ST. PAUL – A bureaucratic disconnect recently left the city of Cokato holding a bill for $94,000 and the state was asking for a lump-sum payment that city officials had not anticipated. That’s where local legislators enter the story.
State Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel, and State Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, became involved and – voila – Cokato will be allowed to pay its debt over four years through an interest-free payment plan. The debt was incurred from Hwy. 12 construction that was completed in 2000.
“I felt the city of Cokato was being treated unfairly,” Urdahl said. “MnDOT dropped the ball and needed to recognize it.”
City Administrator Don Levens said Cokato officials expected to receive correspondence from the Minnesota Department of Transportation to settle the debt. Levens said numerous layers of government were involved in the road construction and that he was anticipating a project “close-out” to detail Cokato’s share of the debt and provide payment information.
Then came the payment-in-full request.
“It just seemed like a classic example of a breakdown in communication, especially when you have large bureaucracies like MnDOT.” Levens said. “There is no animosity or anything like that with MnDOT. At the end of the day, nobody was stressed out, but we have to give credit where credit is due: Dean and Steve provided a great service to us and we appreciate what they did to help. They took this to high-level positions and said, ‘Hey, we have to take care of this.’”
Levens said he hopes the ordeal can serve as a lesson so that other cities aren’t caught in the lurch. He said he’s just happy the snafu was solved.
Dean Urdahl represents District 18B in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The district includes most of Meeker County and a portion of Wright County. This is Urdahl’s third term in the legislature after being elected in 2002, 2004 and 2006.