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Councils Send Parties Back to the Drawing Board with St. Michael-Albertville Ice Arena Expansion

The two city boards agreed financial support from the school district is unlikely when it comes to funding an arena expansion, and that the hockey association's numbers might be too high.

With questions still swirling about a proposed funding plan for an ice arena expansion, the Albertville and St. Michael city councils met together Monday night to discuss plans.

St. Michael mayor Jerry Zachman started the meeting off and directed his comments at the full audience.

“We know how all of you feel and what your dilemma is, but tonight the two councils are here to discuss with each other. We don’t need much input from hockey families tonight,” he said. 

With that, the councils jumped right onto task. While both councils agree with the idea of building a new ice arena in principle, both are also clear that the money isn’t in the budget, and raising taxes beyond what they already must isn’t very appealing either.

St. Michael City Council member Kevin Kasel explained; “This is a large capital expense and the impact for us (St. Michael), is half of what it is for Albertville residents. This isn’t an easy fix.”

St. Michael City Administrator Bob Derus followed that up by sharing that the city of St. Michael “may already be passing a 5 percent tax increase [in 2012] without this project.”

Albertville City Administrator Larry Kruse agreed, and explained that the city of Albertville is “already running a bare bones budget. There is no extra fat in essential services so anything we need for this will have to come through taxes.”

St. Michael Council Member Joe Marx shook his head, “Timing is off here. It’s easier to do these things during growth times. We just don’t have anything in the fund right now.”

The St. Michael-Albertville School District has been clear about their intentions and their own financial situation and “that has to be considered.” Kruse said.

Albertville City Council member John Vetsch has been adamant about the schools involvement all along and Monday night was no different. “The school has an operating budget of $38 million and can’t squeak out $15,000?”

Kasel corrected Vetsch’s thinking by reminding him that “school funds are allocated for certain funds and services. That’s a pretty flippant comment for someone who doesn’t understand school finance.”

Youth Hockey parent Jane Helgestad arose after waving her hand several times and while Zachman said “the meeting is for the councils to discuss,” she continued, “We have two really great high school teams with booster clubs that could be asked for money.”

That brought the conversation to a fundraising goal put in place by the Youth Hockey Association, a target it needs to have up front prior to moving forward on the project

Derus called it, “the $500,000 gorilla in the room." Larry Sorenson from the Albertville City Council explained “without a time frame or dollar amount, no target – it’s tough to fundraise.”

Youth Hockey president, Scott Berning was quick to point out that “$500,000 was my number. We’re open on it, but it was the number I suggested.”

Albertville Council Member Jillian Schommer asked about fundraising. “Can the entire community and both cities fundraise here?”

Kasel was quick to answer. “Youth Hockey needs to lead this effort,” and Derus followed up by reminding all “cities don’t fundraise. We have taxes.”

Even after initial payments are made, Kruse reminded the councils to “be prepared. If operations don’t go how they hope we need to be prepared to cover youth hockey’s portion of the payments.”

For the first five years of payments, youth hockey would be asked for a $40,000 contribution that could be paid simply by adding on an additional $100/payment/per hockey family charge. After the first five years though, “our organization is going to be fundraise-centric,” Berning said.

But Derus questioned any raise in tax dollars to pay for an expansion.

“The question here is, are our councils in support of raising taxes to do this when 80-90 percent of our residents are non-hockey families, and maybe won’t agree?”

The current proposals show that St. Michael residents would see a $11 tax and Albertville would see $22 for the ice arena only. The reason for the disparity? St. Michael has twice as many households. 

“We also need to consider how this will affect our businesses.” Marx said. “They pay a different tax rate to keep our residents taxes down. Some businesses are thriving, but some are not.”

The meeting closed with a consensus for both councils to run through the numbers again without school contribution, and also altering the youth hockey contributions.

“We need to run through all the questions and answers this time.” Albertville Council Member Dan Wagner said.

Sorenson agreed, “We want to do this right with all the scenarios laid out.”

The St. Michael City Council meets a 7 p.m.Tuesday, April 26. The Albertville City Council meets again on Monday, May 2 at 7 p.m. The next arena board meeting is Monday, May 9.

A Dad May 20, 2011 at 03:04 PM
MG...well put
librfun May 20, 2011 at 03:10 PM
Is the STMA hockey center being used for non-skating events now?
Bill May 20, 2011 at 11:13 PM
MG-How about the hockey boosters hold some non-skating events to raise some funds? Instead the building sits empty. So, we are not fully utilizing the current arena. If it were even utilized to 50% of capacity it would be pretty easy to cover the cost of the second sheet with user fees. As far as the soccer fields, my guess is that they did not cost $5M all added together. Librfun - the arena was empty, which was not true for the city hall/library complex
MG May 20, 2011 at 11:49 PM
Ok spin it anyway you want, bottom line is there is a need and no matter what I say you will run it another. There is no facility that is used 24/7/365 including your library and or sr center . Every day from October thru mid March that rink is booked from 3:45 to 11:00pm and people are still sent to Buffal/Monti/Rogers/Princton/St Cloud. You really can't have non-skating events unless the ice is taken out and right now ice is being used for spring and soon to be summer hockey programs. When you have 2 sheets, 1 can have ice taken out and non-hockey events can be held. Bill and librfun you have you agendas to be hockey program bashers so go ahead and post some more garbage.
librfun May 21, 2011 at 01:33 AM
Not at all...just a different opinion,that's all.

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