Leaders say cities are healthy

Jeffrey Hage / Mille Lacs County Times City dignitaries gathered Tuesday, Feb. 24 for the Chamber’s annual State of the Cities address. In the back row are Milaca Mayor Pete Redersen, Milaca City Manager Greg Lerud, Pease Clerk Jeff Hanson, Chamber president Rochelle Nelson, and Chamber director Rich Melvin. In the front row are Milaca council member Dave Dillan, Foreston Mayor Tom Longfield, Foreston Clerk Rebecca Haugen, and Pease Mayor Diane Kiel.
Jeffrey Hage / Mille Lacs County Times
City dignitaries gathered Tuesday, Feb. 24 for the Chamber’s annual State of the Cities address. In the back row are Milaca Mayor Pete Redersen, Milaca City Manager Greg Lerud, Pease Clerk Jeff Hanson, Chamber president Rochelle Nelson, and Chamber director Rich Melvin. In the front row are Milaca council member Dave Dillan, Foreston Mayor Tom Longfield, Foreston Clerk Rebecca Haugen, and Pease Mayor Diane Kiel.

There’s a buzz in the air in Milaca, while progress is moving at a slower pace in Foreston and Pease.
That was the word from Milaca, Foreston, and Pease civic leaders during the annual “State of the Cities” luncheon hosted February 24 by the Milaca Area Chamber of Commerce.
The city of Milaca is sitting really good financially, its mayor, Pete Pedersen said. The city has great citizens and great employees who are stepping up to serve the community at a pace not seen for a while, he noted.
Pedersen noted that bandshell improvements are moving along real well, at the community foundation has helped raise $130,000 to date that has or will be put towards renovation efforts. Repairs to the rock on the bandshell is scheduled for this year, as is the installation of pavers and a concrete platform in front of the bandshell. The lower level of the building will be filled and sealed this year, as well.
RecFest also got a mention from the mayor. Scheduled for the last weekend in July, the bluegrass music festival continues to be a very successful means of attracting people to the city, he said. In addition to all the visitors to the park, 83 campers called Rec Park home for the weekend in 2014, he said.
Pedersen also noted that the Rum River Community Foundation is gearing up to choose the recipients of its 2015 grants. In 2014, seven grants were awarded.
Milaca City Manager Greg Lerud addressed the two biggest concerns he hears from residents: Coin-Tainer and McDonalds.
Lerud expects Coin-Tainer to begin rebuilding its manufacturing facility this spring. The company lost its facility to a devastating fire in January 2014.
As for McDonalds, there won’t be any news in 2015, Lerud said. The developers who proposed a Milaca restaurant have moved on to working with other franchises. At the same time, McDonalds has a moratorium on new restaurants because of the economy, Lerud said.
“Not this year,” Lerud said.
The city manager touched on a referendum passed in November 2014 that will result in a new community building, water park and playground equipment in Rec Park. He also noted that the city is working diligently to get a regional park designation for Rec Park from the DNR. “It will have very long-term implications for the city of Milaca,” Lerud said.
Dillan, the councilmember and community volunteer, reviewed the Milaca Community Action Team (MCAT) and its projects, such as the “Got Time” community volunteer initiative city beautification projects, and its upcoming farmers market.
Longfield, of Foreston, said the city is doing what it can. It’s doing fine financially, but lacks a strong tax base. Haugen pointed out that the city has very dedicated firefighters. Most of the abandoned, foreclosed homes that Foreston once had have now been occupied. “There’s just one or two homes up for grabs now,” she said.
Kiel, of Pease, joked that she once believed Milaca’s fate was to be a suburb of Pease. She’s now looking to smaller goals, like keeping the small city surviving.
“We have a lot to offer…land, water and sewer,” she said. “The door is always open.”
But survival is the name of the game in Pease, she said.
“Neighbors know their neighbors, and neighbors care abpout their neighbors in Pease,” Kiel said. “You can pat your neighbor’s dog on the head, and that still means something.”
Hanson, the Pease clerk, noted that Kiel has held taxes without an increase for eight years now.
Representatives from Bock were unable to attend the lunch meeting.