Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Cokato bumps referendum for new fire hall until fall

March 16, 2009

By Lynda Jensen

Plans to ask the public about a newly expanded fire hall were put on hold until the fall, according to discussion by the Cokato City Council last Monday.

The public safety committee asked the council to delay the referendum process “until September, or until such time that the city can further research pursing the use of FEMA grants or Stimulus Plan funds for the construction of the public safety building.”

The possibility of capturing stimulus funds was too much to resist, with this process taking place over the next few months, firefighter Kurt Dahlin and Fire Chief Mike Holmquist explained to the council members.

“We thought if we could reduce the tax burden, why not do it?” Dahlin said. He also quoted Henry Moore “One never knows what each day is going to bring. The important thing is to be open and ready for it.”

“This is what we’re trying to do with the public safety building,” he added.

The target date of September is only tentative, and the committee merely picked it out as a time-frame to work with. This effectively bumps a previous tentative date of May 19 for the referendum.

Council Member Butch Amundsen noted that the legwork had been done, and that it was just a matter of plugging in dates, he said. Even if there was a split of costs, for example something like 80/20, this would make it worth the wait, he noted.

To this end, the council tabled the subject until September.

The committee also asked the council to confirm the use of RJ Marco for the successful completion of the public safety building, which was disputed by Amundsen in the past.

Amundsen noted that since RJ Marco will be gathering bids as a project manager, it is legal to procure their services without a bidding process. Previously, he expressed concern about that process.

To this end, Amundsen asked for a contract to be presented by RJ Marco that gives an explanation of what it will do.

Amundsen commended the committee for its hard work and diligence. “They’re doing a heck of a job,” he added.

Levens recovers slowly

City Administrator Don Levens is recovering from surgery that took place a few months ago. It has been a long road to recovery, Clerk Peggy Carlson said.

He checked in last week for partial days, and took some work home with him. He is still having double vision in one eye and must walk with a cane. He’s lost 35 pounds.

Mayor Bruce Johnson commended the office ladies for “holding together” the city’s affairs in the long-term absence of Levens. “It’s a three-person office,” Johnson added.

Utility rates are tabled

The council tabled its proposed reduction of utility rates until its next meeting; due to the fact that Council Member Wayne Murphy was absent at the meeting that night, and Council Member Gordy Erickson missed the council workshop about the issue due to heart valve surgery.

Erickson was present at the meeting that night, but was fresh from surgery himself and conceded that he needed more time to digest the subject. Other council members wished to wait until the council was full strength to pass it.

Johnson noted that the rates, if passed, will be “a little bit less than what they were – but we’re not promising the world.”

Apartment owner Cindy Luhman was also in attendance at the meeting to protest the utility rates, since she felt that an empty apartment in her complex should not be charged the base rate. She pointed out that a single family house could be shut off and avoid being charged the base rate, but this isn’t so for apartments. The new proposed rates will increase rates for the owners of multi-family dwellings.

If approved, the rates will likely go down for most resident users, but will increase for higher end users; in part due to a mandate from the DNR that requires the city to prompt users to be more frugal with water.

She indicated that any complaints she made would probably result in no change, but said she would offer comments in the hopes that the council would think about the long-term effects of increasing its rates.

If Cokato continues to increase its rates in such a way, this will drive away prospective renters, and people will not want to invest in Cokato, either, Luhman said.

Park update

Council Member Carl Harju also gave a park update. Legion (Veterans) Park was discussed by the park board during its meeting March 2, according to park board minutes.

The infield will be cut back to regulation depth this spring and ag lime (which Ken Bakke has begun to have delivered to Veterans Park before road restrictions become effective) put into the field. The dugouts and backstop will be painted in the spring as well, either by the Dassel Cokato Baseball Association or by public works.

The DCBA plans to use both Peterson and Veterans Park extensively this summer, beginning May 25.

It was noted that the lion’s head will be removed from the water fountain, with a regular fountain to be installed there, instead of a decorative one.

Under new park board business, a request for the City of Cokato to accept a Zamboni did not receive a favorable response from park board members.

Odds and ends:

In other action, the council:

• heard from Amundsen that he hoped the snowstorm Tuesday wouldn’t dump too much snow, since the city has already used 45 percent of the allotted amount in the budget for snow removal.

• it was noted that two-hour parking has been reinstated in the downtown area. The signs were taken down for the reconstruction of Broadway. The city will press the sheriff’s office to patrol the parking, Amundsen said. “We are going to strictly enforce that.”

• renewed the contract for Stipes, which is the carnival offered during the Cokato Corn Carnival, slated for Monday through Wednesday, Aug. 10-12.

• wrote off $57,960 in uncollectible dollars from MMA/Medicare accounts through AccuServe (via the city’s ambulance service), from January to December 2008. Revenues received were $112,537.

• approved a transient merchant’s license to Chito’s Ice Cream and Concessions, operated by Rafael Jimenez of Litchfield. It was noted the ice cream is generally sold near Collinwood, and that there have been no complaints about his service.

• set the appliance recycling day with Cokato and Stockholm townships as Saturday, May 16 at the public works garage. JR’s Appliance of Dassel will offer the usual services. The only other spot to dispose of TVs, computer monitors and the like is at Buffalo once a week, Johnson said.

To e-mail comments to council members, click here.


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