Discussion to merge HRA and EDA in Cook County continues
Joe Friedrichs

Discussion to merge HRA and EDA in Cook County continues

With a lack of housing remaining a key issue impacting the community, board members from the Cook County Housing Redevelopment Authority (HRA) and the local Economic Development Authority (EDA) met recently to discuss a possible merger of the two organizations.

Representatives from the HRA and EDA met Feb. 16 at City Hall in Grand Marais to discuss the framework and timeline of such a merger if it were to occur. Officials from both entities insist any possible merger of the EDA and HRA remain in a preliminary phase. The notion of merging the agencies surfaced after former EDA Director Beth Drost announced her resignation last month. Drost left the EDA to become the executive director of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.

If a merger were to occur, current HRA Director Jason Hale would likely lead the merged entities, according to preliminary discussions.

Grand Marais Mayor Tracy Benson, who also serves on the EDA, expressed concern during the Feb. 16 meeting about the merger. Benson explained that the EDA is currently without a director following the resignation of Drost in January. If the merger does not occur, the EDA will further behind in its pursuit of who will be the next director of the organization.

Hale said the concerns Benson raised during the Feb. 16 meeting were valid. However, Hale said Feb. 22 that “from the HRA perspective, this is the time to consider whether a merger long-term makes sense before we get more deeply involved with projects” that would be more challenging from a logistics standpoint if the merger were to occur.

Others in the meeting, including officials from both the HRA and EDA, expressed support of the idea of the merger, though no action was taken to support the consideration. During the Feb. 16 meeting, only discussion took place regarding the possible merger of the local agencies. There were no votes taken on any issue, including that of the possible merger of the HRA and the EDA. Even if the organizations opt to move forward with a merger, such a plan would need approval from the Grand Marais City Council and the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs spoke Feb. 22 with Hale about the possible merger and other news specific to the HRA in Cook County. Audio below.