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Dew Days debt back before city

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

Farmington City Council members said two weeks ago they do not want to pick up the financial slack for CEEF, but things have changed.

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This week, with two more members present at the council meeting, the majority decided they would like to talk about helping the Castle Rock-Empire-Eureka-Farmington Areawide Enhancement Group meet financial obligations left over from the summer's Dew Days festival. While there is nothing in writing just yet, council members decided to consider a loan to help CEEF cover its $23,271 in outstanding bills at a workshop in October.

All of that came as a surprise to a self-declared "baffled" council member Julie May, who thought council had decide not to help out the community group after a motion to do so died for lack of a second at the Sept. 8 council meeting. At that meeting, mayor Todd Larson, who sits on the CEEF board of directors, proposed a loan to help CEEF cover its expenses. Neither May nor council member Steve Wilson chose to support Larson's motion.

But Larson brought it back to the council this week, saying there was additional information to consider. Also, council members Terry Donnelly and Christy Jo Fogarty, both of whom missed the Sept. 8 meeting, were in attendance this week.

The new information was provided by CEEF treasurer Jeff Thelen, who gave the council a detailed list of what bills were still unpaid, and to whom the funds were still owed. Most of those businesses are in the city of Farmington. At first, Thelen said, the businesses were understanding of CEEF's position. But that changed after a few months of not receiving any payment.

"Believe me, people have been asking me for everything they could possibly be asking me for," Thelen said.

The city of Farmington is under no legal obligation to bail out the organization. But city administrator Peter Herlofsky said the obligation is more of a ethical one, because the city is represented on CEEF, and CEEF has done much to promote the community over the years.

Wilson suggested the topic be discussed at length during a workshop, rather than during a council meeting, so members of CEEF could participate. They agreed to have a workshop Oct. 5, prior to the 7 p.m. council meeting.

But May still has reservations. She is particularly concerned the city is setting a precedent by spending taxpayer money to bail out a nonprofit organization.

"It's not our responsibility to make them function and make them whole," she said. "The taxpayers are not a bank."

Other members see it differently. If the city did not support CEEF, it would send the message that it did not support community events and organizations. That could look bad, he said, to a new business looking to locate in the community.

"In order to avoid a black eye on the city of Farmington, we should do this," he said.

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