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What’s in the works in East Grand Forks? Here are the city's priorities for 2022

The following piece was published in the "Greater Grand Forks growth and opportunity" section in the Sunday, Jan. 29, edition of the Herald.

East Grand Forks City Hall
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EAST GRAND FORKS — A new East Grand Forks policy is set to change the way the city’s government brings new developments into the fold.

City staff are reworking the standard agreement they strike with residential developers to, they hope, make the costs that can get passed to homebuyers easier to understand and predict.

“So there's no surprises for anybody buying a lot,” City Administrator David Murphy told the Herald.

In a nutshell: when a developer builds houses on an empty lot, the city borrows money to extend sewer lines and other infrastructure to the new buildings and then repays that loan with “special assessments” charged to the property’s owners. But it’s not always clear when that work would be completed or who ultimately bears that cost as the property changes hands from developer to, ultimately, the homebuyer. The new development agreement hasn’t been formally adopted, but it would require a contract stipulating when streets and other infrastructure would be installed before developers can sell their lots.

But there’s also several more noticeable plans in the works among Eastside business types. Members of the city’s Economic Development Authority met Jan. 18 to, as their name suggests, go over the city’s economic development priorities for the year.

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Those priorities, as presented by city development staff, are:

  • “Continued support to the business community.” City government, East Grand Forks Water & Light, and Chamber of Commerce staff regularly visit with business leaders to go over problems they’re facing, Economic Development Director Paul Gorte said, and the city hopes to continue doling out regular aid to businesses in town. It’s currently got between $1.5 million and $2 million to spend this year.
  • “Two bridges.” City staff, chamber staff and members of the Greater Grand Forks Economic Development Corporation are working to secure public money to get two bridges built over the Red River, Gorte said. One at Merrifield Road is the most politically palatable, but it’s too far south to ease most Eastside traffic. Other options include 47th Avenue, which is outside the city’s flood protection system, and 32nd, which is more or less at the edge of that system.
  • “Child care.” East Grand Forks is about 100 child care “slots” short of where it should be, according to Gorte. The city is looking for ways to lure new daycares to town or help existing ones expand via the Rural Child Care Innovation Program, which is run by nonprofit First Children’s Finance and funded jointly by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Michigan Department of Education.
  • “Workforce; including Northern Valley Careers and NWPIC.” The city hopes to work with Northern Valley Careers, a program for high schoolers that aims to expose them to career opportunities in the region, and the Northwest Private Industry Industry Council, which helps pay for training programs, Gorte said.
  • “Increasing industrial space — land and buildings.” Gorte claimed the city does not currently have much space for industrial concerns, and the city might annex more land in rural Polk County to make room or developing more space for industry along Business Hwy. 2.
  • “Sale of city lots.” The city owns several residential lots and hopes to continue to sell them off. They sold eight last year, according to Gorte.
  • “Appraisal of the Infill Building for possible sale.” The city owns a chunk of the riverside building in which the Boarwalk Bar & Grill, Little Bangkok, and Mike’s Pizza & Pub sit in downtown East Grand Forks. The city’s business, Gorte said, isn’t operating commercial buildings.

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

You can reach him at:
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