(Editor’s note: This story was updated Dec. 28 based on corrected information supplied by the City of Eden Prairie. The initial story incorrectly stated the public-safety funding would be used to pay down debt.)
The City of Eden Prairie will use a one-time allocation of $2.8 million in public safety money from the state to help pay the cost of new fire trucks.
Doing so, and taking on less debt, will allow more of the cost of a future project – relocation of the Police Department within city hall – to be financed with long-term debt, possibly without a significant bump in property taxes.
Long-term debt is commonly used by local governments to finance big projects. By spreading out the debt payments over many years, they smooth out their expenses and create a predictable cash flow. Local governments also prefer to keep that debt at near the same level from year to year. The City of Eden Prairie is retiring other capital debt about the time the police remodeling project takes place.
Public safety departments across Minnesota are receiving $300 million in one-time state funding this week, with Gov. Tim Walz announcing the allocations on Dec. 21. The money was approved by the 2023 Minnesota Legislature to help agencies cope with rising costs and, especially in the case of police departments, staffing shortages. The amounts allocated to cities, counties, townships, and tribes are based on population.
Lawmakers prohibited the use of the money for “construction, reconstruction, remodeling, expansion, or improvement of a police station,” so Eden Prairie city officials are instead using it for fire-truck purchases.
But the move, in effect, will allow more of the upcoming police remodeling project to be financed through long-term debt rather than the general fund. The more debt that can be avoided or retired before the police-remodeling project goes into effect, the less effect the new project has on the city’s property tax levy.
City Manager Rick Getschow said the city council endorsed the use of one-time funds to help pay for fire trucks as part of its recent approval of the 2024 city budget. Getschow said one-time funding is typically used for capital purchases because it can’t be relied upon for funding operations over multiple years.
“Knowing that we would be issuing debt for both these fire trucks and the upcoming police remodel, we knew the one-time cash could be used for the truck purchase and reduce the overall amount of debt we would issue,” Getschow noted Wednesday by email. “The council endorsed this approach as we were preparing (and ultimately approved) the 2024 budget.”
The city is proposing to move the police department from the basement of the Eden Prairie City Center at 8080 Mitchell Road, where it’s been since 1993. Its new location would be the largely vacant, two-story west end of the same building. That location contains much more space, including space that could be used as indoor parking for police vehicles currently sitting outside year-round.
The cost of that remodeling project and move is still uncertain – $13.1 million has been estimated as a base price. More planning is scheduled for 2024, including by Kraus-Anderson Construction Co., hired by the city council in September to oversee the project. The city believes the project can be completed in spring 2026.
Expansion of the Police Department’s quarters has been in the city’s long-term plan for at least six years. More space is needed because there are about twice as many police officers today as there were 30 years ago, and the police fleet has grown to more than 50 vehicles.
The new fire trucks in question were ordered in 2022: four fire engines and two trucks to fight grass fires and respond to Flying Cloud Airport emergencies – a total of $5.4 million in firefighting apparatus. Deliveries are scheduled for 2024, 2025 and 2026, according to Fire Chief Scott Gerber.
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