County to hold three public hearings on ballpark sales tax

Hennepin County residents who want to sound off on the countywide sales tax that will largely fund the new $522 million Minnesota Twins stadium will have their chance at the end of August.

The Hennepin County Board will hold three public hearings before it votes on whether to impose a 0.15 percent countywide sales tax that will largely fund the Downtown ballpark. The hearings will be held:

- From 5-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 22 in the Board Room on the 24th floor of the Hennepin County Government Center, 300 S. 6th St., Minneapolis

- From 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 23 in the Council Chambers at the Bloomington Civic Plaza, 1800 W. Old Shakopee Road, Bloomington

- From 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 24 in the Council Chambers of the Maple Grove Government Center, 12800 Arbor Lakes Parkway, Maple Grove

After the hearings are held, the board will vote to authorize the tax levy. The sales tax will amount to about 3 cents on a $20 purchase, excluding clothing, food, medical supplies and automobiles. That vote will likely take place sometime in September. If approved, the sales tax would go into effect Jan. 1, 2007.

Construction of the 42,000-seat ballpark is expected to begin next year, with completion slated for the start of the 2010 baseball season. The county's share of the costs - which will be funded with the sales tax - is $350 million for construction and infrastructure costs. The Twins will contribute $130 million.

Residents interested in testifying at the hearings should call the County Board Clerk's Office at 612-348-3081. Calling ahead is not required, but John Knudsen with Hennepin County Public Affairs said it is recommended - and the speaking order will be determined by the order in which residents call. Residents who do not call ahead can sign up to speak when they arrive at the meeting.

&#8220We expect there will be quite a few people there,” Knudsen said, adding that a handful of people have already called and signed up to speak.