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Afton nixes planning commissioner's caretaker proposal

The Afton Planning Commission member who has been recently seeking approval to rent a city-owned property will have to find an alternative living situation.

Afton City Council denied Commissioner Michelle Dunkirk's request to rent, or be a caretaker for, a city-owned property during its Sept. 18 meeting.

The property is located at 3633 St. Croix Trail.

In August, Dunkirk asked to lease the city-owned property after recently selling her house of 20 years in Afton. Dunkirk, who has served on Planning Commission since 2010, is looking for a new residence in order to remain in the city.

Afton City Council purchased the property on St. Croix Trail as part of a levee project.

Earlier this month City Council received a letter from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which states that any rental opportunity with the property would have to be advertised and made available to the public.

"Obviously we'd like to help her," City Council Member Bill Palmquist said, "but, I'm sure we could find some college kids too."

Additionally, any rental income generated would be considered "project income," which would then be deducted in the project expenses submitted to the DNR for reimbursement as part of the flood mitigation grant.

Council members received some welcome news during last Tuesday's meeting that the house on the property could be moved, rather than demolished, which would be more cost-effective for the city.

Public Works Director Ken Johnson said he could foresee the house being moved for a cost of $50,000.

"I would love to move it rather than demolish it," Palmquist said.

City Council ultimately decided to deny Dunkirk's request and directed Johnson to work with Afton City Engineer Diane Hankee to determine what would be more cost effective - demolishing or moving - and bring bids back to the city.

"The sooner we can make it a bigger part of the park the better," Palmquist said.