•Click here to read an archived story about the Elk River’s Police Department’s highlights from 2012.
by Joni Astrup
Building permits were up in Elk River, more rounds of golf were played at Pinewood and beautification efforts continue.
Those were just a few of the highlights of 2012 touched on by Elk River City Administrator Cal Portner and other staff members during a recent annual report to the City Council.
On the building front, there were 86 residential permits and 68 commercial permits issued by the city in 2012, compared to 11 residential and 46 commercial in 2011.
The city-owned, nine-hole Pinewood Golf Course enjoyed favorable weather and a long season, being open from mid-March to Dec. 8. About 2,000 more rounds of golf were played in 2012 than in 2011, according to Parks and Recreation Director Michael Hecker.
Work continues to beautify the city. Plantings were added at a key intersection — Highway 169 and Main Street — and trees were planted in the Orono Parkway medians by City Hall.
Stop lights were also painted, which helps prevent rust and extend the life of the light standards.
New welcome entrance signs have gone up at a number of points coming into the city as well.
“It does make a bold statement that you are now in Elk River,” Portner said.
Portner has been city administrator in Elk River for 15 months, and said he’s amazed at the amount of work that got done in 2012.
The city implemented a new staff organizational structure in 2012. Portner said all staffing was in place for nine days before retirements and resignations affected full staffing.
Retirements in 2012 included Phil Hals, street superintendent, 30 years; Dan Kreuser, fire department district chief, 30 years; Sue Kostanshek, senior center coordinator, 27 years; Jerry Davis, arena maintenance supervisor, 12 years; and Janice Perszyk, skate director, 15 years.
The new Nature’s Edge Business Park, located near the Northstar train station, opened in 2012. A $250,000 grant from the state helped with the development of the business park.
A number of business building permits were issued in 2012 including Cherry Berry, 18157 Carson St.; Sharp & Associates, 9821 Gateway Rd.; Dojo Karate Studio, 19022 Freeport Ave.; Sport Clips, 18209 Carson Ct. and Auto Zone, 18278 Zane St.
Expansion permits went to Spectrum School, 17796 Industrial Circle and Fantastic Sams, 18033 Zane St.
The Main Street Parking Plaza opened in downtown Elk River. Besides adding 23 parking spaces, it also hosts a farmers market in the summer.
The city’s street and parks maintenance facility underwent a major expansion, designed to meet the city’s needs for at least the next 40 years.
The city bought Bailey Point, home to more than 3,000 feet of shoreline where the Elk and Mississippi rivers meet. The point will become a nature-preserve-type park. Portner called it “pristine” and one of the city’s “crown jewels.”
The parks and recreation department began planning for a new playground at Orono Park as well. The existing equipment is 25 years old and $250,000 has been earmarked to replace it with a “destination playground.” Hecker said it is expected to have a Powered by Nature theme to it.
Also in 2012 park news, the Orono boat landing was rebuilt thanks to a grant, volunteers planted 550 trees at Woodland Trails Park and a lighted basketball court was built at Trott Brook Farms Park — thanks to a $62,000 donation from the homeowners’ association. The Elk River Youth Football Association donated an LED scoreboard to the Youth Athletic Complex as well.
A cost analysis was done of four options for the Elk River Ice Arena.
The Elk River Fire Department saw fewer calls in 2012 — a total of 356. The average response time is seven minutes and three seconds. Fire Chief T. John Cunningham said response time is “from the minute the pager goes off to the first arriving fire department resource on the scene.”
A fire service task force met in 2012 and a downtown task force established a long-term vision for 432 acres in the core of the city.
Liquor sales at the city’s two-store operation — Northbound and Westbound — increased 6 percent in 2012, according to Finance Director Tim Simon. Transactions were up by 8,500.
Bonds sold to finance construction of Westbound were paid off July 1, 2.5 years early, saving interest costs.
The water tower near downtown Elk River, located off Jackson Avenue just north of Highway 10, was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.
The city sealcoated 18 miles of streets last year.
Elk River Municipal Utilities was one of 176 of the nation’s more than 2,000 public power utilities to earn the American Public Power Association Reliable Public Power Provider recognition.
“This is a pretty significant deal for us,” said ERMU General Manager Troy Adams. “This designation represents proficiency in reliability, safety, workforce development and system improvement.”
Elk River’s new brand —Powered by Nature — was recognized at a national economic development conference.
“Our brand is out there,” Portner said. “You see it throughout the community.”
(Editor’s note: Watch next week’s Star News for an update on what happened on the “green” front in 2012 in Elk River — also known as Energy City.)