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Council sees new Bridge Square plans; School Board approves 22-23 budget; Summer concerts begin tonight

The Northfield City Council heard a presentation during their work session on Tuesday night giving an update on the Riverfront Enhancement Action Plan, and in particular saw a new concept for the Bridge Square improvement project.

Application to designate the area along the Cannon River as a Regional Park is a significant piece of the Riverfront Enhancement Plan, because of the possible funding opportunities that could bring. The council was informed during their work session that the process is taking longer than possible due to some overlapping jurisdictions. While the initiative might take more time than anticipated – possibly as much as a year – it does continue to move forward.

The Bridge Square Project, which city staff had hoped to possibly begin in 2022, also hit a snag when the Heritage Preservation Commission asked for some clarification on both their role in the approval process and some of the changes to be made. Six months after the last presentation was made to the council, the design team brought a slightly different, but more detailed plan to the work session.

Under the new plan, the section of Water Street on the West side of Bridge Square will not be completely replaced by green space but will instead be adapted into the plan. According to the designers it will “retain its significant historic feature, bisecting the central lawn area while maximizing flexibility for a variety of daily uses and larger special events.”

The areas on either side of Water Street will be referred to as “The Square,” on the West side of the road, and “The Park” on the East side. In accordance with the wishes of the HPC, neither the fountain nor the Civil War memorial will be moved. Special areas will be designated for both the iconic popcorn wagon and Santa’s House. A multi-use terraced area will be constructed in the park area facing the river that will allow for performances, or for general seating that will allow for tables and chairs.

Other concerns brought by the Defeat of Jesse James Committee were also addressed, and the designers said the location of the celebration’s entertainment tent will not have to change, at least in the short term.

The council will consider the final concept at a meeting later this year.

District will run budget deficit; could have been avoided

With a new fiscal year set to begin on July 1, on Monday night the Northfield School Board gave the final approval for the 2022-23 Northfield School District budget.

Superintendent of Northfield Public Schools Dr. Matt Hillmann said the process to develop the budget is a lengthy one that began in December. The budgeting process this year was even more complicated than normal due to the need to trim about $4.5 million from expenditures over the next two years because of anticipated declining enrollment and less funding from the state.

Hillmann said there are several different facets and funds of the budget that must be approved independently. The Internal Service fund is the money used to administer the employee health and dental insurance plans. The Debt Service fund is the money used to pay the bills on the various capital construction projects. The board approved the Community Education Fund, the Child Nutrition Fund and the Building Construction Fund. Finally, he said the Board approved the General Operating Fund at $59.7 million dollars. With expenditures for the coming year expected to be at $61.3 million, the district will once again be running a deficit next year. Hillman said at approximately $1.5 million, it will be slightly less than originally anticipated.

Like many people, Dr. Hillman has shown some frustration with the state legislature this year. After months of negotiations that reportedly came very close to reaching widespread agreement, the legislature was forced to adjourn before it could vote on several bills that would have parceled out the record $9.3 billion budget surplus. Among the agreements was a boost to education, and special education programs in particular, that would, Hillmann said, have bridged the deficit in the district budget for next year.

“We’re running a deficit of about $1.5 million. The amount of money we would have gotten from [the legislative agreement, which] finally would have addressed the Special Education Cross Subsidy in a meaningful way, would have been $1.7 million. So, we’ve told you before that the gap in our budget is the Special Education Cross Subsidy, and it is. And that’s just an example of where we’re at.”

While Governor Walz recently made another push for a special session to complete that legislative work, the resistance to the idea makes it unlikely.

Jeff Johnson’s full conversation with Northfield Superintendent of Schools Dr. Matt Hillmann can be heard here

Concerts every Wednesday night this summer

And the annual summer concert series sponsored by the Northfield Public Library gets underground tonight.

The Everett Smithson Band

The Everett Smithson Band, whose music is described as described as “foot-stomping zydeco, Louisiana soul, blues, Tex-Mex, and funky roots music” will play in Central Park this evening.

The concert series will rotate between Central Park and Way Park, with one event scheduled for Memorial Park, every Wednesday. Next week, the group Salsa del Sol will bring Latin music to Way Park, and the eek after that, the Minneapolis old-time folk band The Roe Family Singers will be back at Central Park.

The Bookmobile will be at every show, as will the Red Chair Project, sponsored by Age Friendly Northfield. A kid’s story time will precede every concert as well.

In case of inclement weather, the library has reserved the Northfield High School Auditorium as an alternative site each week. Check the library’s website or call after 3:30 pm if the weather is unclear to confirm where the performance will be held.

Tonight’s performance will begin at 6pm.

Rich Larson is the KYMN News Director. Contact him at rich@kymnradio.net

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