Cokato Council revives EDA

October 22, 2007

By Lynda Jensen

Amidst a standing-room-only crowd of business leaders, the Cokato City Council officially formed a seven-member Economic Development Authority last Monday, which will pursue commercial development within the city.

Through research by Council Member Wayne Murphy, it was discovered that an EDA was actually formed in the 1980s. It has been inactive for some time.

The modern-day entity will operate similar to the planning and zoning commission. Its powers and duties will include buying land, selling bonds, and creating tax increment financing districts.

The members are yet-to-be determined, and will be appointed at the beginning of the year. Two members are likely to be from the council and five will be residents or a person who owns land or is employed in the city. However, this exact ratio may change a bit, commented Administrator Don Levens.

Mayor Bruce Johnson suggested that, despite the hard times, the city should prepare for a time in the future when the economy turns for the better. “Conditions are tough,” he said. “Do we jump start this, and be ready for when things get better?”

The answer appeared to be yes, from the large attendance and sentiments expressed.

Murphy, who was the organizer of the meeting, said he was pleased with the turnout. “This is the first of many discussions, as we plan for our future,” he said.

Business owner Joel Hillmann, who is also a member of the CDC, thanked Wayne for calling the meeting and reviving interest. “I think the number of people in this room is testament to the fact that people are interested,” he said.

Cities such as Annandale and Winsted are aggressive when it comes to seeking new business, Hillmann said.

Murphy said that many hands make light work, and that there are plenty of opportunities to work together.

The meeting wasn’t without controversy, since business owner Dean Mahlstedt spoke against public funds being used for private enterprise in such a way.

“We need to proceed with caution,” Mahlstedt said, noting that the city’s involvement in private business shouldn’t be pursued.

He pointed out the city paid $140,000 for the former Paulson building, which is an empty grass lot right now. He objected to being “taxed to death” over public entities lusting for property, he said.

Johnson said the meeting that night was to discuss the EDA, not to criticize the city over decisions made. He recommended Mahlstedt attend a regular council meeting.

The EDA will co-exist with the CDC, with both striving to pursue commercial development. The CDC is a private entity.

Initial plans are to review goals that were originally adopted a number of years ago and ensure they still apply.

In other business, the council officially declared the vacancy of Jan Severson’s seat. Those interested should contact city hall.

The council also decided to proceed with a wetland delineation, to further plans for a holding pond planned along Klarsyn to correct wetland issues.

Interested in the newly reformulated EDA?

Those who are interested in being appointed to the newly reformulated, seven-member Economic Development Authority may stop at the city hall for an application or call (320) 286-5505.

Those who are interested must be 21 years of age, and may be a resident, employed in the city, or own property in town.