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St. Paul City Council approves more than $40 million in spending on parks and streets from new sales tax

In Europe
February 29, 2024

Flanked by protesters quietly hoisting signs calling for a Gaza ceasefire resolution, the St. Paul City Council on Wednesday approved more than $40 million in spending on parks and streets this year, to be funded by the new voter-approved 1% sales tax that takes effect April 1.

The vote proceeded without disruption, a week after a previous public hearing on a state grant was cut short by loud and persistent protest chants that ended only after council members left the room. Council President Mitra Jalali said a “multi-year effort” had moved the sales tax forward and city facilities suffering from long-deferred maintenance will now reap the benefits.

“We do not have the tax base of other communities, but we do have disproportionate strains,” said Jalali, noting the wear and tear on public streets from out-of-town visitors to the state Capitol complex and other city landmarks.

The first year of sales tax revenue will fund $10.2 million toward reconstructing Grand Avenue from Snelling to Fairview avenues this year, as well as another $500,000 toward intersection improvements at Grand and Snelling.

Projects next year will include portions of both Jackson Street and University Avenue near Interstate 35E next year, portions of Earl Street and Pelham Boulevard in 2026 and Shepard Road in 2027.

“There weren’t any couch cushions underneath which we could find (the funding) for those critical streets to be done,” said Council Member Rebecca Noecker, addressing St. Paul Public Works Dir. Sean Kershaw.

St. Paul Parks and Recreation Director Andy Rodriguez said his department will make headway on long-deferred maintenance, such as replacing roofs and doors at rec centers across the city, as well asphalt replacement on parking lots, trails and sidewalks.

Larger projects will include new geothermal units at the Como Zoo, and the conversion of some tennis courts to pickleball courts.

Council Member Nelsie Yang said her political ward on the East Side is home to some of the most outdated libraries, rec centers and playing fields in the city, and she looked forward to the investment. “I’m very excited to vote in support of this resolution,” she said.

Council Member Anika Bowie said as much as she enjoyed the obstacle course-laden video game Mario Kart, driving bumpy St. Paul streets was much less fun. She thanked the department directors for incorporating neighborhood demographics such as race and income, among other equity measures, as they prioritized some 75 to 80 projects.

“This is an investment in our future athletes, and in our future leaders here in St. Paul,” Bowie said.

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