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Cokato council reviews flap over park board, Kingston Kings

Sept. 21, 2009

Kings are welcome to play, but city had to work out politics

By Lynda Jensen
Editor

COKATO, MN – The Cokato City Council reviewed a political flap that occurred over previous council action regarding the Kingston Kings playing at Veterans Memorial field in Cokato.

Previously, the council approved the Kings to use the field, as long as the team pays for improvements, by a split vote, 4-1. Those in favor were council members Gordy Erickson, Carl Harju, Wayne Murphy and Mayor Bruce Johnson. Opposed was Council Member Butch Amundsen.

This decision was effectively put on hold by Johnson, who wrote a letter right after the council action that told the Kings they had to wait until the team obtained permission from the Dassel-Cokato Baseball Association.

This is because the DCBA has been enlisted by the city to assist with adherence of ballfield specifications when it comes to terms and conditions for the Twins Baseball grant agreement, Administrator Don Levens said. The Kings can’t play until the specs are met for any improvements, it was noted.

Park board member Joe Harmala attended the meeting to ask why the council action was interrupted as it was, and express his disappointment. “I don’t know the politics behind it,” he said.

“We would like to enlarge (the park) anyway,” Harmala said. “There’s a lot of politicking going on.”

Harmala noted that Saints Manager Mark Forsman has said he will work with the Kings. “They should have a place to play,” Harmala said.

Admittedly it was embarrassing to Council Member Carl Harju, the park board liason member, who said he didn’t know anything at all about the letter at the park board meeting, when asked about it during the park board meeting.

The only people who knew about the new decision were Ken Bakke of public works and Johnson himself, even though both Harju and Harmala were alluded to in the letter to answer further questions, despite the fact that neither knew anything about it.

Murphy noted that the bigger issues were that the council’s wishes weren’t followed and the members of the park board weren’t honored.

Harmala said if the council wants to do something different, then it should take the initiative itself.

“You deal with it,” Harmala told the council, although he said he didn’t intend any disrespect by this. “We (the park board) were basically overridden.”

Park board members are the following: Harmala, Harju, Ken Bakke, Tim Dobmeier, Deb Hendrickson, and Christine Lawyer.

There are 260 kids in youth ball, he added.

Nevertheless, the council voted once again to move forward with the Kings action – waiting for DCBA approval – on a 4-1 vote, with Amundsen once again voting against the action.

Murphy asked why another vote was necessary. “I stand behind my vote,” he said, noting that the council should trust its own committees more.

“Why?” Erickson asked. “They can’t play (yet).”

Another good carnival, despite economy

Dorene Erickson attended the council to give a report on the 2009 Corn Carnival.

About 24,000 ears of corn were consumed and 300 pounds of butter, she said. Village Ranch took on the husking, which was a large task.

All of the car raffle tickets were sold out. The carnival committee split the money with the fire department, which turned out to be about $4,500 each.

“We had a very good year, considering the economy,” she said. Faribault Foods was able to find corn the night before the carnival started from a local field that it owned. “They said if they couldn’t find it, they would buy it,” Erickson said.

The carnival sold 4,720 buttons, which is down 100 buttons. The specialty cans that were sold as memorabilia also sold out, with 500 sold.

New this year was a taping of the parade, which could be seen on public access. John Erickson and Hal Kimball emceed the taping. Next year, they may tape the coronation, she said.

Next year’s Corn Carnival will be Aug. 9, 10 and 11, she said.

Odds and ends

In other subjects, the council:

• heard an idea from Amundsen that involved personnel reviews of all staff members, which will assess Administrator Don Levens and other department members. Murphy asked how the council could pass a 3 percent raise that night with the absence of a review process. “Based on what?” he asked.

“Do you get reviewed at your job (at Center Point Energy)?” Amundsen asked Erickson. “You bet I do,” Erickson answered.

• noted that the nearest regional meeting for the League of Minnesota Cities will be Thursday, Oct. 8 in Willmar.

• set a budget meeting to adopt the final levy 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14; which is during a regular council meeting.

• approved a wastewater discharge permit agreement with Faribault Foods that would span four years. An increase in charge would go from $2 per gallons to $2.90 per gallons for sewer. The agreement runs from December to May.

• tabled the cost of $6,250 for blueprints from Bonestroo & Associates that the city thought it owned already for projects that pertain to South Broadway and Highway 12. “I was a little miffed that it wasn’t included,” Amundsen said. Erickson also expressed his displeasure. Future projects will include the cost of blueprints. Amundsen will attempt to negotiate the cost, which appeared excessive.

• heard from Johnson, who wanted to remind the council that council members should apply decorum (polite behavior) and “let people do their jobs.” The comments were prompted by Murphy calling and demanding the minutes from several past library board meetings on short notice. Murphy pointed out this was public data. “This last year has not been fun,” Johnson said. However, the good times outweighed the bad, he added.

• tabled a proposal by BMH Enterprises to recycle residential electronic collection. Although the council was impressed with the proposal, owner Brian Howard of Hutchinson noted that he was waiting for EPA approval for recycling refrigerators. He recycles all his materials in the US, not overseas, he said. He has about 15 accounts in Cokato right now, he said.


 

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