Economic development, workforce housing moving forward – Park Rapids Enterprise

Mary Thompson, operations director with the Headwaters Regional Development Commission, announced that, pending official approval of the contact at their Feb. 21 meeting, the HRDC has entered into a contract to staff the HCREDC, with Thompson filling the role of executive director.

“We will also have the additional staff contingency at the disposal of the organization,” she said.

The contract is for 2019 with the option to renew for two years. “We’re hopeful the relationship will be a positive one for both organizations so that we can renew it,” she said.

Thompson said she has already been spending some time in the Park Rapids office and will be doing that two to three times a week.

“I’ll be available to really start working on the economic development activities for the county,” she said. “As part of the agreement, we are taking Carolyn Pfeifer on as a staff member of the commission, so she will continue to be employed full-time.”

Thompson also provided an update on their $2.7 million workforce housing project at the Feb.19 county board meeting. The Hubbard County HRA hopes the project will provide affordable housing to those making $10 to $12 per hour, in part through a Minnesota Housing Finance Agency grant to the city of Park Rapids.

The project is being planned on bank-owned property near Walmart, she said. “The one drawback of the property is that there are tax assessments that need to be paid.”

The project will create 28 housing units, she said. Market rate housing prices will be $575 for a one-bedroom, $625 for a two-bedroom and $675 for a three-bedroom unit. The goal, Thompson emphasized, is to provide stable housing for working people — not “low-income” housing.

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Thompson said the size of the property will allow the HRA to add more housing if the project succeeds. “We’re also looking at the potential at reserving some of that land in front for commercial use.”

She also reported “hearing loud and clear” that there is a need for more daycare providers, and she suggested that the commercial space could become a daycare facility serving workers’ families, through public and private partnerships.

“We want this to be a win-win for the community,” said Thompson. “We want it to be a highly respected property.”

Plans are also underway for street improvements to provide access to the property from State Hwy. 34 and Walmart, she said.

Thompson asked the county to forgive outstanding taxes, interest and penalties on the property, totaling $27,865 as of last November.

“As the project moves forward, it is a fully taxable property, so we would then be paying taxes,” she said. “Wiping off the back taxes would go a long way to help this process move forward. State funds have a match requirement, and this would also count towards an in-kind contribution.”

According to county staff, abatement of taxes and penalties is regulated by statutes and is generally not allowed by counties because it takes money away from schools and other entities.

The board took no action on Thompson’s request.

Thompson projected that the new facility will be ready for occupancy in late fall 2019.

In other business, the board:

• Paid JLG Architects in Grand Forks $4,158 for the Boy Scout Camp Wilderness safe room. The cost will be reimbursed by FEMA.

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• Accepted Environmental Services donations of $14,280 from the Belle Taine Lake Association and $10,728 from the Big Sand Lake Association, to use for Aquatic Invasive Species partnering funds.

• Corrected the minutes from last month’s meeting to show that both properties involved in abatement testing are not in Laporte; one of the properties is in Akeley.

• Acknowledged social worker Joy Torvinen’s retirement effective Feb. 28 after more than 38 years of service.

• Heard that two part-time transit drivers, Richard Dissmore and Russell Carmichael were hired to fill a position due to a resignation.

• Acknowledged the resignation of Alan Blackburn, a non-certified attendant with the solid waste department, effective Feb. 16 after just over seven months of service.

• Approved quotes for two used semi trucks for use at the North and South transfer stations with the total cost not to exceed $43,900. The 2005 Mack and the 2007 Volvo with a Cummins engine from GATR Truck Center will come with new tires and rims.

• Approved a quote from PRT, USA of Dryden, Ontario for $25,525 for tree seedling production for forest development in 2020. It was the only bid received.

• Tabled action on quotes for the purchase of two 3/4 ton extended cab pickups for use by the trail deputy and parks and recreation after board member Charlene Christenson advised waiting to look into the Enterprise Fleet lease system before making these decisions. A four-year vehicle rotation was suggested due to the heavy use these vehicles sustain.

• Heard that bid letting for aggregate surfacing will be at 11 a.m. on March 11.

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• Removed a parcel of tax-forfeited land in Laporte from a list of parcels available for sale. The parcel will be reappraised and offered again at public auction. Action regarding asbestos issues at the property was placed on hold.

• Heard from social services that total cases for January were 3,459. There are currently 1,002 child support cases open, with $455,089 collected so far this year through Jan. 31. The federal fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

• Approved a property rental agreement of $100 per month for space Heartland Express rents from Hubbard County Social Services.

• Asked social services to clarify the role of the Northwest Juvenile Center with Hubbard County Sheriff Corey Aukes.

• Allocated $4,542 for the county’s portion of matching funds for the Land of the Dancing Sky Area Agency on Aging, which runs the Senior Linkage Line providing resources for seniors and does pre-admission screenings for seniors entering a nursing home.

• Added care coordination supervision to the Hubbard County Social Services and Lake Country Associates contract for fiscal year 2019 at a cost of $5,200 annually.

• Set the rate of compensation for temporary/seasonal workers per the personnel policy to include workers in the government center for elections and other needs as they arise. There are no benefits for these positions. The county will advertise and hire these workers directly, which will save the cost of using a temporary agency as in the past.



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