Tasha Rohlfs’ enthusiasm for a children’s museum project in downtown Fergus Falls on a gray Wednesday morning flooded City Hall Council Chambers with sunlight.
Less than 12 hours after the end of Tuesday night’s State of the City address brought Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to Fergus Falls, Rohlfs picked up the 7 a.m. Committee of the Whole meeting with her passion for Otter Cove – a project she believes could help revitalize downtown Fergus Falls.
“We know a vibrant downtown is a success, it’s truly the heart of any city,” Rohlfs said. “We want to help make Fergus Falls downtown truly vibrant, vibrant for young families.”
Rohlfs’ mission was to gain council support for an initiative which she has been a part of since last November.
“We are so proud of the name first of all,” Rohlfs said. “Three separate people suggested it. Now that we are in the process of making this more public we truly feel that the City Council and the city has to be at the forefront of our efforts.”
The museum will be designed as a child activity center – not a child daycare – a distinction that Rohlfs emphasized.
A survey conducted earlier by Rohlfs’ group asking the question “Does Fergus Falls need an indoor play area for kids?” The answer was “yes” by a margin of 301-1.
“We want to attract and retain young families that want to live and stay in Fergus Falls and we want to attract young families that want to visit Fergus Falls.”
Rohlfs then hit the committee with some hard facts.
“Right now every other city around us has an indoor playground,” Rohlfs said. “Our moms, our caretakers, our daycares are going there and they are spending their money there and they are shopping there and they are eating there and we are missing out on a lot of sales tax.”
Rohlfs pointed out that Otter Cove will be designed with a children’s museum and an indoor playground under the same roof – making it unique in the area. She added that there are several Fergus Falls businesses onboard with the project.
At this point, Otter Cove may be located in the former Karkela, Hunt and Cheshire Law Offices building on the 100 block of West Lincoln Avenue. If a deal can be reached and a remodeling effort takes wing by early summer, Rohlfs expects Otter Cove to open by November.
“This is something I truly do believe is needed here,” Councilman Brent Thompson said. “When I went door to door there are so many people that said ‘We need something for kids to do in this town.’”
City staff was encouraged to help find ways to help the Otter Cove effort move forward.
The Committee of the Whole agenda saw members taking action on 11 items Wednesday morning. The committee gave approval to:
• City Engineer Brian Yavarow’s recommendation for the advertising of bids for the Lincoln Avenue street improvement project.
• Yavarow’s recommendation the committee accept an easement agreement with the Fergus Falls School District at a cost to the city of $17,920.
• A $49,870 change order for a sanitary sewer rehabilitation project on Lincoln from Broadway to St. Andrews St.
• A recommendation from Housing and Rehabilitation Authority manager, Mickel Olson for a $20,000 loan for 3 Star Properties LLC.
• City Administrator Andrew Bremseth’s recommendation for approving the use of city parking spaces at a lot located at Court Street and Cavour Avenue for a gardening project called “A Place to Belong.”
• City Planner Ryan Hvitlok’s recommendation to adopt the final housing task force study report.
• A recommendation by Hvitlok to deny a metal recycling license for T-n-L Crushing at 712 E. Hampden Ave.
• Pursuit of a Regional Treatment Center virtual reality project if city staff can find ways of doing it more economically and before upcoming deconstruction work.
• Public Works Director Len Taylor’s proposal to approve the purchase of a $99,534.80 John Deere front end loader and a declaration of one unit as surplus equipment.
• Taylor recommendation for the purchase of a Freightliner truck chassis equipped with a front blow, wing plow, pre-wet system and sander at a cost of $177,150.54.
• A recommendation by Taylor that the committee declare miscellaneous items as surplus and authorizing their disposal.