposal is going out on a very short timeline, a study to determine improvements to the hwy19/3 downtown area corridor.

    Check out last couple council meetings/work sessions for more info.
    Grant has to be applied for by mid September; very short timeline.

    June 27, 2009
  14. Peter said:


    We finally can agree on soemthing, very good analysis.

    Personally I could care less on who creates the debt. The fact that the debt is created is more concerning to me. Because in the end I still have to pay for it.
    If it makes everybody feel better that Bush created some of the debt…great.

    Just as a matter of fact Bruce..aren’t the Democrats in charge of congress since 2006 ?

    June 27, 2009
  15. Peter said:

    Do we really need a new city hall. Seems to me that this would be more of a want to have project..rather then a must have.

    Obama ‘s bailout in combination with the stimulus, cap and tax bill and the health care bill, will bankrupt us and our children.

    Nice going.

    June 27, 2009
  16. Jane McWilliams said:

    Or, you could check he LWVNorhfield blog!

    June 27, 2009
  17. Ray Cox said:

    I’m with Peter. Do we really need major improvements to city hall. What are the failings. I’ll have to admit I find the building kind of cozy. I like the wide halls even though they are larger than a typical office builidng.

    I look back to post #3 of Bruce’s and wonder what his—and other folks—take on the Obama spending is now? Bruce’s figures pale in comparison to where we sit on July 1, 2009. And all this debt either has to be repaid by taxpayers, or we can settle in and watch our economy spin down further.

    Rather than have a lot of public boards and commissions sit around and try to figure out ways to apply for Obama grants for money that we will ask our great-grandchildren to repay, I think we all need to use a mirror to take a hard look at our wants and needs. Help each other as best we can. Support organizations that you believe are doing a good job in the community. Stop thinking ‘the government’ can do things better and cheaper than anyone else.

    June 30, 2009

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