City council trims levy and begins preparations for city hall/liquor store
WTIP file photo

City council trims levy and begins preparations for city hall/liquor store

As the city council nears its final meeting of 2023, significant progress has been made regarding the levy and ongoing preparations for the upcoming city hall/liquor store building. 

The city is actively exploring temporary housing of city hall offices and liquor store operations as construction of the new city hall/liquor store is slated to begin in early spring 2024. While the city has identified a few potential locations, City Administrator Mike Roth said during the Dec. 13 meeting that a location is still being determined. However, he added, the council will informed of a location in the coming weeks. 

“They’ve gone and looked at several different sites,” Grand Marais Mayor Tracy Benson said in a recent interview with WTIP. “I’m sure we’ll find out very shortly.”

Roth said the project will have a guaranteed maximum cost of $8.5 million. The cost does not include the reimbursement of the geothermal ground source system, which the city approved implementing in the building design during the Oct. 25 meeting. 

Roth also said during the meeting while the city will explore additional outside funding sources to help cover the project’s cost, “The $8.5 million doesn’t include our temporary costs for not being here.” The cost of a temporary location for the liquor store and city operations is unknown at this time. 

“There’s also going to be costs involved for marketing and advertising as we temporarily relocate the liquor store,” Benson said. 

In addition to ongoing city hall/liquor store discussion, the levy has been at the forefront of recent city council meetings. During the Sept. 13 meeting, the city council set a preliminary levy of 7.19 percent. Personnel expenses were a significant factor contributing to the increased preliminary levy.

During the Dec. 13 meeting, Roth said that the nearly final revenue numbers from the recreation park have rolled in for 2023, and the numbers are better than expected. “The biggest change in the revenue numbers is the rec parks revenue,” Roth said. The increased revenue from the recreation park is approximately $50,000.

With the increased revenue from the recreation park, decreased projected health insurance costs for library employees, and a few other minor changes, the city is looking to trim the levy considerably for 2024. During the meeting, Roth proposed a 3.13 percent levy. The 2024 property tax levy is $1,079,742.58, up from $1,046,936.08 in 2023. 

The city council will vote to approve the levy during the Dec. 27 meeting. 

WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins spoke with Grand Marais Mayor Tracy Benson for a city council update. Audio from the interview is below.