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Chatfield takes a step forward for Potter

Fri, Oct 16th, 2009
Posted in Government

At the October 12 meeting of the Chatfield City Council the councilors unanimously adopted the resolution drafted by the Potter Steering Committee. Items in the resolution were detailed and discussed at an informational joint meeting on September 28 for the three entities to participate in the proposal, including the Chatfield City Council, Chatfield School Board, and Economic Development Authority (EDA).

Each entity has been encouraged to consider the proposed resolution. City Clerk Joel Young said from his point of view the resolution is a statement of intent. It is not his expectation that any of the entities would be locked into anything proposed in the resolution until all of the entities reached a formal agreement.

Councilor Comments

Councilor Ken Jacobson said the September 28 meeting was informative and he commended the committee for their hard work. The work was actually completed by two committees which met over two years. The final proposal and resolution was presented by the Potter Auditorium Steering Committee to develop the Potter Center for the Arts. None of the three entities were formally involved in putting together the proposal.

The school district would still use the property but to a lesser degree. The city is interested in the property because of its location, the significance of the buildings themselves and their importance to the community. The EDA sees the property and buildings as an opportunity for economic development for the city.

Ken Jacobson acknowledged there was a lot of emotion attached to the Potter Auditorium buildings. He insisted they need to be maintained as they are as an integral part of the community. Jacobson stated the school district at this point is responsible for the property, and if there is no agreement between the entities, the school district could do what they want with the property. He maintained the block is part of the city plan for the downtown area.

Councilors Ginny Engle and Dave Frank expressed their desire to keep Potter and to move forward. Councilor Paul Novotny emphasized the adoption of the resolution is just a first step. It expresses the council's willingness to be a partner. He questioned what obligations the council would be bound by when the resolution was adopted.

City Attorney Fred Suhler explained it was his opinion the resolution shows the city's interest to go into negotiation with the other entities involved. Novotny described the resolution as a work in progress which could be subject to change.

Mayor Les Knutson agreed adoption of the resolution is just the first step. Councilor Josh Thompson said Potter is important to the community and it needs to be updated and remain as part of the city. Joel Young regards the adoption of the resolution by the city as a statement of support for the Chatfield EDA.

Ken Jacobson stated the next step will be up to the owners of the property, the school district. Novotny suggested questions to be answered include who pays for what and what will be the sources of the funding? Partial possible answers are addressed in the resolution.



Agreements among the entities could require the resolution recommendations as follows. The school district would transfer the buildings and property they are standing on to the EDA; the school district would bear the expenses associated with abating asbestos and the demolition of the 1954 building; the city and school district would share maintenance costs of the remaining buildings for an extended period of time, which are estimated to be $40,000 per year for each entity; the city would negotiate with the Minnesota Historical Society to get an agreement pertaining to the complex. The city would be responsible for lawn and snow maintenance and the school district for the operation of the heating and cooling system; both would be expected to contribute about $15,000 each toward the hire of professional lobbying and marketing consultants.

The EDA would own and manage the use of the property and do the work to develop a business model, secure funding for improvements and create the endowment fund for the future operation of the buildings.

These are, at this point, just recommendations by the steering committee. An agreement among the entities needs to be negotiated and developed in order for this project to move forward.

Benefits to the city

The committee recognized financial limitations faced currently by the city and the school district. However, the buildings need improvements if they are to be preserved and they do have a historical value.

The school district would have the availability of the buildings for fine arts. The Chatfield Brass Band and the Wit's End Theater could use the facility for their home. The buildings would allow for cultural opportunities which could attract new residents. With potential population growth for the city encouraged, in part by the art center, business growth would be expected to follow. Work on the facility, along with its operation, would create short and long term jobs.

Other Business In Brief

• The city pays up to 25 percent of the cost up to a maximum of $500 for sealing unused wells within the city. Approval was given for their participation in the sealing of a well on the Gary Shaw property.

Another well approved for sealing last month on Hilltop Park needs to have an existing windmill removed.

Superintendent of City Services Tony Lammers said there are at least three parties interested in the windmill. Councilors voted to put out for bids to remove the windmill.

• Lammers said he had attended classes pertaining to the Emerald Ash Borer in Rochester. It was recommended that cities start thinning out Ash trees before the infestation gets to them. It would be more cost effective to remove weaker trees now at the rate of five percent to 10 percent per year and plant other kinds of trees. He suggested the tree ordinance needs updating. He said there are over 280 boulevard ash trees.

• Joel Young received approval to replace the server that is necessary for the city's computer system. The low quote of $16,036.58 presented by Venture Computer Systems was accepted. He noted replacement of desk top units will wait another year until 2010.

• Plant Superintendent Darryl Haner discussed the application process for removing biosolids from the reed beds planned for the spring to control odor.

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