Spring Lake Park council candidates address the issues

Spring Lake Park residents Nov. 6 will have a chance to select council members for two city council seats.

Currently the seats are occupied by Barbara Carlson, who has chosen to not run for re-election, and Bill Nash.

Running in the election are:

Tony Easter, 661 Ione Ave. N.E.;

Dan Lambert, 7892 Tyler St. N.E.;

Jason Letourneau, 8001 Fifth St. N.E.;

Bill Nash, 7723 Jackson St. N.E.,

Bob Nelson, 7805 Jackson St. N.E.; and

Larry Raymond, 8012 Fifth St. N.E.,

The Blaine-Spring Lake Park Life asked the candidates to answer three questions to help voters get to know them.

Lambert did not respond.

1) Biography

Tony Easter

Tony Easter

Tony Easter: I am 44 years old and married to wife, Deneen for 16 years. I have two children; Jathan, age 14 and Alannah, age 11. I am a 17-year resident of Spring Lake Park. My occupation is an IT contractor for CDI Corp. Prior to my current occupation, I was an employed by American Express Financial Advisors for 17 years. I am a member of the Boy Scouts of America and serve as committee chairman for Troop 498 in Blaine. I am also a member of the Emma B. Howe YMCA Community Board – Financial Development Committee. My family and I attend North Heights Lutheran Church.

Jason Letourneau

Jason Letourneau

Jason Letourneau: Jason C. Letourneau, 42 Married to Wife Jennifer. My children are John, 21, Hailey,  13, Ethan, 9, and
Isabelle,7.

I have lived in here for most of my life, I have owned my home for eight years. I own and operate Letourneau Design Associates, LLC, I
have been a Planning and Zoning Commissioner for eight years, dealing with issues relating to new construction and development in our city.

My business experience in project management, while on the planning commission, has helped to resolve issues from both the city’s and resident’s perspective. I have found that the current leadership no longer represents all of the residents, for that, I seek change in the leadership. I will work to resolve the resident’s issues with an open mind and remain accessible to hear and respond to their concerns. The entire city is my main priority.

1. AAS degree in architectural and construction technology, Anoka Technical College and Anoka-Ramsey Community College.

I then received a Phi Theta Kappa Academic Scholarship to attend Roger Williams University.

2. Roger Williams University, Rhode Island where I graduated cum laude with a master of architecture degree, with double minor in anthropology/sociology, and art and architectural history.

Involvement with the community: I am a Frontiersman, a volunteer planning and zoning commissioner, also I am active in all of my children’s schools from elementary through high school as a parent volunteer and chaperone.

Relevant experience/occupation: I have been a Spring Lake Park Planning and Zoning Commissioner for eight years, dealing with issues relating to new construction and development in our city. My business experience in project management, while on the planning commission, has helped to resolve issues from both the city’s and resident’s perspective.

Bill Nash

Bill Nash

Bill Nash: My name is Bill Nash; I am 49 years old. My wife Linda and I have lived in Spring Lake Park for 17 years. We have two children; our daughter Michelle and son Billy, along with his wife Justine and granddaughter Aubrielle. Michelle is currently a junior at Spring Lake Park School District 16.

I attended Lakewood Community College and am employed as the physical plant manager for the Perpich Center for Arts Education.

I am currently serving as a councilmember for the city of Spring Lake Park and am a member of the Liquor Commission, as well as the liaison for District 16 and the Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View Fire Department.

I have previously served on the Spring Lake Park Planning and Zoning Commission.

Other civic involvement includes being a member of the Kraus-Hartig VFW Post 6587 Men’s Auxiliary, as well as a member of the Minnesota Patriot Guard Riders.

I also created and maintain the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon website found on the city’s home page.

Robert Nelson

Robert Nelson

Robert Nelson: My name is Robert Nelson. I am 53 years old and have lived in Spring Lake Park my whole life and attended our local schools through the years. I have been married to my wife Tammy for 34 years and we have two sons. Jesse, the oldest, is married to Samantha and has given us a grandson, Peyton, and two years ago our granddaughter Izabell.

