EDA discusses car-charging outlet, CCA activities, Dollar General project

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Chatfield Center for the Arts Board President Carla Gallina highlights events during the April EDA meeting that have happened or are upcoming at the CCA. EDA director Chris Giesen listens.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

The Chatfield Economic Development Authority (EDA), while conquering its April meeting agenda, considered the possibility of installing an electric vehicle charging station in downtown Chatfield to make the future of automobile transportation more accessible and to promote the town’s business sector.

EDA Director Chris Giesen outlined that the power outlet in question wouldn’t be the city’s but would belong to local power providers due to prohibitions on cities reselling power.

“It would be in a highly visible place where people would be staying for quite a while,” he said.

EDA member Mike Urban registered, “The idea is actually kind of cool. If we were going to put one in, we could put it in the downtown area so that people can stop up and down Main Street, stop in town for a burger and charge their cars.”

Giesen cited that the outlet can be rather costly, but what the EDA and city would be looking at is similar to Lanesboro’s solution for electric car owners’ needs – a credit card charge for each electrical charge.

“In our case, it would be something that we would have nothing to do with it,” Giesen added. “We’d be taking away a parking space, but we’d make sure that it’s (not inconvenient). The energy or electrical companies are helpful and willing. I don’t think there’d be any cost to the city.”

EDA member Molly Baum asked, “How long does it take to charge a vehicle?”

EDA member Michael Tuohy speculated, “About 30 to 40 minutes.”

No action was taken on the matter, but further investigation is forthcoming.

The Chatfield Center for the Arts (CCA) Board President Carla Gallina came before the EDA bearing a report on the 2018 production, performance and fiscal year at the CCA.

The statistics she quoted included that over 8,000 people attended events there last year, 180 children performed on the stage, 15 artists displayed visual works, 14 families celebrated their milestones at the center, 12 businesses networked to offer events or support events, and five boards convened there.

She went on, showing a chart of how the building was used by a number of events – 32% were individuals and local businesses, 15% were CCA Potter Productions concerts, 11% were CCA Chosen Bean concerts, Wits’ End Theatre (WET)’s involvement was 13%, Chatfield Public Schools put their students onstage and took up 11% of the event count, 7% was CCA community outreach, another 7% belonged to the city of Chatfield, and 4% encompassed regional nonprofits.

The report noted that “Chatfield Center for the Arts hosts a wide variety of performing and visual arts events and activities that consistently draw patrons from Rochester, Preston, Lanesboro, Eyota, Fountain, Winona and Decorah. Of the individuals who purchased or reserved at least one event ticket in 2018, 22% reside in Chatfield, 53% in southeast Minnesota, 16% in greater Minnesota, and 9% in other states – Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington.”

Gallina remarked that the CCA directors are hoping to welcome more local residents to events – that they might be enriched by the concerts that are being hosted in their own hometown. Also, the board also hopes to offer more community outreach and host more regional nonprofit organizations in the coming months and years to make the art center a home or home away from home for groups wishing to congregate and collaborate.

She pointed out that the center is not entirely self-sustaining and profitable as of yet – there were $275,484 in expenses and $271,119 in revenues last year — but its revenues are made possible through the hard work of volunteers, as they are the backbone of the CCA’s operations.

Gallina passed around a listing of the planned 2019 summer and fall events, showing the EDA’s membership what there is to anticipate onstage.

Baum commented, “It’d be nice for Chatfield residents to take a chance on some of these concerts.”

Urban expressed his excitement at one of the listings and said, “That concert will bring a lot of different and new people into the building.”

The EDA owns the CCA, but the operation is the responsibility of the CCA board of directors, and Giesen stated that while the EDA plans to continue its “hands-off” approach to the center’s operations, keeping representatives to the board from the EDA apprised of the CCA’s events and finances will help the EDA remain informed about how to maintain and promote it.

“We want to be hands-off with this facility, but we still need to have a relationship with the board,” Giesen reiterated.

Baum pointed his comments toward Gallina. “If you’re wondering why the CCA is going well as is, there’s one of the people.”

Giesen observed that lobbying for $9.7 million in state bonding funds is ongoing as part of the effort to restore and renovate the 1916 high school building to make it more useful as an art studio, conference center and lobby space for Potter Auditorium. He said that even if there is no bonding bill this year in either the House or the Senate, just being listed in the roster of projects up for consideration is progress.

After Gallina departed, Giesen spoke about the Twiford redevelopment project and work to locate a Dollar General store there.

He said the utility company the developer uses would like to get to work relocating poles and lines to make way for the store’s construction, and that involves two of the formerly residential properties that are part of the EDA’s redevelopment parcels.

Additionally, work is ongoing to establish deeds for the assemblage of the numerous plots of land that comprise the Twiford redevelopment – Giesen shared that city attorney Fred Suhler, Jr., is working to find the last known person affiliated with the Chatfield railroad company and an individual who may be able to lay claim to another small parcel within the Twiford lots. He added that in the end, it may be easier to file papers with specific entities to avoid having to meet each parcel’s owner’s successors in court to sort out the details through that venue and wait for the paperwork to come through the court system.

The Dollar General store is slated to be built by the end of this year.