Cokato to move forward with fire hall via newly formed EDA

January 21, 2008

By Lynda Jensen

Cokato is inching its way forward with a possible new fire hall, via its newly reformulated Economic Development Authority, according to city council action last Monday.

Council Member Butch Amundsen pressed other council members to make appointments to the EDA soon, in order to expedite the fire hall expansion.

The following people have asked to be appointed to the EDA:

• Kurt Dahlin, owner and general manager of Dahlin’s Home and Farm. He has been a member of the Cokato Fire Department since 1989. Dahlin is also a member of the Cokato Chamber.

• Stephen Dietman, owner of the Cokato Barber. He is in the Army Reserve, and a member of the Cokato Chamber.

• Chuck Miller, who is a retired staff member of the Windom School District and resident of Cokato. He works in sales for Coldwell Banker Saber Realty as well as an adjuster for Rain and Hail Insurance LLC.

• Dean Perry, president of State Bank of Cokato. He was previously a member of the EDA in Chisago City, Minn. He is a member of the Cokato Dassel Rotary Club. Perry resides in Buffalo.

• Jason Ryan, vice president of First National Bank in Cokato. He is the president of the CDC and a member of the Cokato Chamber. Ryan lives in Lester Prairie.

To complete the seven-member EDA, council members Wayne Murphy and Butch Amundsen would be part of the committee as well.

A special meeting will reaffirm these appointments 5:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28. This is also when the council will discuss the fire hall project.

The council perused financial documents about the indebtedness of the city, considering the financial impact of taking on a fire hall project, such as annual $26,000 payments that start this year for the South Broadway Improvement Project.

“We’ve done a lot of fact-finding,” Council Member Wayne Murphy said. “It’s a big elephant.”

The council will turn the fire hall expansion project over to the EDA, which will report back to the council.

Council appoints Jesse Bunker to P&Z

In other subjects, the council approved Jesse Bunker for the planning and zoning commission, to replace Jan Severson, who moved outside of city limits. Bunker has lived in Cokato for two years and is a service technician for CenterPoint Energy.

Bunker is a Navy veteran, who has three children with his wife, Laura.

Fire, ambulance calls are steady, but nudge up

The council also heard annual reports from Fire Chief Mike Holmquist and Ambulance Director Jim Erickson.

Both reported calls as being steady, but increasing. Of the 83 calls this year, 16 were weather watches (dispatched by Wright County Sheriff’s Department), 32 calls to Cokato, 22 to Cokato Township, six each to Stockholm and French Lake Townships. There were 10 calls that were cancelled before leaving the station.

“The weather watches get worse every year,” Holmquist observed. Otherwise, it was a normal year, he said.

They are down one firefighter, but expect to fill this spot, he said.

For the Ambulance Service, Erickson reported calls being the same as last year, except a little higher.

The ambulance service responded to a total of 344 calls in 2007, with 240 being from Cokato, 60 from Cokato Township, 15 from Stockholm, 14 from French Lake, nine from Howard Lake and six from Meeker County.

He noted that there was a call recently from a family of eight who had a carbon monoxide scare. “They couldn’t wake up two of their kids,” he said. “It was scary.”

The ambulance responded to find the family waiting in their car during the frigid weather. Luckily, no one was injured.

Due to this incident, the ambulance service requested a piece of equipment for carbon monoxide detection, a Rad-57 Co-Oximeter, which the council approved. The cost was $4,715.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• appointed council assignments as follows: acting mayor - Gordy Erickson, administrative/fire commission - Bruce Johnson, Historical Society/Museum - Johnson, planning and zoning commission - Carl Harju, park board - Harju, fire and police commission - Wayne Murphy, public works division - Butch Amundsen and Erickson, EDA - Murphy and Amundsen, library expansion committee - Johnson, Wright County Community Based Services - Murphy.

• the following people were appointed to the park board - Harju, Joe Harmala, Tim Dobmeier, Deb Loe and Christine Lawyer; planning and zoning - Don Peroutka, Harju, Frank Cruz, Mike Grack and Jesse Bunker.

It was suggested by Murphy that EDA members should receive a per diem amount similar to the planning commission, sometime down the road.

• made the annual appointment for legal counsel with Kennedy & Graven, which included an increase in fees of $5 per hour or $155 per hour for non-reimbursable work and $180 per hour for reimbursable work. Murphy protested that the city should demand why there was an increase in rates. “We’re not held hostage by them,” he said. “We’re their clients.”

• approved the annual contract for engineers Bonestroo & Associates, with a 3 to 3-1/2 percent increase. Murphy voted against the increase, saying that the council should have been noted ahead of time about it in order to plan its own budget. The city’s budget is adopted in the fall.

• set the board of appeal and equalization date as 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 16.

• approved an increase for health benefits to city employees from $525 per month allowance to $550 per month. The rate of mileage reimbursement is 48 cents per mile.

• approved a request for quotes for the Akerlund Studio work, which has been previously reported. Museum Director Mike Worcester said that he will insist bidders come and inspect the building to ensure they won’t be surprised later when they come to do the actual remodeling.

• heard from Erickson that the ice rink has been so popular, that the hours were set earlier for opening, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. The next park board meeting will be 4:30 p.m. Monday, March 10.

• approved closing Fourth St. West between Broadway and Millard Avenues for two days to accommodate the Model T Snowmobile Rally in Peterson Park Jan. 19 and 20.