Cokato plans are moving along for new public safety building

Aug. 11, 2008

By Lynda Jensen

The result of months, and even years, of hard work should be evident in the next few weeks as the nuts and bolts of a potential new fire hall are finalized.

The Cokato City Council met last Monday to work through last-minute questions and to take a hard look at its options in the next several months.

It was noted that the city doesn’t have to place the question on the November ballot, if it felt it needed more time; with a possible ballot in early spring, or some other date.

The project is estimated to cost about $1.2 million, not including site acquisition, which would make a total of about $1.5 million. “All of us were pleasantly surprised with that number,” commented committee member Dean Perry. “I’m not saying it’s a small number, but it’s much less than what we initially thought it would be.”

The slowdown in the construction industry is considered helpful and may reflect well on the bidding process. In addition, current favorable interest rate environment may reduce the overall costs at this point in time.

The project could be done without a referendum, via a capital improvement bond. A major step in this process is a public hearing, during which the public has the chance to express opinions about the project.

Cokato’s tax capacity is within range to support the project for that amount, and it could be done without a referendum.

Council Member Butch Amundsen feels strongly that voters should have a say in such a large project. Council Member Gordy Erickson agreed. “Let the people decide,” he said.

Council Member Wayne Murphy left the door open to either choice, vote or bond.

Council Member Carl Harju expressed the wish to have it “done and done right.” He wanted citizen input and questioned the economy.

Mayor Bruce Johnson said he was “in the middle,” in regards to a vote or bond.

All of the council members expressed a strong desire to obtain public input about the issue, with future decisions being based on feedback.

However, as it was pointed out by Amundsen, the city needs to settle, once and for all, large and small questions first, in order to do this.

The city will be looking for input about the subject soon.

If the city wishes to pursue the November ballot option – according to the timetable provided by Ehlers and Associates – the next council meeting 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 18 should be when the council adopts a resolution calling for a special election and amount of the bond referendum.

However, it is possible the council could decide to bump the ballot entirely until the early spring, or some other date. If it does so, a public hearing would be required.

The council has retained RJ Marco Construction of Little Canada, Minn. for site selection and development of the project. Amundsen has noted previously that the firm wouldn’t be paid until a bond or referendum was approved.

Looking for input soon

The Cokato City Council will be finalizing plans about a potential new public safety building soon. Contact the following:

Mayor Bruce Johnson 286-5646
Gordy Erickson 286-2735
Carl Harju’s 286-2257 or email: cgharju@embarqmail.com
Butch Amundsen 286-2566
Wayne Murphy 286-6201

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