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Thursday, April 30, 2015

WC Share is Over $100,000/yr for Optional Solid Waste Management Board

"help the environment" we're told... just like CTIB, the solid waste management coordinating board is another very expensive group we're not required to be in (ie: Scott County isn't). This board that one other metro county and over 80 other MN counties aren't in is one that does very little except take care of it's own interests.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gateway Corridor Citizen Advisory Committee Chair Speaks Up on the Fundamental Flaws of the Project

Authored by Linda Stanton:

I have been a member of the Citizen Advisory committee for the Gateway for over 1 ½ years now and am the current Vice Chair, so I've been to all the hearings and meetings; heard the plans and the positives and negatives of the corridor.
The Gateway Corridor project only favors select groups of workers: county government, planners, consultants and construction workers and only addresses the needs of possibly 2% of the travelers in this area whereas 98% drive cars.
We already have a very successful Express Bus service in Woodbury that is well used. The Gateway Corridor duplicates the Express Bus services at a very high cost of $450 Million and that does not include the future cost of maintenance, repair and replacement.
The Express bus could be supplemented by the extension of selected bus routes or a circulator at much less cost.
The Gateway does not address the improvement of roads and bridges.
It will take 30 minutes to get from Manning Avenue to Union Depot – which is not a competitive time compared to auto travel even in traffic.
Other challenges:
· Studies show that about half of the people who do not have cars, don’t ride transit, but drive a borrowed car, car pool, walk or bike to where they need to go.
· Research shows that people are more upwardly mobile when they drive a car. A fixed guide way bus along Hudson road will not benefit a resident who needs to get to a job in a timely fashion that is not directly along the corridor. It will keep people “transit dependent” who could improve their economic status better by driving a vehicle, thus giving them the ability to travel to higher paying jobs. (Transit Link and other services can help those who are unable to drive).
· Much of the development, if any, that happens will either be already planned or subsidized by the government.
· The tax dollars spent on the Bus Rapid Transit will not be available for other programs and will add to our overspending problem.
· What about the traffic slowdowns that will be an everyday occurrence due to not being able to make a left turn in front of the bus or out of a driveway?
AS you can see, I favor the addition of lanes for cars and the select extension of regular route buses over the excessive spending of the Gateway Corridor. I hope the Legislature will reconsider it's support of this wasteful spending project.

Linda Stanton, Woodbury resident

(WCW stock photo of Stanton)

County and Local Legislators Seek to Boost a Fully Sponsored Fundraising Project with $189,000 Tax Dollars

Update 5-6: Due to the Woodbury City Administrator Clinton Gridley this correction piece is in place: Local Government Jepordizes Local Private Fund Raising Effort

In early April we were alerted to House File 2183 a $189,000 State bond request authored by Representative Kelly Fenton (R) to fund a woodbury city park. The park is the Madison Place Play Ground that is going to be added to the $22 million dollar tax payer funded Bielenberg Sports Center. On April 21st the Washington county board voted to use tax payer resources to lobby support to vote for HF2183/ SF2032 in a letter: page 23

We e-mailed the County board and the legislators who authored and co-signed the bills to understand the full context of the request. Stating this project was supposed to be funded by the Madison Claire Foundation as their first project according to their site.

We Stated it is NOT the role of the tax payers.. let alone State tax payers... to bailout failed fund raising efforts like this.  Going on to explain: the fund raiser herself Dana Millington said it best: “People think we have plenty of playgrounds already” in this Star Tribune article.

Also at this time we had an e-mail out to the city of Woodbury to check on the status of their end of funding the $1 million dollar park. We were Shocked to find out the fund raisers exceeded their fund raising goals by $70,000 in February after the Woodbury Polar Plunge! The Woodbury City Administrator Clinton Gridley explained the Madison Claire Foundation was about $130,000 short; However "The group has generated significant momentum coming of its partnership with Special Olympics and the first annual Woodbury Polar Plunge held at Carver Lake. This event raised more money and had more participants than any other first year Polar Plunge in Minnesota and the Special Olympics' commitment to the Madison's Place project is a minimum of $200,000..."

we e-mailed all the members of the County board and the legislators who authored the bills supporting the bond request and received no response.

