Almost a year ago, Steve and Umbelina Cremer opened the Harmony Learning Center to meet the need for childcare that they saw in the employees of their business, Harmony Enterprises and the general community. Since it opened, the center has grown and created new jobs for Harmony and the surrounding communities.
“We are very blessed that the community has supported us and continues to support us,” said Umbelina.
The Cremers are now seeking to fill another need in the community. “We know there’s a need to bring more young families to town,” Umbelina pointed out.
With that in mind, Hammel House & Company, a partnership between the Cremers and Steve’s daughter Bria Hammel and her husband, was created. Last fall, the company purchased the Lutes Scrabeck First Addition Plat in Harmony, with the intention of developing it into a new neighborhood.
Bria owns a successful interior design firm in the Twin Cities and has experience working with projects of this scope. She is excited to start working with the new development.
“The younger generation really cares about where they live these days,” Bria noted, adding that building a neighborhood to attract young families would be beneficial to Harmony.
The goal for the development is to build homes with fresh and timeless designs that are family friendly and also give the option to “age in place” for older homeowners. Bria Hammel Interiors will be offering its services through Hammel House & Company for each home built.
Each home built in the development will be unique with quality craftsmanship. “We’re calling it a ‘front porch neighborhood,’” Bria said. “You just don’t get the same connections with your neighbors when you spend all your time in your backyard.” She and the Cremers want to see the development become a tight knit neighborhood with a strong sense of community.
“We’re looking at selling homes, not lots,” Steve said. Hammel House & Company will work to select local builders and resources, just as was done for the Harmony Learning Center.
“Our goal is to help grow the community.” he continued. Many of the younger employees of Harmony Enterprises have children in the childcare center, but have been unable to find a place to move to in Harmony to shorten their daily commute. Building the development would provide more homes in Harmony.
Hammel House & Company would like to begin work on the development in the spring of 2017 and have their first spec house built this summer. By the end of August, they would then move on to Phase I of the project, building on 10 of the 30 lots available.
“We are asking the City of Harmony to contribute $120,000 to help develop the city street in Phase I of the project,” Steve said. The intention is that the money would come from the existing city program offering $12,000 for each new home built in Harmony. In return, Hammel House & Company will commit to building at least one new home per year for a period of 10 years. Steve had also met previously with the Harmony EDA and agreed that if the requirements were not met, the money would be refunded.
The minimum value of the homes is estimated to be approximately $250,000, which would increase the city’s tax base.
“Personally, I’m very favorable of the project,” Mayor Steve Donney noted.
Council member Debbie Swenson stated her desire to see a separation in the language of the agreement between Hammel House & Company and the City of Harmony if the council decided to move forward with the street developments. “We’re not putting money into their development. We’re putting money into OUR city street,” she pointed out.
“We don’t have the money just sitting there,” Mayor Donney said about the $120,000 the city is being asked to provide. “We will have to discuss where the money is coming from.”
“The question tonight is, does the council feel comfortable moving forward with the project?” City Administrator Jerome Illg asked.
The council passed a motion expressing intent to move forward with having the city attorney draft an agreement between Harmony and Hammel House & Company.
Chief Deputy Tony Webber from the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Department discussed the Harmony squad car replacement with the council. The current car has been wrecked twice when it hit deer. “It should have been totaled, but it wasn’t,” he said, adding that they are still having problems with it, especially in the front end.
“We would probably get a favorable amount for it at auction,” Illg noted.
“I wouldn’t have a problem driving it for personal use,” Chief Deputy Webber added. “It’s just not good for what we use it for.”
The current car is a two-wheel drive, but the potential replacement, priced at $24,587 has all-wheel drive. Kelly Printing would be hired to do the decals for the new car.
Funds are set aside each year in the Capital Fund for replacement of the city squad car so the money is available. The council approved the purchase.
Brett Grabau from Stantec presented five bids received for the 2017 Street and Utility Improvements project. He recommended that the council award the project to the lowest bid of $755,726.75, which was from A-1 Excavating. Grabau assured the council that he had worked with the company on other projects with good results. The council passed a motion awarding the project to A-1 Excavating.
The EDA is currently featuring a local business each week on the city website. They are still working on the city logo and have decided to hire outside help to complete it. The submissions they received during the local contest in 2016 will be used for inspiration by the company hired and elements will be taken from them for the final design. “We’re very confident that they will do a good job,” Swenson said.
The next Harmony City Council meeting will be held on April 11 at 7 p.m.