The issue seemed straightforward enough -- the City Council was asked to renew a deal between the city impound lot and the University of Minnesota to tow cars. The deal has existed for 12 years.
But it hit several nerves for Councilmembers, including impound-lot-as-eyesore and city/state financing issues.
City Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) questioned why the city would tow cars from the St. Paul campus to Minneapolis' impound lot, 51 N. Colfax Ave. She said adding cars could complicate plans to build the new Van White Memorial Boulevard, a north-south connector between Plymouth Avenue and Downtown's Dunwoody Boulevard that would skirt the impound lot.
"The impound lot is a horrible land use; we should move towards fewer cars, not more," Goodman said, suggesting the university "use some of its tax-exempt land" to build an impound lot.
Some Councilmembers are interested in adding the towing contract to a broader discussion with the university. Councilmembers Paul Zerby (2nd Ward), Scott Benson (11th Ward) and Sandra Colvin Roy (12th Ward) said the university uses a lot of city services but doesn't pay city property taxes.
Zerby, who represents the university area, said it costs the city roughly $500,000 to provide fire service to the university. It sent 100 officers to help quell riots after the Gophers hockey team's national championship victory.
The state has used Local Government Aid (LGA) to help compensate cities for state institutions such as the university, Benson said. "As the state continues to cut LGA, are we going to be able to continue to provide all of these services?" he asked.
Said Zerby, "I have thought for some time we should try to develop some collaboration with the university that involves not only sharing services, but some financial recompense to the city for what we are doing."
The towing deal allows university police to call the impound lot to get a vehicle towed, according to a July 15 Public Works memo. The university does not pay for the service, but the city gets the fees for storage and towing.
The city received $200,000 for the 774 cars it towed from the University in 2002, according to the memo.
The towing agreement has expired. The City Council delayed action on renewing it.