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Cokato: looking back at 2012, toward the horizon for 2013
FEB. 14, 2013

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

COKATO, MN – Looking back at 2012, much was accomplished in Cokato, and there is much to look forward to in the coming year.

Evidence the economy is ramping up included the increased number of commercial and industrial permits issued in 2012.

Nearly $1 million in new building valuation is based on the permits issued, residential, commercial/industrial expansions, and remodeling. This is up from 2011, when there was only $370,000 in new building valuation.

“We are optimistic the trend will continue in 2013,” said Cokato City Administrator Don Levens.

Twelve permits were issued, six more than the year prior.

Though the number of residential permits have remained steady – 82 permits issued in 2012, 90 in 2011 – there haven’t been any new single-family housing permits issued in the past two years, according to Levens.

This is likely a reflection of the large inventory of housing already available, including foreclosures.

“There are a lot of folks working on their houses,” Levens said, whether it’s replacing windows or expanding garages.

From the permit fees, to the suppliers and local contractors, it all helps stimulate the local economy, Levens noted.

City projects completed

As far as city projects, quite possibly the largest and most critical project was the sludge removal from the wastewater treatment pond.

Considered a necessary evil, this project was long overdue, but due to cost, the council kept putting it off, said Mayor Gordy Erickson.

The sludge built up in the pond, contributing to the pond’s overflow last spring, and prompting a visit by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Fortunately for the city, a fine wasn’t issued, Erickson commented.

The second project of importance was the new lift station west of town that services the Dassel-Cokato School District campus. This project’s cost was split 50/50 between the city and school district and came in on time and under budget.

Levens noted that this project was roughly 15 years past due, again due to budget constraints, but it was necessary to address the city’s aging infrastructure.

Other highlights in 2012

Some of the other 2012 highlights for the city of Cokato included VitalDyne coming to town, which preserved jobs and filled a vacant building.

The sale of the former Palo building to Andy DeCock, of Cars by Andy; the Art Hagen building to Andy Engh, and the construction of the storage sheds behind NAPA Auto Parts, were also positives for the city.

Implementing point-of-sale requirements has also proved beneficial to the city.

Effective Jan. 1, 2012, the city required sewer lines to be inspected for infiltration prior to the sale of a home, at the cost of either the buyer or seller. This is helping to reduce infiltration into the sewer system, causing excess water filtration that is ultimately an expense of the citizens.

Roughly 50 sewer lines were inspected last year prior to the sale of homes – a positive sign of economic recovery, Levens noted.

Another highlight was the progress made on the Dassel-Cokato Regional Trail. Though there is still some work yet to be done, great progress was made, Erickson noted. The goals is to complete the project in 2013.

On the horizon in 2013

Along with several signs of progress in 2012, the city of Cokato has plenty to look forward to in 2013, as well.

As for business construction and remodeling expected, construction is expected to begin this spring on property owned by Dave and Jeanne Mages on East Highway 12, for Steelcraft, which specializes in welding and fabricating. Holt Motors also has plans to revitalize its showroom this spring.

On the city side, pedestrian crosswalks are expected to improve on Highway 12 with pedestrian-activated crosswalks installed at two locations, Sunset Avenue and Jackson Avenue.

Further improvements to Brooks Lake are also anticipated, with the city sponsoring a DNR grant for phase two of the lake association’s aquatic treatment, which is proposed for summer 2013.

The city would also like to continue to promote the sale of the former hardware store on Highway 12.

“The city will work with potential buyers,” Erickson said. “We want to fill these empty buildings.”

Erickson also commented on the poor condition of Seventh Street and its need for mill and overlay. “It would be nice to make it financially feasible.”

The city is also excited for a new restaurant coming to town, The Red Goat, the owners of which are in the process of purchasing Daniel’s Family Restaurant.

“I think the future is bright,” Levens commented.

Hotel feasibility study

The city received preliminary information on the hotel feasibility study that began in November with Greg Hanis of Hospitality Marketers International.

Some corrections needed to be made regarding some of the information and Levens said he hopes to know more this week, in time for the council meeting.

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