Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Deadline extended for Tower Economic Development Authority applicants

Jodi Summit
Posted 5/9/19

TOWER- The Tower Economic Development Authority (TEDA) extended the deadline to May 31 for applications from Tower residents and business owners who are interested in filling empty seats on the …

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Deadline extended for Tower Economic Development Authority applicants

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TOWER- The Tower Economic Development Authority (TEDA) extended the deadline to May 31 for applications from Tower residents and business owners who are interested in filling empty seats on the board.

The city has received three applications to date, from Tower residents Dick Larmouth and Dena Suihkonen, and Tower business owner Nate Dostert. But TEDA members noted that a few others had told them they intended to submit an application.

The TEDA board will then forward a recommendation to the Tower City Council for approval. The council will also need to replace Brooke Anderson, who served as a council representative on TEDA. Anderson, however, recently announced her resignation from the city council. Councilor Rachel Beldo currently has a seat on TEDA, along with Steve Peterson Sr., Richard Hanson, and Joan Broten, leaving three vacancies on the seven-member board.

One of those seats, however, was previously held by former TEDA chair Marshall Helmberger, who the prior city council removed illegally in January of 2018 in retaliation for critical reporting on city actions.

Helmberger was appointed to a three-year term on TEDA in 2017 and had continuing rights to the seat under state law through 2019. City Clerk-Treasurer Linda Keith apparently falsified city records in order to make it appear that Helmberger’s term on TEDA expired in 2017. Her action, and related actions by former mayor Josh Carlson are currently under investigation by the St. Louis County Sheriff and the St. Louis County Attorney.

Other changes in the TEDA roster were also made without council approval, and in apparent violation of state law.

Broadband

TEDA voted to accept a $75,000 grant from the Blandin Foundation, contingent on updating some details in the contract, getting approval from the broadband committee, and approval by the Tower City Council. The city would be the fiscal agent for the grant, and spending guidelines will need to be developed. The grant will cover initial broadband-related projects in the Tower-Soudan area, which includes Greenwood, Bois Forte/Vermilion, Eagles Nest, and Vermilion Lake townships.

The grant requires matching funds from the community, but some of this can be in-kind services. Broten said that grant funds used to purchase equipment need to be matched one-to-one, while other types of projects involve a three-to-one match (one dollar value for each three dollars spent).

The next step in this process is identifying funding sources to pay for a study to identify ways to bring broadband quality internet service to different parts of the region.

Disc golf

TEDA will ask the company interested in designing and installing a disc golf course in Tower to look at options on the north hill, in addition to the area adjacent to the Tower Ski Trails. The developers were very excited about the possibilities by the ski trail, saying the topography in that area would make for an exceptional course, one that would attract out-of-town players.

Main Street

projects

At their meeting, Monday, the board heard updates on ongoing projects, including the installation of the new Welcome to Tower signs. The city’s Main Street group received a grant several years ago for multiple projects, including the purchase and installation of new signs. The larger, lighted sign has been in storage at the sign builder in Ely for about two years, waiting for the city to finalize the sign’s location.

Broten said the city is waiting for the required permit from MNDOT, because the sign will be in the highway right-of-way. The location of the larger sign has been a moving target, but it appears the sign location has been changed back to the initial choice of the intersection of Highways 169 and 135, just west of Tower. A second, smaller sign will be installed on the east edge of Tower.

Clerk-Treasurer Linda Keith told the TEDA board that the city hadn’t heard back from MNDOT yet.

The Main Street Committee also had concerns about the condition of the sidewalks on Main Street. Keith said the city’s new capital improvement plan will consider sidewalk renovations, but she warned there would be limited funding available.

“The frost is coming out now,” Keith said, “so it is going wild. The wet spring is really hard on the frost.”

Keith said the city is not liable if someone is injured after tripping on the sidewalk.

Other business

In other business, the board:

 Will continue assembling information for a Main Street building inventory.

 Discussed options for watering the flowering baskets on the Harbor Bridge.

 Discussed updating the sign in front of the vacant Main Street lot between the Timberjay building and Tower Car Wash.

 Discussed the idea of creating a brochure highlighting the biking, hiking, skiing, and ATV trails in the area.

 Will hold their July meeting on June 27 instead of on July 4.

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