Mayor: Tower harbor project moving forward, despite financial hurdles

By KBJR News 1

June 5, 2014 Updated Jun 6, 2014 at 2:22 PM CDT

Tower, MN (NNCNOW.com) - It's a big vision for a small town on Lake Vermilion.

A $12 million dollar harbor that would completely change the landscape of Tower and create a bustling economic center.

"This is something that would be amazing for us as business owners, especially since it's right on our front door," said Charity Ross.

Ross and her husband bought Benchwarmer's on the Harbor last year in anticipation of the new neighbor, a neighbor who still hasn't arrived.

"The funding is there, but the permits aren't there, or vice versa, and that's what it seems to be," Ross said.

Federal, state and local officials broke ground on the project in 2007 with plenty of fanfare.

Now the project site sits quiet.

"There is a little frustration, which I understand, we'd all like to see things done immediately," said Tower Mayor Stephen Abrahamson.

The Mayor says a new bridge and critical infrastructure work swallowed up more money than the city had originally planned .. putting things on hold.

"We had to do some excavating under the bridge which cost us about $400,000 dollars extra. We also had one of our funding sources, because of the economic decline, could not provide $400,000 so we were short about $800,000 for the next phase"

All told, the project has cost the city between $4 and $5 million, money the Mayor says has not gone to waste.

"There is no way you could do the project without doing this first. Their crucial," the Mayor said.

Dredging is also a crucial part of the project. The Mayor expects that to begin this summer.

"I'm very optimistic. I think there are a lot of folks who feel we're this close to making this thing really work."

The optimism is shared by numerous business owners in Tower who say the project can only do good. But some question if the wait is worth it.

"We can only hope until they're saying it's not going to happen. When the city says there is nobody out there who can fund us, that's when I guess we say it's not going to happen," Ross said.

The Good Ol' Days Bar and Grill owner Randy Semo says the town needs the development now.

"I hate to blame anyone for the lack of action, I think, there is a lot of red tape involved with this project, and it's federal money I guess, I guess that's the reason it's going so slowly."

For now the Mayor isn't giving up hope and hopes the community won't either.

"It takes time. If I've learned anything, patience is definitely a virtue.

The Mayor says the city is in talks with a hotel developer, and expects something to come through in the next few weeks.

Written by Kevin Jacobsen
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