Monday’s federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. has created a busy schedule for public boards Tuesday in Greater Grand Forks, with two of those boards considering issues that someday could have a noticeable impact upon residents in their respective constituencies.
In Grand Forks, the School Board is expected decide whether to close West Elementary School or to instead incorporate the decision into a referendum later this year or in early 2021. The board meets at 6 p.m. at the Mark Sanford Education Center.
In East Grand Forks, the City Council is expected consider a sales tax to fund various recreation proposals. If approved Tuesday, it will mark the first of a series of steps needed before the tax can be enacted. The meeting begins at 5 p.m. at East Grand Forks City Hall.
Also Tuesday, the Grand Forks City Council will meet in regular session after being delayed one day by the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. That meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. at Grand Forks City Hall.
And adding to the busy day, the Grand Forks County Commission will meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Grand Forks County Office Building.
Here is a rundown of what to expect at each meeting:
Grand Forks School Board: The board has spent months gathering information and hearing from constituents in preparation for making a decision about West Elementary. The choice Tuesday probably will be either to close the school or put the issue before voters in a communitywide referendum later this year or in 2021.
West parents, staff members and others have spoken out in favor of keeping the school open, based on its accessibility, the quality of education provided, and its value to the neighborhood. Those in favor of closure cite the school's $2.44 million deferred maintenance, relatively low enrollment and an anticipated low level of growth in the number of school-age children in the attendance area.
School district administrators say the school should close because the district should strive for "educational equity," meaning that students receive a similar educational experience regardless of which school they attend.
Tuesday's meeting will also include a presentation on the district's draft strategic plan for 2020-2025 and a report on pre-referendum planning and community engagement by Unesco, a consulting firm hired to help determine the specifics of the scenario or scenarios to be posed in the referendum.
East Grand Forks City Council: East Grand Forks City Council members are set to vote on a proposed 2% sales tax that would pay for all or some of a $32 million proposal to renovate and upgrade several Parks and Recreation buildings. Foremost among those projects is a $24 million plan to add a second ice rink at the East Grand Forks Civic Center and turn the VFW Memorial Arena into a fieldhouse.
The council's vote, though, wouldn't be the final word on the would-be tax. The Minnesota Legislature also would need to sign off on it during the upcoming session, and East Grand Forks voters would need to do the same via a citywide referendum after that.
That $32 million figure isn't final, either. Assuming the tax ends up on ballots later this year, East Grand Forks residents would vote on each project in the city's proposed list individually. And private funding -- via donations or in-kind work -- has come up repeatedly during arena discussions.
As proposed, the new sales tax would expire after 30 years or after bringing in $48.5 million, whichever comes first. That $48.5 million figure takes into account interest on the money the city would borrow to pay for each project.
Grand Forks County Commission: The Grand Forks County Commission will hold its regular meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Grand Forks County Office Building at 151 S. 4th St., on the sixth floor.
Among the items on its agenda, the commission will hear from Tax Equalization Director Amber Gudajtes, about the value of agricultural land and uncollectable mobile home taxes. The commission will hear from County Engineer Nick West, about intersection street lighting, as well as issues dealing with bridge inspections and load limit postings.
The commission also is expected to hear an update on emergency management preparedness for the coming spring thaw.
Grand Forks City Council: Among other items, the Grand Forks City Council on Tuesday will hear appeals of 2017 valuations by the IRET company, which owns numerous apartment buildings in the community. The council also will hear plans and specifications for a paving project and reconstruction of 36th Avenue South from South Columbia Road to 700 feet east of Columbia, behind the 32nd Street Walmart. The project will be paid 80% by the city and 20% by the benefiting properties.
The council also will consider a working arrangement with the Department of Transportation to inspect bridges and/or box culverts within the city; a letter of intent to provide refuse and recycling services in partnership with the Air Force base; applications for property tax exemptions of improvements to certain residential and commercial buildings; and various replatting proposals.