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New Duluth monthly street maintenance fee moves forward

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The new street repair fee that would have Duluth residents paying anywhere from $5 to $240 a month was kept alive by the City Council Monday – but a vote isn't expected for another couple weeks, Northland's News Center reports.

The City Council could have voted on the fee Monday, but the addition of an amendment prompted councilors to add a second reading, giving them time to read through and understand the effects of the change, Northland's News Center reports.

The new charge, which was first floated back in May, would be used to repair and maintain the city's deteriorating streets. 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.

City leaders are now trying to figure out how to make up that lost revenue, and see the monthly street repair fee as a solution (or part of one).

The proposed fees would range from $5 a month for homes and small business, to $30 for medium-size businesses, $90 for bigger businesses, and then $240 a month for the largest properties and businesses, WDIO reports.

A number of Duluth residents have come out against the new charges.

According to WDIO, one citizen at Monday's meeting said he and others feel they pay enough taxes and fees to cover such costs, and don't want to pay more.

Another attendee called it unfair to the poor, who because of the fixed monthly rate will pay a bigger portion of their income, Northland's News Center says.

Linda Krug, the city council president, attempted to address those concerns, according to FOX 21

"We really are trying to do our best here,” Krug said. “We do have the city at heart and we do hear when people say, not another fee and please don't. We really do hear that and we know how difficult it is."

The Duluth News Tribune says the city council voted Monday to end the $5-a-month streetlight fee residents currently pay as part of their utilities bill. That would kick in come 2018, the paper says, and would likely be replaced by a property tax increase.

The city council is expected to vote on the street repair fee at the June 23 meeting.

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