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Seats were hard to come by in the Duluth City Council chambers Monday night, forcing many people to stand and causing some of the crowd to spill into the hallway. But the subject most people wanted to talk about — a proposed ordinance that would restrict local sales of flavored tobacco products to adults-only smoke shops — won't be ready for council consideration until Feb. 12.
Local government units stand to forgo more than $149 million in tax collections over the life of Duluth's 19 currently active tax-increment financing districts. That may sound like a ton of money, but Heather Rand, Duluth's business development director, contends the city is making relatively conservative use of this economic development tool these days.
The Duluth City Council will take up a resolution Monday night calling on city administration to "pursue a thoughtful plan to sell, lease or otherwise privatize all or part of Lester Park and Enger Park golf courses." The proposed resolution, introduced by 5th District Councilor Jay Fosle, notes that both of the municipal golf courses lost money last year and are in need of extensive and expensive capital improvements. Last year, the courses operated at a combined loss of $135,000. To date, the Lester and Enger courses have amassed about $2.2 million in operating debt.
Duluth may be poised to spend upwards of $1.8 million on renovations to the interior of its City Hall. On Monday, the Duluth City Council is expected to take up a resolution that could authorize city staff to enter into a contract with the lowest bidder for the project: Gardner Builders LLC, a Minneapolis-based general contractor with offices in Duluth. Plans call for the 90-year-old seat of city government to undergo three primary types of improvements:
A new 96-unit apartment building soon could be on the horizon for Duluth's Central Hillside neighborhood. But the would-be developer of the proposed $20 million CityView Flats project, MBJ Development Corp., is seeking a financial leg up from the city. On Monday, the Duluth City Council will consider a resolution that would authorize city staff to apply for an $800,000 Workforce Housing Grant from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.
The Duluth City Council will be asked this Monday to take a step that could keep the city's papermaking industry alive and protect 240 full-time jobs. Councilors will take up a resolution that would authorize city staff to seek a $1 million forgivable loan from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to help the Verso Duluth Paper Mill upgrade its plant.
Gov. Mark Dayton unveiled a proposed $1.5 billion public works bill Tuesday that contained funding for some significant Northland projects, but others didn't exactly make the cut. Three Duluth funding requests were notably absent from the governor's proposal: • $7 million to complete the conversion of downtown steam lines to a closed-loop hot water system as part of the Superior Street reconstruction project. • $6.1 million to repair harbor seawalls. • $1.9 million for a new "Bear Country" exhibit at the Lake Superior Zoo.
Duluth soon could take aim at sales of flavored tobacco products to young people. On Jan. 22, city councilors Barb Russ and Zack Filipovich plan to introduce an ordinance that proposes to restrict sales of menthol cigarettes and other flavor-infused tobacco products to adult-only smoke shops. "We're trying to keep another generation of people from starting to smoke cigarettes," Russ said.
For the first time since the flood of 2012, the Lake Superior Zoo has finished a year in the black. Of course, that was with the help of an additional $200,000 in support from the city of Duluth and deep staffing cuts this past October, but Erik Simonson, the zoo's new CEO, said he's confident the organization is entering a new year on a firmer financial footing. He said the zoo has trimmed its 2018 operating budget by 18 percent from the previous year, and he aims to boost visitor numbers by 10 percent this year, as well.
Zoning, lights and a change of leadership dominated the conversation at a meeting of the Duluth City Council Monday night. Street lights Several concerned citizens raised concerns about the type of new street lights that will be installed when the reconstruction of Superior Street begins later this year. "We are being robbed of our night sky," said Lance Reasor.