Star News » Government The Star News covers community news, sports, current events and provides advertising and information for Elk River, Otsego, Rogers and Zimmerman, Minnesota and their surrounding areas. Sun, 25 Jan 2015 03:27:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 City chooses ‘whimsical windmill’ in Powered by Nature art contest Thu, 22 Jan 2015 00:51:50 +0000 by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

A colorful “whimsical windmill” will go up outside the Elk River Library, as the grand finale in Elk River’s Powered by Nature branding effort.

This is the public art project created by Carl Zachmann.

This is the public art project created by Carl Zachmann.

The windmill sculpture by Carl Zachmann was chosen by a judging panel from three finalists in a contest sponsored by the city.

The Elk River Economic Development Authority and the City Council agreed with the judging panel’s recommendation Tuesday, and voted unanimously to award the project to Zachmann.

Jean Loy-Swanson, a member of the judging panel, said Zachmann’s sculpture was the most well-thought-out proposal and the final piece will require little maintenance.

The sculpture will have colored gears and a tail that has Elk River written on it.

“It’s a take-off on a windmill,” Loy-Swanson told the EDA, “but it would have a lot of moving parts.”

Those moving parts will be out of the reach of children, she said, and the pole it is attached to is designed to deter climbers.

Zachmann, of Fergus Falls, has a master’s degree in historical archaeology and works as a full-time artist. He researched Elk River’s history in putting together his proposal, Loy-Swanson said.

The judging panel has suggested including a sign near the sculpture explaining the historical references and how that influenced Zachmann’s work, she said.

A drawing shows the piece of art outside the Elk River Library.

A drawing shows the piece of art outside the Elk River Library.

Zachmann wrote in his proposal that he appreciates Elk River’s strong historical ties to its past.

“It is my hope that my piece will serve as a reminder to those who view it to always keep the connection between history, nature, and progress at the forefront of their minds,” he wrote.

Zachmann proposed installing the piece in a flower bed near the entrance to the library, located at 13020 Orono Parkway. It is scheduled to be finished by June 1 and unveiled on the Fourth of July.

The sculpture project will cost $12,000.

The Elk River Library.

The Elk River Library.

EDA President Dan Tveite said the windmill activity fits nicely with the Powered by Nature theme.

The other two finalists in the public art initiative were Gita Ghei and a team of Dan Wolbert, Myrna Orensten, Matt Eckholm and Todd Fink.

Ghei proposed a sundial for River’s Edge Commons Park in downtown Elk River.

The Wolbert team proposed a child and adult figure under a canopy at the edge of an abstract rendering of a flowing river at the northeast corner of Highway 10 and Main Street.

A total of eight artists had submitted proposals.

The city’s branding effort dates back to 2011, when a consultant developed the Powered by Nature brand. The brand is now visible everywhere from the Freeport Avenue water tower to city logowear.

About the ‘whimsical windmill’

Here’s more about the Powered by Nature sculpture, according to artist Carl Zachmann.

•The overall look and movement of the piece is reminiscent of the windmills used on farms to pump water.

•The gears will be painted with a durable automotive-type paint and then distressed to give them a vintage appearance.

•The colors of the gears are important. Dark blue gears represent the Mississippi with a train of lighter blue gears representing the Elk River as it flows into the Mississippi. The red gear is representative of the city of Elk River on the banks at the confluence of both rivers. A green cog symbolizes the forest and lumber that helped build Elk River. A yellow gear serves as a reminder of the prairie that helped the area’s agriculture to flourish.

•The governor with its steel balls, used by water mills and steam engines to govern and regulate their speed, gets a new life as artistic accent in the piece. The spherical weights will rise and fall, interacting with the wind as its speeds change.

Elk River's city logo.

Elk River’s city logo.

•The shape of the curved pole that the piece sits atop is taken from the city’s logo. It is representative of the water power that built Elk River and gave it its name.

•The galvanized tail and wind vanes will give the piece a vintage appearance, resist corrosion and contrast with the other colors, textures and metals in the sculpture. The frame and base will be made from self-weathering steel and take on a rusty vintage appearance, but not deteriorate as normal steel would.

Source: Public Art Installation Proposal by Carl Zachmann

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Social media renders annual report obsolete Wed, 21 Jan 2015 23:57:47 +0000 The City of Elk River’s annual report is going the way of the dinosaur.

Elk River's annual reports were once a mainstay of city government. This one, in 2004, was 128 pages in length.

Elk River’s annual reports were once a mainstay of city government. This one, in 2004, was 128 pages in length.

City Administrator Cal Portner said communication has changed with the use of social media, and people have become accustomed to “real time” information. The city has seven Facebook pages alone, as well as a YouTube channel and a website.

The annual report takes a lot of staff time to produce and doesn’t seem to draw much interest, Portner told the City Council.

For years, the city’s annual report was a hefty document with each city department providing an update on the year’s activity. The 2004 annual report, for instance, contained 128 pages.

Council members agreed during a work session Tuesday that the report has probably outlived its usefulness.

Council Member Matt Westgaard said it’s a concept society has outgrown.

“People want these updates now. They don’t want to wait until the end of the year,” he said.

It was the council’s consensus to not have an annual report this year.

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City approves loan for Coin-Tainer/Stonesthrow Wed, 21 Jan 2015 23:39:45 +0000 A $200,000 Jobs Incentive Microloan has been approved for Coin-Tainer Co./Stonesthrow Properties. Both the Elk River Economic Development Authority and the Elk River City Council approved the loan Tuesday.

Stonesthrow plans to use the money to assist with the contract for deed financing of a building at 17834 Industrial Circle. A major tenant of the building is Coin-Tainer, which shares a common owner with Stonesthrow — Dave Walters, according to city officials.

