Planning will help city prepare for the future

In 2012 the city of Elk River was able to complete an organizational assessment and build a foundation for our future. After some organizational restructuring, the addition of key staff members, a thorough review and update to our personnel policies, we now have the pieces in place to prepare for the future of Elk River.

We will begin a comprehensive plan update, which will utilize much of what we learned from the Downtown Task Force, the FAST Study and the Housing and Redevelopment Authority Housing Study. While updating the comprehensive plan, the Park and Recreation Department will also begin a comprehensive planning process to identify park and recreation needs, better understand infrastructure needs and prioritize park improvements.

The City Council identified a number of goals during a visioning process in 2011 and after considerable planning and preparation in 2012, we have funding designated for a number of city beautification, communication enhancement, business development and innovation initiatives. We will add entrance signage, entrance monuments and historical/information signage throughout the community, as well as complete the next phases of Orono Parkway enhancements. We will go live on a new city website which is intended to provide easier access to information and services, but also be more interactive for residents and businesses. Economic development and community development staff have worked to streamline a number of programs to help local businesses grow and to market the new business park.

We have some new technology additions that we will implement and are hopeful that they will lead to improved services, reduced redundancies and better analysis of programing to ensure we are hitting our target — namely our website and RecTrac, which is our new park and recreation program software.

Secondly, we will implement a new work scheduling and timekeeping system that should save time and money as well. Hopefully they will be able to improve our efficiency and identify means to enhance revenues. We have partnered with Sherburne County and Elk River Municipal Utilities on an 8-mile fiber ring that will also improve our internal communication and provide opportunities to collaborate with the county, school district and neighboring cities on IT projects, such as shared back office software, IP Telephony and records management.

Staff has begun a review of operational policies, which will be completed this year, then we will do a review of the municipal code to clarify, update and improve to ensure we are able to meet and enforce the laws we have put in place.

Lastly, (if this wasn’t ambitious enough) I’d like to begin a dialog to consolidate some of our facilities. We have a lot of money in real property and a list of upcoming improvements that will be very expensive. Many city leaders had the foresight to acquire and build properties that have become their legacy. With the new economy, I am not sure we can afford to maintain and operate them. Before spending money on costly public improvements, we may find economy in consolidation. This is a discussion only, as a number of our improvements are a few years out, but the planning and discussion time is best done now. — Cal Portner, Elk River city administrator

Mayor lists city issues for 2013

As the city of Elk River looks ahead to 2013, these are what I see as five top issues.

1) Try to come up with a plan to quiet train noise.

2) Update comprehensive plan for future growth.

3) Figure out what to do about the ice arena situation (The Barn).

4) Budget is always an issue.

5) Implement new volunteer program for positions relating to city functions. — John Dietz, Elk River mayor