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Joe Atkins Viewpoint: Is Amazon Coming to Dakota County?

Joe Atkins

Virtually everyone is aware of the nationwide jostling taking place to attract Amazon's announced $50 billion corporate headquarters. I can't officially say if Dakota County is among the places in the running. However, it is public that Dakota County may play a key role in Amazon's entry into the multi-billion dollar pharmacy business.

Earlier this month, Amazon stock analyst Ana Gupte said the company will almost certainly jump into the drug-distribution arena and is likely to either buy up or team up with an outside pharmacy-benefits manager (PBM). She noted that Prime Therapeutics, which is currently constructing a new corporate headquarters near the Eagan-Inver Grove Heights border, could be Amazon's partner in the enterprise. Jointly owned by multiple nonprofit Blue Cross plans, Prime Therapeutics is the nation's fifth-largest PBM.

In other updates:

Dedicated funds for Rosemount projects being considered

Currently Dakota County collects more than $7 million annually in host community fees from three active landfills in Rosemount, Inver Grove Heights and Burnsville. I have proposed keeping more of these host fees for use in projects in the cities where the landfills are located, specifically Rosemount, Inver Grove and Burnsville. My argument is that cities with landfills incur greater costs for things like road repair due to truck traffic. Cities with landfills also have suppressed property values, development, and property taxes in the areas where the landfills are located.

Official state Veterans Day ceremony

Minnesota's official Veterans Day program is in Dakota County again this year. This year's event is at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, at the Inver Grove Heights Veterans Memorial Community Center. The event is free and open to the public. It is always an impressive and moving event. Please join me in honoring our veterans.

Property tax impact of county budget decisions

Dakota County currently has the lowest property taxes per person of any county in the state, and budget decisions we make in the next few weeks will determine whether that continues to be the case. New commercial and residential development have grown in the county by a little under 2 percent over the past year, and the County Board is currently considering a roughly equal increase of 1.9 percent in the tax levy to deal with this growth and other demands. This proposal would keep property taxes relatively flat; the tax impact equals about a 75-cent increase per month on typical Rosemount home. This being said, several cuts to the proposed budget have already been made and more are being considered, so the budget and tax levy could still go down further. By law, the tax levy cannot go higher than the 1.9 percent that was adopted in the preliminary levy.

Housing decisions

Dakota County has federal, state and local resources available for housing. The current debate we are having is how to apply these limited resources. The options are: 1) construction of affordable senior housing; 2) construction of affordable workforce housing; 3) construction of supportive housing, along with services, for those experiencing homelessness; or, 4) a combination of these options.

Opioid epidemic costs

Do you think drug makers should be held accountable for the millions of state and county tax dollars spent on the opioid epidemic? The allegation is that drug makers pushed addictive opioids through deceptive marketing. Dakota County and other counties have been asked to consider joining a lawsuit to recover the costs associated with the opioid epidemic.

County newsletter

Dakota County mails out a 30-page newsletter to county residents two times per year. Lately I have been getting a wide range of feedback about it. Some think the newsletter is great and that we should not change a thing. Others tell me it is too much information all at once, making people less likely to read it. Some also tell me the newsletter looks expensive, like a waste of tax dollars. (It costs about 35 cents.)

As always, I welcome feedback about these topics as well as additional comments, concerns and questions. Please email me at Joe.Atkins@co.dakota.mn.us, or feel free to give me a call at 651-438-4430.

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