Frazee still waiting on word of grant funding to purchase nearly 175 acres of land

Photo by Robert Williams
A covered bridge is one of the many unique features of what could become Wannigan Park in Frazee. The land where the park could be located is currently being held in a trust for the city. 

By Robert Williams

Editor

Retired CPA Polly Anderson presented a resolution to the Frazee City Council last week to complete the sale of the 174.55 acres owned by Greg Ness that will become the future Wannigan Park for $810,000.

Those funds are scheduled to be covered by grant monies, however the first two grant applications are still being assessed. The city is the guarantor of those grant applications and there is no definitive answer to what would become the city’s liability of the funds in four years, assuming no grant money was awarded to the park committee.

According to Roberts, the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission (GMRPTC) is prepared to purchase the land and act as an interim holder for four years to allow time for more grant applications and other fundraising.

Ness is firm on wanting to finalize the sale of the property by the end of the year and GMRPTC’s offer would allow that to happen.

Strand was first to ask if the city is going to be on the line for the money.

Anderson responded with an explanation of both current grant applications and their unknown status, but also with positive remarks on expectations. She noted the GMRPTC holding is a benefit to future fundraising.

“This transaction is giving us time. As of today, we’ve applied for two state grants, both of those will cover the land purchase. We have four years to go back and reapply for those grants and we 100 percent expect to be successful with at least one of those grants in four years.”

Polly Anderson, Retired CPA

Anderson continued that based on Wannigan Park recently earning a designation to the Greater Minnesota Regional System after three lengthy application processes, in turn, that will likely garner the recommendation of GMRPTC for grant approval by the state.

A recommendation would come in December and state approval by the legislature would be in early 2023.

“If we are not successful, we would have time to reapply,” said Anderson.

The second state grant would be from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota  Resources (LLCMR).

“We don’t feel as confident about that going into it but we got good news from the staff,” said Anderson. “They gave us a staff score of 90. There were only two other projects that were first-time applicants that got a score higher than us. So, they like Wannigan Regional Park. This application, we’re taking more of a let’s learn from this process. We are not as expectant of having it come through.”

There are $150,000 in donations and pledges for the park and the GMRPTC endowment fund holding the land interest-free for four years is critical to the project moving forward.

“We don’t expect to ask the city to cover any of that $810,000,” said Anderson. “It’s hard to say what’s going to happen because this is a situation of finding the money from various sources, but the board of Frazee Community Development (FCDC) is very, very confident that we can do that within four years.”

Despite that, a conversation between all five city council members about the city being on the hook for the money led to reservations expressed about the risk of being the guarantor of the funds and a need for more conversation, despite Anderson’s confident rebuttals.

“We as a council, as a finance committee, we have to sit down and talk about things because we have to cover that worst case scenario in four years. If funding doesn’t come, how are we going to pull this off?” said vice mayor Mike Sharp. “Right now, we have no plan. We’re committing to something, but there is no plan four years from now, worst case scenario, how we’re going to cover $800,000.”

“We have to have a safety net,” said Strand.

The mayor chimed in with support for the proposal.

“There’s risk involved in everything,” he said. “Anyway you look at it. At least there is diligence of a backup of things that they’re looking at to cover the costs. If they came to us and just said oh we have nothing, we just want you to cover this for us and do it. Well, there is due diligence on what they’re doing too and we can’t guarantee that, they can’t guarantee it. Nobody can guarantee any of this stuff. Maybe there is a risk involved, but the risk we’re looking at could possibly bloom and explode and that’s what we’re looking for.”

The proposal was tabled unanimously for a month to allow for more discussion in the finance committee before the next city council meeting.

Staff reports

Frazee Chief of Police Trieglaff reported 107 calls with 18 traffic-related for the month of July.

Officer Ryan Seeger is moving on to the Becker County Sheriff’s office. The job opening will likely be filled with an internal transfer from the part-time roster. Frazee has three full-time police officers on staff.

Trieglaff also discussed future plans to have a police presence in the school during the coming school year. The past two years, there was a rotating officer schedule to maintain a presence on campus.

Trieglaff discussed a possible fourth full-time officer to allow for more flexibility for the department and involving the school district to assist financially with the cost of a new officer, a squad car, plus equipment.

“I appreciate the idea of having an officer there all the time,” said Strand.

“After this last Texas shooting, things have changed,” Trieglaff said.

The internal hire was approved; a fourth officer will be discussed by the finance committee in the coming week. The hiring process and budget constrictions will not allow for a fourth officer to be hired until at least 2023.

The rescue department report included 19 calls in July, seven in town. According to the mayor, Josh Samuelson, who hosted a motorcycle stunt show in mid-July, donated $1,000 to the rescue squad from money raised at a hot dog feed that was part of the show.

Kropuenske’s fire report included a quiet month of two calls, one structural fire and one mutual aid.

Stephenson’s utility report for July included a big month for the water plant due to continued construction in town. The plant pumped 5,200,000 gallons of water, added 94 pounds of fluoride and 418 pounds of chlorine. 2,440,000 gallons of wastewater were pumped for treatment and 90,080,000 gallons were discharged.

The September city council meeting will be held Monday, Sept. 19, at 6 p.m.