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Farmington may reshuffle EDA again

Change seems to be coming to the Farmington Economic Development Authority. Again.

A conversation about whether the city needs an EDA turned to who should make up the membership during Monday's regular EDA meeting. Within minutes, city administrator David McKnight had direction to start looking at how to change the board's membership before the end of the year.

The EDA membership has changed over the past decade between being made up primarily of council members, to a group of three appointed citizen members and two council members, and back to only council members. Since the last membership change in February, 2008, the EDA has included the five members of the Farmington City Council. In 2011, the EDA decided to expand its membership to include two ex-officio members. Doug Bonar and Geraldine Jolley have filled those positions, with terms ending in 2016 and 2014, respectively. Bonar and Jolley cannot vote, but can express opinions on all of the matters facing the EDA.

EDA/council member Julie May questioned the need for an EDA during last year's budget cycle. In a memo this week, city attorney Joel Jamnik explained that cities with EDAs or housing and redevelopment authorizes have more powers than cities that do not have such groups.

According to Jamnik, cities with EDAs have the ability to acquire and sell property for housing or economic development purposes. Those communities can use tax increment financing, issue loans to businesses and receive federal or state grants for loans for certain housing and redevelopment projects. Additionally, EDAs can do special levies for housing and economic development purposes outside of general levy limits.

May argued Farmington does not need a full, separate EDA, but should instead form an economic development commission to simplify the budgeting process. By doing away with the EDA, she said, the city could eliminate the need to do a separate tax return and audit, which could save money.

The remaining six members, however, said the EDA is a necessary part of Farmington's government.

Bonar suggested a more citizen-based membership, saying "diversity versus duplicity" may be a better arrangement.

Hearing much of the same from the rest of the group, with the exception of May, mayor Todd Larson asked McKnight to look into the pros and cons of changing the board's make-up again. He also asked for a comparison of a five-member EDA versus a seven-member group.

"The residents want more options in their city," Larson said. "I think that's our responsibility to help bring that to the community. Sometimes I think this is the most important board in the city. I think without this board, things would take a big step back."

Though Larson suggested giving staff until the summer to compile the information on changes to the EDA board, McKnight said he would have more details in the next few months.

Terms for Farmington's other commissions, and for Bonar and Jolley's posts, run January through December.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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