Update 4-30-15: Senator Housley has removed her name from the bill based on the facts in this article and thanks to your efforts to contact her. Thank you Senator Housley for listening and doing the right thing.

Update 5-5-15:
We wrote to Representative Fenton and Lohmer:
As you can read below or see for yourself, Senator Housley has listened
to the facts and has taken her name off SF2032.If you check out the
e‑mail we sent you several days ago the attached official letter that
we got from the Woodbury City Administrator... he confirms that the
Madison Claire foundation not only met their funding goal, but exceeded
it by $70,000 after the Polar Plunge campaign in February from generous
private sector donors. (as charities should be funded)

Will you do the right thing and also take your names off the companion
Bill HF2183? If you do not, this bill will likely get rubber stamped
costing tax payers $189,000. The city administrator said it himself in
the letter we sent to you that the Madison Claire foundation would likely
not turn down the money even though they secured the funding they needed
privately. A bill that requests money for something only to have it
diverted is unethical and a violation of the voter's trust.

Democrat State Representative Joann Ward (who is on the bill and will
keep it alive) has already responded to me in a half page letter
blasting me: "Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition to
any public funding for the proposed Madison’s Place playground at the
City of Woodbury’s Bielenberg Sports Center. While we appreciate your
input, we must strongly disagree with you."

we are writing a follow up story to: County and Local Legislators Seek to
Boost a Fully Sponsored Fundraising Project with $189,000 Tax Dollars .
Please respond by Tuesday evening if you plan to either keep your name
on the bill or remove it. If you happen to not reply I'll state that you
didn't reply and direct readers to also follow the bill on whether you
change your mind or not."

Update 5-5: Representative Fenton and Lohmer both stated in e-mails that they are NOT taking their names off HF2183 despite the unethical nature of requesting funding for a project that actually doesn't need the funds to complete the project named in the request.

Something's wrong with our Government when they ignore citizens who cry foul when they're caught playing politics with tax dollars by hijacking a private fund raising effort. For what? All to make themselves look bi-partisan and generous. And apparently there's no stopping this beast even when faced with the truth that the fund raisers exceeded their goals. But why should they care? It's only tax dollars.
Please contact the County Board and the politicians who are so far as we know still un-apologetically pushing this bill forward:          651-430-6211          651-738-2425         651-430-6213              651-430-6215

Susan Kent (651) 296-4166 (D)
John Hoffman (651) 296-4154 (D)
Ann Rest (651) 296-2889 (D)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Gateway Corridor, Big Promises, Little Evidence

update: The corridor was shortened after Lake Elmo kicked the corridor out in 2016 and subsequently the cost has decreased from $485 million to $420 million and ridership prediction from 9,000 a day to 8,000 a day. Still unrealistic based on the data from the already constructed Red Line. Read on for details.
Since 2013 we've been watching the progress of all three transit corridors that are developing in the County as a concerned tax payer. Specifically concerned about the cost vs benefit of these projects and their reliance to be primarily funded by taxpayers who will never hear, let alone use, these bus routes. 

The Gateway Corridor is very concerning to tax payers for the following reasons

The shortest and most expensive:
Gateway Corridor is up to $485 million according to co. engineer
The Gateway Corridor (GWC) is very concerning to tax payers considering it's the most expensive line proposed in the county ($485 million according to County Engineer Wayne Sandberg in this May 2015 Pioneer Press article) and also the shortest (11.5 miles). It was determined in 2012 that bus rapid transit (BRT), specifically "alternative 3", would advance to further study according to page 22 of the Gateway Corridor Final Alternative Analysis Report

The proposed Gateway Corridor (GWC) can learn a lot from the strugling Red Line Corridor (RLC) in Apple Valley because everything from the surrounding demographics to the corridors themselves is nearly identically comparable: 

