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Rushford hopes FEMA pays, ups the ante

RUSHFORD —  Although it's been three years since floodwaters ravaged Rushford, the Federal Emergency Management Agency hasn't fully repaid the city money spent on the 2007 flood recovery projects.

City administrator Windy Block received word that the city has been put at the top of Minnesota's list of disaster relief projects that need funding, but he hasn't seen any of that money yet.

"The federal government hasn't had adequate funding and they needed to pass a bill to replenish federal disaster funds," Block said Thursday. "Now that the bill has been signed, hopefully we'll be seeing our reimbursements soon."

Recent audits of city finances show the city hasn't received money for flood recovery projects since early 2009.

Block believes FEMA owes the city about $650,000, but it's asking for about $1 million.


"A few times we started a project and found out that there was more that needed to be done," Block said.

The city paid for a good portion of the work through its general fund and capital projects fund.

Work on community center stalled

Several other projects that aren't flood-related have popped up in the past couple years.

In November 2009, the city reached an agreement with F&L Development Inc. that would allow developer Tom Serie to build and own a motel and oversee the construction of a city-owned community center in the Himlie Business Park north of town.

In December, Block said the cost to build the motel and 5,200-foot community center would be about $2.75 million.

The city had received $593,000 from FEMA to replace the flood-damaged Tenborg Community Center. F&L Development agreed to pay $1.75 million for the motel and $500,000 toward the community center.

Work began on the community center in December with hopes of it being open by July.


However, work on the center has slowed because the developer is negotiating financing. Even if financing for the motel falls through, Block said, the basic construction of the community center is there and that the building could still be modified for other uses.

"The motel and the community center are synergistic and I think everyone understands the importance of the two functioning together,"  Block said.

He said the building is about 60 percent complete and that the interior has not yet been finished.

If the motel doesn't pan out, Block isn't sure the city will be able to manage the 400-seat community center on its own.

"We're still hopeful it will work out," Block said.

Proposed library will stand alone

Plans to build a new library and city hall have hit a hurdle. At the request of the library board, the city council decided to remove the city hall from the project.

Some community members struggled with the idea of having the city hall attached to the library.


"They didn't want to donate money to a building that would also be housing city hall," Block said.

On Tuesday, the council gave the library board permission to start fundraising for the new library building.

The city council agreed to pay Church Street Associates to help the library board's fundraising efforts for 12 months, Block said.

In May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program designated $250,000 in grant money and $2.2 million in loans to the city for the library project.

The library board plans to pay off the loan with donations. They'll  begin a their fundraising push this fall. If it goes well, construction could begin in spring 2011, Block said.

Making room for airplanes

The city council recently approved a $421,000 bid from Key Builders Inc. of Rochester for a new hangar at the Rushford Municipal Airport.

The city received more than $400,000 from the Federal Aviation Administration for the hangar, which will be built next to the existing facility.


Block said the a six-unit hangar will be built this fall and apron improvements and grading will be accomplished in spring.

Currently, there's space for seven aircraft; the addition will make space for 13, ensuring that Rushford will meet standards set by the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems.

"By keeping the required number of airplane houses here, we'll be tied into that federal program," Block said. "It will also give us a greater opportunity to serve the local population of those that fly airplanes and an opportunity to attract businesses that might need that access point."

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