June 25, 2007

City Council rescinds Cherry Circle, Marcia Street motion

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

The Dassel City Council rescinded its June 4 motion to fund 20 percent of the infrastructure in Howard Page’s Cherry Circle development last Monday, because it held no public hearing first.

The council then scheduled a public hearing for both the Cherry Circle and Marcia Street projects for Monday, July 16.

City Administrator Myles McGrath explained that before a city can spend taxpayers’ money, according to the Statutory 429 process, it must conduct a hearing. He gestured to the residents at the meeting that they should have been allowed to give their opinions first, before the council decided to have taxpayers fund $30,000 of Cherry Circle, and $21,600, or 60 percent, of the Marcia Avenue project.

McGrath apologized for not advising the council about the need for a public hearing.

Before the council rescinded the motion, however, Mayor Ava Flachmeyer defended her decision to help Page with the eight or nine wooded lots he is developing between Highway 12 and the south end of North Marcia Street. Flachmeyer said Page was a “good friend,” she had no conflict of interest in the decision, and that her husband no longer is employed by Page.

Then Deb Suchy approached the council and asked Flachmeyer why she didn’t return her phone calls when she wanted to express her concerns about the Cherry Circle funding. Suchy told her that Flachmeyer had campaigned for mayor by promising to be available and willing to listen to constituents.

Suchy expressed skepticism that Flachmeyer was working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and unable to return her calls.

“It is not the city’s business to make sure a developer makes a profit,” Suchy added.

John Dahl, developer of Martin Estates, also approached the council and said he felt encouraged that the June 4 motion was rescinded. When he developed Martin Estates, he had to pay 100 percent of the costs of the infrastructure, as the developers for Summit Hills and Highland Meadows did, he said.

“I know what I had to pay for my development, and it wasn’t cheap,” Dahl said.

Ralph Danielson was next to approach the council. He pointed out that Dahl was just as much a “good friend” as Page is, and that it didn’t make sense for the city to try to guarantee a profit for Page, and not Dahl and the other developers.

Mary Jensen and her husband, Lonnie Jensen, are owners of one of the three properties abutting the Marcia Street project. Mary Jensen also complained to the council how they were not notified that they would be sharing in 40 percent of the cost of the $36,000 project. She also said their 35-foot frontage would not get any benefit from it.

McGrath agreed they didn’t benefit from it, and said notices will be sent out to all the property owners involved in both projects for the July 16 hearing.

Steve Mattson of Northland Securities led the process for issuing $660,000 in bonds for 20 years at an average 4.6 percent interest rate for the Fifth Street Improvement Project. It included only the portion of the street from William Avenue to Centennial, and not Marcia Street, nor Cherry Circle, as it did June 4.

Northland Securities also is issuing tax exempt bonds that would be placed by Augustana Care of Minneapolis for Dassel Lakeside Community Home, he said. The $1.5 million bond will be used to pay off all current Dassel debt on the facility.

The city will be a conduit for the issuance of the bond, but the city will not carry any liability for it. The hearing date is set for July 16 also.

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