Populations are similar:
According to Woodbury (for GWC) has a slightly larger population than Apple Valley (for RLC) by 20%. However Apple Valley is 60% more densely populated because their population fits into nearly half the footprint of Woodbury (17 vs 35sq miles). I mention this because transit lines become more underutilized the less dense a population gets. People don't want to drive to a bus stop, wait for a bus, take a long ride to union depot in St. Paul having to stop ten times along the way, and wait for another bus to drive them to near to where they are going and repeat it all over for the ride home. Please read on for the sourced data supporting this statement. 

Both Transit length and areas are similar:
The GWC, like the Red Line Corridor, will be 11.5 miles long with routes into the twin cities. The GWC will likely wind down the back streets just north of the I-94 freeway. I-94 sees 90,000 - 150,000 cars a day as it gets into the cities, p.44 of 2013 MNDOT report. The Red Line travels on the shoulder of Cedar ave north into the cities and the road sees 94,000 - 128,000 cars a day according to MNDOT studies 

Feeder Lines are similar:
Woodbury, like Apple Valley is surrounded by smaller nearby cities. According the the Gateway Corridor Alternative Analysis they expect a lofty 9,000 riders a day to ride the Gateway Corridor BRT option (p. 22). 3,600 of those riders being brought in on five "feeder" bus lines from the area (p.67). These feeder lines will have a yearly operating cost of $8.8 million dollars a year, with millions in capital costs that have not been calculated yet (source is the Met Council's latest Service Improvement Plan). Neither operating or capital costs for the feeder lines is included in the price for the GWC. The RLC has 6 feeder lines (see picture below). 

Dismal 6.3% self sustainability for operating costs: 

To put this in perspective: The entire Red Line Corridor has a yearly operating cost of $3.4 million according to Metro Transit. They spent $2.5 million to run the first six months they were open according to MNDOT (p. 27). Only 6.3% of it's running costs were paid for by the riders who use the Red Line (p.27) same source. Leaving tax payers who don't ride the Red Line to cover not only 100% of the $112 million dollar capital cost, but 93.7% of it's running costs! The same can easily be expected for tax payers funding the $400+ million dollar GWC. 

Update 2015 MNDOT Guideways Status Report: says the Red Line still is only paying for 6% of their operating costs p.27

Less than 1% of Traffic is taken off the road:

Proponents of transit justify constructing these corridors claiming everyone benefits because traffic is taken off the road. However, and this is huge: The Red Line in Apple Valley, as similar as it is to the Gateway Corridor in demographics, length, traffic, and design including the feeder bus lines... has only 850 riders a day according to MNDOT! (number rounded up) (p.26) Just 850 less people on a road that sees up to 128,000 cars a day is less than 1% (source above). Yet the GWC planners predict 9,000 8,000 riders will use the GWC in 2040 which is still only 5% of the traffic on I-94 if you happen to trust their unrealistic prediction

(source: starting on p.85:

(now 8,000 riders a day since the line was shortened from 12 to 9 miles see October 2016 Gateway Corridor Meeting:

Land rights are at stake:
These ridership projections aren't the only problem with the Gateway Corridor plans. On page 115 of the Alternative Analysis Report we find that up to 80 properties will have to be "acquired". 80 businesses, homes, and private properties. A massive hit for any community to take.
Citizens left in the dark:
We're going to spend almost a half billion dollars on this bus line. We have unrealistic ridership figures. Millions in additional unaccounted costs (feeder lines). It's going to completely transform the I-94 corridor. Citizens are explained none of this in the information we are provided publicly. The scoping process, the four youtube videos they made, their "outreach", on and on... contain no info on cost, impact, or useful comparison data to best explain the route choices.   

