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Frazee City Council Candidates -- three compete for two seats

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

There will be a race for Frazee City Council this fall, with three people vying for two seats.

Former councilman John Dermody is challenging incumbents Donna Ouart and Dave Jopp.

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John Dermody

Age: 72

Occupation: Retired journalist

Family: Single, never married

Years on council: Four (2006-2010)

What would you like to accomplish during another term that you haven't already while on the council?

After serving one term, I would like to earn election again because the Frazee City Council needs a voice that will ask questions and prods the governing body to expand its horizons.

The council seems as though it can only take on a minimum number of tasks at a time, with the result that some areas -- such as our commercial district -- have received little attention. Too many issues are rammed through the council reminiscent of a "railroad job."

There are members who wait to see how the wind blows, then they simply go along in agreement. Rarely to they ask for documentation. And rarely are resource materials and information offered by leadership unless someone like me pushes for the supporting data.

In the important area of housing, people can talk about affordable and safe housing, yet when I've asked about the inspection process, I just get a brush off. I've asked community members questions and one renter says his main street apartment building is full of mold, yet the city allows new people to move in when someone moves out.

Apparently, our new inspector hasn't been asked to check such places. In the first place, I would emphasize that the business district groundlevel rentals should be phased out, but the council has only given lip service to that area, which is part of the city statutes.

The mayor needs to make reassignments. The same people have been on the same committees for 4, 6, 8 years. We need to recruit new people, citizens and residents of the town, for the committees. We need to expand it to get new ideas.

The mayor has been a major backer for the various trails running through Frazee (or proposed to, like the Heartland Trail and the North Country Hiking Trail). What benefit do you see to the trails and having them run through or near Frazee?

The council -- especially the mayor -- has had tunnel vision. The trails will be great, but they are a few years off. Yet we spent a huge chunk of money for land adjacent to Acorn Lake at a meeting when the topic wasn't even on the agenda. And that has happened multiple times.

Because of such a tight focus, which has done nothing to help Frazee in the meantime, there has been little to boast about on Main Avenue.

It is good to plan for the trails because hikers and snowmobilers, along with cross country skiers, will come through the city. But let's build up our town so we can really do well as a host, not just wave as they travel through. It has been "a cart before the horse" situation.

There has been some business development in Frazee this summer and fall. What could be done to encourage more growth in the city?

In the area of business, getting a new clinic, which will be opening in 2013, is wonderful, but it has taken more than two years to just get the preliminary groundwork laid. But why hasn't the EDA and council been able to go after new businesses that have been talked about? It's as though the council has to get a task finished, then we can go to No. 2, and so on.

Frazee should be going to the county, state or whichever agencies have some boarded up proper-ties tied up -- apparently for taxes -- and work diligently to get those back to being active businesses. A friend of mine recently pursued a building mired in red tape and he "untied" the mess. Now it will be available for a business to move into after a little more work. The council looked at that structure for 4-5 years and did nothing.

If the Frazee City Council would put some real teeth into the housing ordinance, we could simultaneously phase out the main street groundlevel apartments. That would free those structures to go back to being businesses. Of course, that means that the people working with the Economic Development Authority (EDA), planning and zoning, along with the council, would have to develop a plan that would transform main street, make the city attractive to visitors and, ultimately, bring more residents to the community.

Moreover, when it comes to acquiring a building, they need to have some type of consultant/inspector furnish a comprehensive report. On East Main, the city spent thousands of dollars for a building with little forethought. Later, they found water running down the walls. Windows had to be fixed and a new roof put on. Planning and inspection would have given the council some clues.

The municipal liquor store has had its ups and downs over the years. How do you feel about the municipal liquor operation, including the on and off sale, White Pine Room and Event Center, and how would you make them as successful as possible?

Basically, I would advocate closing the onsale and build a new offsale facility on Main Avenue. If one compares our income to similar towns, we apparently are coming up short in a big way, as far as income is concerned. Vergas does well, so does New York Mills. And Perham has a gold mine. Frazee doesn't know what to do regarding management and staffing of the liquor complex, yet the council has spent money to hire a coordinator/manager for the Frazee Event Center when a good examination of the liquor store was needed long ago.

I've advocated converting the on-sale and White Pine Room (basement area) to a Senior Center and perhaps some additional meeting facilities. It could even be rented out -- a portion, at least -- to a business.

Yes, the FEC is valuable, but there is much more to do in the way of promoting it to bring in small business trade shows and programs in the various areas of entertainment. Most of the time it is simply used for local receptions, dinners, club gatherings and events on weekends. It could be used much more often.

Dave Jopp

Age: 48

Occupation: Morning Personality/Marketing Specialist for Leighton Broadcasting Inc. at KRCQ Real Country 102.3 FM

Family: Wife, Aleisa; children, David Lee (Jonna), Cassandra Mae (Mike), Joshua Charles (Jessica), Taylar Ann (6th grader at Frazee); 4 grandchildren, Madison, Jordan, Adrien, Sophia and another arriving in February 2013.

Years on council: 4

What would you like to accomplish during another term that you haven't already while on the council?

