Wyoming bond foes push hard for vote

Reverse referendum petition drive has 635 signers so far; 155 required by law


Opponents of the Wyoming City Council decision to sell $2.5 million in General Obligation capital improvement bonds without a vote of the people are well on their way to forcing the matter to the November 6 ballot.

The city would use the bond to purchase the vacant RiverBank building and remodel the current city hall. In the day following the council decision to issue bonds, a number of citizens have been circulating a petition for a reverse referendum.

Related story: FDIC considering 2nd potential buyer for bank

City Administrator Craig Mattson confirmed this week that 635 petition signatures have been collected and turned in to city staff.

The text of the petition is as follows: “We the undersigned, eligible voters of the City of Wyoming, pursuant to M.S. 475-521, request a vote on issuance of general obligation capital improvement project bond to finance acquisition of land for construction of city hall and public safety building.

As many as 10 individuals have been circulating the petition.

To be successful, the petition must have signatures representing five percent of the number of city residents who voted in the last election. Those who sign the petition need not necessarily have voted in the election, but they must be registered voters.

At the last election 3,099 people voted. A petition would require 155 valid signatures.

Mattson said the city has received a list of registered voters from Chisago County which will be used in the verification process.

The language of the petition is under review by the Mark Vierling, city attorney.  If the language of the petition meets legal requirements, the next step would be to determine whether those who signed the petition are registered voters.

The Issue

Council discussion of this issue began in April. The council for some time has been discussing plans for space needs and anticipating growth. Planning began in April 2011 again last December when the bank building became available.

The council began investigating the possibility of a purchase because of a low prices and low interest rates.

The original construction cost of the land and building the bank was $2,092,675. This was before landscaping, paving and furnishings.

On June 26 during a public hearing, the council approved sale of the $2.5 million in bonds to pay for the purchase of the building and minor remodeling to serve as a new city hall.

On July 3, the council approved an $830,000 purchase agreement for the building and authorized a check for $83,000 earnest money now held in an escrow account.

The balance of the $2.5 million in bond dollars would pay for conversion and expansion of the existing city hall/fire station into a public safety center, which would house the fire department and police department.

Council Action

The city has met the eight criteria identified in M.S. 475-521, referenced by petitioners, which allows the city to issue funds without direct voter approval.

The $2.5 million plan is the only capital improvement project identified for 2012 and no others are planned for the years 2013 through 2016.

Other specific conditions are:

(1) The condition and square footage of the city buildings shows a need for more space to meet current and future staff needs and HVAC and technological upgrades

(2) both the fire department and police department need multi functional space to accommodate growth

(3) the maximum cost of improvement is $2.5 million, with public resources (property taxes) to pay for the project

(4) the low price of the bank building (40 percent of its original cost) and low interest rates on the bond market will keep city taxes as low as possible during the repayment period

(5) the city has no other CIP bonds on which it is making payments

(6) there would be no competing claims on the funds, because without the project there would be no bond sale

(7) while there may be short-term cost increases for insurance and utilities, the overall utilities are less at the bank building and there would be efficiencies in new HVAC systems in a remodel, and

(8) there are no options to house city operations in other local buildings, but space can be shared with non-profits or government agencies.

Bonding for $2.5 million at the interest rate of 2.779 percent would mean that the city will pay about $3.5 million over the life of the 20-year loan.

City property taxes on that amount would add $50 a year to a home valued at $200,000.