By Chad Koenen
Henning City Council member Scott Hart gave an update on the potential implementation of a half cent sales tax in the City of Henning last week.
During its regularly scheduled meeting last Monday night, Hart walked members of the city council through the implementation process of a half cent sales tax. The process for establishing a sales tax takes a substantial amount of time and would need to be approved by voters in the city as part of an election.
Hart said the city could utilize the funding from the sales tax for things like projects at the baseball and softball fields, biking and walking trails, the disc golf course and several other park and recreation projects in the community.
Hart detailed some of the projects that could be funded, but said the list is fluid and invited their input to identify recreation and community projects that could utilize funding from a sales tax. He said the next step is to get quotes on some of the projects the council would like to see completed and get an idea of how much money could be generated annually by the sales tax to generate a budget.
According to state statues, a city has to identify up to five capital projects that could be funded with a half cent sales tax, document how each project will provide economic benefit to residents, businesses and visitors, total amount of revenue that will be generated and estimated length of time the tax will be in effect.
The plan must then be approved by the state legislature and then put to a vote by the city residents. If a majority of residents vote in favor of the sales tax it would then be implemented.
Hart said he would like to finalize a list in the near future and have a sales tax introduced to legislators at the capitol by December 31. If approved by the legislature, a special election could then be held in the city.
The council approved allowing Hart to move forward with the project and he asked the city council to offer its input for additional projects it would like to see completed should the sales tax be approved by voters.
In other news
• Heard from Dan Broten about a transportation infrastructure grant application. If Henning’s project is approved, the grant could provide anywhere from $50,000-500,000 for things like a bike path, decorative lighting or additional items along the Highway 108 project. Broten also updated the council on a Rural Leadership Boost Grant that could be used for something like a skate park in town. Broten applied for both grants, but has yet to hear back about whether Henning was approved for the funding.
• Heard from Broten about an Otter Tail Scenic Byway Extension that will go from New York Mills to Henning and Parkers Prairie. The new extension would go along the east part of East Leaf Lake, down Henning’s main street, along Marshall Ave. and follow a route that includes County Highway 65 and Highway 6 to Parkers Prairie. There would be no cost to the city other than potentially installing a sign to let passerby’s know of the designation, but Broten said he was hoping to get funding through alternative measures so it wouldn’t cost the city any money.
• Heard about recent concerns about the quality of Zoom meetings. Henning Mayor Darren Wiese suggested the city quit putting the meetings on Zoom due to the poor quality of audio, but Hart suggested the city continue to use its current equipment and offer the meetings via Zoom for people who do not want to attend the meetings in person. It was reported that the cost for new equipment would be quite substantial.
• Approved up to $35,000 to purchase a used city truck to replace the one that recently broke down. The truck would be used by the utility department.
• Approved up to $5,000 for paint and carpet at a now vacant apartment at the city-owned Countryview Apartments building. The apartment was in need of repairs and the council said now would be a good time to make those updates while the apartment was vacant.
• Approved paying part-time police officers $24 per hour when they work for the City of Henning. The city previously had a range of wages to pay part-time officers and Henning Police Chief Mike Helle requested to have one consistent rate.
• Approved increasing the base rate and loaded rate charge for the Henning Ambulance Service. The council approved increasing the base charge to $1,200, up from $750, while also increasing the loaded mile from $17 a mile to $20 per mile. This is the first time the base charge has been increased in several years and would put Henning’s fees more in line with other neighboring communities and businesses.
• Approved the purchase of a new Internet system for the ambulance that would replace the aging jet pack systems. The cost would be $1,600 per vehicle, but Henning Ambulance Director Chelsea Waskosky said it would last substantially longer than the current jet packs. The council approved purchasing a new Internet system for one ambulance rig and will see if there are any additional monthly charges for the Internet.