Council hits ‘reset button’ on survey issue

Chamber funding request rejected; city economic panel idea floated

stillwaterThe Stillwater City Council pushed a reset button of sorts Tuesday on a request from the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce for city money to help fund a downtown economic survey.

The council denied the chamber request for study funds, and instead, indicated that they would form an economic development commission to work with the chamber’s downtown revitalization group.

The Chamber had requested $60,000 in city funds to help pay for a economic survey of downtown businesses to aid the chamber’s downtown revitalization committee’s work.
The latest proposed change came out of the dialogue at a previous tumultuous council business meeting when Councilman Ted Kozlowski suggested the city create a committee with the city council and the downtown revitalization panel.

Councilman Doug Menikheim suggested at Tuesday’s meeting the council pursue the economic development commission idea to create further discussion.

“We need to get these two groups (the city and the downtown revitalization committee) together to start talking with each other instead of at each other, working towards things we have in common and arriving at the solution,” he said.

City Administrator Larry Hansen in a letter to the council recommends creating a committee to establish a process that allows funding for surveys. adding that now is an opportune time to work on downtown improvements and an city economic development commission could be beneficial.

Hansen further states the new commission could be temporary, but Mayor Ken Harycki disagreed, saying if an economic development commission should be something more permanent between city staff, the chamber and Stillwater business owners.

“If we have a group together, they can bring their recommendations back to council and a formalized economic development commission can make sure that individuals are held accountable for their decisions.” Kozlowski said.

Councilman Tom Weidner agreed with the commission idea but said it was important to make an official decision on the chamber’s survey funding request in order to move forward without confusion.

Weidner’s motion denying the Chamber’s survey funding request was passed unanimously with Menikheim noting for the record that the survey idea was not off the table going forward.

Things that this new commission could be responsible for included some items previously mentioned at council: snow removal, downtown lighting and working in conjunction with city staff on their downtown improvement plan going forward.

Councilman Mike Polehna, a vocal opponent of the chamber’s proposed survey funding request, said because city staff would be involved in discussions regarding this issue, he would feel more comfortable with future proposals coming to the council.

A report about how to move forward with the economic development commission idea is expected from staff at the Aug. 20 council meeting.