EDA and engineering firm in legal conflict

The Tuesday, June 12 meeting of the Cook County – Grand 
Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) was the last for Director 
Matt Geretschlaeger and it started with a closed session to discuss 
potential litigation. The EDA’s attorney Baiers Heeren said it was 
his opinion that the meeting could be closed in accordance with 
Minnesota Open Meeting law to discuss a summons received by the EDA 
from Short, Elliot, Hendrickson, Inc. (SEH).
When the meeting reconvened, a unanimous motion passed to authorize 
Heeren to submit the potential litigation to the League of Minnesota 
Cities for review. The EDA board said the matter could not be 
discussed further at this time.
In 2006, the EDA became embroiled in a dispute with the Minnesota 
Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), KGM Contractors Inc. and Short, 
Elliot, Hendrickson (SEH) over alleged construction violations at the 
Cedar Grove Business Park.
In August 2010, Director Geretschlaeger reported that the dispute had 
been settled. He said the MPCA had released the EDA from all 
complaints and confirmed that the business park was in compliance with
MPCA regulations. At that time, Geretschlaeger told the board that KGM 
Construction paid the MPCA fines, which according to a letter from 
Lisa Thorvig of the MPCA totaled $40,000. KGM also completed projects 
totaling $80,000 and paid $14,000 of the EDA’s legal fees from 
environmental attorney Kenneth Podpeskar of Minneapolis. SEH was also 
to pay a share of the attorney’s fees.
The EDA board would not confirm whether or not the potential 
litigation is a continuation of that matter. However at the May 8 EDA 
meeting at which it was announced that Geretschlaeger’s employment 
would be ending, he told the EDA that he would be available to finish 
up matters such as the legal wrangling related to Cedar Grove Business 
Park construction.
Changes for housing coordinator?
EDA Board Member Mike Littfin suggested that it is time for the EDA to 
reconsider how its housing program is administrated. He noted that 
Nancy Grabko of Community Fundraising Solutions (CFS) worked for both 
Cook and Lake County for four years. The partnership with Lake County 
ended last year, so Grabko’s contract was basically cut in half, said 
Littfin. Littfin asked if the EDA should bring the position “in-
house,” to establish an EDA housing position versus a contracted 
position. “We’re at kind of a turning point because we’re looking 
at hiring a new director,” said Littfin.
EDA Board Member Bruce Martinson said the matter should be left to the 
EDA personnel committee. He said that committee will be looking at the 
EDA director applications and how the office is staffed depends on who 
is hired. EDA Chair Mark Sandbo said eight applications had been 
received for the director position.
Nancy Grabko of CFS said, “We’ve committed to being here and 
helping out during this transition.”
At the end of the meeting, the board expressed appreciation to 
Geretschlaeger for his hard work. He is leaving the EDA to pursue a 
private business enterprise, Superior Zip Lines Grand Marais.