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City council delivers funds for improvements by Twins ballpark

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT
  • Star Tribune
  • December 9, 2008 - 7:24 AM

Mayor R.T. Rybak won two-thirds of the $3 million he sought to help people get around near the new Twins ballpark in a budget markup at Minneapolis City Hall on Monday.

The City Council's budget committee approved $2 million, with another $525,000 deferred for a later decision. The committee finished work on the city's $1.4 billion 2009 budget, which goes before the full council Thursday.

The committee peeled off the remaining $475,000 for other purposes. It rejected carving out more after budget Chairman Paul Ostrow warned that the pot of money was turning into a Christmas tree for the pet projects of committee members.

The money Rybak won for the ballpark area will support 11 improvements near the ballpark that will help people get around, whether they are in cars, buses, railcars, bikes or on foot. Rybak said he's pleased that the panel approved money in a tight budget year.

The money is from a one-time windfall occurring because some tax-increment districts are temporarily expiring, meaning their extra property tax will go into general city coffers.

The committee approved diverting $450,000 from that windfall for road improvement studies the city is pursuing to handle traffic impacts of the Central Corridor light-rail line. Those studies also will get another $250,000 from a budget reserve for fuel costs if bids prove favorable, with another $250,000 from that reserve earmarked for studying how to fix train-traffic snarls along Hiawatha Avenue.

The Central Corridor money would be used on studies for University of Minnesota-area traffic changes, such as connecting East River Road and Main Street SE., building the proposed Granary Road through the southeast industrial area, and rejiggering the River Road-Franklin Avenue-27th Av. SE. junction.

Another $25,000 from the mayor's ballpark proposal instead will pay for animals at the city pound to be spayed and neutered before they are adopted. Council Member Gary Schiff said the city already spends close to that in staff time to follow up with owners on its requirement that they arrange for such procedures on pets they adopt.

But the panel didn't approve attempts to divert $75,000 from the ballpark improvements money to funding outreach aimed at Somali gangs. Instead, that money will come from eliminating a city youth activities hotline. It delayed a decision on diverting another $400,000 for bike and other non-motorized travel improvements.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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