By Lynda Jensen
COKATO, MN - Possible grant dollars in the millions got the Cokato City Council thinking about the fire hall expansion issue again, this time without a possible referendum.
Council members heard a report Monday from Dean Perry, public safety committee member, about how the city could obtain Federal Emergency Management Agency grant money that might cover quite a bit of the estimated $2.2 million project, if it is secured.
However, the time frame needed to fulfill the grant application is tight, and favors “shovel-ready” projects, which means those that already have permits lined up and other paperwork done.
This means the council must move rather swiftly to choose, and then acquire, land that would be intended for a newly expanded fire hall; since the grant favors departments that have this done. The purchase could be made upon condition of receipt of the grant, if it is awarded, Perry noted.
To further the process, the council took steps regarding three recommendations last Monday made by the committee:
• hired Joanne Foust to perform grant-writing duties at $80 per hour, up to $2,500. The grant hoped for is available from FEMA for the Assistance to Firefighters Fire Station Construction Grant, and carries a July 10 deadline.
• must start discussion about what an acceptable dollar amount would be for the city to share in the project, since the grant favors those that are willing to contribute toward a project.
This amount would not be approved through a levy, but could be made subject to receipt of the grant.
• enter into a purchase agreement on an acceptable parcel of land, conditioned upon receipt of the grant. The grant favors fire departments that have already acquired land for the purpose of construction or modification of a fire station. The land cost cannot be covered under the grant.
In order to meet the deadline of July 10, the council set a special meeting 7 p.m., Monday, June 15 to discuss these issues.
In March, the committee asked the council to delay the referendum process for a newly expanded fire hall “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 month before, the council increased the total project figure to $2.2 million in order to reflect realistic estimates.
Iron Horse may add screened porch
The council approved a joint application by Reed and Gayle Carlson, and Mark and Stacey Determan, for a lot split at 260 Millard Ave. S. for a piece of land 27 by 18 feet to the south of the existing Iron Horse bar.
The Determans, who own the Iron Horse, wish to add a three-season screened porch to the existing building, Council Member Carl Harju said. Harju is also part of the planning and zoning commission, which recommended approval of this action.
The council also approved two variances in relation to this; one for varying the minimum commercial lot size, which requires a minimum of 1,500 feet, and another for a lot being less than the minimum depth of 27 feet.
Where will the newly expanded fire hall be located, if it is built?
The grant process that Cokato is pursuing favors a city that already has a site selection made, and land secured, for a new or modified fire station.
Previously, top picks for Cokato’s potential newly expanded public safety building included:
• One site that was previously discussed as a top choice along Highway 12 and Third St. East (the former Chicken Shack site), and what is now Excel Concrete. The parcel is owned by Reed and Emily Carlson. Reed Carlson said at the meeting Monday that this property was “off the table.”
• Council Member Butch Amundsen mentioned at the meeting that Greg Holt has property available at the back end of Highway 12 along Seventh Street.
• Another property available is known as the Keskey property located at First and Century. The land is owned by Design and Fabricating, Sue Keskey said. The city needs to obtain a price on this land, Amundsen said.
Amundsen noted that cost and figures need to be gathered on these properties in order to make a fair comparison amongst them.
Odds and ends:
In other business, the council:
• Proceeded with steps toward court action for the blighted property at 290 Fourth St. SE, owned by Tom Harpole. The city has made contact several times, asking the property owner to take care of his property.
• approved a transient merchant’s peddler license for Adam Jopp with the Iowa Steak Company.
• were notified that Dan Faust will be at the July meeting to discuss the city’s insurance renewal. This does not affect its insurance coverage.
• to satisfy state procedural requirements, the council rescinded a resolution for orderly annexation with Cokato Township on behalf of David and Jeanne Mages, at 610 East Cokato St.
The state decided since 1993, when the request was first approved, that a Declaration of Intent public notice is required. The resolution will be approved this summer after the administrative process is followed.
• rescheduled its July meeting to Tuesday, July 14 at 7 p.m.
• noted that the First Impression public meeting is set for Monday, June 22 6:30 p.m. at Cokato City Hall.
• heard about a personnel meeting report. Council members asked for a copy of Administrator Don Levens’ contract from 23 years ago, when he was first hired, but not all of the contract could be found, with some pages missing.
Levens noted that it was probably revised by the council at that time and not filed with the original.
• heard from Mayor Bruce Johnson that a recent meeting with county personnel, school, and other officials for Safe Schools was very interesting and connected the right people.
Council Member Butch Amundsen commented that the school already has its own Safe Schools entity, but Johnson pointed out that a countywide meeting loops all of the schools together when it comes to communication.