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EGF: City to embark on major civic project

If East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss has his way, the city will be embarking on a major civic project over the next few years without raising property taxes.

If East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss has his way, the city will be embarking on a major civic project over the next few years without raising property taxes.

The way to do that, he told City Council members Tuesday, is to try and get state funding, as Crookston, Bemidji and Duluth are trying to do for new arenas. But, he said, state lawmakers won't give up any money if the city doesn't come up with a local match.

To avoid tapping into property taxes, the mayor suggested raising money privately, seeking grants and/or raising sales taxes a quarter cent, which the city is allowed to do for infrastructure projects.

Last week, Stauss had asked council members to bring some projects that they think the city needs. Most council members did not resist the idea of new projects, especially if they do not involve property taxes, but only a few did the homework the mayor assigned.

One potential project coming from Council President Dick Grassel, apparently in consultation with the Parks and Recreation Department, is an upgrade to O'Leary Park, adding a toboggan slide and Frisbee golf course, among other features.

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Stauss himself preferred building a new indoor swimming pool and fitness center as an extension of the Civic Center.

The Parks and Recreation Department, too, once had suggested the idea as part of overall upgrade to the center, with an estimated price tag of $2 million. Opposition by tax conscious council members killed the idea.

One opposed

Only council member Clarence Vetter was annoyed by the idea. "I have a hard time coming up with a project just for the sake of coming up with a project," he said, in reference to the mayor's apparent desire to keep up with Crookston, Bemidji and Duluth.

Stauss replied: "I'm not doing a project just to do a project, Clarence. I'm looking for quality of life." He said he wanted an amenity that seniors and young people could use.

The next step for the council is to decide which of the projects to pursue.

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