HRA director positions may merge

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 13, 2003

The state budget crisis dominated much of Wednesdays joint city/county meeting.

City of Austin officials and staff and their Mower County counterparts discussed the future of government. The state's budget deficit is creating havoc among local government entities, struggling to maintain programs and services at their current levels.

Thinking abut creating anything new comes with a pricetag.

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Garry E. Ellingson, 5th District Mower County Commissioner, predicted the worst is yet to come.

"Sooner or later we're going to have to pay all those bills and the only way to do that is to raise taxes," Ellingson said.

The officials and staff members did discuss the possibility of merging the Housing and Redevelopment Authority directors' positions.

Patrick M. McGarvey, city administrator, is currently filling the post for the city. Daryl W. Franklin has been stripped of those duties for Mower County in lieu of allowing him to focus on his planning and zoning administrator responsibilities. Michael Carlson, an accountant with the county HRA, was mentioned as a possible replacement for Franklin.

However, the city HRA's "hundreds of millions of dollars" worth of properties, including the new Chauncey and Courtyard apartment complexes, as well as the Twin Towers and other older multi-family residential complexes, have created what McGarvey called an "HRA empire" that would require astute management by the city.

The twin groups of officials and staffers also discussed Mower County's jail study and other issues of mutual concern.

However, the state budget deficit dominated much of the debate.

Wayne P. Goodnature, Austin City Council member At-Large, observed, "Before the year is out, we're gong to find ourselves sitting down and talking about issues we never dreamed we would be talking about."

In other action, the city and county representatives:

n Heard Ellingson, who is chairman of the Mower County Board this year, announce the county has agreed to "adopt" one of the city's flower pots on a utility pole near the government center in downtown Austin. The city's attraction -- petunias in planters -- was threatened due to the recession until local businesses and citizens gave private donations toward the project.

n Heard the county representatives say a possible joint city-county watershed coordinator position is "on hold," pending return of revenues to fund the position after Gov. Tim Pawlenty cut spending for such projects last week.

n Agreed to meet the third Wednesday of each month at 3:15 p.m. in the Austin HRA conference room.