Herald JournalHerald Journal, June 14, 2004

LP council cancels contract with grant administrator

By Ryan Gueningsman

Unhappy with the lack of progress with Lester Prairie’s small cities grant, Lester Prairie City Council decided to terminate its contract with Heartland, its grant administrators, at its meeting last Monday.

Heartland was responsible for lining up payments and progress inspections and, to date, not one item has been completed using grant funds, noted City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk.

“The city and those involved lost confidence in Heartland,” Pawelk said. “We have approximately 15 months left to get everybody done and get the money expended for the purpose it was given to us. They have not followed their contract in a timely fashion.”

Judi Rust, who was present at the meeting on behalf of Heartland, asked the council to give the organization a “chance to get the program turned around.”

It was also noted by the council that it has run into problems with Heartland staffing, and having a difficult time being able to talk with the same person. Rust was hired by Heartland several weeks ago.

“We can do this – I know we can,” she said. A motion was made to terminate the contract with Heartland, and it was noted that the motion was not a reflection of Rust, but of past problems, as well as the time element to get things going.

Taking over grant administration responsibilities will be Southwest Minnesota Housing (SWMH), which was recommended by Heidi Peper of Short Elliott and Hendrickson. The contract with SWMH will go into effect today.

Peper noted that there are currently 17 active housing applications for grant money in Lester Prairie, but that none have reached the construction phase. She said there are seven commercial applications that have been received, but only five are active. There are no active rental applications. Three were submitted, but they have all withdrawn or decided to wait.

Peper hopes to attend the next Lester Prairie Business Association meeting Tuesday, June 22 to present information to the business community.

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