Local evidence is all around:
Like the $112 million dollar Red Line taken just 850 people off it's 90,000-128,000 car a day road, the $350 million dollar NorthStar Line is no different.  It comes into town from outside of Minneapolis. Even with the addition of the new Ramsey station in 2012 and lowering their ticket prices (hoping for more riders and money) they saw a 17% decline in ticket sales from 2012 to 2013. The NorthStar line has consistently only been able to cover on average 16% of it's operating cost. The national average is 30% according to MNDOT. This is comparing the 2012 (p.21) and 2013 (p.24) MNDOT annual Guideway Status Reports. I know if any other market besides transit saw a 17% decline in sales it'd be front page news. 

The Gateway Corridor is one of the least promising of all the transit corridors being planned in addition to the Red Rock Corridor. Democrats and Republicans can agree: with the Gateway Corridor we are signing up for a white elephant of epic proportions as a burden for our children and grandchild to bear. 6.3% self sustaining operating costs is no where near the 30% state average. The evidence is all around, please consider these facts, share this article, and write your County Commissioners and State Representatives. 

Also check out:

The Pioneer Press is even waking up to how bad this corridor is in this piece from Bob Shaw:

Is the $485M St. Paul-to-Woodbury Gold Line bus worth it?

"At $485 million, it's a bus line that would be more expensive per passenger than any light-rail line in the state. It would be the state's second-most-expensive transportation link per passenger ever built -- exceeded only by a bus line from Apple Valley to the Mall of America."

Contact our County Commissioners:          651-430-6211         651-430-6213              651-430-6215

Think you are disconnected from the cost of the Gateway Corridor? In addition to the sales tax you pay, our property taxes (biggest revenue for county) will pay $1.25 million just for a two year study phase of the project. That could have re-paved a lot of road.    

You know it's time to Stop expanding failed transit projects like the Gateway/ Gold Line and Red Rock Corridor when not even the 2014 Democrat controlled House, Senate, and Governor's office Would increase the tax to pay for it.

The bill to Quadruple the metro sales tax to fund unsustainable transit projects like the Gateway/ Gold Line and Red Rock Corridor passed the Senate the 2015 session with 3 of our Washington County Legislators: Katie Sieben, Susan Kent, and Charles Wiger. Thankfully it didn't pass in the House. The bill is tabled until the 2016 session.

Even the Metro Transit and Met Council experts agree ALL the Gateway Corridor (feeder) routes are LOW priority for the future (2021-2030). Their recomendation is only "medium" to expand the current Park and Ride service that serves the same woodbury area.

Ask yourself: Would you rather take an express bus straight from woodbury to St. Paul on I-94 (current) or would you rather take the future Gateway Corridor that is going to make 12 stops (if you board on Manning ave) while winding down back roads to go the same 13 miles to St. Paul?

If 88% if people use transit for work according to the 2015 Metro transit Service Improvement Plan: Than why are we building a half a billion dollar BRT Gateway Corridor to duplicate our Park and Ride service that meets the needs of 88% of riders?

You know you have a terrible project idea if you pay lobbyists over $100,000/yr and have nothing to show for it.
$51 million dollars has been taken by the transit sales tax. For what? 
- We're only guaranteed $12.9 million. 
- A corridor has yet to be built. 
- At the "best" corridor plan they estimate 9,000 riders in 2030 off a freeway that has up to 150,000 cars/day right now. 
- MNDOT has a $9 million alternative to the $420M+ Gold Line
- No wonder Dakota County abandoned this scheme

Red Rock Corridor Public Hearing: Flawed Studies, Cherry Picked Data, and Bad Numbers

Over the last year I've been watching the progress of all three transit corridors that are developing in the County as a concerned tax payer. Specifically concerned about the cost vs benefit of these projects and their reliance to be primarily funded by taxpayers who will never hear, let alone use, these bus routes. The Red Rock Corridor is most concerning. It started in September of 2013 when I requested to see the raw results for the surveys the project planners developed, conducted, interpreted, and reported to secure their funding. These studies are reported in the AAU. Suspicion arose when I realized their final reports on the surveys were nothing like other corridor survey results I've seen; they were nearly absent of any public concern of cost and lack of ridership! (see pic 1) 

