Barbara Burandt, Elk River City Council
Family: Husband, Dave, and three grown children and their families who live nearby. We live on our family farm that has been in David’s family for over 100 years.
Occupation: Nurse/Attorney. Currently I work in quality improvement/compliance for a large hospice organization.
Previous civic and community involvement: I have been an active member of my church over the years, teaching confirmation class, bible class, and helping on committees such as hospitality, communion and also served as a council member. I was a 4-H leader for many years. I have served on the Community Health Advisory Board for Sherburne County and also on the Board for Guardian Angels Care Center. Other boards include MN Home Care Association and the MN Network of Hospice and Palliative Care. Currently I volunteer time for RSVP, helping with arts/theatre events.
1. What prompted you to run for the Elk River City Council?
I feel that citizens should give back to their community by serving in ways that reflect their talents. Elk River has been a great place to live and raise a family. I want to see Elk River continue to flourish. I feel that I have business experience that I can use to help Elk River grow.
2. What makes you qualified to be a member of the City Council?
I have worked in health care management roles for over 25 years. I know how important it is to balance a budget; effectively manage staff; and grow the business. I also know how to find “common ground” when there are disagreements and how to work to resolve differences. I believe these skills could be very helpful if I am elected to be on the city council.
3. What are the top three issues facing the City of Elk River?
The top three issues facing Elk River include expanding the tax base to keep taxes stable, maintaining city services, and ensuring that Elk River is a wonderful place to live and raise a family.
4. What distinguishes you from your opponent and makes you a better choice for the position?
I feel that my years of experience in administrative roles and my work in the community as a volunteer in various roles has given me the skills to serve and an understanding of where our community wants to go and how we can get there. I would love to use my skills to serve on the city council.
5. What decisions of the council have you liked, and which ones have you disliked?
I think that the city made a good decision to partner with Sherburne County regarding public works. I also feel that the new business park will serve the city well and grow light industry. One area that I feel the council needs to work on involves civility at council meetings. Everyone should feel welcome and heard.
6. What should the city’s role be in improving transportation in the short-term and the long term?
Improving transportation in the short term involves the maintenance of current roads; making sure that traffic moves in a safe manner through the city as it gets heavier and heavier; and promoting our Northstar train station to grow its ridership. Long-term we need to invest in preparations for the widening of both highway 169 and 10 to ensure that the city benefits.
7. A new administrative structure has been devised? What makes you excited about the new structure? What will be the key to its successful implementation?
I think the new structure, which has already been put in place, looks to have been well thought out, based on the strengths of our current leaders, and positions Elk River to move forward to successfully deal with the many challenges that face a growing city where a balance must always be found between planned growth and a balanced budget. Teamwork is the key to success.
8. What can be done to attract new business and jobs to Elk River?
Our new business park is going to attract light industry. That’s great! We also need to look at how Elk River compares with our neighboring cities regarding business growth. We need to be the most “business-friendly” city in the northwest suburbs to attract new business to our area. Our recent work to partner with schools to train staff is one good example.
9. What can be done to help existing businesses?
Existing businesses are the backbone of our city. We need to ensure that the city works to keep the cost of providing city services in Elk River under control so that businesses can flourish. Working with businesses to attract customers is important, such as working on traffic flow, parking, and signage.
10. What partnership opportunities do you foresee with other governmental agencies?
I think that the storm water management rules that are on the horizon would be one area that would lend itself to a partnership with county or other city governments. This will be a costly mandate that is expected to be unfunded. Sharing the costs is essential.
11. Balancing the budget has been getting increasingly difficult in the lean economic times. What would be your breaking point as it relates to holding the line on the levy?
I feel no option should be off the table when examining how the city will meet its financial obligations. However, raising taxes should be the very last option to consider! Prudent budgeting, careful planning, reducing costs through partnerships, and expanding our tax base are all options. Our AA+ rating keeps interest low on borrowed funds. Must explore all these first.
12. What would you like to be able to say about downtown Elk River 10 years from now that can’t be said now.
Two words come to mind: “vibrant” and “thriving.” We are filling our apartments but we need more downtown shops to encourage visitors to come and enjoy our historic downtown. These should come as we have more people living downtown. We are already on our way to seeing this as a reality.
Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce Questions
How should the City of Elk River address the impending need to fund MPCA mandates if/when they finalize storm water management rules to meet state and federal requirements?
Two issues here. One, we need to develop incentives for homes and businesses to reduce the run off. European cities do this in a variety of ways. This would be a plus for homeowners because it would reduce the need to water gardens and grass. Second, we need to partner with other cities or counties to share in the cost of managing stormwater. This is expected to be an unfunded mandate. I think we need to monitor the legislative activity around this bill closely so we are not caught off guard when it passes. Beginning discussions with possible partners in anticipation of the bills passage would position our city to be able to approach implementation in the most cost effective manner.
What steps would you consider to reduce the property tax burden to local businesses?
Expanding the tax base means that the cost of supporting city services is spread out over a broader group of businesses (and residents) . Elk River can not control issues like State legislative action, although we can seek to influence it by advocating for our issues through our state legislators. However, we can work to support the growth of current businesses and add new business to expand our tax base. We can also seek to grow residential areas which would also expand the tax base. Growth is essential to reduce our tax burden.
Should the City of Elk River provide funding to remodel the Ice Arena? If yes, how do you recommend it be funded?
It would be foolish to allow a facility such as the Ice Arena to deteriorate over the next several years, but we have no plan for continuing upkeep. It has been a site for various sport activities for wide groups of people within Elk River for many years. However, the question of how to fund the renovation or expansion of this facility needs to be looked at carefully. There is currently many unanswered questions that must be resolved. They include: 1. Will the ice arena once expanded continue to generate enough money to cover operational expenses? 2. Are their parties who will partner with the city on this renovation or will the city of responsible for the cost of the renovation? 3. Will the renovation/expansion generate enough increased revenue to provide the city a return on its investment?
If we do decide to fund the renovation, we will probably look at general obligation bonds again as one option to consider. Interests rates are low now and would offer a reasonable possibility for funding. However, the total cost of the project is significantly higher than the original amount borrowed for this venture. Partnerships with the school district or another entity should be looked at closely.