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Duluth residents could face new monthly fee for street repairs

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Duluth residents may soon be paying a monthly fee to repair and maintain the city's deteriorating streets.

According to the Duluth News Tribune, the City Council will listen to a proposal next week to implement a charge of $5 per month for residential utility customers, with "non-residential commercial customers" facing a fee of $30-$240. Duluth's Chief Administrative Officer David Montgomery tells the paper it would bring in an estimated $2.7 million annually for the city to fix its roads.

And there's a lot of pavement to fix.

FOX 21 reports there are 400 miles of street and 100 miles of alley maintenance workers want to repair this summer. Mayor Don Ness tells the station $400,000 was taken from other areas of the budget to help fix potholes – but that's not nearly enough to reconstruct the damaged roads.

Loss of Funding

Duluth used to get $6 million a year in a Fond-du-Luth Casino revenue-sharing agreement, the city's website says, all of which had been used directly for street upkeep.

But in 2009, the Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Chippewa stopped making payments, arguing the revenue-sharing agreement with the city violated federal law. In January of 2013, an appeals court sided with the Fond u Lac band. At the time, Ness called the decision devastating for Duluth taxpayers. The city was awarded $10.3 million in back payments later that year, for revenue from 2009-2011.

But that's it. City leaders are now trying to figure out how to make up that lost revenue.

FOX 21 reports Ness preferred a fee of at least $8.50 a month, because it would cover the entire $6 million that's been lost. The $5-per-month proposal wouldn't quite generate half that, but the News Tribune says it could be implemented as early as August – if it's approved.

The city council will receive its first reading of the proposal Tuesday, the paper reports, and could vote on it as soon as June 9.

You can report potholes to the City of Duluth by emailing MaintenanceOps@duluthmn.gov, or calling 218-730-5430. Researchers at University of Minnesota, Duluth hope a new pothole-filling method helps repaired roads last much longer than normal.

Out west, Portland is in a similar predicament, and is considering a monthly street repair fee similar to Duluth, the Oregonian reports. Portland residents would be on the hook for much more though – a "typical household" would pay $11.56 a month, with scaled down rates for low-income residents and apartment complexes, the paper says. Portland officials hope to generate at least $40 million a year from the fee.

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