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Kandiyohi County to hold hearings on sales tax proposal

WILLMAR — Residents of Kandiyohi County have an upcoming chance to comment on a proposed countywide local option sales tax to fund highway projects.

The first of two public hearings on the issue will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in the multi-purpose room at the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building.

A second public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 13, also in the multi-purpose room at the Health and Human Services Building.

The hearings are an opportunity for the public to ask questions and raise concerns about the sales tax proposal.

It's a way to "continue the conversation," County Commissioner Jim Butterfield said last month.

County leaders see a local half-cent sales tax as a tool to help fill funding gaps in meeting the county's transportation needs.

If enacted, the tax will generate an estimated $2.7 million a year for highway projects earmarked as priorities.

Minnesota counties have been allowed since 2013 to impose a local sales tax of up to half a cent by vote of the county board. There are two key requirements: The tax revenue must be designated for specific projects, and the sales tax must sunset once the projects are paid for.

At last count, nearly half of Minnesota's counties have levied a local sales tax for transportation, according to the Association of Minnesota Counties. The closest to Kandiyohi County to do so are Stearns and Wright counties.

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners has been eyeing the possibility of a local sales tax for at least three years now.

The foremost concern of the commissioners: having enough money to sustain a good county highway system while also planning for future needs.

The board last month chose four projects for which the sales tax, if it's adopted, will be earmarked:

• Five miles of County Road 40 west of New London to increase safety and improve the driving surface.

• Three miles of County Road 44 east of Blomkest to upgrade the segment to 10-ton capacity.

• An overpass on County Road 55 at the south end of the upcoming railroad bypass project west of Willmar, facilitating traffic flow through the corridor and providing access to the Willmar Industrial Park.

• Reconfiguration of the County Road 40 intersection on the east edge of New London, dovetailing with efforts by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to improve safety and traffic flow at the junction of Minnesota Highways 23 and 9.

The four projects total $13 million over four and a half years. All meet the criteria of improving safety, promoting economic development or meshing with key projects by other partners such as MnDOT.

Those unable to attend either of the upcoming public hearings may file written comments in advance with the county administrator or the public works director.

Questions about the local option sales tax for transportation in Kandiyohi County may be directed to Mel Odens, public works director, at 320-235-3266 or mel.odens@kcmn.us.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at http://healthbeat.areavoices.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

(320) 235-1150
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