Train horns, economic development on Elk River’s 2014 agenda

From staff reports

What’s ahead for the city of Elk River in 2014? City Administrator Cal Portner offered his thoughts via email.

The Elk River City Council approved a fiscally responsible budget that meets the community’s core service expectations for 2014, Portner said.

The city is continuing with long-term strategic planning with the expected completion of Elk River’s Comprehensive Plan and the city’s Park and Recreation Master Plan in the new year. Portner said the city will also initiate a Mining Area Study for the long-term development of the mining area.

Cal Portner
Cal Portner

“With these plans in place, policymaking and prioritization should be better coordinated to meet the community’s needs,” he said.

In 2013, Portner said the city was able to address its management staffing needs. A number of important position vacancies occurred within Community Operations and Development with high-level performers striking out on their own or taking new positions with higher authority, he said.

“With that, we are now completing the rebuild of our economic development team,” Portner said. “We had a very successful year in 2013 with a number of new businesses and business expansions. We expect similar growth in 2014, which has accelerated our timeline to open up Phase II of Nature’s Edge Business Center to meet a demand for larger lot sizes.”

Late in 2013 the city received its reissued MS4 Stormwater Permit. The city now has significantly increased responsibilities and tight timelines to develop stormwater policies, procedures and educational programs, he said.

This mandate comes with considerable new expenses to manage the program and complete stormwater improvements.

After completing and opening the new public works maintenance facility, in 2014 Portner said the city will now begin a $10 million-plus upgrade to the waste water treatment plant. The upgrade will take two years to fully construct and is expected to be on line in 2016. It is needed to meet new pollution control limits and provide added treatment capacity to serve increasing demand.

On the issue of train noise, Portner said the city spent a considerable amount of time in 2013 searching for solutions to implement railroad quiet zones.

“It looks promising that we may finally have a financially viable solution to decrease train horn noise and maintain safe rail crossings,” he said. “We are also seeking some technology improvements to enhance traffic flow through town to ease congestion without sacrificing safety on Highway 10. Easing traffic and quieting train horns will greatly enhance the downtown experience for patrons who dine, shop and visit that area.”

Meanwhile, a banner event is coming to Elk River this month.

“We are excited for Hockey Day Minnesota, which has already brought a lot of positive attention to Elk River,” Portner said. “We are hopeful for good weather that will showcase us as a destination community.”