New leader came to Elk River in 2011

by Joni Astrup
Associate editor
Here is a recap of some Elk River city news in 2011.
•Shiver Elk River came to town in February. The “community chill-a-bration” was sponsored by the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce. It included a variety of winter events — even a plunge into Lake Orono to raise money for charities.

Powered by Nature is the tagline that emerged from Elk River's branding effort in 2011.

•ChandlerThinks, a Tennessee-based consultant, was chosen in March to lead the city’s branding process. The city’s new brand, “Powered by Nature,” was unveiled in September.
•The latest census figures released in April showed that Elk River’s population grew 40 percent between 2000 and 2010, to 22,974.
•Director of Economic Development Cathy Mehelich left in May for a job in St. Cloud. Her assistant, Annie Deckert, was promoted to replace her.
•The 91-year-old water tower on Jackson Avenue was selected as one of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Sites in Minnesota in May.
•City Administrator Lori Johnson resigned in June. She was hired as Otsego city administrator in July.
•In July, the City Council voted to revoke Wapiti Park Campground’s permit effective Dec. 31. At year’s end it was tied up in litigation.
•In August, the City Council continued discussing the possible purchase of Bailey Point for a park. It’s located west of downtown Elk River at the confluence of the Elk and Mississippi rivers.
•In September, Michael Hecker accepted the city’s parks and recreation director position, which had been vacant since Bill Maertz left in June 2010. Hecker had been the parks and recreation director in Mason, Ohio.
•The City Council gave the Elk River Landfill permission in September to move ahead with a 32-acre expansion — which is about a third of the size of the landfill’s original expansion request. The smaller expansion was the result of an agreement that settled a legal dispute between the landfill and the city over the landfill’s earlier plans for a larger expansion.
•Elk River’s Energy City program was threatened by budget cuts in the fall, but after much discussion was fully funded for 2012.

Cal Portner became the city administrator for Elk River in October.

•Cal Portner was hired as Elk River’s new city administrator in October.
•The Elk River Area Arts Alliance moved to new quarters in downtown’s Jackson Place building in November. The arts organization had to leave its old space at 716 Main after engineering concerns surfaced about the stability of the roof next door at 720 Main. At year’s end, plans were progressing to demolish both 716 and 720 Main. Both buildings are owned by the Elk River Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
•A Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft store and Ashley Furniture HomeStore opened in Elk River’s old Target store in November. A Furniture Mart will also be locating there.
•The Elk River City Council closely scrutinized the proposed 2012 city budget before voting in December to approve a property tax levy of $10,275,815. That’s $837,000 or 8 percent less than what the city levied in 2011.