After filling a data practice act with the assistant county attorney I finally obtained the raw survey results. Come to find out over a third of the citizens to fill out these surveys filled out comments critical of the cost, lack of proposed ridership, inconvenience of use, etc. None more apparent than the results of the September 2013 survey. (see pic 2 and 3) Red Rock Corridor Planners Deceive the Public to Secure Funding 

I brought the evidence of the findings to the County Board members and the RRC planners speaking to the conflict of interest having them run their own surveys and the evidence of the inaccurate reporting. No action was taken. The RRC commission eventually posted all the public comments in their entirety attatched to the end of a May 2013 report on survey results and re-named it an October update... but at least it's out there now starting on page 38: (The link and data are no longer available) 

The one sided surveys are just the beginning. The RRC planners are also severely underestimating the cost to build this 30 mile BRT corridor in both the AA and even more so in the AAU. Going back to the 2007 AA study it states the BRT option the Commission Chose in December would only cost $75 million (section 8-3 p. 32) In the 2013 AAU the cost prediction drops to just $45 million.

Over a dozen major expenses totaling well over a hundred million dollars have been left out of all the estimated costs for the Red Rock Corridor since the planning has begun. Leaving tax payers with the false impression this is a worthwhile investment.  In the original Alternative Analysis (AA) Study and even more so in the most recent Alternative Analysis Update (AAU). 

Going back to the 2007 AA study it states the BRT option the Commission Chose in December 2013 would cost $75 million (section 8-3 p. 32) in the 2013 AAU the cost prediction drops to just $45 million without explanation (p.14).

From the start, costs are extremely underestimated:
Based off the slightly more thorough 2013 Technical Memorandum #4 Capital Cost Evaluation some of the major costs missing in the $75 million dollar 2007 AA study are:
$14.3 million for the 20 additional buses that will be purchased (p.7)
$11.1 million for a lower Afton road BRT station upgrade (p.9)
$6.5 million for a Cottage Grove transit station (p.9)
$6.3 million to build a bus only connection from 61 to the Newport Transit Station (p.37)
Apx $6 million to build a Transit Station in Hastings (cost left out) (p.9)
Apx $4 million (at least) to build a bus maintenance shop (estimate off Apple Valley Red Line's shop cost)
$20 million million in cost adjustment for inflation using their own 3.5% a year figure (p.15)

That's a total of $74.4 million dollars missing from the $75 million dollar 2007 AA study quote for this 30 mile long corridor. Even this $150 million dollar estimate is very conservative. Evidenced by the fact the just 11.5 mile Red Line Corridor in Apple Valley cost $112 million

Add to this $150 million dollar estimate the fact there are additional miscellaneous costs missing such as the $35 million dollar project to completely tear out and widen the overpass and all the roads and ramps of the CR19 and hwy61 interchange. The project's sole purpose is to accommodate the buses that'd be riding on the shoulders of the this interchange to get to the Cottage Grove Station. This was discussed the May 2013 RRC commission meeting. see pic 5. 

Another unmentioned cost is the $2 million+ to pay for all the studies that are being completed now and in the near future. These costs were discussed at the February 2013 meeting. (p. 26)

The ridership numbers corridor planners are using to justify construction of the RRC are generous predictions on ridership in the year 2030 based off unknown calculation models! (Yes I've asked for the calculation equation to verify the math and was denied being told it was a computer program.)  BRT riders are predicted to be 2,420 daily ridership on the US hwy 61 based BRT Corridor in the AAU (p.13). Highway 61 in Cottage Grove currently has over 30,000 vehicles a day according to MNDOT (see p.11 ) and in 2030 is projected to have over 45,000 cars a day (see p. 22). For a road of that current and future volume their estimate is FAR too generous based on evidence of rider use on the Red Line corridor in Apple Valley that sees an average of only 835 riders a day on it's 90,000 - 128,000 vehicle a day road corridor according to a 2013 MNDOT report (p. 26 , also ). Yes, that's twice the volume of the 2030 RRC volume on US 61 and it's BRT line is only seeing 835 riders a day. 

