The city of Hinckley has been called upon by Bob Manzoline, executive director of the Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance, to draft a letter in support of the NLX railroad line. Mayor Don Zeman said the letter would be sent to Governor Mark Dayton in support for state bond funding.
The rail alliance is part of the joint powers board advocating for the Northern Lights Express, a rail service that is to run between Minneapolis and Duluth. Its proposed line includes a stop in Hinckley.
Manzoline and Frank Loetterle, project manager for MnDOT's Passenger Rail Office in St. Paul, completed and sent off the TIGER grant application in October, which would provide $500 million in discretionary grant funding. TIGER stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery. The application is sent to the US Department of Transportation. If the grant is awarded, NLX would receive up to $10 million dollars for improvements on existing tracks the train would run on.
Manzoline is asking for a letter of support to be sent both to U. S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Dayton. The letter would express support for awarding the grant money from TIGER and advocate for state bond funding.
City administrator shared Manzoline’s request at the regular city council meeting on December 12. Morell added that Manzoline offered to come to a city council meeting to share more about the ongoing vision for NLX. Councilmembers expressed interest in having Manzoline come to a meeting.
Before drafting a letter, if the council should move in that direction, Zeman would like more discussion to be held regarding NLX. “I, for one, am apprehensive on this,” he said. In the past, there has been a lot of money spent on the project but “not much results.”
Final levy amount approved at Truth in Taxation meeting
Hinckley’s city council approved the final levy amount for 2018.
In September, a preliminary levy amount of $800,063.00 was presented to the council, a two percent tax rate increase from 2017. It included increases in the general, fire equipment and library funds, as well as the public service building debt.
The final levy approved by the council was the amount of $785,125.00, a one percent tax rate increase instead of the proposed two percent. Final levy amount may be lower than the preliminary amount, Morell said, “but it cannot be higher.”
Some variables that factored into the preliminary levy amount were unexpected expenses toward the end of the year, as well as final numbers on healthcare for 2018. “We approved our preliminary levy anticipating a 15 percent increase in healthcare costs.” Final numbers resulted in a 12 percent increase. “That, along with no new unanticipated expenses, allowed the city to lower its final levy,” Morell said.