Dilworth presents half-cent sales tax idea for new community center

Clay County Commission

Dan Haglund

Dilworth Mayor Chad Olson gave the Clay County Board of Commissioners an in-depth look at plans for a new community center, as well as an idea on how to help fund it during regular meeting hours on Tuesday in Moorhead.
And as Dilworth continues to grow, so must the amenities.
“We’ve been making a commitment to providing amenities to our residents,” Olson said. “And recently we’ve put forth the public safety element, and we’re using our fire station as a catalyst.”
The new Dilworth fire station on First Avenue is already under construction near the community center. And Olson says a new and adjoining community center would give residents the quality of amenities they expect and deserve.
Olson said a half-cent sales tax will be put before city residents this November for a vote to help generate the revenue needed for the new community center, the total cost of which is estimated at $7.2 million.
If approved by voters on Nov. 5, the local sales tax is expected to generate $6.1 million and will be earmarked specifically for this project. The local sales tax will not be permanent but may in place for up to 25 years or until the project is paid for.
The remaining sources of funding would come from a combination of tax abatements, private investments, facility revenues and other sources. Funding for the new fire department has already been secured through other sources.
The Dilworth City Council chose the local sales tax idea over a property tax to spread the cost of the projects more evenly among residents, and to not single out homeowners and property owners when all residents would be benefitting from the center.
The city’s former community center was more than 40 years old, and could not accommodate the city’s growing needs, including a lack of designated areas for meetings, programs or events, insufficient restrooms or storage, outdated mechanical systems, and HVAC in need of replacement, Olson said.
Olson said a frequent question he hears is, “Why move the community center.?”
He said a facilities assessment was done and concluded that with the fire station and community center, there was a safety and security issue for co-existence. The best remedy, according to the assessment, was to separate the two.
The 40-year plan for the new community center would be to locate it near the eastside Rail District, with key features to include community spaces for various activities, areas for youth and senior programs, storage for event furniture, a large, modern kitchen, and new equipment and technology.
And the forward-thinking design would have it be supportive of future expansion ideas, including possibly a daycare, an indoor walking track and playground and fitness spaces.
“When we’re looking at our next 40 years, we want to make sure than we have the ability to grow this center in a means that accommodates the needs of our residents,” Olson said.
Dilworth’s population growth has been impressive in recent years, with numerous expansions of single-family homes mainly to the north and east edges. The U.S. Census showed the city with a population of 3,001 in 2000, but an estimated 4,771 in 2022.
On another subject, but one that ties into the new community center plan, is that Dilworth is lacking a healthcare facility of any type.
The city is in talks with a healthcare provider that is considering building a health clinic that would either adjoin the community center or by built nearby. The city will also be seeking partners to develop additional elements of this expansion.
Olson said a good deal of input has come from current residents on growth and expansion ideas. City leaders have been engaging those residents to identify critical needs and top priorities for the new community center. Additionally, an online survey posted to the city’s website found that residents wanted a facility that could support more meetings, programs and events.
A timetable of this plan shows that in 2021, the city commissioned a city facility assessment of the fire department and community center. in February 2023, a committee of residents was formed to work with the city on concepts, planning, priorities and logistics; and in May 2023, the Minnesota State Legislature authorized the city to present a half-percent local sales tax to voters. That is set for this November.
Olson says the whole project can be found online at Dilworthontrack.com.
Dilworth City Administrator Peyton Mastera projects the half-cent tax would start out generating about $250,000 per year, so the bill will take numerous years to be paid up.

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