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As has become recent tradition for the CGMC, we will be holding an end-of-session lobby day and ice cream social to make a final push for our top priorities in the waning days of the legislative session. The event, which will be held in St. Paul on Wednesday, May 9, will give Greater Minnesota city officials and other community leaders a chance to meet with legislators and demand that they pass bills that address CGMC priorities such as LGA, wastewater infrastructure and child care.

The tentative schedule for the day is as follows:

  • 10:30 a.m. – Legislative update and messaging (Room 500 North in the State Office Building, located across the street from the State Capitol)
  • Afternoon – Meetings with legislators (attendees should make appointments with their own legislators; we may also ask some attendees to participate in additional meetings with key legislators)
  • 2-3 p.m. – Ice cream social with legislators and legislative staff (L’etoile du Nord Vault Room in the Basement of the State Capitol)

Lobby Day is FREE to attend, but we ask that you register at greatermncities.org/IceCream2018 by Monday, May 7 so that we can coordinate meetings. Free parking is available at the Flaherty & Hood office located at 525 Park St. in St. Paul, just one block from the State Capitol, as long as you print off this parking pass (which is good only for May 9) and put it on your dashboard.

We hope to get as many city officials to attend as possible! Please share this Lobby Day Flyer and encourage other city officials and staff to join us. If you have any questions, please contact Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com or 651-259-1917.

For Immediate Release
April 11, 2018
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com
PDF version

CGMC city leaders to Legislature: State must take action on clean water funding crisis
High infrastructure costs could cripple rural communities unless state steps in

ST. PAUL—With cities across the state facing billions of dollars in costs to upgrade wastewater infrastructure to replace aging equipment and comply with new regulations, city leaders held a press conference today to call on the state to play a larger role in tackling Minnesota’s clean water funding crisis.

“I don’t use the word ‘crisis’ lightly, but that is exactly what towns across Minnesota are facing right now,” said Lakefield City Clerk Kelly Rasche. “Extremely high water infrastructure costs will cripple our communities unless the state ups its game and provides more funding.”

Rasche and other city leaders with the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) joined together at the press conference to ask the Legislature to support two bills that aim to address the massive expenses being piled on cities to repair or replace their water treatment facilities.

The first bill, SF 2668/HF 3122, authored by Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls) and Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City), allocates $167 million in state bonding for three key grant and loan programs administered by the Public Facilities Authority (PFA).

However, city officials say that caps and limitations on the PFA funding programs mean that they are no longer sufficient to meet the needs of communities across the state. Moreover, the growing need equates to more cities vying for the limited pool of state dollars. More than 300 cities are currently planning for upcoming water infrastructure projects, while the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency estimates it will cost $5 billion statewide over the next 20 years to pay for wastewater infrastructure alone.

That is why the CGMC is also spearheading efforts on a second bill, SF 3075/HF 3332, authored by Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) and Rep. Urdahl, that would provide supplemental grant funding to increase the state’s share of the costs for wastewater infrastructure.

“The current bonding proposal for $167 million is a good start, but with hundreds of cities seeking funding, it’s not going to go very far,” said Glencoe City Administrator Mark Larson. “Clean water is a state and local responsibility, but right now too much of the burden is falling on city residents and businesses.”

The city of Glencoe is facing $22.3 million in costs to replace portions of its facility that are more than 50 years old, adhere to new pollution discharge limits, build a new lift station and other upgrades. Under the current grant programs, the city only qualifies for approximately $5.5 million in state funding, which means the city and its ratepayers will be on the hook for the rest of the project costs unless the state steps up with more money.

Lakefield, a small city with a population of 1,691, is also bracing for potentially massive rate increases to pay for a $22 million upgrade to its wastewater system in order to comply with new permit requirements. According to Rasche, the city’s average residential water and sewer rates would have to nearly double to $190 a month to cover this cost without financial assistance from the state.

“Our rates are already higher than most other cities,” Rasche said. “The potential increases are so high that we are concerned people won’t want to live in our town. How do they expect our small cities to survive?”

While cities across the state have water infrastructure needs, those in the metro area are able to keep rates down because of the lower cost of serving a highly concentrated population. This is not an option for most Greater Minnesota communities.

For example, Albert Lea needs to undergo a project that is estimated to cost $72.5 million. Without state help, the city’s wastewater rates would have to nearly triple to an average of $1,082 a year. In contrast, the average annual residential rate in the metro area is only $274.

