HJ/EDEnterprise Dispatch, Jan. 16, 2006

Mayor wants controlled growth for Dassel

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Dassel Mayor Ava Flachmeyer is optimistic about the city’s potential for growth.

Flachmeyer called the Summit Hills development north of Dassel “exciting and wonderful and will really be a plus,” in an interview Tuesday about the state of the city.

She also pointed out how Dassel’s location at the intersection of Highways 15 and 12, between Hutchinson and St. Cloud, and between Litchfield and Cokato, is priming the growth pump.

“Everything is going to take off,” Flachmeyer said. “Dassel is going to grow without a doubt.”

Flachmeyer, who grew up in Minneapolis, moved to Dassel in 1974, when Dassel was halfway between her and her husband’s places of employment. She later was a nurse’s aide and a licensed practical nurse at Dassel Lakeside Community Home.

After being a city council member, and mayor of Dassel in 1999 and 2000, Flachmeyer went back to school to get her bachelor’s degree and became a registered nurse.

She now is an RN at Burns Manor in Hutchinson. Flachmeyer loves providing end-of-life care, she said.

She estimated she has “laughed, cried and cared with” at least 1,000 geriatric patients.

“Those patients are your number one responsibility. They become your family,” Flachmeyer said.

A former mayor, Dave Latt, noticed Flachmeyer’s sense of responsibility and urged her to run for mayor. She had served as acting mayor while Latt, who is in the military, served in the reserves, she said.

Latt, who is going to Iraq in May, encouraged her to run for election because she was reliable and dependable during tough times in the city. The Highway 12 project and when both ends of the city along Highway 12 were annexed, are examples of things that happened during her watch, she said.

Although Flachmeyer is enthusiastic about Dassel’s growth, orderly development is important to her. When Flachmeyer was on the city council, during the ‘90s, there were more than 100 new houses in various stages of development, all at once, and Dassel was landlocked.

“Too much in too short of time,” City Administrator Myles McGrath added.

Currently, the Highland Meadows subdivision, south of Dassel, is a multi-stage development. “She wants to make sure we’re in control,” McGrath said.

The city invests in developments, too, McGrath said. He told how in the Sellards Addition, south of Dassel, the developer ran out of funds before water, and sewer and infrastructure were completed. The city became obligated to finish the development and it had no revenues to pay for it, he said.

The Sellards Addition is thriving now, but Flachmeyer doesn’t want the city to go through those stressful times again, he said.

Flachmeyer said she wanted developers to clarify on the Summit Hills addition, for example, whether they intend to sell the houses one at a time as they build them, or 50 houses at once. She is not averse to Dassel being a bedroom community, but she doesn’t want the city to be full of empty houses, she said.

Now, developers must have the money for infrastructure up front.

“They’re doing it on their dime,” McGrath said.

The extra control hasn’t deterred developers, though. The city has a one-year moratorium on new zoning and platting in effect, and still, developers are pressuring to get their feet in the door as soon as the moratorium ends, McGrath said.

A good residential base and a viable downtown go together, McGrath said. They have a “chicken and egg” relationship, in which it’s not clear which of the two comes first, he said.

Flachmeyer would like to use tax breaks to attract new businesses and work together with businesses already in Dassel to make and keep the downtown viable, she said.

Flachmeyer’s most successful ventures since she was re-elected mayor in 2004 are getting JOBZ designation for Farm Rite Equipment Inc., hosting the Minnesota Amateur Baseball state tournament in Dassel, and getting a new city administrator, McGrath, who came in March 2005.

Other successes have been keeping the water and sewer rates the same and not raising the city levy. “That’s definitely a step in the right direction,” McGrath said.

Some of Flachmeyer’s goals for Dassel include celebrating the fire department’s 125th anniversary in the summer, beginning a feasibility study for a new water tower, and getting the wastewater treatment plant’s discharge permit renewed, she said.

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