Your Town Tuesday: Becker Mayor Talks City’s Golf Course, Sherco, And Moving The County Fair [VIDEO]
BECKER - This week we wrap-up our summer long "Your Town Tuesday" series on WJON with a stop in Becker.
The city-owned golf course has been a hot topic in town for several years. Mayor "Lefty" Kleis says the 27 hole Pebble Creek Golf Course has been a burden on the city's budget, "I think out of the 26 years we've been in existence, we've made money four years".
Kleis says the golf course lost about $330,000 last year. He says he's not opposed to the golf course being in town, but it can't continue to be a burden on the tax payers. He says, "I've always said I'd like to keep golf in Becker. But at what price, and what cost? Because the survey that was done from a consulting firm, about 90 percent of the people do not golf in the Becker area. So to me I cannot justify losing money for the 10 percent of the population that does use it."
The city council has been trying to figure out what they're options are moving forward. He says they've recently decided to create a five-member advisory board, to see if they can figure out how to get the golf course to start turning a profit.
Becker is home to the Sherco coal power plant. And, with the push by some to move the country away from the use of coal as an energy source, it has city leaders worried. Kleis says it's a huge concern for both the city and Sherburne County. He says, "One of the biggest downsides is that it would be devastating to our local jobs, and our economy. Because at one time Sherco provided 98 percent of the tax revenue for Becker. They're our bread and butter."
Kleis says today Sherco provides about 75 percent of the city's tax base. He says they're working with their two local state lawmakers to keep coal burning in Becker.
He says he'd also like to see Becker renamed the "Energy City".
How do you move an entire county fair? No one is quite sure yet, but that's exactly what Becker is trying to do. Kleis says he's working hard to lure the Sherburne County Fair away from Elk River. He says, "They have 29 acres it sits on right now, we could double it. We've got to do something to make the fair better, to get more people to come. Becker to me seems like a more neutral site, middle of the road. We could draw people from St. Cloud, we're only 20 minutes away. I think the location is great".
Kleis says Becker has been given 60 acres of land for a potential fair site. He says fair committee has been created to look into a possible move.
If the Sherburne County Fair does move, it's at least three-to-five years away, with the initial costs anywhere from $1.5 to $10 million.