“These costs are hitting Greater Minnesota cities especially hard,” said Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams. “That is why we need a benchmark, a limit to how much local businesses and homeowners can reasonably be expected to pay.”

The CGMC’s supplemental grant bill (SF 3075/HF3332) would set that benchmark by either limiting the local costs for wastewater treatment to 50 percent of the total project costs or by limiting the local wastewater rates to no more than double the average annual costs in the metro area. Cities would receive additional state funding based on the option that results in a greater amount. 

“Yes, it is going to be expensive for the state to provide additional funding. But if it’s too expensive for the state, it’s definitely too expensive for our small communities,” Rasche said. “This is a wake-up call to our legislators to let them know that our cities need their help and we need it now.”

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News Advisory
Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities
Contact: Julie Liew
jlliew@flaherty-hood.com
651-259-1917

As cities across Minnesota face billions of dollars in wastewater infrastructure costs, rural communities simply cannot afford to upgrade or rebuild aging facilities without additional financial assistance from the state

Who:  Kelly Rasche, Lakefield city clerk; Chad Adams, Albert Lea city manager; Mark Larson, Glencoe city administrator; Bradley Peterson, CGMC executive director, and other Greater Minnesota city leaders

What:  Press conference about the need for a bonding bill that addresses wastewater infrastructure costs in Greater Minnesota

When:  1:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Where: Press Conference Room B971, Minnesota State Capitol

The CGMC is currently accepting proposals from cities interested in hosting the 2019 CGMC Summer Conference. Since this year’s conference will be jointly hosted by Mankato, North Mankato and St. Peter, we are seeking a northern or north-central CGMC member city (or group of cities) to host in 2019. This RFP outlines the details involved in being the host city, as well as the proposed conference dates and how to apply. For additional information, please view this sample conference agenda. Proposals are due Friday, May 18.

If you have any questions about hosting the summer conference, please contact Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com.

The 2018 CGMC Labor & Employee Relations Seminars will be held Thursday, June 7 in Albert Lea and Thursday, June 14 in Detroit Lakes. Each seminar is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with registration beginning at 9:30 a.m. Please register today as space is limited!  You can register at greatermncities.org/2018laborseminars. More details on the agenda and venue information can be found here.

The seminars are focused on practical and legal solutions for providing services and managing employees in local government. They will provide relevant and timely advice on the following topics (and more!):

  • Understanding fire department’s unique organizational and personnel issues
  • How to organize and communicate personnel data the right way
  • Health insurance legal and marketplace update
  • Settlement, interest arbitration, and Legislative update
  • Brenda Cossette’s mock negotiations

We hope all units of government will send representatives (e.g., managers and administrators, human resources personnel and elected officials) to this valuable program. Feel free to forward this information to interested persons in your unit of government or other units of government. Both CGMC members and non-members are welcome to attend.

For more information, contact Karina Patino at (651) 259-1919 or kpatino@flaherty-hood.com.

CGMC Legislative Action Day was a huge success! More than 110 city officials and business leaders from nearly 50 cities attended the CGMC’s annual lobbying event on March 14. We also had great attendance from legislators at the reception and dinner that capped off the day at Mancini’s — a bipartisan mix of more than 40 legislators representing both rural and urban districts mingled with CGMC members over a steak dinner, despite having to move to our event to an earlier time due to the Governor’s State of the State Address that evening.

One of the highlights of this year’s Legislative Action Day was a lunchtime panel discussion featuring Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa), Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook), House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) and House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park). This is the first time in recent memory that all four legislative leaders have addressed the CGMC membership at the same time.

Discussing their goals for the legislative session, there was agreement among all four legislators that a top priority is passing a bonding bill that is heavily focused on replacing old or outdated infrastructure. Sen. Bakk said he is seeking a bill that is somewhere around $1 billion, while Sen. Gazelka and Speaker Daudt said they expect the bill to be $800 million or less. The legislators also discussed the state’s budget situation, with several noting that the recent February Forecast (which showed a $329 million surplus) was lower than expected. Sen. Gazelka and Speaker Daudt emphasized that economic indicators are positive at both the state and national levels and expressed disappointment with Minnesota Management & Budget’s (MMB) forecast predictions. However, Sen. Bakk and Rep. Hortman said there are a potentially troubling signs ahead for the state budget, particularly due to inflation and slowing job growth. When asked what advice they would give to the next governor, Rep. Hortman urged him or her to invest in our state’s workforce and education system. Sen. Bakk, who jokingly predicted that the next governor will be named “Tim,” echoed Rep. Hortman’s comments and said a strong investment in our workforce is what makes Minnesota great. Speaker Daudt said the next governor needs to focus on keeping Minnesota competitive, claiming that our current tax system encourages residents and businesses to go elsewhere. Sen. Gazelka advised the next governor to be accurate when predicting the future (harking back to his assertion that the recent MMB numbers are flawed) and urged them not to be afraid to reform. You can watch video of the full panel discussion here.

