Elk River Council considers city’s long-term vision, goals

by Rachel Minske
Contributing Writer
The Elk River City Council has begun a process to take a close, hard look at it goals and long-term vision.

During a work session March 6, council members discussed results from a February strategic planning meeting in which council members and key staff gathered to establish a city value statement, identify core values and complete a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis.

The council has defined the following as goals:
•Service.
•Resourcefulness.
•Prosperity.
•Engagement.
•Welcoming.

Council members were asked to complete a questionnaire and rate the city on a number of topics including beautification, sustainability, facilities and economic development, among other things. Members were asked to rate how well the service did in each area on a 1 to 10 scale and discuss results from the survey during the work session earlier this week.

“From your perspective, do you feel safe and comfortable in Elk River?” City Administrator Cal Portner asked council members during a work session March 6.

“I do, but I still worry about my kids,” said Council Member Jennifer Wagner, adding that she has children who will be entering middle school next year and is worried about the route they would have to take to get there.

Wagner said she answered a “9” when asked about police and fire services and safety in the community, but noted that she has concerns. For example, she said, a friend of hers recently had a trailer stolen from their driveway.

“What I know about the drugs in the schools … do we need to do more?” Wagner said. “Is there more we can do? Do we need more staff?”

Mayor John Dietz said he felt Elk River’s police department is well-respected – in part due to a great deal of community-based activities the department engages in – but also due to its “very aggressive” nature in terms of tracking down criminal activity.

“I know the (police) chief wants Elk River to be a place where you can’t break a traffic law,” Dietz said.

He added he also thinks the city’s fire department is well-respected.

Under the beautification category, some council members answered with 2s and 4s, Portner said. Council members agreed they would strive to move their own rating up to about a 7.

“It bothers me when I see junk in our city,” Dietz said. “I can’t believe that more people don’t take more pride in their city.”

The mayor added those traveling through Elk River could be turned off by some elements, like weeds growing in boulevard.

In terms of facilities, there was a general consensus among council members that city facilities are in a good position.

“I think it needs to remain a priority that we continue to maintain them,” said Council Member Matt Westgaard.

Jerry Olsen, who represents Ward 1 in Elk River, said he thought the goals should be more targeted, but Dietz and Westgaard disagreed.

Westgaard said the verbiage could be used to help individuals and organizations develop their own objectives.