St. Michael hopes I-94 expansion included in Corridors of Commerce

I-94The St. Michael City Council was told that expanding lanes on Interstate 94 could go hand in hand with the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Corridors of Commerce program.

The council also discussed what steps if any the city could take to spur further industrial development, as well as to help existing business improvements, and heard an update regarding turning back County Rd. 37 from the county to the cities.



St. Michael City Administrator Steve Bot leads the I-94 Coalition that includes cities like St. Michael, Albertville, Rogers and Maple Grove who are teaming to lobby for expansion of I-94. Particular immediate goals include expansion to six lanes from Rogers to Monticello.

Bot reviewed some recent success and progress on expansion of I-94. He said the project should be a good fit for the state’s Corridors of Commerce program, and that there has been a lot of help from area legislatures and the governor.

Bot said the cities of Clearwater and Dayton are considering joining the I-94 Coalition to support the project. Getting past hurdles with the Metropolitan Council poses a continual challenge, Bot said, but that the coalition will continue to work on getting a project to fruition soon.

Mayor Jerry Zachman thanked Bot for his work on the project and the active role he’s taken in making sure it keeps moving forward.



In other news, community development director Marc Weigle said the city’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) has discussed helping facilitate a new industrial area in the city, not by purchasing land and installing infrastructure (in the past industrial project), but to meet with homeowners and determine if there are steps the city could help with to get the land ready for development.

Weigle illustrated a potential concept plan for one piece of land. Mayor Zachman and councilors Nadine Schoen, Kevin Kasel, Chris Schumm and Joe Marx were hesitant to spend too much money on an industrial project until there are both willing sellers and buyers. He said one property owner has been meeting with a broker and might be motivated to sell.

Zachman suggested inviting the property owner and broker to a future work session meeting to discuss the potential project with the council.

In related matters, Weigle said the EDA discussed working with area banks to determine if the EDA could offset a portion of interest costs for loans to area businesses to help with various improvements to the businesses. He said there has been no clear policy on this proposal.

Kasel and Marx were hesitant to approve a formal policy. Schoen said it would be helpful for area businesses and could encourage them to update their storefronts and create a more appealing downtown area.

Staff said there would have to be specific criteria for which projects would qualify for assistance, and that staff would work on a policy and bring it back for future consideration.



In further matters, administrator Bot said there has been discussion with Wright County regarding the potential turnback of County Rd. 37 to Albertville, Otsego and St. Michael.

It was noted that Wright County Commissioners Mark Daleiden and Mike Potter, each representing a part of St. Michael, have suggested not turning back the road to the cities until after the Naber Avenue/Interstate 94 interchange is constructed, with the assumption the funding would include some contribution from both the city and county.

Staff discussed the details with the council, and the consensus was to let Wright County know St. Michael would not be willing to have County Rd. 37 turned back until after the Naber interchange is complete. An agreement between the city and county detailing the turnback plan might be placed on a future agenda for approval.

In other action, the council:

HEARD from resident Layne Roschen, who wanted to state for the record that even though the city’s levy is going up 2.99 percent, spending is actually increasing by 8.43 percent when anticipated Local Government Aid money and savings from sales tax is accounted for. The council said it is taking a long-term look at the budget and making prudent decisions for the future. Administrator Bot said he would specify in the next newsletter what expenses for debt payments and equipment replacement are, and including potential expenditures if the city does not receive the projected LGA from the state.

HEARD the River Rider transportation service would be starting Jan. 1 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. St. Michael’s potential cost for offering the service would be less than $2,000 per year.