Legislative Action Day attendees then spent the afternoon meeting with legislators at the Capitol and urging them to support CGMC proposals on LGA, water infrastructure funding, child care and other important issues. A copy of the lobbying packet that was given to legislators can be found here.

A big thank you to everyone who participated in Legislative Action Day!

Legislative Action Day right around the corner! We are expecting a large turnout of more than 100 mayors, city councilors and city staff members to join us for our annual CGMC lobby day on Wednesday, March 14. With so many Greater Minnesota city officials descending on the Capitol at once, it will be a great opportunity to band together and advocate for the needs and concerns of rural communities.

Although the initial deadline has passed, we are still accepting registrations. Please visit greatermncities.org/LAD2018 to fill out the online registration form.

The Legislative Action Day schedule is as follows:

  • 9:30 a.m. – Registration begins at the Best Western Plus Capitol Ridge in St. Paul
  • 10:30 a.m. – Legislative update & message for legislators
  • 12 p.m. – Lunch & panel discussion featuring legislative leaders (Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, House Speaker Kurt Daudt and House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman are all confirmed)
  • 1-4 p.m. – Lobby at the Capitol (reminder: attendees must make their own lobbying appointments)
  • 4 p.m. – Legislative reception at Mancini’s
  • 5 p.m. – Dinner with legislators at Mancini’s

Note about parking at the Best Western Capitol Ridge: There is free parking available at the hotel. However, the parking lot is controlled by a gate. When guests arrive, they should take a ticket at the gate, and when they leave they will need to enter a code that will be posted at the exit gate. 

If you have any questions about Legislative Action Day, please contact Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com or 651-259-1917.

For Immediate Release
March 8, 2018
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com
PDF version

Bill to increase city aid finds strong bipartisan support at Legislature
Mayor: LGA is the ‘unsung hero of Greater Minnesota communities’

ST. PAUL—As discussions about the projected state budget surplus and potential changes to the tax code heat up the Capitol, city leaders from Greater Minnesota are calling on lawmakers to pass legislation introduced today that would increase funding for critical state aid to cities.

The bill, SF 3082/HF 3493, boosts funding for the state’s Local Government Aid (LGA) program by $30.5 million. Chief authored by Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne) and Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck), two long-time advocates for LGA, the legislation has bipartisan support in both houses and a long list of Republican and Democrat co-authors who represent a wide mix of rural, suburban and urban cities.

“Sen. Weber and Rep. Anderson are veteran legislators and great champions for Greater Minnesota. We are grateful they are taking the lead on this issue and continuing to fight on behalf of the nearly 90 percent of Minnesota cities who receive LGA,” said Dave Smiglewski, mayor of Granite Falls and president the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC).

Securing additional LGA funding is a top legislative priority for the CGMC this session. While small increases in recent years have begun to make up for drastic cuts made to LGA in the mid-2000s, the program still receives less funding than it did in 2002. At the same time, inflation and hefty increases in costs such as employee health insurance premiums and construction materials have caused cities to struggle to provide the services and amenities residents depend on while keeping property taxes in check.

“The average Minnesotan might not know anything about LGA, but it is absolutely vital to keeping our cities strong and providing a good quality of life for our residents,” Smiglewski said. “Every time you drive down a plowed street, call emergency services or visit a city park, there is a good chance you are experiencing the benefits of LGA. It is the unsung hero of Greater Minnesota communities.”

Lawmakers have been vocal about the need to pass a tax bill in order to deal with issues that have sprung up due to the recent federal tax overhaul. Since changes to LGA funding are typically addressed in the tax bill, Smiglewski said this focus on the state’s tax situation provides an opportunity to pass an LGA increase this session.

