EDA approves sale of two lots in business park and continues discussion of EDA/HRA merger

EDA approves sale of two lots in business park and continues discussion of EDA/HRA merger

The Economic Development Authority (EDA) met on Feb. 21 to discuss numerous agenda items, including continued discussion of the EDA/HRA merger, Cedar Grove Business Park, the Small Business Development Centers, and the Superior National Golf Course.

The meeting started with a discussion regarding the sale of two business park lots to Molly Larson, owner of Sweetwater Design Co. Larson, who expressed interest in purchasing Lot 1, Block 1, and Lot 2, Block 1, to build a small office building. She offered $12,500 for both parcels. The lots are located on the south side of the Gunflint Trail.

After some discussion, the EDA board approved the sale of the lots to Larson. The public hearing for the sale of the lot will be set for the next EDA meeting on Mar. 21.

Steve Surbaugh, the president of the EDA, said following the discussion that he has created a new checklist for the lot owners and the EDA to use to navigate the sale of a lot within the business park. Surbaugh spent time gathering information from Mike Roth, the city administrator; Pat Campanaro, the interim EDA director; Mary Somnis, former director of the EDA; and numerous other individuals to compile the necessary information.

“I feel like we have a pretty good idea about what was missed before and stuff that we need to take better care of in the future,” he said. “I’m comfortable with it being dialed in at this time.”

While Surbaugh said some open-ended questions remain in the checklist, it gives the EDA a clearly defined process of the needed steps for the sale of a lot, which Surbaugh acknowledged had previously needed to be improved.

“It’s a complicated real estate transaction,” Surbaugh said. “We want it to be a great experience for everybody.”

Board members David Mills, Myron Bursheim, and Campanaro acknowledged and thanked Surbaugh for putting the checklist together.

EDA/HRA merger

The next agenda item discussed was the potential EDA/HRA merger. Each board member shared their perspective on the merger.

Mark Shackleton said he was initially in favor of the merger. However, he still wants to see an outline of the process and structure. “I would like to see what the end product is.”

Tracy Benson said if the merger did occur and Jason Hale, director of the HRA, took over both entities, additional staff would be needed to support Hale. In the meantime, however, she said, “If it’s something you’re still considering, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t start to try and replace this position now. Why are you holding back?”

Myron Bursheim said he supports the merger, and there are opportunities to reduce or eliminate redundancies between the two entities.

Howard Hedstrom said he was in favor of merging the two organizations. However, he said, “Tracy brings up a good point. We can’t tread water until this whole process works its way through.”

Following the comments, the EDA board discussed hiring an interim EDA director until the decision to merge the two organizations was finalized. Camparano initially agreed to be the interim for three months following the resignation of Beth Drost on Jan. 20.

In the meantime, the EDA agreed to establish a sub-committee to discuss the potential for hiring an interim director or a hybrid position that would work with the EDA and the HRA. The sub-committee members are David Mills, Myron Bursheim, and Tracy Benson. The committee will also source input from Hale.

In addition, Surbaugh and Campanaro stated they are working on putting together a thorough plan outlining the details of the work the EDA does and how the structure would work.

“The HRA charged us with coming up with facts about the EDA, what we do, and where our money is being spent,” Campanaro said. “The HRA would like a little bit more information from us.”

In other EDA news, Shackleton shared that the golf course financials are looking much better, and the year-end audit looks good to submit.