A crowd packed the Corcoran City Council chambers, Thursday, May 8, and spilled out into the hallway at Corcoran City Hall. Children sat on the floor.
Most of the people wanted to find out what the City Council would decide about funding for the proposed Maple Hill Community Center. Some audience members, including Rockford schoolteachers and representatives of Mobile Hope, spoke on behalf of building the center in Maple Hill Estates, a mobile home park.
On a 5-0 vote, the council decided that Corcoran could take a financial risk. The city would pay for the difference between construction costs and money currently available from fundraising and a Community Development Block Grant from Hennepin County.
Then the crowd cheered.
After the meeting, Corcoran resident Dennis Stieg said that, in all of his years of attending Corcoran City Council meetings, this was the largest crowd he had ever seen.
“It was almost a festive occasion,” he said.
The City Council inserted an important condition in its approval resolution. Mobile Hope must reimburse Corcoran for its contribution to construction costs within three years of receiving a certificate of occupancy for the community center.
The City Council also took up other business on May 8. Here are some meeting highlights.
The City Council’s vote on community center financing came after two years of work on the part of Mobile Hope, which currently offers its programs in a double-wide mobile home in the Maple Hill Estates mobile home park at 7800 Maple Hill Road west of the Rush Creek Golf Club. According to City Administrator Brad Martens, the approval vote means that Mobile Hope can go ahead with construction after amended documents are filed with Hennepin County, which oversees the Community Development Block Grant program.
Martens spelled out financial figures in his report to the City Council. Estimated total construction costs for the Maple Hill Community Center are $346,279. Hennepin County awarded the $225,000 grant in 2012. Barry Hall, of Maple Hill Estates, has offered a $30,000 personal guarantee. Corcoran already has invested $18,079 in pre-design work. Mobile Hope’s estimated financial responsibility for the remaining funds is $73,200.
At the meeting Brian Dejewski, of Mobile Hope, said fundraising efforts have yielded over $20,000 in money currently in hand. Donors have committed an additional $36,000. He said Mobile Hope still is raising funds.
After discussing the financial risks to the city, the City Council decided the risks now were small enough for Corcoran to pay for construction costs and be reimbursed.
Mobile Hope offers numerous programs, including Homework Help for students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade in Rockford Public Schools. Among other offerings are English as a second language, food distribution in conjunction with CROSS and youth programs in conjunction with Wayzata Free Church.
Once the community center is built, Mobile Hope expects to offer a computer lab for job training, a fitness center, a central gathering place, a youth center, a kitchen and an arts and crafts center.
Mobile Hope began in 1991 when Beth McConn, school nurse in Rockford Public Schools, decided that students from Maple Hill Estates could use some assistance. She began a mini vacation Bible school to reach out to them. Mobile Hope programs grew gradually, and homework help began in 2009. Community potlucks and food distribution began in 2010 with donations from Chipotle. That year adults on site began classes in English as a second language.
In 2011 programming moved into a temporary 10-foot-by-30-foot construction trailer. Then in 2012 Hope House came into existence in a double-wide mobile home. That year Mobile Hope also got its Community Development Block Grant. Now the community center is on the horizon.
Corcoran resident Stieg, who was a teacher and coach for 33 years, said he has been “drawn into” what Mobile Hope has been doing. Maple Hills Estate residents represent 10 percent of Corcoran’s population. He remembers Police Chief Sean Gormley conversing with Brian and Jill Dejewski, of Mobile Hope, about the number of times police have been involved with youth at Maple Hills Estate.
“Those kids didn’t ask to be there,” Stieg said. “If you can make these kids productive, it’s an investment in the future.”
He added, “A lot of people are getting behind this (the community center).” Youth have written letters to the Corcoran City Council to ask for city support.
PUBLIC WORKS GARAGE FINANCING
The City Council discussed ways to complete financing of construction costs for the new Public Works Garage. Councilors asked Administrator Martens to come up with a plan that would spread costs between current and future city property owners.
The bulk of construction costs are being funded by a $4 million bond sale. However, the city made its original financing plans before design work was completed, Martens said after the meeting. These plans did not take into account $173,000 in costs that came up as a result of final design work. The city still needs to pay for demolition of the old public works facility on Cain Road and asbestos abatement that goes with it.
The City Council also accepted the audit report of Corcoran’s 2013 finances submitted by auditors Abdo, Eick and Meyers. The auditors gave Corcoran a clean opinion, the best possible finding.
Contact Susan Van Cleaf at [email protected]