Our other son Joshua is married to Iman and are anxiously awaiting the birth of their first child Cayden Robert due the 25th of November.

I have been a machinist by trade the majority of my life while enjoying woodworking and many outdoor activities. I have had the privilege to have served 10 years within our city as your council member, planning and zoning commissioner and mayor.

I am very proud and honored to have spearheaded bringing the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program to our city and the annual RoofRaiser event sponsored by the Lee Carlson Center for Mental Health and Well-Being, which benefits Anoka County residents and just had its fifth successful year.

I have also been a longtime member of the Kraus Hartig VFW Men’s Auxiliary, all of these have given me great joy in doing.

Larry Raymond: is 66 and has been a Spring Lake Park resident for 30 years. He is married to Rose and has four children, Lisa, Mark, Janelle and Kyle.

Raymond is a high school graduate with some college and five years of technical schools.

He Recently retired in the fire protection contracting business, state licensed and certified.

Raymond has coached children in the Spring Lake Park and Recreation Department.

He is a Vietnam War era veteran and member of St. Timothy’s Catholic Church.

 

2. The current Spring Lake Park council is interested in pursuing three street improvement projects. Monroe Street was last paved in 1981, the University Avenue Service Road in 1997 and Arthur Street in 1987. Should the city use utility renewal and replacement fund dollars or assessments to fund these projects?

Easter: Having roadways in good condition is important to the residents of Spring Lake Park. We have become accustomed to traveling on roads in our city that are free of large potholes and disrepair. The improvement projects for Monroe Street, University Avenue Service Road and Arthur Street should be brought up to the same standards as other roads in Spring Lake Park. A portion of the funds for these improvements should come from the utility renewal and replacement fund and the remaining portion a combination of aid designated for road improvements and assessments.

Letourneau: From my understanding of the council’s stand on this, it would use water and sewer fees of $1.7 million to fund both the sewer lining and the pavement improvements. This would allow the city’s engineer to claim both projects and speed the process along. This is counter productive. The open invitation to bid a project is the best way to find a lower price and keep the in-house consultants honest about their prices. The use of sewer and water fees to pave a road, in order to later assess the property owners, at a later date seems ridiculous. Constant robbing Peter to pay Paul situations have become the norm for this city’s budget. The council has promised to decrease taxes up front, this only leaves the tax increases for a future administration to take the blame.

This problem has increased to a point that even HRA (Housing and Redevelopment Authority) monies were given to a property to clean it up and not used for the intended reinvestment into the increasing vacant/foreclosure home issues we face.

By giving monies to a property that expands with knowledge that there is contamination, only forces the city and county to double tax the residents, not the individuals responsible.

Nash: To specify whether the proposed street improvement projects should be funded entirely by the utility renewal and replacement fund or assessments is, in my opinion, misleading. The current fund balance in the utility renewal and replacement fund is approximately $1.8 million. These funds are typically designated to replace and/or repair infrastructure within the city such as roadways, water systems, sanitary sewer systems, etc.

To completely wipe out the utility renewal and replacement dollars to fund these street projects would be, in my opinion, short-sighted.

Recently, the city engineer stated that many of our sanitary sewer and water main lines are more than 50 years old. We need to look at how our remaining infrastructure systems are aging and plan for proactive repair or replacement of those systems. Doing this will be less costly in the long run and be of greater benefit to all of the citizens of Spring Lake Park.

In determining funding we need to look at the bigger picture, not just one specific project. Dependent on street project cost estimates, I believe funding for these projects would need to come from multiple sources such as the utility renewal and replacement fund, as well as assessments.

