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City to seek money from JSDC

The Jamestown Sun The City Council's Finance and Legal Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to take another shot at getting $500,000 in sales tax money for the $2.1 million reconstruction of the downtown railroad parking lots. The council will onc...

The Jamestown Sun

The City Council's Finance and Legal Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to take another shot at getting $500,000 in sales tax money for the $2.1 million reconstruction of the downtown railroad parking lots.

The council will once again ask the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. to use economic development funds for the parking lots project. Mayor Clarice Liechty said Councilman John Grabinger's idea of using the Zappas building loan repayment of $75,000 a year as funding was still a good one. She suggested applying again asking the "JSDC to revisit these funds."

Grabinger said making another request "is redundant," but was willing to give the JSDC Board the opportunity to agree to provide the funds. The last request to the JSDC resulted in a motion to give the city $150,000 but it died for lack of a second at the April 9 JSDC Board meeting.

Mayor Clarice Liechty said she didn't second the motion at that meeting because the amount the JSDC was willing to consider was too small. The JSDC executive committee had recommended $150,000.

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The council then voted to override the JSDC and take the funding. However, an opinion by City Attorney Ken Dalsted said JSDC policies and procedures do not allow the use of its funds for parking lot repair or replacement.

At the committee meeting Tuesday, Councilman Dwaine Heinrich said going back again to the JSDC with another request doesn't change the fact that it violates the policies. He also questioned using loan repayment funds in that fashion.

"The JSDC will determine whether it's an appropriate use of funds," Dalsted said.

Grabinger said he was willing to give the JSDC a chance to reconsider and support the funding. However, as elected officials, he thinks the council should have the ability to determine the use of sales tax money regardless of the JSDC.

"That is not in the best long-term interests of the citizens of Jamestown," Heinrich said.

After the meeting, Grabinger went further. He said a previous council had given up its authority as written in the JSDC policies and procedures and it's time to take that authority back.

"In my opinion, we have to be able to oversee the use of the money," he said in a telephone interview. "We're charged with the responsibility for that and we should be able to decide where and when it can be spent. The policies that were adopted took away our ability to do that."

It's not just about the parking lot funding, he said. As elected officials, the council should have the ability to use sales tax money for projects it thinks are necessary. He thinks the city attorney and the JSDC attorney should get together and work out policies that give the council the authority to do what's in the best interests of the community.

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"We have to have the authority to exercise our right to oversee these funds as we see fit and as it's spelled out in the ordinance," he said. "I hope it doesn't happen, but we may have to sever ties with the JSDC completely to get that authority back."

The request will go to the JSDC executive committee for its recommendation before going to the full board for a vote, most likely at its Aug. 13 meeting.

In other business, a request by Northern Plains Electric Co-op for a limited franchise failed on a 2-2 vote. Councilman Ken Schulz was absent from the meeting. Northern Plains asked for the franchise in order to provide power to the newly annexed area and the coming Wal-Mart Super Center.

Northern Plains attorney Bruce Gibbons told the Finance and Legal Committee the co-op wasn't asking the city to make a decision on who will serve the area. Instead, the committee was just being asked to grant a limited franchise. He said the co-op already serves the rural area outside the city limits, and in fact is moving some of its facilities as the new Wal-Mart would sit right over them.

However, Otter Tail Power Co. has the franchise for service within the city of Jamestown. It has been serving the present Wal-Mart since it was built and as the Otter Tail attorney Jerry Kittleson said, "It's our customer. It doesn't matter if it's in a new building."

The territorial issue may well end up in court, although there was also mention of going to the Public Service Commission for a ruling. Kittleson disputed that saying the PSC has no authority over a cooperative.

The PSC does, however, determine the rates Otter Tail can charge for electricity. A co-op can charge whatever it chooses.

"Otter Tail can't change the rates for one customer. It can't compete with a cooperative," he said.

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There is no ordinance governing limited franchises, nor are there any agreements to cover expansion of the city. Dalsted said the city committee could not table it, it could only grant or deny.

"It doesn't matter if we grant or deny, either way it's going to court," Heinrich said.

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