Nov. 20, 2006

Dassel chamber considers petitioning for Metro Calling

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

The Dassel Area Chamber of Commerce is exploring the possibility of getting extended area telephone service for Dassel, just as Cokato’s service was approved July 28.

Extended area service, EAS, means Dassel residents will be able to call the Metro area without paying long distance charges. However, this also means the basic phone rate will increase by a nominal amount.

Dassel City Administrator Myles McGrath told the chamber at its meeting Tuesday in Hojies Grill & Smokehouse in Dassel cities are discouraged from sponsoring an EAS petition filing, but the chamber of commerce may.

Also, communities can’t leapfrog over each other to petition the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for the service. Now that Cokato has EAS, and Dassel’s area is contiguous to Cokato’s area, the way is clear for Dassel, he said.

Usually the average person who gets into an EAS will have an increase of $3.50 a month on his telephone bill. It also doesn’t change the area code for the community, said Kelly Babekuhl, who distributed instructions to the chamber members about how to file a petition for EAS.

The public utilities commission requires that a petition be signed by 15 percent or 600 customers of the telephone exchange, whichever is less, according to the petition’s instructions.

At first, the buzz around Cokato was that residents would choose to make long distance calls to the Twin Cities with their cell phones, and they wouldn’t need EAS. However, the majority of Cokato customers voted in favor of EAS, said Dori Erickson.

Jim Grossman said he has noticed his Twin Cities customers for his consulting business hesitate to call Dassel, because they must pay long distance charges. From a business point of view, having EAS makes sense, he said.

Chamber members did not make a final decision whether to take on the EAS petition project, but might at their next meeting, the second Tuesday in January 2007.

McGrath brought up the petition as part of an update he presented about the City of Dassel to the chamber. He told how the city bought A+ Sports and Marine building for the municipal liquor store and possibly a community hall. Custom Precision Technology of Cokato is moving to Dassel for more space, he said.

In addition, Farmers State Bank of Darwin is building a branch office in the Haekenkamp development, McGrath said.

The city also would like to resume planning meetings about revitalizing the downtown area. Some of the store fronts have been fixed up, work is continuing on the clock tower, and construction on the bakery building is in progress, McGrath said.

The city’s moratorium on new and preliminary plats will end February 2007, and the city is moving forward with its application to raise the permitted wastewater treatment levels closer to the plant’s capacity, he said.

McGrath also described how the city experienced 18 percent real growth through annexation and new developments. “It’s property that wasn’t there before,” he said.

Growth in assessed value, on the other hand, is mostly inflation, agreed Amy Wilde, Meeker County commissioner.

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