Nelson: Personally, I disapprove of special assessments for something that already exists. The 1998 pavement management policy has been used throughout the city’s past street projects and so I don’t think it would be fair to change the policy now because these are the last three streets to be done in the city and if I am elected, I would make it a top priority for the city council to adopt a new policy that would always use utility renewal and replacement fund dollars.

Raymond: I don’t feel the city utility and replacement fund has adequate funds to finance this project. I also believe that the utility replacement fund is actually what it is, a fund for utility repairs. Unless utility repairs are provided with the street renewal, this fund cannot be used.

The other options I believe we have are as follows: sell municipal bonds, borrow ahead on state aid funds, property tax assessments and a combination of bond/tax assessment.

Prior to committing myself to a position, I would like to review all the options as they are presented to the city council.

 

3) Earlier this year, the Spring Lake Park Council approved an amended Central Park Liquors reorganization plan that included salary cuts and position changes. What is your position regarding the city maintaining a municipal liquor store?

Easter: I am pleased that the current council members partnered with the affected employees and worked together to come to a solution to the financial issues at Central Park Liquors. My position is we should maintain Central Park Liquors as long as it remains profitable for Spring Lake Park and does not become an additional financial liability for our residents. If Central Park Liquors is unable to maintain its profitability then the council should look into additional opportunities, including transitioning it to private ownership.

Letourneau: Salary cuts affecting three full-time Spring Lake Park liquor managers were part of the three-member liquor commission plan to maximize store profits. Mayor Hansen, Councilmembers Bill Nash and Barb Nelson, without having walked in the door to observe the workings of a store, simply took the top three employees and removed their jobs, severance and benefits. Then they were told to reapply for their old job with a much lower salary. The commission is playing income musical chairs, take three people and cut the jobs to only two positions, tell them that the liquor store may soon close without this change because of the loss of revenue by paying for employees.

The situation affecting the store begins with far more pressing issues, such as mold on the air ducts and water entry from the roof.

In order to stay open, city staff then recommended spending money rebuilding the loading dock. Gross profits in the range of $4,000-$10,000 per month do not equate to a large surplus as was promised.

With the additional cuts to staff we as taxpayers may never notice that impact, with the additional costs of rebuilding the store; everyone will feel this in their wallets.

Nash: As a member of the Liquor Commission, I was part of the initial decision and council recommendation to restructure the municipal liquor store. Restructuring was part of a larger process designed to make the liquor store more profitable in the future; commission members, along with store management are continually looking at ways to increase the store’s competitiveness and profitability. While this is a longer term goal which has begun to show improvement, there are other things that need to be looked at.

Being that the city owns the building, we are responsible for maintaining the building and property. Given the fact that the building is getting older, we could potentially spend more than it’s worth to keep as a city-owned property.

The city and its citizens might be better served to sell the property and develop it, while maintaining a presence as a “renter.” This would potentially produce tax revenue and liquor store revenue at the same time.

It’s not a quick process; the city would need to project maintenance and upkeep costs, as well as finding the right developer for the property if it was deemed to be sold.

Nelson: I recommended these changes back when I was both a council member and the mayor. These changes are a good step in the right direction in which we need to go to ensure the most profits which in turn lowers the residents property taxes.

Raymond: Before coming to my conclusion on whether to give my approval or disapproval to salary cuts and position changes at the Central Park liquor store, I felt it was important for me to review the financial reports of the stores operation. With the help from the city of Spring Lake Park, along with a discussion with an independent certified public account, I was able to review the liquor stores balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement.

On review, I found that the liquor store provides an interfund transfer of $150,000 a year to the Spring Lake Park general fund. This is significant for what this $150,000 provides over the year toward city operations.

My conclusion found that the liquor store itself does not generate a tremendous amount of profit, however, through smart cash and investment returns it remains in the black and thus it is important to continue maintaining the stores operation. I would also recommend an annual review of employees, the stores business plan and budget, all which are necessary to ensure continued profitability and growth.

Tammy Sakry is at tammy.sakry@ecm-inc.com


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