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Ramsey County good for $350 million in bonding … for stadium

AFTERNOON EDITION

The good news? Ramsey County can handle $350 million in bonding. The bad? It’ll need a sales-tax increase to do it, and probably dedicate most if not all of it to the Arden Hills Vikings stadium. The Strib’s story, by Rochelle Olson, says, “Analysts made several technical assumptions in the report and warned of one in particular: Current interest rates are at “very attractive” levels for municipal borrowers with strong credit, but that can change quickly. For example, if interest rates rose 0.25 percent, an additional $875,000 would be needed to pay the bonds each year. The report assumed a Jan. 1, 2012, issuance date for the bonds, which for now seems unlikely. The Legislature adjourned without taking action on a stadium bill. A special session is likely and needed to address the state budget and the Vikings are hoping a stadium bill comes up then. In Springsted’s schedule, the bonds would be paid off Jan. 1, 2042. Adding interest and issuance costs, the county taxpayers would have paid $675 million toward the Vikings stadium.”

At the PiPress, Sarah Horner looks at the cost of cleanup at the old ammo site. “Contaminants on the site include lead, antimony, polychlorinated biphenyls, polyaromatic hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds. They were left behind from leaks and spills that took place during the Army’s munitions manufacturing process, said Mike Fix, the Army’s representative who manages the land. The contaminants have been identified in the soil at 19 different spots throughout TCAAP, totaling about 4 acres of the 430-acre site, Fix said. The greater health risk lies outside the land the Vikings want, where solvents have seeped into groundwater from onetime waste disposal sites. … The costs to clean up the land are unclear. The estimate included in the agreement between the Vikings and Ramsey County sets the cost for acquiring and remediating the 430 acres to industrial standards at $30 million, based on data provided by the Army, said Art Coulson, the county’s communication’s director. The estimate did not specify how much would be for cleanup. Fix, the Army representative, said he would not release the Army’s numbers and that no final price had been negotiated. He did say the final land price would be offset by cleanup costs. If the cost of the land and cleanup was estimated at $10 million, for example, with the cleanup accounting for $3 million, the Army would sell the land for $7 million, Fix said.”

Don Davis of the Forum papers runs a piece on the latest round of vetoes and executive business crossing Gov. Dayton’s desk. “One bill he accepted could save Minnesota money by avoiding a lawsuit. It would allow state utilities to buy electricity from a Spiritwood, N.D., power plant about to go on line. Opponents of the plant said that since it will use coal, it will pollute the air — in North Dakota as well as Minnesota. However, North Dakota has set aside $500,000 to sue Minnesota if the plant is not allowed to sell its electricity to its western neighbor. North Dakota officials claim current Minnesota law that restricts use of new electricity from coal-fired plants violates a federal Constitution trade provision. Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said that Dayton and North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, childhood friends, have talked about the issue. But while Dayton accepted the Spiritwood electricity, he vetoed a bill that would have allow more coal-produced power. He also signed a measure to allow the proposed Excelsior Energy power plant on the Iron Range to use natural gas instead of coal.”

A Rochester Post-Bulletin editorial pretty well eviscerates a handout by GOP Sen. Carla Nelson. “Minnesota used $30.2 billion of its own money in the current two-year cycle, but we actually spent $34.5 billion. To make the books balance, we didn’t pay schools $1.9 billion that they’re owed, and we used $2.3 billion in federal stimulus funds. As far as we know, Minnesota didn’t spend those federal dollars on a statewide pizza party. We spent them on education, transportation and health care, and without that money, we would have been in a world of hurt. Yet, when some Republicans talk about the size of Dayton’s proposed budget increase, they use $30.2 billion as the baseline of ‘current state spending,’ and compare it to Dayton’s outdated $37 billion proposal. By doing so, the GOP can claim that Dayton seeks a 22 percent spending increase. That’s the figure that was cited by Rep. Mike Benson during Thursday’s Eggs and Issues meeting. Nelson reported the same figure on her handout. But if we compare what Minnesota actually spent in the past two years to the latest offer that Dayton has put on the table, spending would increase by 3.7 percent. Or, put another way, the annual increase would be less than 2 percent.” If anyone sees an outstate editorial supporting the GOP position in the budget debate please send me a “heads up.” I’m serious.

And by editorial I don’t mean the deep thoughts of some local Chamber of Commerce. Heather J. Carlson of the Post-Bulletin reports, “[Rochester] Chamber President John Wade said that while the chamber has no official position on how the state’s projected $5 billion budget deficit should be solved, he said there are definitely concerns with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton’s plan to raise income taxes on the state’s wealthiest two percent. ‘We are concerned about any legislation or additional taxation that would prevent us from creating the jobs that we so desperately need.’ ” The key word there is “prevent.” Not “make it more difficult,” but “prevent.”

