Lake Shore voters will decide whether the city should spend money to build a new city hall and to fix roads after petitioners gathered enough signatures for a referendum vote.
In addition to voting for a mayor and two council members Tuesday, Nov. 6, Lake Shore voters will see two questions on their ballots. Summarized, they are:
• Should the city be authorized to issue up to $1.595 million in general obligation bonds to pay for street reconstruction projects?
• Should the city be authorized to issue up to $1.895 million in general obligation bonds to pay for a new city hall facility that would include space for police and fire services?
Added together, the city is looking to issue up to $3.49 million in bonds to finance the projects.
At its regular meeting in July, the city council gave preliminary approval to issue up to that amount in bonds, with council member John Terwilliger voting no.
Roads identified as needing work are Point Narrows, Whitstrom, Pohl, Bass Lake, Gullwood, Schaefers Point and Jacobs roads, Bass Lake Trail, Birchwood Hills and Timber Lane. The council has been discussing city hall needs for several years, ultimately proposing a new city hall that would be built on property the city purchased on Balsam Lane behind the current city hall. That building would be demolished and turned into city hall parking.
At the July meeting, some residents raised concerns over the need for the projects and the amount of the bonds, indicating they would gather signatures for "reverse referendums."
Under that process, a petition signed by voters equal to at least 5 percent of the votes cast in the city in the last general election had to be filed with the city clerk within 30 days of the July 23 public hearings - or Aug. 22 - to stop the bonds from being issued without voter approval. Separate petitions were needed for each bond proposal.
After City Clerk Patti McDonald received and verified both petitions Wednesday, Aug. 22, the council met that night to authorize a special election and to approve the two ballot questions.
Petitioners needed 37 signatures. The street reconstruction petition had 45 signatures and the city hall petition had 59 signatures.
The city first received the petitions from resident Jesse Berg on Friday, Aug. 17, and after consulting with the city attorney McDonald discovered deficiencies. She informed Berg of those deficiencies Monday, Aug. 20, and they were addressed before the Aug. 22 deadline.
About a dozen people attended the Aug. 22 council meeting. One questioned the wording of the ballot questions. He was told a bond lawyer wrote the questions, and there are technical rules that must be followed. Those rules include that the questions contain the wording, "By voting 'yes' on this ballot question, you are voting for a property tax increase," all in capital letters.
Resident Don McFarland said actual costs will be higher when figuring in bond interest rate amounts.
Regarding the road projects, council member Wayne Anderson said half of the proposed bond amount is for Jacobs Road, which was paved 10 years ago but has seen a dramatic increase in traffic and is disintegrating. A thorough road study was done, where every road was driven and conditions noted.
Mayor Kevin Egan said the city's road committee selected the roads that need work.
City Administrator Teri Hastings said it is cheaper to repair roads before they need a complete reconstruction, like Jacobs Road. The city needs to budget an estimated $200,000 per year to keep up with road maintenance, but has only been budgeting $50,000 per year, she said.