Hotel may soon be opening in Isanti

A hotel could soon be coming to Isanti.

The Isanti City Council approved a development plan and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) with Isanti Hotel Partners LLC at its meeting June 19.

Construction of the 33-unit hotel with a pool is scheduled to begin by July 2012. The project cost is estimated at over $3.2 million and the city estimates it will generate nearly $100,000 in new annual property taxes with $30,000 collected annually for Isanti.

Five to seven new jobs will be created with the 12,900 square foot hotel, with wages ranging from $11 to $12 per hour including benefits.

The hotel will be located east of Hwy. 65, near Landmark Community Bank and Prairie Senior Cottages.

City staff have been working on this project for nearly a year, Isanti Mayor George Wimmer said.

“It’s an incredibly important project for the city of Isanti,” he said. “A hotel is our number one economic development goal. I have spent countless hours on bringing a hotel to Isanti and I am hopeful we will break ground soon.”

The developer will receive $150,000 in surplus tax increment assistance to pay for direct project costs, including construction and land acquisition. Another $450,000 will be provided from revenues generated from a new TIF district.

Tax Increment Financing is an economic development tool that allows a locality to use the increased value from a project to create an incentive for the project. The city is creating a TIF district that is being paid for by the project in the rough amount of $450,000—the exact amount will not be clear until the project is completed and assessed, Wimmer explained.

Approximately $150,000 will be granted to the project from Isanti’s special TIF fund. The total incentive over an eight year period of time will be around $600,000.

“The city has set the table for the hotel developer and we await their final steps in securing all their financing,” Wimmer said. “A hotel for Isanti means great economic growth as we are able to attract more commercial activities to our city.”

Site work will be done by June 30 to meet the state TIF deadline, Wimmer added. After that, there may be a lull in construction for about a month or two as the developer secures financing.

“We have every intention and every belief that the hotel will go forward,” he said.

Isanti Community Center needs funding

Members from the Community Center Task Force presented some of their findings to the City Council.

The group was tasked with researching and brainstorming ways to come up with funding the city’s community center, as the building is funded through 2013. The task force is to come up with a plan of action so the city can decide how to move forward.

Members of the task force said they have met several times and have begun gauging how the building is used. Many Isanti residents, they said, are not aware of the community center, while some are not sure where it is located.

Some of the groups that currently use the community center are the Isanti Lions, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Isanti Senior Dining.

Task force members said the city should advertise the community center to get better usage out of it—creating a website and posting signage outside the building may help create awareness.

Wimmer said he supports the community center, but that the city needs a viable way to continue funding it.

“The task force was to try to come up with a plan for us to figure out good ways we can save the building,” Wimmer said. “The issue with doing more activities in there is that it sounds great, but we’re not making revenue off of those events, so every time we do an event, we’re losing money.”

The city is losing up to $20,000 per year on the community center, which Wimmer and the task force said needs upgrades to modernize it and make the building more efficient.

One idea was to have the townships that use the building help fund it, but Wimmer said a levy referendum may be the answer to secure funding.

“This is going to take a significant amount of funding. In order to do that, more than likely we’ll have to go to voters for a vote for them to say ‘we want to do this,’” he said. “So we’re all going to have to make the case that yes, we have groups here that are using it.”

Isanti police officer seeks K-9 program

Police Officer Adam Gau came forward to ask if he could start fundraising to create a K-9 program within the police department.

The City Council voted to table to request, however, citing a need for more information on how the program will be funded.

Gau said he would raise $14,000 to start the program, which would then cost $1,200 a year to continue. The department would purchase a Labrador trained in searching for narcotics and would assist police officers in completing traffic stops or search warrants when narcotics are suspected.

The Isanti Police Department backed Gau in his proposal, Gau said. He said police officers believe adding a K-9 would increase the number of narcotics arrests and help decrease overall criminal activity in Isanti.

Mayor Wimmer and council members had concerns regarding how the program would continue to be funded throughout the years. They decided to table the issue until a future date, allowing time to research funding methods used by K-9 programs within other city police departments.