GAASTRA—The road to consolidation won’t exactly be a smooth paved byway, as the Gaastra City Commission discussed at its Feb. 9 meeting.
A consolidation study grant, applied for in October, came in with a $9,000 local match.
“Otherwise, the money is available to you,” explained Steve Polich, city attorney.
The city has a 60-day window to accept the grant, he said, but consolidation talks with Caspian may be a problem.
“At the Caspian meeting,” said Polich, “there was very substantial resistance to this grant. The budget is very uncertain, and that cost at $9,000 was too much for the local community to afford. It sounded like they weren’t going ahead.”
The idea of consolidating the two cities, Gaastra and Caspian, was first discussed at Gaastra’s May 12, 2011, meeting.
At that time, Mayor Richard Holm explained that consolidation would be a way of getting more done by have more people available for various city committees.
“Both cities are financially secure,” Holm told his board at that May meeting, “but we have duplicated on committees.”
“We can’t do this alone,” Holm told the board last week, seeking direction which way the board wanted to proceed.
“The issue is getting commissioners to run who have the knowledge and the drive to run a city,” Holm added.
“My big concern is having people to fill the gap. We have young people and old, but we don’t have anyone 40 or 50 with municipal experience.
“We keep losing our tax base,” said Holm. “I can see in 10, 15 years half the people shouldering this burden.”
Jeff Bal of GEI Consultants told the board that accepting the grant didn’t mean they had to proceed, but if that was its decision, the city would have some funding.
According to Commissioner Delsey Treado, the grant was not to consolidate but rather to conduct a feasibility study.
Polich advised the board to go ahead and draft the agreement, “and see what comes of that.”
“We can’t make a decision until we find out what our cities are capable of doing,” said Treado, who moved that the city proceed by the grant provisions.
In other business, the board agreed to sign the county’s solid waste amendment, if the county does not reach the required 62 percent ratio.
The board also adopted a resolution regarding the Heritage Trail project.
Wales told the board that a meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 14, with MDOT, to resolve some of the questions regarding the project’s funding.
“I think Tuesday will draw the line whether the project will go ahead,” he told the board.
This is not a full Heritage Trail meeting, he said, but rather to discuss how much the county will match.
“But we can’t afford to pick up the whole tab,” Wales said, promising that he will not sign any agreement that puts Gaastra in risk.
“MDOT and the DNR, those are the two big stumbling blocks. We thought we would have this resolved this month.”