Recently the Northfield City Council requested that the Housing and Redevelopment Authority to sell Lease Revenue Bonds to fund the Public Safety Center. Why is this appropriate, and what will be the impact on the authority?

First we need to understand the relationship between the City Council and the HRA. It may be also helpful to look at the HRA’s closest sibling, the Economic Development Authority and understand their similarities. Both the HRA and EDA have the ability to issue bonds and to levy. They must formulate annual work plan and a budget to carry out their statutory mission, both actions which also require approval by the City Council.

The council is responsible for directing the focus of the two organizations. The council refined the by-laws of the EDA in 2012 and has helped them re-focus their work plan to better reflect the economic goals of the council. In short, the council sets policy and direction, and the EDA and HRA use their tools and action to expand on and carry out these goals. Both bodies also include council representation, which makes the relationship tighter.

Councilors have publicly praised the efforts of the HRA. The sense is that the goals of the council and the HRA have been closely aligned. While the HRA has focused on housing projects in the recent past, it also can, both by statute and by-law, support other types of projects as well. By unanimous vote, the council recently requested that the HRA assist with the Lease Revenue Bonds to fund the police facility. We believe this project aligns with our shared mission to provide for the safety and well-being of our citizens.

The EDA served the city in this way in 2005 when it sold bonds for Memorial Pool.

So what have been the impacts, if any, on the EDA, because of this decision? Has their budget, their work plan, their ability to accomplish their goals or their ability to levy been negatively impacted by their decision? Has it impacted their ability to fund current or future projects or posed any liabilities to the authority or its members? Has it taken significant staff time or commissioner effort? My understanding is that it has essentially been a budget line pass-through — a financing tool utilized for the benefit of the Northfield community.

A similar request is now being made of the HRA. The council is simply requesting that the HRA provide conduit financing for a basic public service in a manner authorized by the State Legislature and utilized by many other cities across the state. The city’s bond counsel is finalizing a legal opinion on the authority of the HRA and City Council to partner on this project that will enhance development in one of our business parks.

I believe after due diligence review, members of the HRA will find it is reasonable and right to offer the state authorized financial tools of the HRA to assist the city for this essential community need.

Mary Rossing is the mayor of Northfield.

Mary Rossing is the mayor of Northfield.

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