By Jordan Gerard

Editor, The Caledonia Argus

Areas of Hokah could soon see improvements, as the city approved a motion to pre-apply for a state grant program that will help secure funds for fixing up the business district, housing areas and rental homes. 

The program is through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and the grant is a Small City Development Program. Before the city can even apply for the actual grant, they must pre-apply, City Clerk Lindsey Martell said at the council’s regular meeting on Nov. 4. 

The first order of business in pre-applying was declaring a “slum and blight area” in Hokah. The words in that resolution sound scary, but once the work is complete, that term will be removed. 

The determination that Hokah qualified for this program came from drive-by surveys by grant writers, surveys from business owners and at least 25% of buildings were deemed to be  deteriorating or needing physical things to be replaced. The council passed that resolution. 

Hokah is not alone in participating in this program, as Caledonia is already enrolled. 

The second resolution was putting in a grant match from the city to show the state that the city is invested in the project. Grantwriters suggested $5,000 for each area (housing, business district and rentals), for a total of $15,000. 

That money will come from a special fund the city has from a community grant in 2009, which the funds are specifically earmarked for projects such as this, council member Jerry Martell pointed out. The council passed the resolution.

The third resolution was approving a streetscapes plan that would eventually beautify the downtown area, such as adding benches, garbage cans or tree boxes. 

The council did not approve this resolution, as previous studies or similar plans in the past were not seen as practical for the city. The remaining money from the 2009 community grant fund (about $3,000) could be used for those items, the council agreed. 

Once the pre-application is approved, the city can go ahead and submit the actual application. 

Other news

Library Director Kirsten Plummer thanked the city for sending Public Works Director Matt Vetsch to add weather stripping to the doors. This makes the library much warmer now, she added. Plummer also pointed out the library would need a new council liaison appointed to the library board in January, since Mayor Mike Walsh will not have that position. 

Police Chief Bob Schuldt mentioned the paperwork for the 2019 heavy rains was audited, finalized and approved and those funds should be in the city’s account by the end of the year. 

 Delinquent utility bill letters have been sent out and if not paid down by Dec. 1, the list goes to the county and gets assessed to the appropriate property owner’s taxes, Martell told the council. She added residents who have not paid for sidewalk repairs will also have that cost assessed to their taxes. 

Concerning the CARES act funding, Martell said everything was included and paid for, excepting the supplies for the school. Anything left over or needing to be ordered with that money had to have an invoice by Nov. 15. The city will also need to send a break down of election expenses to the county. The council approved the CARES act expenditures. 

Next meeting

The council will hold a canvass board meeting on Nov. 12 to canvass the results of the 2020 general election.

The next regular meeting will be Dec. 1, at 6 p.m. with the Truth in Taxation meeting starting at 6:01 p.m. the same night. Any resident with questions or concerns about property taxes can attend this meeting.

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