City council reviews city hall and liquor store building designs and begins 2024 budget discussions
Fall typically brings cooler weather, colorful leaves, and the start of city council budget discussions.
The city council is expecting an increase in personnel expenses in 2024. The increases include a 4% increase in wages for the 2024 wage schedule and an estimated 8% to 20% increase in health insurance costs.
Grand Marais Mayor Tracy Benson said work sessions with department heads will continue in the coming weeks as the city councilors work hard to finalize the preliminary levy.
Another significant focus of the budget discussions revolved around how the new city hall and liquor store building fit into the 2024 and foreseeable budgets.
During the work session, Mike Roth, the city administrator, provided a draft three-year levy outlook outlining 2024 through 2026 levy projections. Based on the big picture numbers, Roth said during the meeting, “Right now, we’re looking at just over a 7% increase in next year’s levy. I think we can get that down.”
Roth said the city has done the hard work in the past ten years to get to a financially secure spot where they can afford to take on a major city hall and liquor store construction project without drastically increasing the levy in one year. The city will continue to work and update the draft levy projection worksheet as budget discussions continue.
Following the budget work session, the councilors reviewed the city hall and liquor store building designs from LHB, the company hired to design and construct the municipal building. The city has been working with LHB for the past couple of months to fine-tune the layout and details of the new building.
LHB provided an updated cost estimate for the project of $7,753,867. Previously, LHB provided a cost estimate of $6.5 million. LHB said the increase in costs is attributable to materials and site work. After taking boring samples from the existing site, LHB said significant soil correction work would be needed before construction.
In addition, the city is exploring incorporating a geothermal well, a greenroof system, and photovoltaics in the new building design. All three options are outside the $7.7 million cost estimate.
“The next steps for us will be to really look at how this will be set up for funding,” Benson said. “And then we also will need to make those final decisions about if we want to go the route of geothermal.”
Photos of the city hall & liquor store building designs:
WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins spoke with Grand Marais Mayor Tracy Benson following the Aug. 30 city council meeting to discuss the 2024 budget projections and the city hall and liquor store building project. Audio from the interview is below.