By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN Cokato City Council approved a 1.85 percent levy increase for 2016 during its Dec. 14 meeting.
Annita Smythe, city administrator, noted there hadn’t been any changes from the previous meeting.
The approved levy is at $1,204,962, a $21,604 increase over 2015. The general fund budget was approved at $1,590,697.
As part of the truth in taxation data, the city’s tax rate is at 48.83 percent, lower than the average of 55.5 percent in Wright County.
On a median value home of $122,600, the city’s tax portion is estimated to increase $78 a year or $6.50 a month.
Land purchase for public safety building
The council approved the purchase of a plot of land on the corner of Highway 12 and Seventh Street for the purpose of constructing a new public safety building. The purchase is contingent on the soil boring report.
The total cost to purchase the land is $171,000, which is proposed to be split three ways between the city’s general fund, the fire department fund, and the ambulance fund.
At the same time, the council accepted $57,000 from the fire department’s surplus to help with the purchase.
Council Member Butch Amundsen advised the council to wait until the soil borings are back. He also questioned what the city would do with the land if a building referendum doesn’t pass for the construction of a new public safety building.
“We wait for another year,” said Mayor Gordy Erickson.
“The need will still be there,” said Fire Chief Hutch Erickson.
Council Member Carl Harju questioned even whether the council should go for a referendum.
Erickson noted that although the city could build without a referendum, he would like to give the residents that option. A referendum would likely take place in the fall.
Council Member Paul Boger said he would like to see the purchase contingent on a referendum passing.
Smythe noted that the reason for approving the purchase during this meeting, as opposed to waiting until the soil borings are available, was so that the city could utilize 2015 funds, noting that this isn’t in the budget for 2016.
The council voted to purchase the land contingent on the soil borings, 4-1, with Boger voting against the motion due to the contingency.
The council approved the retirement/resignation of Mike Holmquist. A former fire chief, Holmquist served on the Cokato Fire Department for 36 years.
Though Holmquist was not present, the council acknowledged his years of service to the department.
Heart Safe community designation
Phyllis Lundeen with Buffalo Hospital presented information regarding an application for the city to become a Heart Safe community.
Lundeen has been assisting the Cokato Ambulance Service on the application process.
Heart Safe Communities, with the support of the Minnesota Department of Health and the American Heart Association of Minnesota, aim to help communities improve the chances that anyone suffering a sudden cardiac arrest will have the best chance for survival.
Lundeen noted that by being a designated Heart Safe Community, Cokato would have better leverage for fundraising for possible AED replacements or increasing the number available in the city. It’s also a nice way to gain recognition as a community that is focused on heart health, she noted.
Upon designation, once the application is approved, the city will also receive signage indicating it’s a Heart Safe Community.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
Approved authorizing the city engineer to do an evaluation of the floor of the Akerlund Studio building and compile an estimate of repair costs.
Cokato Museum Director Mike Worcester told the council that the building is not in any danger, but it is showing significant signs of deterioration.
Worcester noted that an estimate would allow him to seek grant opportunities for the repairs.
In related news, the council approved Worcester applying for National Historic Landmark status for the Akerlund Studio.
The building is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, one of 1,600 in the state.
The National Historic Landmark status would provide greater distinction for the building, as it would be among only 25 in the state.
Worcester referenced the Split Rock Lighthouse and the Pillsbury building as being two examples.
Worcester said the application process is through the parks service, and it’s a one-time opportunity.