by Joni Astrup
Two key city leaders — Mayor John Dietz and City Administrator Cal Portner — were asked by the Star News what is on the horizon for the city of Elk River in the new year.
Dietz said the city budget will obviously continue to be a big issue in 2012.
He also really hopes to get an expanded volunteer program started, where people can volunteer for miscellaneous jobs at City Hall and in the various city departments.
Resolving the Wapiti Park Campground issue will also be a top priority, Dietz said. The City Council had voted in July to revoke the campground’s permit unless it took corrective action. But the campground had sued the city and it’s still tied up in court.
In other matters, Dietz said restructuring of city staff is also a top 2012 item, looking toward efficiencies in many areas.
He would also like to schedule a joint meeting with the Sherburne County Board to see where sharing between the city and county can occur. And, he’d like to follow up on a similar meeting held last year between the City Council and the Elk River Area School Board.
Two council seats will be up for re-election in 2012. Those seats are now held by council members Jerry Gumphrey and Matt Westgaard.
In general, the mayor said: “Things at City Hall have stabilized in 2012 and I look for it to be a much smoother year than 2011.”
City Administrator Portner said the city’s budget maintains the status quo for 2012. However, he said they are always looking for grant and collaboration opportunities to improve services and reduce costs.
“Unfortunately, the economy will continue to impact private sector growth. Therefore, we are working closely with our local businesses to ensure they have what they need and to see if we can help them with proposed expansion and growth,” Portner said.
He lists the following as some areas the city will be spending time on this year:
•The City Council established an ambitious set of goals and priorities last year during the visioning process, Portner said. The city will continue to work on these goals and review additional goals in 2012.
•The public works facility is nearing final design and City Council authorization to advertise for bids will be in the near future. Portner said the city has an expected completion date of early 2013. The majority of the construction will be done in 2012.
•The purchase of Bailey Point for a park is also in progress. The City Council has directed staff to proceed after getting a grant from the state, Portner said. Bailey Point is located west of downtown Elk River where the Elk and Mississippi rivers meet. The land will be placed in a permanent easement through the Minnesota Land Trust. “We expect to see the contract soon so we can move forward with the purchase,” he said. “This is a very slow process, but we expect to complete the process sometime late this spring or summer.”
•The city is working with Great River Energy (GRE) with the aid of a state grant to see if the effluent water from the city’s wastewater treatment plant can be used to reduce GRE’s reliance on well water for their cooling processes.
•The HRA will consider the completion of a housing study in 2012 to take inventory of what’s currently available, and what types of housing development are needed to meet the needs of the community. Portner said the city is compiling all housing programs available to Elk River residents to create a publication and potential seminars to educate homeowners on the programs available for them to reinvest in their homes.
•The city is examining all financial incentives to ensure it is remaining competitive with other communities as it relates to business retention and recruitment. The city staff will be exploring new opportunities for grants or other programs.
•The city will continue to work with a consultant on a Northstar Corridor Market Analysis and incorporating Elk River’s 171st Focused Area Study to ensure the city is best positioning itself and Elk River Economic Development Authority-owned land for future development, Portner said.
•The city plans to design and construct Phase 1 of the 171st Avenue area development in 2012. This first phase includes construction of public streets and utilities to allow development of the northern-most 29 acres of the city-owned property just south of 171st Avenue. This 29-acre development is intended to be a mixed-use area including some manufacturing, retail and transit-oriented uses, Portner said.
•The city is working closely with Elk River Municipal Utilities and Sherburne County to help promote Elk River for future data site development.
In general, Portner said much of what the city will be doing this year is strategic planning to ensure they are prepared for when developers are ready, to be proactive with regard to legislative changes and to ensure a strong plan for the long-term growth of the community.