Economic development director Cathy Enerson had some hard news to bring to the Spring Valley Economic Development Authority (EDA) on March 1 after learning that the child care grant application, which was headed by the Kingsland school district, had been denied.

“A person like myself gets a little bit nuts when they see Duluth receive funds, because that was the second largest city in Minnesota at one time and this was supposed to be for rural areas getting assistance,” Enerson said of the child care grant through Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). “Some people got as low as $1,500, some people got as high as $110,000 and $125,000. Unfortunately, it doesn’t say how they are using them. It did say there was a high demand of $1.3 million in requests and, of course, they could only fund $500,000. We had a 5 percent chance and, unfortunately, the school didn’t get accepted this round.”

Though, this news doesn’t mean the end of the road, Enerson did acknowledge that it was a setback for all involved.

“John McDonald (Kingsland superintendent) said that he presented that to the board and the members indicated by consensus, not through a vote, but that if there was an opportunity that comes along with funds they would be open to trying again. Right now their school budget is too tight to go forward without the grant and the building being a part of it,” Enerson shared.

The EDA was left in the difficult position of determining what to do in regard to the former Olmsted Medical Clinic (OMC) building, as it had planned to purchase the building as part of the child care plan with Kingsland.

Enerson noted by July they may know if more money is being added to the DEED grant to allow for opportunities throughout the state.

“The safest option is to ask OMC if they would just extend the option a year,” Enerson said.

Local realtor Brenda Sheldon, who represents OMC, said, “Who knows you might be just fine, there might not be anyone else that comes in, but it’s kind of a gamble.”

Jason Runck stated, “I don’t want to exercise the option; first of all we went to OMC with the intent of using it for daycare and the intent of exercising it if we got the grant, so I’d want to be up front with them on that. I think by extending the option we would be.”

The EDA approved a motion asking OMC for an extension on the option of purchasing the building.

Enerson then suggested the group might need to look into local financial support to help create child care, as well as setting up a committee to oversee the project.

“I think getting some experts and a community campaign could do some wonderful things, not only to the fact that we’d maybe raise some dollars, but if the EDA would purchase the building it would really support the purchase,” Enerson said. “I see some really positive things for doing this.”

As the EDA looks at the project with new eyes, Enerson reminded them that it may be a more gradual process.

“This could be a year-long event for us. We could be making that application next year, too. As much as I would like to have a magic wand and just see this happen so we could start this year this could just be something that is long-term,” Enerson concluded.

VA state home

EDA President Dave Phillips briefed the EDA on the continuing progress of the Spring Valley State Veterans Home Committee.

“Bill Rohe and Dawn Becker met with the Preston people and everything went well for collaboration. They are working together well,” Phillips recapped. “Then, of course, they went to the Capitol on Feb. 13 and that also went well. Cathy did a very good job and she even got praise from the chairman of the committee saying it was the best presentation they’ve ever had.”

The group, which consisted of chairs from both the Spring Valley and Preston committees, Enerson (who is also Preston’s economic development director), Fillmore County Veterans Service Officer Jason Marquardt, county Commissioners Mitch Lentz, Gary Peterson and Duane Bakke, also spent much of the day speaking with area politicians about bringing a state veterans home to Fillmore County.

According to Enerson, after these meetings Rep. Nels Pierson and Rep. Jeanne Poppe determined they would like to co-author the bill.

“It is nice to see those other counties get on board and wanting to help in those ways,” Enerson stated.

Enerson, along with Marquardt testified before the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Committee on Rep. Greg Davids’ bill calling for a 140 bed state veterans home in Fillmore County.

For the presentation, Enerson used much of the information gathered from the Preston committee’s needs study, which is being shared with Spring Valley.

“We went in and presented with the stance that we were asking for advice, because that is what their agency does. So they made a couple of points; they thought the construction costs should go up to the future values...they also indicated to go to Chippewa Falls facility, so that is likely to be a field trip in the future,” Enerson explained.

Phillips noted, “At the hearing, it passed through the Veterans Affairs Committee to the Government Finance Committee.”

Enerson asked EDA members to write a letter of support for the veterans home, which they approved.

The next EDA meeting will be held on April 12 at 8:30 a.m.