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City's franchise fee discussion continues

The idea of implementing franchise fees to pay for the city's annual seal coating projects has been put on the back burner, but Farmington City Council members haven't turned off the heat.

Council members have considered the concept of franchise fees since it was introduced last September. The fees would be added to the gas and electric company bills that residents pay monthly. Those extra fees would be forwarded to the city in the form of additional revenue.

Some argue the concept is just another tax, but city staff members see it as a means to an end to pay for the seal coating projects that keep Farmington's roads intact. Seal coating puts a protective layer of oil down on the tops of roads to keep water, salt and other chemicals from getting into cracks. If roads go too long without the maintenance, the cracks deepen and the roads fall apart.

Seal coating does not come cheap, though. For the past several years, the city has used money from the road and bridge fund and assessed the benefiting properties to cover each year's seal coat projects. Over time, though, the road and bridge fund has been depleted.

Torn over what to do, council members chose in December to do nothing. Mayor Todd Larson recommended the matter be tabled for a few months so that city staff could find other possible options. On a 3-2 vote, the city council opted to revisit the matter in 2011.

But Larson didn't waste much time in bringing back the idea of franchise fees. At the Jan. 18 council meeting, Larson proposed addressing the topic at an upcoming workshop.

Council member Christy Jo Fogarty urged Larson and council member Julie May - both of whom had voted to wait on a decision in 2010, along with former council member Steve Wilson - to get information requests to city administrator Peter Herlofsky so their questions or concerns could be answered before the topic came up again.

"I've spent about six hours in Kevin's office since then," Larson said of sitting down with city engineer Kevin Schorzman. "He's getting really sick of me walking in, I'm sure.

"I'm up to speed now," Larson added.

Council members have scheduled the Feb. 14 workshop for the purpose of considering franchise fees. That workshop begins at 6:30 p.m., and will be open to the public.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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