There are three routes the Brainerd City Council can take now that a petition halted $1.5 million in proposed capital improvement bonds.
The petition was filed and verified last week. There were 311 valid signatures; needed were 294 signatures.
The capital improvement bonds would have funded heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) upgrades for city hall and the police and fire departments, repair to the front entrance at city hall, emergency preparedness upgrades at the public safety facilities and a salt/sand storage building.
The council has these options now:
• Wait at least a year to re-introduce the bond issue. This would be the same procedure that the council followed this time. The council would have to amend the Capital Improvement Plan, changing the completion date of the projects, and hold a public hearing.
• Put the issue as a question on the ballot of a 2014 election.
• Fund some or all of the projects through a levy. There is nothing in the 2014 levy for these projects, and the levy amount cannot be raised when it is adopted Monday at the council’s next meeting. Should the council choose this route, the earliest would be for the 2015 levy.
The council will discuss the issue at a future meeting.
Until a decision is made, “the projects are dead,” said City Administrator Theresa Goble.
The petition effort was headed by Brainerd residents Bob Olson and Jan Burton. Olson is a former Brainerd mayor and former city council member. Burton is a former candidate for Brainerd City Council.
It’s the first time the city has received such a petition.
Goble said the council initially chose the bonds as a funding source because it was a “good interest rate without a huge levy increase.”
Another option would have been doing a one-year levy for the total amount needed.
Bonds are a better way to finance a major capital improvement when a city doesn’t have the reserve funds and officials don’t want to levy the amount, Goble said.
“In the long run, you save money because it’s a lower interest rate,” she said.
City Council President Bonnie Cumberland said officials were surprised when the petition came in, but are accepting it and moving forward.
Some of the projects, like the HVAC system at city hall, are essential for “basic comfort,” she said.
As for the other projects, Cumberland said, “some will happen eventually, we’re just not sure how yet.”