By Mayor Anne Burt
The constitutional construct of our nation establishes defined roles for the various units of government. This diffuse arrangement necessitates that there be active communication and cooperation all through the various levels of government for the governance process to properly function. Since I was first elected as mayor in 2018, the City Council and I have made identifying and advocating for our legislative needs a high priority. This annual process allows us to reflect on demands that we do not have either the authority or funding capacity to meet, so that we can seek state or federal government support.
In the 2023 state legislative session, the city successfully partnered with our state elected officials - Senator Nicole Mitchell, Representative Amanda Hemmingsen-Jaeger and Representative Ethan Cha - to have several of our priorities passed by the legislature. One of our main focuses last year was the Central Park Renovation Project, and we were able to secure the following items:
- $7.5 million in state bonding
- Sales tax exemption for the purchase of construction materials (cities are not sales tax exempt)
- Modifying an existing tax increment district to provide approximately $1.6 million
We also received legislative approval to add a referendum question to the fall 2024 ballot related to local option sales tax funding a much-needed public safety campus expansion project (more information coming to you about this later this year).
We now are looking forward to advocating for new priorities during the 2024 legislative session, which will include:
- Requesting $7.4 million of state aid to support the construction of a $14.8 million water tower. This project must be expedited due to effects from polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in our water. The water tower will hold the city's treated water for peak demand while the permanent water treatment plant is being completed. The water tower will also build capacity and resiliency in Woodbury's water system for generations to come.
- Sales tax exemption for water treatment plant and pipeline materials and construction. The city will pursue an exemption from the Minnesota sales tax for materials and construction of the Woodbury Water Treatment Plant and associated pipeline.
- Evaluating a local circulator bus system. We plan to work with the Metropolitan Council and Washington County to review the feasibility and opportunities for future circulator bus systems, or micro transit options, within Woodbury. This could be part of Metro Transit's Gold Line bus rapid transit line slated to open in 2025 or on a standalone basis. Funding resources from the State of Minnesota for further strategic planning and analysis will accelerate the timeline for this important work.
- Continued discussion of the School Resource Officer Program. While we currently have school resources officers in Woodbury and East Ridge High Schools, we support the League of Minnesota Cities' call to the legislature and governor to work with law enforcement, local government and education organizations to clarify laws pertaining to the authority school resource officers have in schools.
Recently, with the sponsorship of Congresswoman Betty McCollum (U.S. Congressional District 4), and U.S. Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar, we were able to secure $3.4 million in federal money for treating three of our water production wells that do not qualify for PFAS treatment funding from the 3M settlement. The city has not learned yet whether it will receive its funding requests made in 2023 for 2024. However, the city has the support of the federal elected officials who represent Woodbury, Congresswoman McCollum and Congresswoman Angie Craig. These requests include:
- $850,000 to help fund infrastructure improvements along Weir Drive north of Valley Creek Road. Weir Drive exists as a dead-end roadway and improvements are needed to reduce the chances of roadway flooding during 100-year storms and to ensure the safety of those in the area. The total cost of the project is $4 million.
- $670,000 for in-vehicle and body-worn cameras. The cameras help improve officer safety, increase evidence quality, and reduce civilian complaints. Availability of recorded footage also helps improve transparency and accountability.
We will continue to proactively identify our community needs and work with our elected officials at the state and federal levels to strategically address those needs. When we are successful in advocating for our legislative priorities, it can reduce the burden on our local taxpayers. We will always look to partner with our other governmental entities provide our community with the highest-quality service, infrastructure and programs possible. It's one reason why we remain a place where everyone has the opportunity to live, work and thrive.