This will make reelection a little tough. Paul Walsh of the Strib reports, “Washington County Commissioner William Pulkrabek choked his girlfriend on his bed and pulled her down the stairs by her hair and out of his Woodbury townhome, police said. Pulkrabek, 41, was arrested late Monday afternoon within minutes of the alleged attack in the 10000 block of Oak Grove Circle, then was released on bond a little more than three hours later, according to county jail records. Potential charges include felony domestic assault by strangulation and misdemeanor fifth-degree domestic assault. Pulkrabek is married to Lori Pulkrabek, an Oakdale City Council member.” Not to make too big a leap here, but I’m guessing wife Lori is not the girlfriend.

Hmmm. Four months and a $30,000 fine for a multimillion-dollar bank fraud. The Strib’s Dan Browning writes, “William Sandison, the former CEO of Community National Bank in Forest Lake, was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis to four months in prison for participating in a fraud scheme related to the failed Ramsey Town Center project. The 67-year-old Forest Lake resident pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. In addition to the term in federal prison, U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz ordered Sandison to pay a $30,000 fine. In his plea agreement, Sandison admitted to a conspiracy to defraud other financial institutions as well as the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. … Sandison and his co-conspirators used Community National to solicit other banks to finance Ramsey Town Center, a 320-acre mixed-use development in Ramsey. They got 20 banks to back the project. Community National put $1.5 million into the project and loaned it $35 million in development funds, with an option for $15 million more. Sandison’s bank handled the loan. The Ramsey Town Center project was one of the biggest residential real estate debacles in recent Twin Cities history.”

A St. Cloud Times editorial by Randy Krebs runs in the Strib today. The topic? The gay-marriage amendment. Says Krebs, “After more than 10 years of reading Times mail, I contend that no other issue — not even abortion — has inspired as much personal judgment and infliction of religious views. Yet given that people and faiths see homosexuality differently, the views expressed are varied. Intended or not, many of them — regardless of view — come off as harshly judgmental. And that doesn’t even count the anonymous online conversations they start — and over which this editor has no control. Talk about inflicting pain. For what and at whose expense?”

A sample of Times reader response to this column: “normal people don’t believe unnatural behavior to be natural. maybe it is caused by a chemical imbalance. there are plenty people suffering from illnesses caused by chemical imbalances…and an amendment to accept gay marriage is not going to cure those that are afflicted.”

And, “In addition to being unnecessary (same-sex marriage is already prohibited in MN), this amendment is a waste of money and energy for everybody who isn’t a conservative activist. It is a purely political move that does nothing for most Minnesotans. The Republicans proposed it because they want to energize religious anti-gay voters for the next election–voters they think will be more likely to support their candidates. However, this sort of divisive culture war is a distraction that makes it harder for legislators to come together to work on important issues involving the budget and the future of the state. How much time and tax payer money will be spent on legal issues involving this proposal? We have serious things to deal with in this state. The Republicans pushing this measure should be ashamed of themselves. They are wasting our money in order to write discrimination into the state constitution. No matter what you think about same-sex marriage, this is not the time or the place for this debate. It is inappropriate and counter productive.”

Wisconsin’s General Accountability Board has OK’d recall elections for three more GOP legislators in the wake of last winter’s union-busting brawl. Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes, “The decision to sign off on recalls for Republicans before Democrats unleashed howls of protests from Republicans. At a news conference outside of the board meeting, Hunt called for the board’s director, Kevin Kennedy, to resign. Also at the news conference were David VanderLeest, who oversaw the recall campaign against [Democrat Dave] Hansen, and Kim Simac, who led the effort to recall [Jim] Holperin. VanderLeest and Simac plan to run if recall elections are held. VanderLeest called on the Legislature to defund the accountability board and ‘replace it with a body that can be unbiased as it is supposed to be.’ ‘We have a biased body that has no check or balance with the voters,’ VanderLeest said. Eric McLeod, a lawyer for the Republicans, said the board was operating in defiance of the court order because it did not take up the petitions against the Democrats on Tuesday and has not announced plans to meet again until June 8. Kennedy said the board has not and will not violate the court order. He has been the state’s chief election official since 1982, and he reacted coolly to the call for his resignation. ‘It’s an easy call for people to make —  ‘Kill the ref,’ Kennedy said. ‘It happens in every sport.’ “

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by James Hamilton on 05/31/2011 - 09:18 pm.

    Ramsey County Commissioners would be wise to reserve sales tax capacity to replace the local government aid we won’t be seeing over the next few decades. But I suppose if they were wise, they wouldn’t be commissioners. (Note to self: campaign against incumbent commisioner for my district in the next election.)

  2. Submitted by scott cantor on 05/31/2011 - 11:13 pm.

    I’ve read numerous stories that cite the EPA Superfund cleanup plan for the Arden Hills site as targeting “industrial” standards. A little searching on the topic will inform you that Superfund cleanups target tiers of remediation for redevelopment planning, roughly going from industrial to commercial to restricted-use residential to residential.

    If Arden Hills is indeed being cleaned to just “industrial” standards, then it probably will not be suitable for a stadium (“commercial”) and other related redevelopment without HUGE infusion of additional time and cash.

    I would hazard to posit that Ramsey County is desperate for the public to not learn this until after legislative sign-off, at which point the public and the government will consider it a fait accompli. And then everyone hold onto your butts as the money bomb explodes.

    Some enterprising reporters should be looking into this…

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