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Dayton learns from NY Mills leaders

Gov. Mark Dayton learned a thing or two from New York Mills City Clerk Darla Berry during his Aug. 24 stop in Fergus Falls.

Dayton's stop in Fergus Falls was intended to generate ideas regarding business growth throughout the state.

Berry attended the town hall meeting, held at M State - Fergus Falls, with Mayor Larry Hodgson. Her intention was to both compliment state government, as well as offer some advice for streamlining services that could benefit small towns.

Without the funds for an economic director, NY Mills has plenty of tax increment financing and small cities development funds available, which helps finance projects related to economic development.

"I encouraged them to keep those programs running," she said, "and if anything, improve them, make them more flexible."

Berry also mentioned a few business-permitting practices that tend to eat up the city's budget.

When a new business project is started, the city has to submit applications to the Public Facilities Authority (PFA), which funds sewer and water projects. By the time the process is complete, the city submits three applications - one to the water board, one to the sewer board and one requesting general obligation bonds.

The applications are intense, Berry said, as it asks for the city's last three years' worth of annual audits. If the city has three projects submitted to the PFA every year, it has to submit three separate reports - all of which contain the same general city information.

That leads to a lot of extra time and money spent, Berry said.

Engineers, who are paid by the hour, are typically responsible for completing paperwork.

Berry's suggestion to the governor was that the state look into streamlining the process. Not only would it save Minnesota money, but it would allow cities to go forward with projects without the extra time and money spent.

"Each year, for every city, it's triple the monitoring, triple the paperwork," she said.

Dayton told Berry he would look into the streamlining permitting process. He suggested that if it's not fixed in six months, she should get back to him.

Berry said she wasn't complaining to the governor, but wanted to take the opportunity to shed light on an area that could use improvement.

"When you're running an organization, you don't get down to all the nitty gritty details of how it's administered," she said. "If no one tells you, how would you know?"