Plans move carefully forward for new public safety building

August 25, 2008

By Lynda Jensen

Plans for a new public safety building moved gingerly forward as the Cokato City Council approved a public hearing about the issue 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 6.

The council deliberated once again over plans, weighing the three options of either hurrying to place a question on the ballot in November, placing it on a special ballot at a different time, or bypassing a ballot altogether with alternative means.

Council Member Wayne Murphy went on the record saying it was a bad idea to rush plans for November.

In the past, Council Member Butch Amundsen has said he believes that a project this large should be placed on some kind of ballot with taxpayer approval. Other council members, Gordy Erickson, Carl Harju, and Mayor Bruce Johnson appear to be in the middle when it comes to exactly how the process will take place to obtain a new fire hall.

Committee members Dean Perry and Chuck Miller talked about the issue with the council.

Perry noted that the four issues raised earlier have been resolved:

• having the ambulance housed in the main complex is not a problem for FEMA grants as earlier thought.

• ponding was thought to be a problem, but this was taken into consideration when the plans were made by engineers.

• the council wondered if a prevailing wage was considered in the budget process, but the proposed budget was drafted based on union wages.

• the site selection is close to being done. The final choice, which is to be made by RJ Marco (since they are considered an objective third party), will be revealed in the near future.

It was noted once again that the deadline for language on the ballot is Sept. 9.

Perry asked for about $5,000 to be appropriated toward marketing purposes, which would be used for a mailed brochure. However, the council spent several minutes debating about where this money would come from. The EDA was previously granted $10,000, but the Public Safety Commission would need to ask permission from the EDA in order to use it. Amundsen suggested the easiest route would be to ask the fire commission and the ambulance service for money.

Murphy suggested money from the firefighters’ pulltabs.

City owes MnDOT $95,000 from 8-year-old bill

Turning to other matters, the council heard from Sen. Steve Dille and State Rep. Dean Urdahl.

Dille reluctantly confirmed that the city does indeed owe a $95,000 bill presented by MnDOT for Highway 12 work performed eight years ago – but presented this spring.

Apparently the state is not required to present bills in a timely manner, it was noted. “It’s such a clear case of outrageous billing,” Dille said. He will see what he can do in the next session, Dille said. However, he advised the council to pay it.

Urdahl gave an update on legislative matters, noting that the state is looking at a massive deficit in the coming session. Priorities will have to be made, he said.

Council declares Aug. 31 as ‘Mary Ackerman Day’

Longtime librarian Mary Ackerman was also honored by the council and presented with flowers. Mayor Bruce Johnson declared Sunday, Aug. 31 as “Mary Ackerman Day,” which is her final day with Great River Regional Library at the Cokato Public Library.

Johnson asked her for parting words, joking that she could speak freely now that she was almost done.

“You were there for me, and have been good to me over the years,” Ackerman told the council. She encouraged them to pursue a building project and noted that she would be an active member of the Friends of the Library.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• approved repairs and then a final coat this year for a 325-foot portion of Klarsyn Street. The vote was somewhat split, 4-1, with Murphy voting against it since he thought another extension should have been granted to the developer (Lee Peterson and Bob Ortquist). Bruce Peterson attended the meeting to represent his wife, Lee.

• noted that the Cokato Museum earned a $7,150 national grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. This grant will be used for scanning and digitization of glass plate negatives from the Gust Akerlund Studio Collection. It is only one of three in Minnesota to receive this grant.

• approved a special use permit to allow the sale of autos/trucks/boats and motorcycles at 650 East Cokato St., as requested by Mike Buerskin. Buerskin assured the council that the area will be kept neat and tidy.

• noted that Mid Minnesota Development Commission will cease operations of its building inspection services effective Oct. 1.

• approved a merchant’s license to Daniel Lemke for Morning Star Farms in order to sell desserts/cheese from a concession trailer on weekends at Kirk’s Travel Plaza.

• approved additional repair to the north water tower, which was discovered to be needed by Water Tower Paint and Repair of Clear Lake, Iowa. The company discovered problems with the interior of the water tank. The repairs amount to $39,000.

• looked at different options of a storm sewer low point at Broadway between Seventh St. and Eighth St., brought to the council’s attention heavy rains July 10. During the rain, three-quarters of an inch fell in less than an hour. A resident adjacent to the low point had water enter his property from the street via the adjacent parking lot.

The catch basins at the low point did not keep up with the rainfall.

Council members expressed frustration with what appeared to be a design flaw from engineers who were paid very good money to counteract such circumstances. “Engineering is one of our biggest expenses,” Murphy said.

• discussed the condition of the creamery building, since it has caught attention with its poor condition.

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