“Our communities have waited long enough. Now that the economy is strong and Minnesota is on the right track, it is time to restore LGA funding,” Smiglewski said. “As our legislators debate tax changes and plans for the budget surplus, we are counting on them to make sure LGA is a major part of the conversation.”

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The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization representing 96 cities outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Coalition educates legislators about issues important to Greater Minnesota. Visit the CGMC online at greatermncities.org and follow us on Twitter @greatermncities.

 

For Immediate Release
Feb. 26, 2018
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com
PDF version

Water infrastructure funding bill bolstered by strong bipartisan support
Bill would allocate $167M to state grant & loans programs that help cities pay for critical water infrastructure projects

ST. PAUL—City leaders in Greater Minnesota are lauding legislation introduced today that would boost state funding for grant and loan programs that help cities pay for expensive wastewater and drinking water infrastructure projects.

The bill, SF 2668/HF 3122, spearheaded by chief authors Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls) and Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City), allocates $167 million in state bonding for three key grant and loan programs administered by the Public Facilities Authority (PFA). The proposal has broad bipartisan support, with a wide mix of legislators from both parties and from every corner of the state signed on as co-authors of the legislation. Gov. Mark Dayton has also shown support for the plan by including it in his bonding proposal and touting it again at a Governor’s press conference last week.

“We’re really thankful to have a strong, bipartisan group of lawmakers come together to support legislation that provides funding for water infrastructure,” said Dave Smiglewski, mayor of Granite Falls and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). “This is a critical need for communities across the state. Every Minnesotan deserves access to clean water, but cities can’t afford to bear the high construction and technology costs alone.”

The CGMC, which is comprised of 96 cities outside the metro area, has determined that funding for the PFA grant and loan programs is its top bonding bill priority this session.

“Cities have no choice but to upgrade their water facilities and fix broken sewer pipes. Unless they get financial help from the state, these costs all fall on local residents and businesses,” Smiglewski said. “When citizens are hit with water bills that have doubled or tripled, it really puts a strain on the whole community.”

Due to the need to replace aging infrastructure and comply with new, stricter water-quality regulations, the number of cities and sanitary sewer districts currently planning to rebuild or upgrade their drinking water or wastewater infrastructure has jumped in recent years. More than 300 cities, the bulk of which are in Greater Minnesota, currently have projects on the PFA’s Project Priority List which identifies potential wastewater, drinking water and storm water projects that are eligible to receive funding through PFA programs. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has estimated that local governments and the state are facing $5 billion in wastewater infrastructure costs over the next 20 years, while the Minnesota Department of Health estimates it will cost an additional $7.4 billion to upgrade and repair drinking water infrastructure over that same time period.

The legislation introduced today, SF 2668/HF 3122, has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. However, the House Capital Investment Committee will hold an informational hearing on Wednesday to learn more about the state’s water infrastructure needs and costs. City officials from at least two Greater Minnesota cities, Pipestone and Little Falls, are expected to testify about the specific needs facing their communities.

“We are glad that legislators are listening to our concerns and taking steps toward getting more funding for these important projects,” Smiglewski said. “I hope this spirit of bipartisanship will continue and lead to the passage of a bonding bill this year. These projects and our communities can’t wait.”

For more information on this bonding bill proposal and why it is important to Greater Minnesota communities, please see this CGMC Info Sheet.

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The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization representing 96 cities outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Coalition educates legislators about issues important to Greater Minnesota. Visit the CGMC online at greatermncities.org and follow us on Twitter @greatermncities.

 

This should make for an interesting discussion! All four legislative leaders —Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, House Speaker Kurt Daudt and House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman — have confirmed that they will participate in the lunch-time panel discussion at CGMC’s Legislative Action Day on Wednesday, March 14. This is the first time in recent years that all four legislative leaders have agreed to sit on a panel together at a CGMC event. We are looking forward to a robust discussion on Greater Minnesota issues such as Local Government Aid, infrastructure funding, water quality regulations and child care.

In addition to the panel discussion, Legislative Action Day also provides a great opportunity to learn more about legislative issues affecting your community and to lobby for Greater Minnesota priorities at the State Capitol. As is our tradition, the day-long event concludes with a reception and dinner with legislators at Mancini’s Char House in St. Paul. The full Legislative Action Day agenda and venue information can be found here.

If you have not yet registered for Legislative Action Day, please do so by filling out the online registration form at greatermncities.org/LAD2018. Please register by Feb. 28.