TOWER— The city council here, on Monday, approved a ten-percent increase in the seasonal rate for RV campers at the Hoodoo Point Campground, but not before hearing from several of those …
TOWER— The city council here, on Monday, approved a ten-percent increase in the seasonal rate for RV campers at the Hoodoo Point Campground, but not before hearing from several of those affected by the change.
With the rate increase and other campground issues on the agenda, nearly 20 seasonal campground residents turned out at the meeting to voice their opinions. Longtime camper Greta Tuominen spoke for many of the residents, requesting that the city allow residents to maintain sheds and other improvements, such as decks, on their campsites and that electrical service be upgraded to 50 amp. Currently, the service is limited to 30 amp on most sites.
Residents seemed resigned to a rate increase. “We recognize costs will need to increase as the city’s costs increase,” said Tuominen, reading from a prepared statement. “But we hope any increases are in line with recent cost-of-living increases.”
The city has increasingly relied on the campground profits for help fund some city services, particularly the ambulance service, so it was no surprise that the council opted for a rate increase. Council members noted that it had been a few years since they had raised rates, although the city had begun to require residents to pay for their own electrical service last year.
Clerk-treasurer Michael Schultz presented the council with rates from other RV parks in the area, which appeared to show Hoodoo Point was on the low end. Schultz said a ten-percent increase would put Hoodoo Point in line with other area campgrounds. “So, that’s why that number was picked, because it puts us sort of right in the ballpark here,” he said.
Council member Kevin Norby noted that McKinley Park Campground was currently charging $3,200 per season, or $200 more than Hoodoo Point. “I think we should be at least matching them,” said Norby. “In my mind, Hoodoo Point’s a better campground… you guys have a lot more space than McKinley has.”
Setterberg noted that a ten percent increase would put Hoodoo Point slightly higher than McKinley, but council members were comfortable with that and approved the increase on a 3-0 vote, with council members Joe Morin and Josh Zika absent from the meeting.
The council also opted to place a moratorium on any new improvements to camper lots until they can discuss the lease provisions, which clearly limit the number of sheds or storage bins to one per site and require prior written approval for such improvements. Campers urged the council to allow any existing improvements, such as decks or multiple sheds, to be “grandfathered in” even if they opt to begin enforcing the lease provisions in the future. One camper noted that the sheds help keep the sites looking orderly by keeping lawnmowers and other tools and equipment tucked away and secure.
But campground manager Randy Pratt expressed frustration with some campers and the lack of communication. “The biggest problem I have is that things are being done without seeking permission or even talking to us,” he said, noting that a camper had recently begun building a deck and was halfway done before he found out about it. “We have a shed in a site that I don’t think is really in their site that was put up.” Pratt said he and his wife Julie were responsible for managing the campground, but that becomes more difficult when people don’t follow the rules or don’t communicate. “There’s a certain core of people who just refuse to do it,” he said. “And this isn’t the first time we’ve had a problem. It’s an ongoing thing and it’s very upsetting that it goes in one ear and out the other. It’s one of those things that’s ‘let’s do it and ask for forgiveness later.’”
“We get it,” said Mayor Dave Setterberg. “And that’s why the moratorium, everything has to stop right now until we can actually look and see when things were documented.”
In other action, the council approved a five percent preliminary levy increase for 2024, with the caveat that they hope to reduce that to zero percent by the time the final levy is approved in December. Under state law, local units of government must set their preliminary levies by Sept. 30 but have until Dec. 28 to approve their final levies. Once a preliminary levy is set, it can not be raised, but it can be reduced.
Council members and city staff will be reviewing spending for next year over the next couple months. The city is also expecting nearly $80,000 in new revenues next year, which should significantly help the city’s bottom line.
Setterberg discussed the city’s financial situation just ahead of the levy discussion as part of a state of the city report he presented to the council. Overall, Setterberg set a positive tone for the city, noting that the city’s financial picture has improved considerably over the past three years. The city’s general fund account balance has increased from $301,601 at the end of 2020 to $507,541 as of Aug. 31 of this year. Virtually all of that increase is due to a fund balance of $189,532 in the Hoodoo Point account as of the end of August. That compares to just $10,834 in that same account as of the end of 2020.
Setterberg noted that the city will make its final $50,000 payment to the League of Minnesota Cities in 2024, which should significantly improve the city’s finances going forward. The city took out an emergency loan from the League in 2019 to address a severe cash flow crisis stemming from city overspending, mostly on projects.
Setterberg noted that community interest and involvement in the city and its operations continues to be high, with numerous volunteers involved with a number of community organizations. “We have great support in a lot of different groups,” he said. “On TEDA, we had at least four people that asked to get on the board when there was an opening.”
Setterberg noted a number of city achievements over the past year, including completing the new kayak landing and trailhead, the repaving and extension of a portion of Main Street that extends to the new kayak landing. He also mentioned ongoing trails work, and improvements to the historic fire hall.
Setterberg also discussed ongoing work to bring new housing to the community, planned upgrades to the train depot and mini-park area and an upcoming decision on the purchase of the county public works facility on Marina Drive.
Setterberg made note of several revenue increases on tap for 2024, including a $10,000 increase in local government aid, an $18,000 allotment in public safety aid and a one-time payment of $21,000 in small cities assistance. He also noted that the city can anticipate at least $20,000 in proceeds from the former Gunderson Trust, which is now managed by the Duluth-Superior Community Foundation, as well as increased payments for lake lot leases due to a recent appraisal. Setterberg said the new revenues, combined, amount to about 20 percent of the city’s total levy.
Overall, Setterberg said, the state of the city is good, it is stronger than last year and is still trending in the right direction.
In other business, the council:
• Heard from Schultz that the LCCMR’s legislative committee will be visiting the city later this month to review the work completed around the harbor and on the kayak landing and trailhead.
• Approved a change order on the depot roof project that reduced the cost of the project by $2,450.
• Approved a motion to have SEH put the planned drinking water treatment facility out for bid. The city has $3.375 million in Army Corps funding secured and is currently pursuing multiple other avenues for additional funding support. The current engineer’s estimate is around $6 million.
• Approved the hiring of Jon Ross as a new member of the Tower Fire Department, pending a background check.
• Approved a motion to post for a new seasonal worker to replace Chaz Hanna, who recently left the area.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here