County puts lid on more funding requests

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 29, 2000

Attention mayors, council members and township officials: save your gas.

Wednesday, March 29, 2000

Attention mayors, council members and township officials: save your gas.

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The Mower County Board of Commissioners has no plans to use the more than $33 million of reserves to fund community development projects.

They are going to rely upon the recommendations of the long-range strategic planning committee.

A priority list of the most important long-range issues has been prepared and it will be used to help the county commissioners determine how to expend what state Auditor Judi Dutcher has called "excessive reserves."

"Tell them, they can save their gas," said Ray Tucker, Second District county commissioner and chairman of the board. "The county board cannot fund the ideas they have brought to us. We’re using the long-range strategic planning committee’s recommendations for the reserves. We’re going to look them over and see what we can do."

The county board rejected another request at its meeting Tuesday from Brownsdale’s mayor.

Two weeks ago, Marvin Foster went to the county board to request a small portion of the county reserves for a residential lot buydown and tax-abatement program in Brownsdale.

"We don’t feel it is the county’s role to be involved in housing development except low-income housing," Richard P. Cummings, First District county commissioner and chairman of the board’s finance committee, said.

Foster’s request was turned over to the finance committee to study and make a recommendation.

The Brownsdale mayor’s request suffered the same fate that the LeRoy Task Force’s request also suffered.

The LeRoy Task Force presented an ambitious proposal to the county board a month ago asking for money to help fund enhancements in the community, including a residential lot buydown and abatement program, a working parents’ child-care program for before and after school and other promotions for the community.

Nick Archuleta told the county board the enhancements were designed to attract residents to LeRoy and when that occurred, the entire county would benefit by the increased population and the spending and taxes generated.

Although not made as a formal request, Adams Mayor Leroy Swanson also told the county commissioners that his city would appreciate the county’s assistance both in developing a government and emergency services center and other community development ideas.

Three years ago, the state auditor visited with county officials and staff about the accumulation of large undesignated reserves, which she called "excessive." Dutcher said Mower County’s reserves were the highest among all Minnesota counties.

McDonald started it

The first citizen to come forward with a proposal to handle the reserves was Malcolm McDonald, who suggested a rebate and property tax relief for all residents.

Hormel Foods Corp. and the Hormel Foundation also are pledging sums to the project. In addition, the Austin Youth Hockey Association has conducted a fund drive to raise money that will be matched by Hormel Foods.

A multipurpose building with two sheets of ice was not among the top priorities recommended by the long-range strategic planning committee.

In the out-county area, there is growing opposition to the building. All one has to do to verify this is visit any coffee shop and ask "Does Mower County need a multipurpose building with two sheets of ice?"

Hillier knows this and hears it himself.

"I think it is fair to say this project has lost some momentum," he said after Tuesday’s county board meeting.