How does the RRC planners explain how an area three times as densely populated and nearly the same population with a corridor that serves at minimum TWICE the volume of vehicle traffic a day is going to have almost three times the ridership of such a current place in 2030? 

As a tax payer I feel completely betrayed by the corridor staff who refuse to modify their dishonest behavior and by the local county and city officials who refuse to stop this conflict of interest that is breeding this corruption. I've been telling each one of them about all this. We are lying to ourselves and to our children who will have to pay for this if we think the AA or AAU is solid ground to build this unsustainable project on. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

County Debt Tripled in the Last Seven Years, the Board Undeterred: Budget Passes

From December 2013:
Comment on Facebook article: County Debt Tripled in the Last Seven Years, the Board Undeterred: Budget Passes

December 17th was the County Hearing on the 2015 to 2018 Capital Improvement Plan.

The plan sets out major county spending for the next five years. Spending includes money for  County Land, Buildings, Equipment, Infrastructure, and major road projects.

In the last seven years the county has experienced growth. 
The population has increased 8% 
County Government revenue grew a fair 10% 
(p.122)  ;  
County property taxes have only increased on average 2% a year (2006:  and
2012: ) ;
Even the number of County employees have remained stable 
Yet, what took me the longest time to understand was why the bond debt is up to $167 million. Triple the $54 million in 2006. (more on that later)  

The details of the bond history in the county reports mostly consist of "refunding prior issues". So I'd come to county board meetings speaking about what I thought was wasteful spending and adding to the debt.

Come to find out much of this spending is out of General budget dollars or billed to the state or feds. What's left must be budgeted and items in the General budget can't be put on our county debt (a good thing).  

Yet since 2006 the bond debt has tripled from $54 to $167 million. I know, it's huge... and this is all posted in the 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, page 130 to be exact (see pic 2):

 What's at the root of this debt is Capital Improvement Projects.

First thing you may think is "surely our roads are seeing massive improvements"; however, from the 2012 performance Measures & Indicators Report we see a sharp 6% down trend in the average pavement condition index over this last seven year period (see pic 3). 

As I've said in past county board meetings I believe we're spending too much money on a few of these road projects. Not with the road it's self; however adding six foot wide paths on both sides (CR13 and 19); labor intensive stone retaining walls (CR19); set up for landscaped center dividers (CR13, 19, 16 and others); brick laid center dividers (CR16); and fully landscaped shoulders. Costing tax payers millions of dollars per mile! 

CR19, 20, and 22 project: about 2 miles: $9.1 million dollars ($4.1 million is county's share)
CR 13 project: about 2 miles: $6.7 million
(Bid awarded to Hardrives inc on the July 6, 2010 county board meeting there is no digital record)
That's an average of $3.5 million dollars a mile! (see pic)
We could be doing more road for our money, we know how. In 2013 we: 
completely repaved 2 miles of CR4a for just $720,000; 
completely repaved 6 miles of CR7 for just $2.01 million; 
completely repaved 3 miles of CR9 for just $1.07 million. 
That's an average of only $351,000 a mile. 

One could argue " but, those rural roads don't have sewer, water, and sanitary lines." Fine. The city of Woodbury in 2013 (in short) did " removal and replacement of damaged curb and gutter, minor storm sewer, sanitary sewer, and water main repairs, storm water quality improvements and pavement removal and replacement" to: 
2 miles of Glen road for $1.4 million;
2 miles of roads in "Rolling acres" for $1.2 million;
2.5 miles of roads in "Woodland Hills and Victoria Place" for $1.1 million.
That's an average of only $580,000 mile to: repair or replace damaged roads, curbs, gutters, and storm, sewer, and water mains. (see pic 4)

At the Dec 17th public hearing commissioner Fran Miron stated "we had a lot of discussion this last year with respect to the down trend in pavement management. In fact Washington County was very instrumental in supporting the wheelage tax that brings in addition revenue now to the county." 

