Monona Council approves MCED funding

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Matching its contribution from this year, the Monona Council, at its Nov. 20 meeting, approved a $12,000 appropriation to Monona Chamber and Economic Development (MCED) for the coming year—but not without some discussion.

Councilman Doug Bachman questioned the four hours per week increase for MCED Executive Director Rogeta Halvorson, taking her from 36 hours to 40 hours.

“I think there needs to be more discussion on this,” he said. “A 9 percent raise is quite a bit.”

Councilman John Elledge, while supportive of the work Halvorson has done, was leery of continuing to use taxpayer dollars to fund MCED.

“The money has to come from somewhere. The only question is should we use taxpayer money to fund it or are there alternative ways to pay for it?” he questioned, wondering if fundraising might be better.

“There are so many fundraisers,” responded mayor Fran Passmore. “You can fundraise the community out.”

Councilman Dan Havlicek said the business memberships Halvorson retains and gains for MCED should be considered fundraising.

He said he felt the position was no less important than any other city positions, such as street maintenance or garbage pick-up. Plus, Havlicek added, without Halvorson, who would handle those duties?

“I feel the city should step up and do it,” he said of funding MCED. “I don’t think it should all be put on the businesses.”

“The return on investment is the hiccup. There are no mile markers, nothing that says MCED made this happen,” Elledge said. “I’m looking for a way to justify the expenditure. Our job is to make sure taxpayer money goes toward the most important thing.”

Passmore countered that economic development is an important function, citing Halvorson’s work in helping the city obtain several large grants as well as her efforts to grow MCED’s membership and stimulate business opportunities in the community.

“I think it’s necessary. We’ve made some good improvements. As soon as [Halvorson] hears someone is interested, she’s on it right away,” Passmore said. “I would think the city would be willing to support economic development.”

MCED board director Linda Knockel, who attended the meeting with Halvorson, said she couldn’t believe city funding was even up for debate.

“I think it’s a no-brainer,” she shared. “You have to have someone to do the job. Without it, Monona won’t grow. Do you not want Monona to grow?”

In the end, Havlicek, Bachman, Andrew Meyer and Heather Lange voted to approve the city’s $12,000 appropriation. Elledge was the lone “nay” vote.

Butterfly Garden and Trail

The council approved an engineering agreement with Fehr Graham for preparation of design plans for construction of a recreational trail from Gateway Park to the Butterfly Garden and Trail. This fall, Monona was awarded a $75,000 REAP grant, which will go toward the project. Work will start in the coming summer.

Resident and volunteer Jim Langhus also spoke with the council about another Butterfly Garden and Trail-related project, which would include excavation of a ditch in the area, as well as the establishment of some prairie plantings. Two and a half acres on the inside and sides of the trail loop will be planted for a short grass prairie. Flowers that draw insects, especially butterflies, will also be planted, Langhus explained.

The project will cost $7,720. A $5,000 donation will cover the excavation, Langhus said, and a $1,000 grant from Trees Forever will help with the prairie plantings. The remaining $1,700 will be covered by the Butterfly Garden accounts.

Dollar General

The council set a public hearing date of Monday, Dec. 4, to consider a zoning district classification for a proposed Dollar General Store at the intersection of Highway 18/52 and 125th Street. On Nov. 20, the planning and zoning commission recommended a C-1A classification for the property.

At its Nov. 6 meeting, the council approved a request from the Overland Group to annex the site into the city of Monona.

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