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Cokato council approves a one-time reduction in the on-sale liquor license fee
Feb. 21, 2011

Requests city staff to log time spent on issuing liquor license

By Jennifer Kotila
Staff Writer

COKATO, MN – Upon revisiting the on-sale liquor license fee for the City of Cokato, the city council, in a 4-to-1 vote, approved a one-time reduction for 2011 at last Monday’s meeting.

Following January’s council meeting, when the council approved the city’s fee schedule including an on-sale liquor license fee of $3,000, a meeting took place with Iron Horse Grill and Saloon owners Mark and Stacey Determan, city administrator Don Levens, and members of the council.

The purpose of the meeting was two-fold, said Levens; to discuss what other cities charge for both an on-sale liquor license and an adult-use permit, and to find out why Cokato charges what it does.

During discussion at last Monday’s meeting, Bakke asked Levens if he had actual numbers showing it costs $3,000 to issue an on-sale liquor license.

Levens admitted it was hard to pinpoint a cost because there is no way to calculate how much time is spent on issuing the license, and staff does not document how much time is spent on it.

With some businesses closing, and more empty buildings in town, Erickson questioned if the council would want to chance seeing another empty building, saying he could see lowering the fee to $2,500.

Bakke noted he was concerned that the state statute made it clear the city could not profit from the fees it charges for on-sale liquor, and the city could not justify why it charged $3,000 for an on-sale liquor license, noting he had thought of lowering it to $2,000.

Both Bunker and Harju agreed, and Harju requested that Levens and the city staff document the time spent issuing the liquor license so when the fee schedule is set for 2012, the council has a better understanding of what the fee should be set at.

Harju also apologized to Determan for appearing to blow her off at January’s council meeting, saying it was unintentional.

Amundsen did not agree with lowering the fee, saying he did not think other cities had to justify on-sale liquor license fees by documenting the time spent issuing the license.

Mayor Gordy Erickson, and council members Carl Harju, Ken Bakke, and Jesse Bunker voted to approve the reduction; council member Butch Amundsen voted against it. The fee will be reduced from $3,000 to $2,000.

Public hearing designating street

A public hearing took place during the council meeting for residents to give the council input about designating a street in the vicinity of US Highway 12 and Pleasant View Avenue.

Mel Robinson, a Cokato resident who lives on the street that has never been designated a street, addressed the council.

Many delivery drivers get lost while attempting to locate Robinson’s home, he said.

His address is US Highway 12 (Cokato Street), and many delivery drivers do not realize he lives down the street coming off of 12, and not directly on it.

A big concern is if there are ever emergencies at the homes on the street, he said, noting a Wright County Sheriff’s deputy had once told him the homes would be hard to find if emergency personnel did not know the area.

The council tabled the issue until next month to allow time to come up with a street name. Harju requested Museum Director Mike Worcester suggest something historic, if he could.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• heard a request from the Fireman’s Relief Association for a temporary liquor license for the street dance in August.

The request is early in order to book favorable entertainment for the event, which is done in conjunction with the Iron Horse Grill and Saloon.

The council gave informal preliminary approval. For formal approval and the issuance of a temporary liquor license, the Fireman’s Relief Association must show a certificate of insurance listing the City of Cokato and Fireman’s Relief Association as insurers.

• received the annual report for 2010, and goals and objectives for 2011, from the Cokato Economic Development Authority (EDA).

Some of the accomplishments of the EDA in 2010 include, enhancing Cokato’s website with information about owning a business in Cokato, conducting a business retention and expansion survey, and meeting with various businesses about development or relocating to Cokato.

Some of the 2011 goals for the EDA include, marketing Cokato and its available commercial and industrial properties, pursuing participation in the Healthy Communities Partnership Program (works with central Minnesota communities to inspire citizens and engage them in creating a shared vision and action plan that enhances the place they live, work, and play), working cooperatively with other economic development organizations, and marketing Cokato’s economic development loan fund.

• approved the AccuServe write off of medical assistance and Medicare accounts for 2010 in the amount of $61,033.

There is no choice but to write-off the uncollectable amount, because the city cannot legally pursue payment for it, said City Clerk Peggy Carlson.

• approved the appointments of Bruce Johnson and Wayne Murphy to the police advisory commission, and Peter Bortnem to the EDA.

There is still one open position on the EDA. Interested parties should contact city hall at (320) 286-5505.

• approved the employee pay equity report for compliance as submitted to the State of Minnesota.

Every few years, the city is required to submit the report showing it is in compliance with pay equity laws.

• approved a joint workshop meeting between the council, the EDA, and planning and zoning, as well as real estate professionals, to stimulate economic development.

The meeting will take place Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 5:30 p.m.

• reviewed options for base map updates and mapping of existing infrastructure.

Erickson and Amundsen will meet with Public Works Director Jeff DeGrote to discuss the options and what needs to be done.

• heard an update on snow removal efforts along sidewalks on Highway 12.

DeGrote noted it would have been better to clear the piles at the beginning of winter rather than wait until the piles got so big.

Holt Motors helped clear the snow near the corner of Highway 12 and Third Street, and Erickson directed city staff to send a thank you note to them.

• approved, in a 4-to-1 vote, to advertise in the “Best in MN” booklet published by the Enterprise Dispatch.

Erickson, Bunker, Bakke, and Harju voted for the advertisement.

Amundsen voted against the advertisement, saying he spoke to Dassel City Administrator Myles McGrath, and felt Dassel had approved its advertisement because the council had been led to believe Cokato had already agreed to the advertisement.

Amundsen also said he did not know why both cities should pay to advertise in a booklet that would not have been printed if it were not for the cities being named the “Best in MN.”

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