Cambridge waives permit fees for Shalom Shop remodel

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Shalom Shop, which offers donated second-hand items for sale, with proceeds going directly back into the community, has had to modify their process for receiving donations. Because of those changes, the store, which is located in the former Fleet-Go building on the east side of Cambridge, is in need of some minor remodeling.

According to Shalom Board member Dick Halbmaier, donations must now be set aside for two or three days before they will bring them inside in an attempt to mitigate the risk of spreading the COVID virus. Because of the size of the building, and the large amount of donations being accepted, this has resulted in volunteers having to work outside in the elements for an extended period of time. The solution Shalom has come up with is to build a cover for an existing ramp on the side of the building.

Halbmaier said the projected cost of the project would be around $50,000, with an additional $1,180 in building permit fees. Halbmaier said he is appearing before the city council during their Feb. 1 meeting to ask the city waive the permit fees in light of how much money (which totaled $422,000 in 2019 alone) Shalom contributes back to the community.

Council Member Bob Shogren asked if the city had ever granted a building permit fee waiver before. City Administrator Lynda Woulfe said they had not, with the last request being from Isanti County to waive the fees for the remodeling of the old Hayford Ford building to accommodate the new Sheriff’s offices. She did add the fees were waived for Habitat for Humanity, but in that case, the city was also donating the property.

Ultimately, the council decided that since this remodeling job was directly necessitated by the pandemic, the city could waive the fees without setting a precedent that might cause additional requests for the waiving of fees. The motion to waive the fees was approved 4-1, with Shogren voting no.

Request to issue conduit debt denied

At the same meeting, the council was asked to consider another somewhat unusual request. The Arts and Science Academy, which is located in the City of Isanti, but serves students who live in Cambridge, asked the city to issue conduit debt for the Charter School in order to purchase their current school buildings, plus look towards expanding in the near future.

Conduit debt is essentially like the city cosigning on a loan, except the debt cannot be collected from the city if the primary loanee defaults. It is done to help give someone better interest rates. According to Finance Director Caroline Moe, it isn’t an uncommon practice, however what makes this request unique is the entity isn’t located within city limits. She said extraterritorial conduit debt is allowed, but the city has never approved such a request before. She added that issuing conduit debt does count against the city’s maximum amount of debt they can incur in a single year, but since there are no street improvement projects slated for 2021, the city wasn’t looking at incurring any debt this year.

During discussion, Shogren said if he understood it correctly, ASA had been “turned down” by the City of Isanti, but he wanted to know who ASA had talked to. ASA Executive Director Kevin Fitton told the council they had approached Isanti’s staff, but the impression they were left with was the city wasn’t interested, so since ASA also serves Cambridge residents, they decided to ask Cambridge.

Shogren stated he would be more comfortable in approving their request if they had been formally rejected by the Isanti City Council. Otherwise, it might look like Cambridge was intruding into Isanti’s business.

Council Member Mark Ziebarth suggested ASA first make a formal request to the City of Isanti, and if that was rejected, then they could try Isanti County before coming back to Cambridge. The rest of the council agreed with that suggestion, reiterating if ASA was within the Cambridge City limits, it would have been a “no-brainer” in approving the request.

Since no action was being taken, the council could simply deny the request without making a motion, which does at least leave the possibility of ASA coming back if both the City of Isanti and Isanti County were to deny their request.

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