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CEEF asks city council, town boards for help

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news Farmington, 55024

Farmington Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

Asking for help isn't often easy, but the Castle Rock-Empire-Eureka-Farmington Areawide Enhancement Group -- more commonly known as CEEF -- has done just that.

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What they are asking for hasn't quite been spelled out just yet. For sure, though, they are asking for help to rescue the community's struggling Dew Days celebration.

CEEF chairperson Julie McKnight officially asked for help from the city of Farmington during Monday's regular city council meeting. It was not an unusual request by the time she got there -- CEEF has asked all of its member communities to participate in the effort to revive the organization.

Whether that comes in the form of a monetary donation or co-sponsorships of future programs hasn't been worked out yet. But the fact remains CEEF is struggling, especially after coming up about $25,000 short after the 2009 Dew Days celebration.

Mayor Todd Larson and Farmington city administrator Peter Herlofsky are city representatives to the CEEF board of directors. McKnight, a school board member, is the School District 192 representative. As the city participates in the organization, it is allowed by law to give donations in a limited capacity, or to provide activities or services to CEEF.

"It depends on what the request is," said city attorney Joel Jamnik.

The proposal McKnight put before council on Monday was simple -- just allow Herlofsky to sit down and discuss some options for city contributions. Once there is a clearer picture of what needs to be done, and what the city can help with, that information would come back to the city council.

But the prospect of lending too much assistance -- and perhaps money -- does not sit well with a couple of council members.

"I don't like the idea of the city assuming responsibility for that program," council member Steve Wilson said, "but we should be supportive and provide services like we have in the past."

Over the past few years, the city of Farmington has sponsored a few popular events like Kiss the Pig and the Dew Run, but has stepped back from allotting a lot of extra staff time for the event. Jamnik said state statute requires a contract between a municipality and a nonprofit that spells out exactly what the municipality would provide. No such contract exists from the 2009 Dew Days celebration. And that does not sit well with council member Julie May, who is concerned about the city getting involved in CEEF's current financial crisis.

"I have total respect for any person or group that tries to put something like that together," May said, "but I have to be concerned with the precedent.... I don't want to damper the Dew Days event, but I am concerned about the taxpayers who I represent."

McKnight said CEEF has also approached the townships and asked for their participation. She did not specify what the response had been from any of the township boards. School District 192 is a co-sponsor for CEEF's annual community expo, and the organization could ask for a similar sponsorship from the city and townships. But the decision from here out is up to the city council.

"I can't work that out for you. You have to work that out as a council, and if this is something that you as a council agree that you want to move ahead with, great, let us know. And if you don't, let us know. I can't sit here and convince you," McKnight said.

The next CEEF board meeting was scheduled for Wednesday evening.

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