by Tim Hennagir
City leaders aren’t warm to the idea of the Coon Creek Watershed District or any other agency leasing its vacant third floor office space at Blaine City Hall.
Coon Creek Watershed District Administrator Tim Kelly learned the simple reason why when he made such a request during a Feb. 16 city council workshop.
Robert Therres, public services manager, said 12 years ago that the Blaine City Council adopted a policy against leasing and had turned down other requests.
“We are looking for office space,” Kelly said. “If you have been to our offices, they are tired at best and wholly inadequate.” Coon Creek’s offices are currently located at 12301 Central Ave. N.E. in Blaine.
During discussion, Councilmember Russ Herbst suggested Coon Creek consider a partnership with the Rice Creek Watershed District.
“You both are renting buildings now,” Herbst said. “Maybe you should be in the same building. You might get a big cost savings.”
Councilmember Dick Swanson asked Kelly why he was making the leasing request. Kelly said state statues require the watershed to locate its offices within district boundaries.
In addition, Kelly said a provision in state statutes states the board’s meetings and office need to be available the public.
“One interpretation of that means we need to be in a public building,” Kelly said. Swanson said he didn’t want the city of Blaine competing with the private sector for office space.
However, Swanson did say if Coon Creek had a Minnesota Attorney General’s ruling that stated the agency had to be in a public building, he might consider renting out the city’s third floor space.
Councilmember Dave Clark wanted the council to hold fast to the policy in place and not consider renting out the third floor.
City Manager Clark Arneson asked Kelly if the Coon Creek Watershed District board was meeting at its current location. Kelly said that wasn’t the case.
“Our meetings are held at the Bunker Hills Activity Center [550 Bunker Lake Blvd. N.W. in Andover],” Kelly said. “They have been held there since the watershed district’s inception.”
Clark suggested watershed district could rent office space at another location, but use the Blaine City Council third floor meeting room for its board meetings.
Mayor Pro-Tem Katherine Kolb then asked Kelly if the Minnesota Attorney General’s office was reviewing state statutes to provide a definite interpretation.
“We have not made a request for an interpretation,” Kelly said, adding Coon Creek did talk to the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, the state agency that has overall insight regarding water and soil resource protection. “They said there are almost no watershed districts with offices in public spaces.”
Tim Hennagir is at firstname.lastname@example.org