The Brainerd City Council decided against hiring a consultant to prepare redevelopment findings for the proposed tax-increment financing district for Jimmy John's restaurant.
A developer is considering turning the former Casey's gas station in northeast Brainerd into a Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches restaurant and is looking for financial help from the city. The developer pays for the cost for the redevelopment findings.
The council received two proposals, about $2,800 from LHB in Minneapolis and about $2,895 from Short Elliott Hendrickson, which has an area office.
Council member Lucy Nesheim proposed choosing SEH because of its local presence. City Attorney Tom Fitzpatrick said the council had that discretion.
Council member Mary Koep suggested the city employees do the work instead. Council member Bob Olson agreed, saying with the tough financial period it was time to be thrifty around the council table.
Council member Anne Nelson Fisher said staff members indicated they were not comfortable determining if the structure constituted a blighted area. Council member Bonnie Cumberland wasn't sure staff had time and Nesheim said the process was complicated enough to hire a firm to do the work.
City Engineer Jeff Hulsether reported the building is structurally sound with minor code violations and the concern is whether a blight condition is met for the redevelopment concerns. He said other projects have been more obvious in terms of blight conditions. If the council will stand behind staff, Hulsether said staff members are willing to make the determination. The council agreed with Nesheim opposed. Council member Kelly Bevans said he agreed there were complicated TIF cases but this particular project was not one of them.
In other business, the council:
Presented the Tower Award to Dutch and Irma Cragun for outstanding commitment to the community.
Referred the topic of potentially setting up a rotation of those serving as council president to the city attorney.
Set a Jan. 20 public hearing for the downtown project, Small Cities Development Grant and a public participation plan. Koep abstained on the public participation plan as she said she was not familiar enough with the details.
Tabled a discussion on a wine/beer license or liquor license to Jessica Borkenhagen for the E Squared Cafe, Washington Street for a clarification on the type of liquor license requested.
Referred a discussion to the Safety and Public Works Committee regarding potential changes to parking and traffic flow around Riverside Elementary School in order to improve pedestrian safety.
Heard from Brainerd resident Jeff Czeczok that certain council members acted as rubber stamps by voting to adopt a balanced budget on Dec. 15 even as Olson pointed out the 2009 budget wasn't balanced as presented.
Czeczok also said the Brainerd Dispatch provided poor reporting on the subject. City Administrator Dan Vogt said there was a clerical error on the information presented Dec. 15 and staff was aware of the error that night. A corrected copy of the budget recap was sent out the next day.
The council voted to adjust the minutes stating the council approved the budget as it was intended but there was a clerical error in the numbers before the council Dec. 15, which was corrected the following day. Olson opposed.
Heard Mayor James Wallin thank Bevans for his service as council president, noting his service came during some tough meetings.
Re-appointed John Hoskins to the Transportation Committee after hearing objections. Fisher said Hoskins, as owner of Brainerd Area Taxi, has a conflict of interest. Olson said even if Hoskins abstains he may still influence others on the committee. Koep said Hoskins can remove himself from some discussions just as council members do when there is a conflict and that Hoskins provided a useful viewpoint. Olson and Fisher opposed.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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