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Dave Olson, Published October 26 2010

Moorhead City Council cuts funding for MSUM's Fourth of July celebration

Sparks flashed at Monday’s meeting of the Moorhead City Council when it was decided the city would not contribute money to the 2011 Fourth of July celebration hosted by Minnesota State University Moorhead.

The city has contributed to the event in the past, including $8,200 for the 2010 celebration.

Just weeks ago, a 2011 appropriation got the thumbs-up from at least six council members, the threshold required to pass a spending motion.

On Monday, however, the council took what were intended to be final votes on how much the city gives outside agencies, and three of the eight council members who regularly decide issues said “no” to the MSUM subsidy.

Council member Dan Hunt said it was the “most wasteful” of the gifts the city makes to outside agencies because it supported only one day of activities.

“My preference is that we spend money on the young people,” said Hunt, who earlier in the meeting had urged that the city continue giving money to the Metro Youth Partnership. However, a decision on that allocation, which was $25,950 in 2010, was tabled until a meeting in November.

Fiscal constraints have prompted MSUM to scale back its Fourth of July celebrations.

It spent about $30,000 on the event in 2009, far less than the $100,000 or so expended on prior celebrations.

There was no indication that Monday’s vote will threaten MSUM’s popular annual fireworks display.

After the allocation failed to get the necessary votes to stay in the city’s 2011 budget, Council member Nancy Otto moved to have the question voted on again, stating the event is a highlight of the summer for many and a time “for Moorhead to shine.”

The second vote turned out the same as the first.

Council member Mark Hintermeyer supported giving funds to the MSUM event, calling it “a celebration of our freedom.”

Council member Luther Stueland, who voted “no” along with Hunt and Council member Greg Lemke, said spending tax dollars on such an item without giving taxpayers a say was the opposite of freedom.

Based on Monday’s votes, here are the other community groups that will be left out of funding for 2011 and the amount they received in 2010:

- Cultural Diversity Resources, $13,490.

- Minn-Kota PAAWS, $1,000.

- Rourke Art Gallery Museum, $9,220.

- Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival, $3,110.

Another organization, The Arts Partnership, failed to get enough votes for continued funding at an earlier council meeting but on Monday secured a spot in the 2011 budget with a $20,529 allocation. That is 10 percent less than the organization received in 2010.

Hunt said the council should brace itself for budget discussions next year that he said will likely explore the city divesting itself of things like its municipal airport and golf courses.

Council member Mark Altenburg agreed. “This discussion puts everything on the table next year,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555