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East Grand Forks to testify in St. Paul on LGA funding, border city tax cuts

Photo by Brandi Jewett/Grand Forks Herald

East Grand Forks city leaders will be in St. Paul on March 13 to support two sets of bills that could benefit the city's economy.

House Bill 1104 and Senate Bill 1240 ask that the state allocate another $1 million this year for tax cuts to western border cities like East Grand Forks, which would later disburse the funds as tax credits to local businesses competing with companies in bordering states like North Dakota.

House Bill 1131 and Senate Bill 1162 ask the state to change its formula for Local Government Aid, money state legislators set aside each year from the general fund to help local governments cover operational costs.

East Grand Forks recently discovered the city likely isn't receiving all of the LGA it's eligible for due to a lack of pre-1940 housing, which the state's formula considers when judging cities' needs. Because East Grand Forks lost most of its housing from that era in the Flood of 1997, the city is asking the state to consider its pre-1970 housing instead.

"It causes us to lose close to $100,000 in each of three consecutive years," Mayor Steve Gander said on Tuesday. "Even into next year, we're slated close to another $100,000 loss."

This upcoming trip to the Capitol comes shortly after a visit Gander and other officials made on Feb. 27 to discuss with state legislators LGA funding and the future construction of a proposed bridge between East Grand Forks and Grand Forks.

"We just wanted to make sure that they were still aware of it (the bridge) as something that we would maybe like to put into the next bonding bill, if possible," said City Administrator David Murphy. He joined Gander in St. Paul last week, along with City Council President Mark Olstad and council member Marc DeMers.

East Grand Forks is still deciding which city leaders will visit St. Paul next week.

Both the upcoming trip and the trip last week are funded by a line item in the city's budget for travel, according to Murphy.

"We try to keep it within reason," he said of costs. Between flights and hotel amounts, he estimated trips like these usually cost about $350 per person.

Other business

• In December, the East Grand Forks City Council heard from the local Convention and Visitors Bureau about potentially hosting the 2021 Governor's Fishing Opener. Gander said event officials plan to visit and evaluate the city on May 29.

City leaders have also been invited to attend the opener in Albert Lea this spring, Gander said, with the CVB covering some of those travel expenses.

• Council member Marc DeMers, who serves on the city Water and Light Commission, informed the council his group voted to plant roughly $68,000 worth of trees on the north end of town, even after the city was denied a grant to do so from the state.

The trees will help slow erosion and the flow of sediment into the river, according to a staff memo the commission received in February. The trees could also help block some of the snow blowing onto 23rd Street Northwest.

"If you go out on 23rd right now and see how much snow is on the eastern half of it right now, hopefully this can help mitigate it, help sell some homes," DeMers said on Tuesday.

Emily Allen

Allen joined the Grand Forks Herald to cover local government and politics May 2018. Call her at 701-780-1102, email her at eallen@gfherald.com or follow her on Twitter, @Emily_theHerald.

(701) 780-1102
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