By Jennifer Gallus
HOWARD LAKE, MN - Since the grocery store in Howard Lake closed more than two and a half years ago, many potential grocers have visited with the city about the possibility of once again opening a business in the vacant building.
Discussion during a workshop that took place after Howard Lake’s regular council meeting Tuesday revealed that another grocer has interest in starting a business in town.
The unnamed grocer is from out of town, and runs six grocery stores in Iowa. The grocer is said to specialize in small-town grocery stores, and has some stores in towns of less than 800 in population, according to discussion.
It was said that the grocer was impressed with Howard Lake, its location on a busy highway, and the fact that the vacant grocery store is close to the post office, bank, and pharmacy, which are three entities the grocer said are key factors to look for when determining a viable grocery store location.
“I was impressed. They had a good approach,” said Howard Lake City Administrator Kelly Hinnenkamp of the potential grocer. “We’re almost going on three years without a grocery store. We’re going to have to get creative,” with financial incentives.
The grocer was said to have a silent partner who lives in the area, and is someone who Council Member Mike Mitchell said would be, “an asset to the town.”
The other grocer who has been interested in opening a grocery business in Howard Lake since last fall was said to still be interested as well.
Golf course owner says septic is in compliance
Discussion continued during the workshop as a potential buyer of The Greens of Howard Lake golf course introduced himself to the council.
A rumor about the septic system at the golf course was shared by Mitchell. Mitchell told those present that he had heard a rumor that the golf course never hooked into city sewer, and that he heard the golf course pumped its sewage into the property’s holding pond, which is the same pond that is used to pull water from for irrigation purposes.
Mitchell advised the potential buyer, Casey Flatten of Montrose, to check into the question with the current owner.
The Herald Journal contacted The Greens of Howard Lake owner Ed Lahr who said the golf course has two holding tanks that are approved by the state health department, and when the tanks are full, they are pumped out.
“We do not pump into the pond,” Lahr said.
Flatten is still working on numbers with both his bank and Lahr to purchase the 78-acre golf course, and intends to keep it as a nine-hole course.
Flatten may opt to work with city’s Voyager Fund program to help close the gap between what the bank is prepared to loan him and additional money needed to purchase the property.
City staff and council members were in agreement that they, along with many city residents, would like to see the property remain a golf course instead of housing, and that it would be in the city’s best interest to try to assist in the purchase in order for that to happen.
Flatten has experience with golf course management, and works for Hollydale golf course in Plymouth.
If Flatten purchases The Greens golf course, he would like to add sand traps and more scenery. He would also like to add a clubhouse or banquet hall someday when it would be financially feasible.
PACT 10 truck sold
During the city council portion of the evening, the council was notified that the PACT 10 cable department’s truck that has been out of working order for years has been sold to French Lake salvage for $200.
The city has not used the truck for at least two years, and was having to pay tabs on it just to have it parked behind the building.
2004 bond will not be refinanced due to rates
Discussion turned to a notification that the city received about potential refinancing of the 2004 bond the city had been considering.
Because interest rates have increased recently, Northland Securities informed the city that any potential savings, “have essentially been erased.”
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• approved the hire of one new part-time bartender at the municipal liquor store. Grady Huggett of Howard Lake will start at $7.25/hour.
• approved a contract with Metro West Irrigation and Landscape for 2009 for the irrigation system at Memorial Park.
A base price of $70 will be charged for the irrigation system start-up. Additional labor, if needed, will be charged at $56 per hour. Winterization will cost $150.