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Vote split to fund FCDC another year

By Staff | Jan 10, 2011

Bill Groskreutz

It didn’t take long to put Faribault County’s newly appointed commission chairman in the hot seat on Tuesday.

District 5 Commissioner Tom Warmka broke a 2-2 tie and cast the deciding vote to approve a one-year “services agreement” with Faribault County Development Corporation.

By doing so, the county will give the non-profit private group $50,000 this year to perform economic development activities.

Approval of funding wasn’t without debate.

“I don’t think a year’s unreasonable,” newly sworn-in Commissioner Greg Young told the board before voting.

Tom Loveall

But, County Attorney Troy Timmerman pointed out the agreement does not allow the county to adjust or opt out of its monthly payment of nearly $4,167 if the state cuts local government aid.

That prompted commissioners Bill Groskreutz and Tom Loveall to ask that the agreement be changed to include a “60-day out” clause in case the county has trouble paying FCDC.

“You can only trim so much. We’re already down to the bone, now we may have to start cutting off limbs,” says Groskreutz. “I’ve always been a strong supporter of economic development, but I’d rather have a deputy on the road.”

FCDC’s vice chairman Travis Keister and interim director Linsey Warmka appeared before the board and lobbied for one more year of funding.

Keister called the county’s continued financial support crucial for its operation.

Travis Kiester

“It would be detrimental,” Keister told the board if his group didn’t get the $50,000.

“It would put us in a critical economic state,” he adds.

Keister acknowledged his organization has a “bucket full of challenges,” one of them being to increase its memberships.

Keister says FCDC’s goal is to bring jobs to the area and expand the tax base. He says the group would welcome some guidance from the board.

While he backs FCDC, Warmka says all cities in the county have to work together to attract new businesses.

Greg Young

Groskreutz, who represents District 3 which includes the city of Wells, says some of his constituents have complained that FCDC isn’t visible enough in that part of the county.

“They told me do not vote for it … they’ve only seen the director twice,” he says. “You don’t need an invitation to attend an open meeting.”

The commissioners all agreed FCDC officials have to do a better job in reporting what the group is doing.

Young made a motion to approve the contract as written and rejected Loveall’s attempt to amend it.

Both Young and Commissioner John Roper voted “yes,” while Warmka and Loveall voted “no.”

“I would hope you people use the money wisely and don’t make us look like fools,” Young told the FCDC representatives.

Loveall added, “I’m a little skeptical, prove me wrong.”

Keister told the commissioners the development group’s board of directors realize they need to produce results.

“If we can’t bring some value or positives back to the board in 12 months, we’re not going to be back asking for more funding.”

In other business:

• County Engineer John McDonald says he is sending a letter to Dunnick Bros. at the request of Young.

The commissioner wants to know how the company plans to complete the swimming pool bridge in Blue Earth on time.

Dunnick will have 15 1/2 working days beginning April 15 to finish the project.

• While training for county employees was approved, Groskreutz questioned whether the board should OK?four correctional officers going to the casino in Morton.

Groskreutz says the training should be held at a location on state land and the county should not support a sovereign nation.

Warmka says the state Department of Corrections goes to the casino because the hotel rooms and food are cheaper.

• Central Services coordinator Brenda Ripley was given the go-ahead to advertise for a caretaker at Woods Lake Park.

“They’d be responsible for everything done at the park,” she says.

The park is open from May 1 to the end of September.

In addition to a salary of $16,000 to $17,000, the county provides all supplies and a place for the person to live and electricity.