I would like to help accomplish a revitalizing, if you will, to the downtown corridor. Many of our business owners have made great strides to improve the "curb appeal" of Main Avenue. This will benefit our city, and I believe, attract more interest in starting or developing new ventures in our town.

The mayor has been a major backer for the various trails running through Frazee (or proposed to, like the Heartland Trail and the North Country Hiking Trail). What benefit do you see to the trails and having them run through or near Frazee?

Frazee, Where the Trails Meet... It's real and Hank has been a strong supporter, as am I. Seeing this come to light will boost all of our area economies and I'm really excited as to the future opportunities that will come with the completion of the trail system.

There has been some business development in Frazee this summer and fall. What could be done to encourage more growth in the city?

Growth in our down-town corridor is imperative. We need those niche-type businesses to move into our empty storefronts. A few tough decisions will have to be made.

Rezoning comes into play, residential areas need to be just that, and business areas...the same applies. The EDA, city council and others are working hard to attract new business to town.

Just getting the word out with conventional and social media advertising is already showing a positive impact.

The municipal liquor store has had its ups and downs over the years. How do you feel about the municipal liquor operation, including the on and off sale, White Pine Room and Event Center, and how would you make them as successful as possible?

Frazee's Municipal Liquor Store is just fine! Tanya and her staff are doing a great job in both the Off Sale and On Sale.

With our new addition to the Event Center staff (Kari) the bottom line will also show improvement there, as bookings and events continue to increase. My family has used the Frazee Event Center celebrating Cas-sandra's big win on ABC's "Karaoke Battle USA" and the Karaoke World Championship win in Ire-land.

Now, it's my personal opinion that the establishment needs Ty and the "Extreme Makeover" Team to come and tell Ted to "MOVE THAT ANDERSON BUS" or something along those lines...

Donna Ouart

Occupation: Retired food service worker from Frazee-Vergas Schools.

Family: Husband, Roy (51 years), two grown children and seven grand-children

Years on council: 10 years (2003- present). Liquor Store/Event Center committee; Personnel, Finance and Budget; liaison on WACCO.

What would you like to accomplish during another term that you haven't already while on the council?

I would like to see more people take pride in their properties. We have homes and businesses that could surely use a "facelift." From time to time there are grants available for financial help. We should show more pride in our dwellings. I encourage people to take this to heart.

I would like to see some capital improvements made to our city administration building. Our police department is very small. If we would re-do our city office so it would have a door open up directly into the city hall meeting room instead of having to go outdoors and around the front of the building to enter, there would be space made available then also for an expanded police department.

We have budgeted funds for some years now under Capital Outlay. Maybe I can "push" harder for this if I am re-elected.

The mayor has been a major backer for the various trails running through Frazee (or proposed to, like the Heartland Trail and the North Country Hiking Trail). What benefit do you see to the trails and having them run through or near Frazee?

Our mayor has been a huge advocate for both the North Country Trail and the Heartland Trail. Frazee has the advantage by being one of a few cities that the trail would go through.

We stand to benefit from the people stopping to have a bite to eat, or do some shopping, or just taking in the natural beauty of the parks and river. We could add tourism to our reason to promote Frazee. We would need to have businesses extend their store hours when this becomes a reality.

There has been some business development in Frazee this summer and fall. What could be done to encourage more growth in the city?

Having the groundbreaking for the new clinic recently was huge. We are very interested in new business considering Frazee for their site.

Taxes are reasonable, rental units don't charge an "arm and leg," and if interested in purchasing property, the city is willing to work with them. The efforts to start up BES made it more affordable for several businesses to get their start.

People need to know that the city staff and city council will continue to work with them to make them feel welcome.

The municipal liquor store has had its ups and downs over the years. How do you feel about the municipal liquor operation, including the on and off sale, White Pine Room and Event Center, and how would you make them as successful as possible?

The municipal liquor store has struggled to keep "afloat" from time to time. The location of the building being offstreet has been a big factor in the lack of trade. People not familiar with our town do not know there is even a store there.

The off-sale stays pretty stable, showing a profit almost monthly after expenses are taken care of. On-sale has a more difficult time to show a profit since we have dealt with many large expenditures when coolers, compressors, plumbing, etc., go down.

It takes an awful lot of drinks sold over the counter to come up with funds to cover these expenditures, as well as the utilities, advertising, insurances.

The White Pine Room has a more difficult time to show profit. This entity has the same expenses to deal with but a lot less us-age. Our manager does well in keeping inventory at a good flow and expenses as low as can be.

We have the unique distinction of being only one of a "handful" of cities with an on-sale to show an annual profit. Our auditor reminded us recently that if we should ever give up the on-sale, that we would not be able to start up again in the future.

The Event Center is now under new management. We are encouraged that she is seeking organizations and people to consider renting the Center for their event. We con-stantly monitor the expenses of the building, but again, there are some ongoing expenses that are a must to take care of. It is such a wonderful facility for holding an event, large or small.

The liquor store committee, city administrator, store manager and now Event Center manager meet monthly to review the financials. Much discussion is held concerning all four entities. We do try to keep expenses down and offer events to entice people to come in for a outing.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.

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