Archived Story

Task force looking at many options

Published 11:16am Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The first meeting of the RTC marketing task force saw the group still trying to define itself, but members did establish at least three objectives to move forward with: pursue multiple options, communicate clearly and move quickly.

The latter objective was the one talked about most by the task force, created by the Fergus Falls City Council to find and recommend the best entity to market the Regional Treatment Center to potential developers even as city staff prepare demolition plans. By the end of the meeting, some task force members had agreed to contact several large marketers with experience in finding developers for expensive, wide-ranging projects.

The urgency was accelerated by uncertainty. The council hasn’t yet set clear parameters on the task force’s constraints.

“We haven’t gotten a lot of direction exactly on what kind of timeline we have or what kind of budget we have,” said Chris Schuelke, executive director of the Otter Tail County Historical Society.

Council Alderman Pat Connelly is a member of the task force, but he did not offer clear cut fiscal or time-related limits. While he was willing to work with the task force and give perspective on the council, he said the task force will need to make a clear case for why the council should accept their recommendations.

Along with the need for speedy action, task force members agreed that multiple options should be pursued. Multiple marketers will be considered at the same time (many of them suggested by Tim Hunt, who said that firms with experience marketing projects worth as much as $200 million should be contacted), and a separate arm of the task force will look at obtaining assistance on the project from the state Legislature – whether that assistance means money for development costs or an additional extension of the city’s demolition grant deadline remains to be seen. Since time is a factor, the group agreed that it couldn’t afford to be in exclusive talks with just one party at a time, something that Anthony Hicks said has already burned up years in the RTC development process.

“When (Campus Development Group) was there, somebody wanted to make a film and it was like, ‘No, you can’t do that because that might upset these people,’” he said. “It (should be) like, ‘Screw these people; whoever gets to the gate first is the winner.’”

While the task force members focused on marketing and legislative goals do research and make contacts, other members will focus on community engagement, letting residents know what the task force is up to and clearly communicate its goals.

The task force will hold its next full meeting at the Otter Tail County Historical Museum at 7 a.m. on Monday, June 4, allowing them to discuss marketers before the city council meeting that evening. Task force Chairman Tim Litt pointed out that the group must communicate with the council to clearly define what its purpose is, as some of the goals discussed at the first meeting already exceeded simply finding a marketer.

“There was one task and just one task and it was pretty well pushed that way, and I think that this task force should have more than one task to do,” he said.

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  • J Mullins

    That last couple of paragraphs would seem to indicate that this group is every bit as interested in growing its power and influence as it is in finding a buyer for the Kirkbride.

    I appreciate that there is a lot of pent up anger among the Kirkbride supporters reacting to the drawn out and ineffective actions of the city in this matter. But, this is not a time for people to look for means to establish a disputatious relationship with the same council who will have to cooperate with them to come up with a desirable outcome. The leadership of the committee would be well advised to resist outbursts which only serve to create the image of a contentious group seeking a vehicle for catharsis.

    In the words (paraphrased) of Ronald Reagan, “It is amazing what can be accomplished if nobody needs to get the credit for the results”. If the committee stays focused on the goal of finding a genuinely qualified investor to develop the Kirkbride while preserving its unique historical character, they can have their Kirkbride and the gratitude of the community. Then the community can come to their own conclusions about who was more instrumental or effective in that achievement.

  • nanajean

    Once again Jerome you are jumping to conclusions. There was no hostility at this meeting. It was discussing parameters, leadership, and forming committees. These people are dedicated to what they have been asked to do, and with the city leadership not giving them the tools they need to go full force ahead, makes things difficult. The city should have given a budget, and a time frame. Any business when looking at something of this magnitude would have done that first thing. As usual they have to come from behind to get the information needed to proceed.

    • Mr. E. Nigma

      Disagree. There is hostility. There are too many egos on the task force. Probably why the person who was supposed to be the chair of it has already resigned. Kind of sad when a member of the Heritage Preservation Commission no longer wants to be a part of it. This task force is doomed to fail. Too many hands in the cookie jar.

      • nanajean

        As of the end of the meeting no one had resigned, though Mr. Hunt will be absent for about a month. The concept is divide and conquer. with several groups working towards a common goal, with little time, I think they did what needs to be done. The Chair is to watch over everything, and has his own job to do. I think this will work out fine.

    • Mr. E. Nigma

      In regards to your comments about a budget and timeline, that is all pretty clear.

      Timeline: A.S.A.P. The sooner they choose a marketer, the sooner that marketer can advertise, the sooner a developer can get to the table. Clearly, it needs to be done before demolition, which needs to be done before the grand deadline has passed. This is a pretty clear deadline.

      Budget: $0. The task force’s job isn’t to spend money. It’s to research and present potential marketers to the council for approval. It has no bearing on their duties.

      Why the task force can’t seem to figure these out is their fault, not the council’s.

      I’m a little disappointed in the way this was worded in this article.

      • Mr. E. Nigma

        Apologies, I meant to write “grant” and not “grand”.

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