Brownsdale seeks share of county funds

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 13, 2000

Chances are Mower County’s $33 million in reserves that are being invested will earn $40,000 in the time taken to read this story.

Monday, March 13, 2000

Chances are Mower County’s $33 million in reserves that are being invested will earn $40,000 in the time taken to read this story.

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Things happen that fast in the stock market.

The $40,000 is what Marv Foster, Brownsdale’s mayor, wants for his community.

"Do I think Brownsdale will get the money?" he said. "To be truthful, no, but we had to ask. We want to be competitive with the other cities in Mower County like LeRoy."

Foster appeared before the Mower County Board of Commissioners last week and made his request for $40,000 of the county’s estimated $33 million in reserves.

"The money would be used for a residential lot buydown in Brownsdale," he said. "There are five lots with city services stubbed-in and ready to go. With a 10-year abatement in property taxes, we feel we could make those lots very attractive for development."

Brownsdale is one of the most attractive communities for new residential housing. It’s a clean, safe community with a high quality of life, including city services, Brownsdale Elementary School, churches, a park and all the other assets of a community.

In addition, it has IB Industries Inc., one of the most successful locally owned industries in all of Mower County.

It also is located straddling Highway 56 linking the community with Interstate 90 to the south and all points north.

Brownsdale also is only 10 miles from Austin and its multitude of employers.

Thus far, Brownsdale has suffered the fate of other communities outside the city of Austin. Homes are built in the private sector with the costs borne by the home builder.

Unlike Austin, where government-subsidized housing projects are taking over the private sector’s own efforts to develop housing, there is nothing like that in Brownsdale or other communities beyond Austin’s borders.

The community of LeRoy was the first to see the county’s reserves as a way of helping the town grow.

Three weeks ago, the LeRoy Task Force went to the county board, asking for $314,300 for a variety of local needs, including child care for working parents, enhancements of the local school district and a similar buydown proposal to help develop residential lots in the community.

"We want to be competitive with LeRoy and everybody else," Foster said. "That’s all we’re asking for."

The county board’s finance committee still is mulling over the LeRoy Task Force’s request for a share of the reserves to fund its ambitious plans.

Also being considered are the multitude of recommendations from the long-range strategic planning committee, which, in part, was asked to recommend how the county’s reserves should be spent, saved and invested.

The fact that State Auditor Judi Dutcher has chastised the county for accumulating such a large amount of money is well-known. According to Dutcher, Mower County’s reserves are the largest of any of Minnesota’s 87 counties.

Before the LeRoy Task Force and Foster told the county commissioners how a portion of the reserves could be used, Malcolm McDonald, a retired Austin school administrator, went to the board last summer. McDonald proposed a property tax reduction for everyone in the county, while retaining an adequate "rainy day" amount – the most commonly mentioned figure is $10 million – in reserves.

After his appearance Tuesday before the county board, Foster said he believes the excess reserves should be shared by all the municipalities and townships in the county.

"We know every one of the townships is strapped for money to take care of roads and bridges," he said. "The cities have their own needs, too."

Foster also lambasted the county’s role in helping develop an area in northwest Austin for the Target store development, which now has become a strip mall of businesses.

"Look at all the money they spent for that store and the city to redo County 27 for the Target store," he said. "It was outrageous.

"When we went to the county to take care of driveways for new homes along County No. 2, all they said they could do was one of them and never again."

Foster wasn’t finished.

"Now, they want to build a multipurpose building on the fairgrounds that they say has gone from $4.3 million to a $7.5 million facility," Foster said. "They’re using the reserves for that, but what guarantees do they have about the revenues to come for such a place?

"What if there isn’t any hockey program at Austin High School? What if they can’t depend on that revenue source? We all know the school district has its funding problems. So if they build a building like that, how sure are they there will be the revenue to pay for it and to maintain it in the future" Isn’t that what they thought Riverside Arena would do and look what happened there? The city is losing a bundle on that place and has to get out."

Was the mayor encouraged by his reception from the county commissioners?

"Well, they listened real good," Foster said. "I’ll say that for them."

Foster’s last words were, "I’m not saying they should just help Brownsdale, but if they help one, they better help all. Grand Meadow, Lyle and all the others, too, as well as the townships."

The county board referred Foster’s request for Brownsdale to its finance committee for a recommendation.