AMC urges county to lobby for road funds

Unsure how serious the Minnesota Legislature is about transportation funding, the Association of Minnesota Counties wants its members to urge lawmakers to start now.

Unsure how serious the Minnesota Legislature is about transportation funding, the Association of Minnesota Counties wants its members to urge lawmakers to start now.

And an answer, the AMC maintains, includes a 10-cent hike in the gasoline tax per gallon, phased over two years, plus indexing the gas tax to automatically increase according to the cost of living.

The AMC's resolution is part of the Beltrami County Board's regular agenda when it meets 5 p.m. Tuesday at the County Administration Building, 701 Minnesota Ave.

The board will also hold a public hearing on proposed changes to its public gathering ordinance and a first reading on proposed changes to the Beltrami County Locatable Road Naming and Structure Numbering Ordinance.

AMC and other organizations hope to persuade the 2007 Legislature to adopt a comprehensive road and transit funding bill this session.


"AMC and counties are particularly concerned that failure by the state to adequately fund road commitments will push more and more road costs onto local property tax levies," County Administrator Tony Murphy said in a memo.

The resolution notes that budget constraints have caused counties to defer maintenance on 30,000 miles of county-state aid highways, 15,000 miles of county roads and more than 7,000 bridges. Studies show that Minnesota will need to invest $1.5 billion a year in transportation infrastructure for the next 10 years to meet identified needs.

"Many rural roads are not built to modern safety standards and are not meeting the needs of industries that depend on the ability to transport heavy loads," states the resolution. "Current funding for roads and transit systems across all government levels in Minnesota is inadequate, and this under-investment hinders Minnesota's economic competitiveness."

It calls on the Legislature to adopt a comprehensive transportation funding package that permanently increases dedicated funding for transportation. The resolution also calls for the support of many options, including:

E An increase in the gas tax of 10 cents phased in over a two-year period.

E Indexing of the gas tax.

E Increases in vehicle registration taxes.

E Trunk highway bonding of $100 million per year over a 10-year period.


E General obligation bonding for local roads and bridges.

E Authority for counties to levy up to a 0.05 percent increase in the state sales tax dedicated for transportation purposes.

E Authority for counties to levy up to a $20 wheelage fee.

E Authority for counties to impose a transportation impact fee.

Beltrami County commissioners may or may not agree to the resolution -- they haven't in the past accepted AMC-directed resolutions.

While the AMC voted and actively supported last year's push to constitutionally dedicate the state's motor vehicle sales tax to transportation, the Beltrami County Board voted down that support, saying the Legislature should instead allocate the proceeds to transportation uses rather than constitutionally dedicate it.

At issue was the amendment's wording that "no more than" 60 percent of the proceeds be dedicated to roads and bridges, while "at least" 40 percent go to transit. The AMC supported the split, while Beltrami commissioners opposed, fearing the door was open to send most if not all the money to metro transit uses.

Commissioners on Tuesday night will also hold the second reading and a public hearing on proposed revisions to the Beltrami County Public Gathering Ordinance. The full range of revisions, however, won't be known until the public hearing when County Attorney Tim Faver distributes them.


Generally, the board is seeking to make it more restrictive for large gatherings in the county, prescribing specific steps and reports needed to ensure public health and safety before permission is given.

Commissioners found the 35-year-old ordinance lacking when it was used last year to accommodate a country music festival. That festival, however, will not be held locally this year, taking the immediate pressure off the need to revise the ordinance.

A first reading will also be held on proposed revisions to the county's ordinance that describes how roads are named, re-named and who is responsible for signs and maintaining them. The need for the ordinance stems from being able to quickly identify properties in the county for 911 emergency calls.

Commissioners, at their 3 p.m. work session, will open bids for 2007 forest development activities, meet with new Chippewa National Forest Supervisor Robert Harper, hear a yearly update on law enforcement volunteer activities from Sheriff Phil Hodapp and Emergency Management Director Beryl Wernberg, discuss a Minnesota Chippewa Tribe resolution asking the state to re-establish the Minnesota Indian Scholarship Program in Bemidji, and hear a report from county Facilities Manager Steve Shadrick.

The County Board's regular meeting consent agenda includes monthly bills and warrant payment listing, retroactive approval of seven bills, approve an application to Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to seek $571,539 in mortgage funds for county residential properties, approve hiring a part-time clerk position for mobile home tax collections, approve an on-sale liquor license for Cattails Bar and Grill in Northern Township, and approve renewals of existing 3.2 percent beer and set-up liquor licenses in the county.

Also, commissioners will be asked to approve Nursing Services and Human Services departments bills, approve a contract amendment with Upper Mississippi Mental Health Center for community support services, approve a two-year Health Care Access Plan which describes transportation provisions to public assistance recipients needing transportation to medical services, and receive monthly human services reports.

The consent agenda includes renewal of the Institution Community Work Crew house building program contract with the state Department of Corrections, approval of out-of-state travel for deputy training, approval of a Geographic Information Systems upgrade to allow county mapping on its Web site, and approval of two committee appointments.

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