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July 28, 2003 // UPDATED 10:59 am - April 30, 2007
By: Skyway News Staff
Skyway News Staff

Downtown man fundraises for fountain A chapter in the book "The History of Minneapolis, Gateway to the Northwest" by Rev. Marion Daniel Shutter begins, "About three blocks west of the river, where Nicollet, Hennepin and Washington avenues converge to form a triangle of a little more than an acre is a pretty plat of ground ... with the small, but classic Grecian temple in front of Washington Avenue and curving colonnades flanking it on either side ... Between the colonnades is a beautiful fountain, the gift of Park Commissioner Edmund J. Phelps."

This "beautiful fountain" is known as the Gateway Fountain -- and it has been boarded up since 2002. Soon, however, it may flow again.

Gene Nessly, a resident of the Towers, 15 S. 1st St. and a Gateway Fountain neighbor, is raising money for repairs.

Nessly explained the problems that have plagued the fountain.

"There was a national parks superintendents convention in town in October, late in the month. They normally would have the fountain shut off, but they turned it on to show it off for that group. Then we had a freeze and something froze down in the vault underneath the pool. Then also they had corrosion leaks. It's quite old, and that's the main reason we've got to do the repairs."

According to Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board President Mary Merrill Anderson, fountain repairs will cost $25,000-$35,0000 so it can be turned on again this season. It would cost approximately $489,000 to completely replace the fountain.

The Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association board, of which Nessly is a member, recently agreed to donate $25,000 for fountain renovations. The Towers condominium will also donate money, though Nessly did not specify the amount. He also hopes to raise money from other fountain neighbors, toward a $35,000 goal to pay for repairs and operating costs.

He said the fountain could flow as soon as August.

Said Nessly, "The Gateway Fountain is the entrance coming from the river into Downtown, and it's a shame not to have it working." -- Ellen Nigon

Rybak rejects tax hike for lost state aid Mayor R.T. Rybak won't release his budget until Aug. 14, but one key decision is already made -- he won't increase property taxes to make up for lost state Local Government Aid.

The city adopted a five-year plan last year that would cap increased property tax revenue at 8 percent a year. That translates into a $13 million increase in the 2004 budget, Budget Director Tami Omdal said.

State law allows local governments to increase property taxes for up to 60 percent of its LGA loss, she said. In 2004, Minneapolis will have $33 million less LGA than it had in 2002. Under the state's terms, Minneapolis could increase its property tax levy by approximately $19 million -- partially offsetting police, firefighters, parks and library cuts.

However, that would also mean a collective 12 percent jump in property taxes for 2004, or more than $6 million above what the city's five-year plan anticipated.

Rybak said he would stick to the five-year plan.

"I consider the 8 percent to be a maximum," Rybak said. "It is disingenuous for the governor to say he is for no new taxes but instead we should raise them on the local level. The property tax is the worst possible tax.

"I found it a 'thanks-but-no-thanks' on that one."

Homeowners have historically enjoyed lower tax rates compared to commercial/industrial property. State property tax reforms in 2001 compressed the rates, shifting costs from commercial/industrial property to residential property on a phased-in basis. (Commercial/industrial property rates are still higher than residential rates.)

Said Rybak, "The citizens of Minneapolis need me to hold the line on property taxes as hard as I can in extraordinarily difficult times. I will continue to do that."

The Board of Estimate and Taxation -- which includes representatives from the city, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Library Board and independently elected members -- will set the maximum tax levy in early September. -- Scott Russell

National Night Out needs volunteers North Loop and the Downtown neighborhood will be hosting National Night Out, Aug. 5, 6-9 p.m. in northern Downtown. Over 1,000 people are expected to participate in this community-building event sponsored by the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor R.T. Rybak. Volunteers are needed to pick up donations and help set up and staff the event. To sign up, call Sue Jahn at 343-3378. Donations of food and money are also needed. To contribute, call Al Smith at 338-4629. - sue rich

City holds hearing on new super-agency The Minneapolis City Council's Community Development Committee will hold a public hearing on a proposed ordinance to create a new department of Community Planning and Economic Development on Tuesday, July 29, at 1:30 p.m., in Room 317, City Hall, 350 S. 5th St.

CPED would include the current Minneapolis Community Development Agency, city Planning Department, Minneapolis Employment and Training Program and the Minneapolis Empowerment Zone.

The proposed ordinance can be viewed at: http://www.mcda.org/policies_reports/Policies/cped_ordinance.htm

Written copies are available from Julie Bartell at 673-2296. Questions about the ordinance can be directed to Jeff Schneider, CPED senior project manager, at 673-5124. - Scott Russell