Cambridge opposes state’s plans to move sex offender program clients to town

The city of Cambridge approved a resolution opposing a plan that would move clients of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program to Cambridge to be housed at the Minnesota Specialty Health System Cambridge Campus.

During the Cambridge City Council meeting Oct. 21, City Attorney Jay Squires presented a resolution that outlines several reasons why the city is opposed to the plan that was recently outlined by State Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson.

Jesson has said the Sex Offender Program team is currently supporting petitions of six intellectually disabled clients to transfer to the Cambridge site. She explained the clients range in age from their 40s to 80s.

In further discussions, the state has indicated it may support petitions of more individuals in the future. The Cambridge facility is licensed for 16 clients and can serve up to 48. The state can request an amendment to license more beds.

The council did approve the resolution, with part of the resolution stating:

• The Cambridge City Council does not believe that the Minnesota Specialty Health System facility in Cambridge has the adequate security nor can it be easily retrofitted to house dangerous sex offenders to assure the proper level of security Isanti County citizens need and deserve.

• The safety and wellbeing of our citizens is of the highest importance to the Isanti County Board of Commissioners.

• The city of Cambridge has revitalized the surrounding area after purchasing the property from the state of Minnesota (via special legislation) in 1999 when the state decided to close the Cambridge Regional Treatment Center and declared the property as surplus property, with high-density low- to moderate-income residential housing, park, open space and a future library/community center.

• The city must rely on general obligation debt and a levy referendum to pass for the library/community center, and support for this project will be minimal if it is located across the street from a sex offender complex.

• Local government offices that serve families are located directly across the street from the Minnesota Specialty Health System facility in Cambridge.

• Cambridge Community Garden, a place to which families regularly bring their children, is located adjacent to the Minnesota Specialty Health System facility in Cambridge.

• Residents have concerns that their home values within the community will be negatively affected by the housing of sexual predators at the Minnesota Specialty Health System facility in Cambridge.

The council also approved a letter drafted by Squires to be sent to David Ferleger, who is a technical advisor to the court. The council is requesting a meeting with Ferleger and reiterates in more detail the city’s concerns with the state’s plans.

2014 street improvement project moves forward

The council held a public hearing for the 2014 street improvement project and a public hearing for the 2014 special assessments for the 2014 street improvement project.

City Engineer Todd Blank explained the project consists of reconstructing the streets, sidewalks, storm sewer, sanitary sewer, water main and street lighting.

The streets are generally in the area north of City Hall and east of Main Street, the area one block north and south of Highway 95 between the railroad tracks and Garfield Street, and South Garfield Street from Highway 95 to Eighth Avenue Southeast.

The total estimated project cost is $5.3 million. The proposed project funding consists of various city funds (approximately 80 percent) and special assessments (approximately 20 percent) to the adjacent properties that benefit from the improvements.

The city portion is proposed to be funded by a capital fund balance, sanitary sewer/water main/storm water utility funds, municipal state aid funding from MnDOT and tax levy bonds. The special assessments are consistent with past practice and policy and have been reviewed by city staff along with the city’s appraiser.

The proposed assessment rates for single family homes have been reduced from $6,700 per lot to $5,850 per lot, which is the same rate that was used in 2001 when the street improvement program started.

Following discussion, the council approved resolutions ordering the 2014 street improvement project and the special assessment roll for the 2014 street improvement project.

It also approved a contract with SEH for design and engineering for the project for an estimated maximum fee of $276,000.