EDA discusses increased communications with council

By : 
GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY
SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE

Spring Valley’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) met last Wednesday morning, Feb. 6, for its monthly meeting — gathering on a new date instead of waiting until the third week of the month to convene. 

Economic development director Cathy Enerson brought forward a list of items for the EDA’s review, including her own Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) contract with the EDA, as there have been suggestions from members of the community and some of the new City Council members that Spring Valley should employ a full-time EDA director. 

“If there’s a need for more capacity or a need for a separate person who’s not in another community, that’s something that you’ve got to talk with the City Council about…I know you’ve said you’ve tried a full-time EDA director and that it hadn’t been successful.  I know you’ve got some new council members,” Enerson said.

“They don’t know the history of the EDA, because in the early ‘90s, we did attempt that, and we couldn’t draw from the expertise we have now,” EDA President Kim Brown said.  

Enerson reiterated that sharing that history with the City Council members so that they gain a different perspective on the EDA’s evolution over the past 25 years would be helpful. 

“It’s sharing about staffing, the education of the EDA, and sharing the annual report,” Enerson said. “I guess communications is key to everything…and learning what they’re concerned about.” 

Conversation turned toward the city’s property on West Tracy Road that it had designated as a possible site for the state veterans’ home that may soon be located in Preston, as Spring Valley and Preston were among the Fillmore County contenders for the home.  However, with the decision being made by the Fillmore County commissioners — at the request of the state and local veterans’ home proponents — to locate the home in Preston on the hillside just behind the former Branding Iron restaurant, the West Tracy Road plot remains unclaimed. 

Enerson spoke about how she had been interested in telling the EDA and City Council about an initiative for grant funding to redevelop a section of downtown Spring Valley into apartment housing but with the City Council’s determination that parking is a problem, that subject has likely come to a close for the time being. She stated that she’s turned her focus toward the discussion about what will become of the veterans’ home site.  “The council was willing to give the land to establish up to 72 residences,” she said.

EDA member David Phillips remarked that it was his understanding that the city had already informally earmarked the acreage for potential housing before the veterans’ home was proposed. 

City administrator Deb Zimmer, who was in City Hall at the time of the meeting, said that the Planning and Zoning Commission is working on the possibilities, including platting the land for housing. 

Enerson then revisited the concept of land trusts and how they might benefit housing prospects in Spring Valley, as they don’t require an upfront payment for the land on which a person builds a home, but that an amount would be due upon the sale of the home. 

“Hopefully, that will be presented at the council meeting sometime,” she said.

The director briefly told about her efforts to reconnect with the Kingsland School Board about developing a childcare center using Minnesota Investment Fund (MIF) grant monies, because the EDA had attempted a partnership with the school district within the past two to three years to help create options to bridge the childcare availability gap. 

She reported that she was met with a reply from board Chairwoman Jackie Horsman, who welcomed the information but requested that the EDA submit a letter to the board for its perusal because the district currently is handling several different financial matters — namely, preparing for an operating referendum in November that may set the course for its future. 

 “They have a full plate and would like just a letter, but I shared a couple of different grants from AmeriCorps that would help with childcare, literacy…and assisting with early childhood programs,” Enerson said.      

The director also updated the EDA on the revolving loan fund, pointing out that there had been no new loan applications. She also cited that there will be plenty of meetings and conferences for her to attend — including one on the Rural Entrepreneur Venture (REV) program in which Spring Valley is participating through the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF). Also, there will be more information coming up regarding the Making It Home program that is meant to market the town to new residents and business owners, including the development of news stories and an update of the EDA’s website. She will also give a presentation to the City Council to inform the longtime and new members of what the EDA has accomplished and what it plans to accomplish in the coming months.  The annual report was made available to EDA members, with highlights to come at the City Council meetings.        

The EDA took note of an upcoming City Council meeting Monday, Feb. 25, that the EDA plans to give a report to the council.  The next EDA meeting will be April 3, unless it is determined that a special meeting is necessary in March because the regular March meeting isn’t being held due to conflicts in schedules.