The Granite Falls City Council heard updates from EDA Director Cathy Anderson about the successful ‘Elf on a Shelf’ shopping event from the weekend. According to Anderson, businesses reported $7,500 in sales, which many business owners said was substantially above what they normally make on Sunday. Anderson said that turnout for the event, “exceeded everybody’s expectations.”

‘Elf on a Shelf’ is a scavenger hunt that encourages parents to bring their parents to businesses along Prentice Street in the downtown district. The event was inspired by the Minnesota Main Street project. Granite Falls is a network member of the program (which is housed within the non-profit Preservation Alliance of Minnesota). The Main Street program, which was founded over 35 years ago, works to revitalize traditional downtown commercial districts in small towns by bringing together different community partners.

Council member Sarina Otaibi, who works for the program, explained that Main Street provides tools, training, and networking opportunities to help businesses grow and reinvigorate their communities. She added that it is a long-term process, but that the eventual benefits help the whole city.

The ‘Elf on the Shelf’ event was coordinated for the same day as the Santa and Lomen’s Reindeer event held at the historic Volstead House. Anderson explained that coordinating Chamber events with Main Street Network events helps boost turnout and promote local business at the same time. The EDA and Chamber are already planning future coordinated events, and have explored bringing in food truck vendors and organizing craft bazaars.

In other news:

City Administrator Crystal Johnson informed the council that the city is exploring the option of bringing their utility billing back in house. An outside company performed this work until recently, leaving the city in a quandary. Attempts to manually stuff envelopes took too long, prompting Johnson to explore purchasing a paper folding machine to expedite the process. She found one model priced at $14,000 which would pay itself back in three years. Because of the steep cost, however, the council voted on a resolution to accept bids.

The Airport Commission provided an update to the 2018 T-hanger project to the Council. Airport staff is looking for ways to cover the city’s match for site prep work, which they hope to complete in 2018. They are also looking at how the 2019 loan would look starting in 2019. The commission accepted rental charges per hanger of $125, which they said would pay for about half of the loan payments. They hope to offset the rest with increased fuel sales and an increase in farm rental payments.

EDA Director Anderson informed the council that their grant with The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission for a redevelopment project at Memorial Park would move on to the second phase pending legislative approval. The city is currently looking into replacing the shelter house, and is debating the extent of renovations they want to accomplish by next year. The decision comes down to whether or not they have the funds to replace the basement.

The council unanimously approved the 2018 levy, which will increase the levy by about $96,000, and will bring the general fund to $1.4 million dollars.

The council passed a motion to finalize the Street Committee report for 2018 construction projects. The committee is still debating the full scope of projects, and Mayor Dave Smiglewski commented that several projects along 7th Street are pushing up the price tag. The council is not obligated to act on the recommendations as they retain the option to push back projects to a later date if it makes better financial sense.