• Officials share progress reports at State of Cities
by Sue Webber
Collaboration and partnerships were the themes for 2013 in the 10 cities comprising the I-94 West Chamber of Commerce.
Officials from the cities and area business leaders attended the 2014 State of the Cities luncheon Jan. 28 at St. Michael City Hall.
Foremost among their collaborations is the cities’ work on the I-94 West Corridor Coalition. Residents, business leaders, and local and state officials are working together to bring an I-94 improvement project to the forefront of transportation agendas and correct infrastructure deficiencies along the corridor.
The seven city officials who spoke at the luncheon all referred to their work on the I-94 Coalition. The crowded corridor, seen as a vital link to metro area and outstate commerce, is plagued with bumper-to-bumper traffic and significant traffic delays on a daily basis.
“Getting more lanes on I-94 is our No. 1 priority in 2013,” said St. Michael City Administrator Steve Bot, who chairs the coalition. “I can see some real results. As of three months ago, it wasn’t in the MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) plan. We’ve gotten stuff done and hope to have a project with dirt flying in 2014.”
Albertville City Administrator Adam Nafstad cautioned that “the push isn’t over.”
“Without Steve Bot’s leadership, we wouldn’t be where we are,” Nafstad said.
City officials also mentioned other highlights from 2013 and previews for 2014.
“We are focused on going back to our core values, trying to be the best city we can be at the lowest possible cost,” Bot said.
He noted that St. Michael has been named the eighth best city of its size in Minnesota based on its rates of unemployment, cost of living, crime rate, high school graduation rate, median household income and median home and rental prices.
The city’s focus on partnerships includes an ice arena with Albertville and some shared staff with Albertville and Hanover.
St. Michael has fewer than 30 single-family lots left, Bot said.
“We’re ready for more lots,” he said. “We’re trying to be as development-friendly as we can be by streamlining the process and lowering fees.”
Otsego City Administrator Lori Johnson recapped the city’s residential development as “ongoing and increasing,” while commercial development has been “slow but positive.”
Otsego has partnered with the Three Rivers Soccer Association to build a three-field complex and also is working on a veterans memorial at Prairie Park that will have a monument resulting from an Eagle Scout project.
“We had a good year in home construction,” Johnson said. “We had 190 new units; 184 of them were single-family homes. We’ve had 464 new housing units since the 2010 census and have 141 new lots approved.”
Significant new commercial and industrial development occurred in Rogers during 2013, according to City Administrator Steve Stahmer. A 300,000-square-foot Federal Express distribution center is being proposed for construction on 50 acres in the city, which would bring 500 full- and part-time jobs to Rogers, Stahmer said.
Also, 136 new single-family homes were built in 2013, in addition to the 98 homes that went up in 2012.
The city is purchasing an existing building for a new Police Department, according to Stahmer. It will replace what he called an “undersized and deficient” current facility.
Rogers was named by Business Week in 2013 as the best place in Minnesota to raise children, Stahmer said.
In 2014, the city will work on developing a master plan for redeveloping downtown Rogers, according to Stahmer. Work also is continuing on a veterans memorial park in Rogers.
Engel Haus, a 64,000-square-foot senior citizen care center built by Guardian Angels, is expected to open in fall 2014, according to Albertville City Administrator Adam Nafstad.
“That’s been a long-sought priority for our community,” Nafstad said.
Albertville had 22 single-family housing starts in 2013, he said, plus two industrial expansions and 14 build-outs. This year “looks similar and very positive,” he said, adding that the city also got two new restaurants in 2013.
In what he called “the year of the indoor training facilities,” the St. Michael-Albertville Soccer Association has renovated an old building to include a turfed indoor training facility, and the St. Michael Hockey Association is using space in a strip mall for an indoor dry-land facility, Nafstad said.
“What a difference a year makes,” Mayor Tim McNeil said, noting that Dayton had 40 new homes in 2013 at an average value of $330,000, not including the lot value. The city is expecting to have 60 new homes in 2014.
Dayton has approved 530 new preliminary platted lots, including 191 single-family homes in Sundance Woods, and 320 units in River Hills.
The city is looking at a new public works building, as well.
“We feel extremely confident in our outlook for 2014,” McNeil said.