By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The city of Elk River is seeking $35 million to repair and improve recreational and outdoor activities, and the Elk River City Council is proposing a half-cent sales tax to raise the money.

Residents will vote at the November polls, which will reveal if people are willing to pay the tax increase for aging facilities.

Elk River youth softball president Brian Balabon says the tax is needed to keep the city moving in the right direction.

“It’s going to not just cover one area — hockey. It’s gonna cover softball, baseball, going to get more courts for volleyball (and) basketball; we’re going to improve our parks,” he said. “To me, this is a no-brainer. Like I said before, we get a lot more bang for our buck.”

Elk River is a regional rural center, and many communities go there to buy ice time or take part in baseball, soccer and basketball tournaments.

“Forty-five percent of all taxable sales within the city of Elk River are by non-residents,” said Cal Portner, city administrator. “So it really becomes quite simple from there because people are coming to Elk River for the services, and they are coming here for activities and for the recreation. Why shouldn’t they have a part in paying for it?”

City leaders say a study by the University of Minnesota’s extension office proves the sales tax increase spreads the millions of dollars needed across the region.

Elk River wants to turn the existing ice area into a field house with a multipurpose floor. The Barn, built in 1969, would be replaced with two new rinks where existing outdated ball fields are.

The sales tax would also provide a new senior activity center.

“The senior group really isn’t getting older. It’s getting bigger. They are becoming more active and they have more needs,” Portner said.

People at Elk River’s American Legion are split on the issue but believe it may be the best thing for the city.

There is an online analysis of the half-cent sales tax and what it means for Elk River residents.

Reg Chapman