Merger of Cook County HRA and EDA moves closer to reality
WTIP file photo by Joe Friedrichs

Merger of Cook County HRA and EDA moves closer to reality

The merger of the Cook County Housing Redevelopment Authority (HRA) and the local Economic Development Authority (EDA) moved two steps closer to becoming a reality this week.

The boards representing both local organizations voted this week to approve merging the EDA and HRA into a single entity. The EDA Board voted 4-1 to approve a resolution that includes the merger during a meeting Tuesday, March 14 at the courthouse in Grand Marais. The HRA Board followed suit the following day, approving the measure on a unanimous vote.

Despite approving the resolution, officials from both entities insist any possible merger of the EDA and HRA remain in a preliminary phase. The most significant steps remaining in the process will include getting approval from the Grand Marais City Council and the Cook County Board of Commissioners. There is no timeline for when the city council or county board will discuss, or vote on a resolution to merge the HRA and EDA. If a merger were to occur, current HRA Director Jason Hale would likely lead the merged entities, according to preliminary discussions.

The notion of merging the agencies surfaced earlier this year after former EDA Director Beth Drost announced her resignation. Drost left the EDA to become the executive director of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.

Grand Marais Mayor Tracy Benson, who also serves on the EDA, expressed concern during a previous 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 be further behind in its pursuit of who will be the next director of the organization, Benson explained. Benson was the lone nay vote during the March 14 meeting of the EDA.

If the merger does occur, the EDA will likely “absorb” the HRA, according to preliminary discussions. Other steps that need to be clarified include what board members from each organization will remain on a single board of directors if the merger does occur.

Click here to view the March 15 meeting of the HRA Board.