HJ-ED-DHJ

May 21, 2007

Cokato sets public hearing for off-sale liquor store in downtown

Niesen is paying for a special council meeting 5 p.m. Thursday, May 31 to speed up the process

By Lynda Jensen
Editor

The former hardware store location in downtown Cokato may be converted to an off-sale establishment, pending action by the Cokato City Council.

The council is considering granting a permit to Mike Niesen, who owns liquor stores in Arlington, Watertown and Belle Plaine.

“He has passed the background check,” commented City Administrator Don Levens. “They come highly recommended.”

The council set a special meeting – which Niesen is paying for, to speed the process to the tune of $500 – for 5 p.m., Thursday, May 31.

If the off-sale permit is issued, it will be the first such permit made in Cokato since before Prohibition.

Since voters passed the strong liquor question in November, and the city adopted its ordinance, any denial of a permit must be based on the lack of meeting specific criteria, such as not making the background check, or if the chosen location doesn’t meet city ordinances for how close a liquor store can be to such things as a school, Levens noted.

After the permit is issued, the council can revoke the permit if the business is out of compliance, such as if the owner sells liquor to minors, he said.

During the meeting, Niesen asked the council to limit off-sale establishments to the downtown area only, and not Highway 12. “There’s enough liquor on Highway 12,” Niesen said.

This request was met with a lack of enthusiasm by the council.

“No, I don’t think we’d consider that,” responded Council Member Butch Amundsen. “Sorry.”

Update on Akerlund Studio

The council also heard an update about possible grants and the condition of the Akerlund Studio, which is on the National Register of Historical Places.

The studio has structural problems, although the engineer said that an entry problem was the only issue in relation to public safety, which is something that could be fixed in the short term.

Aside from that, there is a list of issues that need to be addressed ranging from drainage around the building to foundation issues.

“The foundation is the main issue,” Museum Director Mike Worcester said.

It was noted that three different materials comprise the foundation, which has been piecemeal over the years. The silver building on the property is a garage that belongs to the studio, and adds to the drainage issues, it was noted. The garage is collectively part of the studio and can’t be tampered with (such as being relocated), since this would alter the original plans of the studio. “You might run the risk of being de-listed on the National Register,” Worcester said.

Worcester plans to apply for a number of grants, and asked the council to take steps that would aid him in this process.

The council ordered advertisement for bids to use in the grant application, even though the work may not be done until next year or not at all.

This will be noted on the bid instructions, Worcester said.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• noted that about 11 neighborhoods plan to participate in National Night Out, set for Saturday, Aug. 7 from 6 to 8 p.m., and proclaimed that day as such.

• made appointments for the outdoor pool summer season.

• noted that the top coat of bituminous will be laid down along Wright County Road 3 by the end of the month.

• decided to get a bid for blacktopping the empty space made by the demolition of the former Paulson building next to the library, for possible additional parking space.

• set recycling day as Saturday, June 2. Township residents are welcome to participate.

• heard from Mayor Bruce Johnson, who reported on an interesting mayors’ conference recently, where the Willmar mayor said how immigrants there have greatly contributed to the local economy there.

• noted that the Rainbow Sportmen’s Club generously donated toward tables for the upstairs meeting room of the city hall building.

• put up for sale excess Christmas lights and 12 wreaths.

• approved the release of funds for economic development in the revolving loan fund.


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