I live on CR15 and the $12.5 million dollar proposed renovation in the CIP for the road I feel it is also excessive. The current landscaped center near 36 dies every year from the salted roads, half the trees are dead, and I hardly see anyone walk along the paths. Whatever happened to a road being a road? 

However, the real culprit seems to be Government building expansions for itself. Something I can understand the need for the space; but the extent and frequency of such projects is leaving us in massive debt. We have this $80 million dollar expansion to government center in 2007, everything about this building is crazy nice. But now the the law library needs a new $340,000 curtain wall? 
(p. 66)

The biggest project proposed is the $17.5 million dollar Public Works North Maintenance Shop Improvement. I asked Wayne Sandberg, Deputy Public Works Director for more details on the plan. However he forwarded my request to the Assistant County Attorney Rick Hodsdon to file a data practice act. Mr Hodsdon said my question to see "a breakdown on the cost for the expansion" was too general and "editorial in nature." So I e-mailed the Public Works Director Don Theisen to ask for any info he might have on the project and I didn't get a response from him. I did get a second e-mail from the County Attorney stating he has to be the primary contact and I'd have to come in to his office to review the plans.
Full story: 

Public Shut Out on why Public Works Building is over $20 million dollars

Long story short, I don't see why refurbishing and doubling the 58,000 sq foot space couldn't be done for just over a million. Pour a slab and put in a heated pull barn like most government maintenance shops are.... Tear down the old 1960s shop and double it for $2 million wouldn't be irresponsible. Generous estimates for a pull barn or even a steel building 50,000 sq feet is less than $500,0000.  That's using estimator for $7 sq/ft +20% for doors, windows, etc. and 10% for labor. That leaves an extra $500,000 to pour a slab, insulate, heat, and electrify, etc. It'd be easier to accurately review the plan once the plan goes public.

I asked the board if they realized this $17.5 million dollar estimate is same cost estimate to build the twice as large 90,000 sq foot Bielenberg sports center. That cost includes the building and the indoor field, 200 seat restaurant, splash pad, ice rink, 18 outdoor fields, and more!

All five commissioners responded by blasting me for suggesting the shop doesn't need to be replaced. However, I never stated the shop doesn't need the improvement. I was clearly trying to suggest rough estimates suggest such a building could be built for up to 1/8th cost.

Nevertheless, the fact I can't object to the specific excessive costs in this $17.5 million dollar project due to a small number of resistant county heads is a revelation on the greater problem.

We have County projects such as this one and others like the Red Rock Corridor: running their own requests; conducting their own survey's and studies; interpreting them; and reporting the results to you who secure their funding.
Red rock corridor planners deceive the public to secure funding

I've asked the board three times why this conflict of interest continues and they do not answer: 
Some county heads resist tax payer requests to see the books

What we do have is $167 million in debt with this CIP proposing adding $37.5 million more to it and assurances from our county board they are running a fiscally responsible budget. Yet in just 2006 (est) Ramsey county, who now has double our property taxes (see pic), also had about $167 million in debt (p. 195 and subtract 2007 debt). Our current debt level shouldn't match a neighboring county's 2006 debt when they have twice our population. Yet our debt per capita is almost twice theirs  

The interest charges alone on our growing debt is $6.9 million/yr. We're going down a path that can only lead to more debt and most certainly tax increases for us to cover this spending. It's one thing to maintain our roads; It's quite another while doing it you up charge us for a bunch of aesthetics, six foot wide walking paths, fancy stone work, etc.

More to come on these excessive projects. Please contact our County County Commissioners and ask them to stop putting us in unsustainable debt. We can roll back the budgets on the projects and still provide the needed maintenance and repair to our infrastructure. 651-430-6211 651-738-2425 651-430-6213 651-430-6215 651-430-6214