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Community cuts development fees

The New Richmond City Council is offering its own stimulus package to help boost the local economy over the next two years.

The council approved a motion Monday to cut its sewer access charges in half for all new commercial and residential construction in 2009 and 2010.

The move will save developers several thousand dollars if they decide to build in the coming months. SAC charges are fees levied against new properties to help pay for future improvements and expansion of water and sewer systems.

"We want to stimulate the economy here," said Alderman Jim Zajkowski as he presented the proposal. "Hopefully this will do something."

The council voted 5-1 in favor of the idea, with only Alderman Jim Johnston voting against the plan.

The city previously cut its development fees in an effort to stimulate building, although few home builders took advantage of the offer then.

In previous discussions, Johnston said he opposed a cut in SAC charges because the cost of providing water and sewer service does not disappear when a home or business is constructed. He said current taxpayers, who have already paid for development of city services, would have to pick up the tab.

In other business:

• The council voted 4-2 in favor of issuing a direct seller's permit for Captain Ron's Food Shack -- a lunch trailer that will likely be parked at the Super America store in New Richmond.

Owner Roland Lundell also received a three-month exemption from having to pay a $135-per-month direct seller's fee, giving him a chance to establish himself.

Lundell said the lunch wagon will prepare and deliver hot meals to industrial park and other customers in the community. He hopes to begin operating on March 17.

In voting against the fee exemption, Alderman Fred Horne said the $135 charge is meant to force transient businesses to pay for city services that permanent businesses pay through property taxes or rent.

He said many of the community's permanent restaurants are struggling in today's economy and the Food Shack will be competing with them without the burden of more overhead.

"It becomes a little bit unfair if anybody and their brother comes and sells things out of a trailer," Horne said.

The council will ask Lundell to return to their meeting in June to review the fee exemption.

Lundell said he'd be working with the sports association to possibly provide service at some events and games as well.

• The council decided to construct a new street shop this year through its capital projects budget. Also on the list of projects for this year is the purchase of land for the eventual extension of Richmond Way to 140th Street. Engineering plans for the Richmond Way project are also included in the budget.

Priorities for the coming years include: Richmond Way extension in 2010; Paperjack Trail improvements and miscellaneous projects in 2011; and possibly a new library and work on 140th Street in 2012.

• The council approved an amendment to its lease with the New Richmond Area Centre to help reduce the cost of insurance coverage.

Centre Board member Paul Mayer said the city and recreational facility have been providing duplicate coverage for some time. Under the agreement, The Centre would provide insurance to cover the contents of the building. The city will provide coverage for the actual building and boiler.

• The city will again offer a half-price deal for any local residents who want to purchase a rain barrel to help conserve water resources.

The $30 barrel, which are provided through the county, will cost residents just $15. Contact the city offices if you are interested in purchasing a barrel.

• Alderman Ron Volkert reported that the city must begin enforcing its ordinances related to clearing sidewalks of snow in the winter. All sidewalks will be required to be shoveled, regardless of where they are located and whether or not people use the walkways.