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A budget proposal to be considered by the Duluth City Council on Monday would increase local property taxes and draw down more than $1.6 million in reserves. Mayor Emily Larson proposes to increase the city levy by 5.7 percent overall. For the owner of an average-priced $177,000 home, the impact would be a $30 increase from $661 this year to $691 in 2018. Larson's budget includes about $2 million in cuts and an additional $1 million in funding for street improvements. But two amendments have been offered to redirect some of that money without increasing the total levy:
Ramps in downtown Duluth are now offering motorists a free first hour of parking. If you can complete your business and exit the ramp in an hour or less, you'll pay nothing to park in any of the city's public parking ramps, and other ramp operators have followed suit, including US Bank, 4th Avenue Auto and the Duluth Transit Authority.
Ben Garland moved to Duluth a couple years ago, but he left his wheels behind. "I think that because of that, he offers a certain perspective that not all of us have," said Dave Zbaracki, Garland's friend. Garland first learned of plans to reconstruct Superior Street when he joined a local planning initiative called Imagine Duluth 2035, and as he dug into the plans, he was struck by a potentially missed opportunity to improve the pedestrian experience in the heart of the city's downtown.
After nearly a year of work and multiple public meetings, the members of Duluth's Earned Sick and Safe Time Task Force presented their recommendations to city councilors Monday night. If the council follows the task force's lead, all local businesses that employ more than five people will be required to provide workers with paid time off to deal with illness or other family crises. The task force also offered another, less-preferred option that would give employers more discretion to craft their own time-off policies.
The city of Duluth is proposing to tear down three condemned single-family homes at a cost of up to $60,000. Monday, the Duluth City Council will take up a resolution that would authorize the demolition of dilapidated buildings at the following addresses:
Police Chief Mike Tusken asked the Duluth City Council Thursday night to temper the proposed $325,000 budget cut his department appears poised to receive in 2018. He asked for $177,500 in relief so that the department would need to absorb a more modest blow of $147,500. "We're not going to be bashful. My job is to advocate for my department," Tusken said. To achieve the kind of savings Mayor Emily Larson's administration proposes, Tusken said he would need to eliminate the equivalent of 2.5 full-time civilian positions in his records department.
To make way for a new housing development, demolition of the former Morgan Park Middle School is slated to begin Monday. The Duluth Planning Commission approved a final plat for the proposed Morgan Park Estates by a 5-0 vote Tuesday night, providing developer Aaron Schweiger with the confidence to proceed with the teardown. Schweiger said lead and asbestos abatement has already been completed in the newest part of the building — the music wing — where demolition will commence. He hopes to have the entire site cleared by the end of the year.
Tuesday, the city of Duluth will launch a new parking app in conjunction with the University of Minnesota Duluth. It's called Park Duluth, and its users will be able to pay for on-street parking via their smartphones rather than feeding meters, quarter after quarter. Coin payments aren't going away. People who are fond of using quarters will still be able to plug meters the old-fashioned way. Park Duluth simply will offer motorists a new payment option, said Mark Bauer, parking operations specialist for the city of Duluth.
Shelly Louks, a disabled senior living in Duluth's Central Hillside neighborhood, learned this week that she soon may be forced out of her home, due to a neighbor's clutter. For more than a year now, Duluth building safety officials have been working with the tenant who lives in the unit above Louks in the duplex they share. Karl Wyant, the owner of that duplex, said the building's upstairs tenant has lived in her unit for about 10 years now and has been a good renter but for one fault. "The only negative thing is that she is a hoarder," Wyant said.
Duluth's voters decisively displayed their support for a plan to fund street repairs with a proposed local sales tax increase Tuesday. But despite winning 76 percent of the vote, much heavy lifting still awaits the proposal, which must still be approved by the state Legislature before it can be adopted. Sen. Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, said the strong message voters sent in favor of a half-percent hike in the local sales tax at least sets the city off on a good foot.