'Public welfare' letter irks business owners
STEWARTVILLE — A letter to a local newspaper by city council member Judy Hanson created a stir during the public comment portion of the Stewartville City Council meeting on Tuesday.
The letter listed a number of local businesses that had received grants from the Economic Development Association.
"I’m sure there are some who will fault me for writing the names of those who received funds from the EDA," Hanson's letter said. "This is public information, and I believe if they aren’t too proud to be the recipient of a ‘public welfare’ handout, they shouldn’t be ashamed to have it in the paper."
The letter also said that the EDA had "decided to hatch a hare-brained idea and advertise the city’s … Star building for $1."
Greg House of House Chevrolet, one of the businesses listed in Hanson's letter, said he had invested more than $3 million in his dealership, which has benefited the city in increased property taxes.
House said he had cleaned up a blighted area with the $7,500 grant the dealership received from the EDA. He also said that many of the people at the dealership serve as volunteer firefighters or first responders and that he has invested more than that amount in the city pool. He said he took offense at Hanson's "public welfare" comment.
Mike Podein, of Podein's Power Equipment, said he had improved his business property with the EDA funds. Four people at the business volunteer in the fire department. What he read in the paper was not called for, he said.
Chris Stafford, a member of the EDA, said the idea of selling the Star building for $1 was not "hare-brained." and that the people who volunteer for the EDA board should not be denigrated.
All three men received applause after their comments, and the council adjourned without comment.
In other business, the council:
• Approved a contract with Five Bugles Emergency Service Facility Architectural Design Co., to not exceed $38,500, to prepare plans and specifications for the fire hall renovation.
• Scheduled the Board of Appeal and Equalization meeting for 10 a.m. April 12 at the civic center. Council members Gary Stensrud and Roger Hanson, Mayor Jimmie-John King and a representative from Raygor Team Realtors were approved as board members.
• Increased swimming fees from $30 to $35 per lesson because of an increase by the Red Cross for paperwork processing. Increased the pool rental from $50 to $75 per hour without the slide rental and from $75 to $100 per hour with the slide.
• Was told that the city’s 2010 annual financial report qualified for a certificate of achievement for excellence in financial reporting. The council congratulated finance director Barb Neubauer, who will receive the plaque. The award is from the Government Finance Officers Association.