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Duluth City Council ponders Allete donations

Despite the controversy over the involvement of Minnesota Power in the Great Lakes Aquarium, the Duluth City Council has approved an agreement between the company and the Hartley Nature Center Corporation.

Despite the controversy over the involvement of Minnesota Power in the Great Lakes Aquarium, the Duluth City Council has approved an agreement between the company and the Hartley Nature Center Corporation.
Minnesota Power has agreed to provide funding for the purchase and first year maintenance for alternative energy systems for the future Hartley Nature Building.
The city will have $225,000 invested in the $3 million building.
Councilor Russ Stewart, who has been outspoken on the aquarium issue, said he supports the agreement for alternative energy but is skeptical about the relationship.
He drew a parallel with the aquarium and warned about corporate involvement in environmental nonprofit activities.
"Some companies invest heavily in nonprofits to make it seem they are friends of the environment when they do this as a business investment," Stewart said. "It would be naive of us to think they are going to make great contributions to nonprofits without some benefits."
He would like the center to develop policies dealing with personnel situations like the aquarium went through.
The resolution passed 7-1. Councilor Russell Stover voted no on the grounds that the city has many other buildings with greater needs.
Residents concerned about the city's property tax hike will get another chance to voice their views.
The city's 2001 budget calls for a property tax levy increase of about 9.8 percent.
The increase will put the tax levy at about $9.9 million, compared to $8.8 million in 2000.
On Monday night, the City Council heard the ordinance on first reading. Council President Greg Gilbert said it will be voted on at 7 p.m., Dec. 18, and people can come and address the council at that time.
The increase in the levy will bring the city about $863,000. The total proposed budget for 2001 is $192.6 million, about $1.14 million more than the current year. The total budget increase is less than 1 percent.
"The reasons for the increases are not new operating costs," said Mayor Gary Doty. He explained that the increases were due to the comprehensive plan ($135,000), maintenance for the street overlay program ($100,000) and debt service ($194,000).
"We've done a number of things in the past several years to make city government more efficient," Doty said. "We've combined water and gas ... some positions have been eliminated by attrition and retirements, we haven't had to lay anybody off.
"City departments have done a great jobs of cutting back and consolidating and they are looking at other areas."
Other factors tied to the tax hike are mandated funding increases to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority and the Duluth Transit Authority.
The levy increase means that the owner of a home valued at $75,000 would pay about $16.63 a year more in city taxes. The city portion will represent about 17 percent of a homeowner's tax levy.

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