The loan is ultimately expected to result in retaining 26 jobs on site, and adding 10 more jobs over the next two years.

Coin-Tainer is a coin, currency and raffle ticket roll manufacturer and wholesale/retail distributor that relocated to Elk River after a fire in Milaca.

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Motin, Wilson will serve on committees Wed, 21 Jan 2015 23:37:39 +0000 Two former Elk River City Council members have been appointed to city committees.

Stewart Wilson and Paul Motin were both appointed to the positions on Tuesday. They finished their council terms the end of the year.

Paul Motin

Paul Motin

Motin was appointed by the Elk River Economic Development Authority to a subcommittee of the EDA, the Finance Committee. He is an attorney and certified public accountant.

Wilson, a banker, was appointed by the City Council to the Houlton Farm Planning Committee. The city staff is also recommending that Wilson chair that group.

Stewart Wilson

Stewart Wilson

The committee will develop a master plan and prioritize the future improvements for the farm. The Trust for Public Land bought the farm last year and turned it over to the city for use as a conservation area. It is expected to open to the public in 2016.

Also appointed to the Houlton Farm Planning Committee were: Jerry Olsen, council member; Dave Anderson, Parks and Recreation Commission member; Sue Seeger, resident; Nate Benkofstze, high school student; Michael Hecker, parks and recreation director; and Jeremy Barnhart, community operations and development deputy director. One ad hoc position as needed will rotate between the parks supervisor and the city engineer.

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Elk River EDA elects officers for 2015 Wed, 21 Jan 2015 22:54:56 +0000 Dan Tveite has been re-appointed president of the Elk River Economic Development Authority for 2015.

Tveite, who works for Wells Fargo, was voted to the position by his fellow EDA members on Tuesday.

Other officers reappointed were: Pat Dwyer, vice president; Matt Westgaard, treasurer; and Bryan Provo, assistant treasurer. Barb Burandt was named secretary, replacing former EDA Commissioner Paul Motin.

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Sen. Kiffmeyer focused on three things this session Thu, 15 Jan 2015 20:24:46 +0000 by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

Transportation, equity in education funding and tax relief are Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer’s priorities this legislative session.

Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer

Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer

The 2015 Minnesota Legislature opened Jan. 6 in St. Paul.

On the issue of transportation, Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, said she is introducing two bills that concern Elk River. One seeks $32 million for interchange improvements at highways 10, 169 and 101 in Elk River. The project would complete the cloverleaf and eliminate an existing stoplight at the top of the interchange.

Her other bill seeks $400,000 to add adaptive signal software at traffic lights on highways 10 and 169 in Elk River.

An adaptive signal control system would adapt to traffic demands on each leg of an intersection.

Kiffmeyer believes the technology could be particularly useful in Elk River, where rush hour, tourism and trains all impact complex traffic patterns.

The technology isn’t being used in Minnesota now but is in use at about 100 intersections in Wisconsin and at other places in the country, she said.

“It holds promise,” she said.

Regarding school funding, Kiffmeyer said she will be carrying two equity bills and possibly two more this session. They get at the issue of funding of public schools. Now, Kiffmeyer said local school districts like Elk River, Big Lake and St. Michael-Albertville get far less in funding per pupil than the more than $14,000 per pupil in Minneapolis and St. Paul schools.

“I understand they may have some needs, but not double,” she said.

Given the funding situation, Kiffmeyer said local school districts have made the decision to provide a very good basic education to all students, and she commends them for that. Graduation rates in area districts range between 92 to 95 percent, she said.

But she said the lack of funding equity particularly affects students in high school, when schools can’t offer some courses such as certain languages, special science classes and other opportunities.

Kiffmeyer has new committee assignments this year and will serve on the Senate Education Committee and the E-12 Budget Division of the Senate Finance Committee, which she feels will help her serve her district on education issues.

On the issue of tax relief, Kiffmeyer said people sometimes think that when the government spends money it’s a stimulus.

“But it’s a stimulus when you let people keep their own money instead of taking it through fees and taxes,” she said.

She likened it to the recent drop in gas prices, which has stimulated the economy.

Tax relief could take a number of forms, including reducing the corporate tax rate.

“Minnesota is an island among other states around us that have reduced their taxes, so we are very uncompetitive,” she said.

Tax relief leaves some money in the hands of “job creators” so they can hire or expand, she said.

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New Elk River hire resigns before starting job Thu, 08 Jan 2015 17:04:55 +0000 The city of Elk River will try again to hire an economic development director.

Miles Seppelt had been scheduled to begin work in that position Jan. 5, but he resigned before he started, according to Jeremy Barnhart, Elk River’s deputy director of community operations and development.

“He was offered a position he couldn’t refuse in another community where he previously worked,” Barnhart told the Elk River Housing and Redevelopment Authority on Monday.

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Ramsey mayor named to deputy DNR post Thu, 08 Jan 2015 17:02:31 +0000 Sarah Strommen

Sarah Strommen

Ramsey Mayor Sarah Strommen has been appointed Minnesota Department of Natural Resources assistant commissioner. The appointment was announced Tuesday. She fills the position vacated by Assistant Commissioner Mike Carroll, who retires Jan. 13.

Strommen currently is acting deputy director at the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

After serving several terms on the Ramsey City Council, Strommen was elected mayor in 2012.

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For retiring police chief, a final salute Thu, 08 Jan 2015 15:14:28 +0000 by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

In a final send-off after a 33-year career with the Elk River Police Department, Brad Rolfe was recognized Monday with a day in his honor.

The Elk River City Council proclaimed Jan. 5 as Bradley Rolfe Day. Rolfe retired as police chief on Dec. 30.

Elk River Mayor John Dietz (right) congratulated retiring Police Chief Brad Rolfe on Monday.

Elk River Mayor John Dietz (right) congratulated retiring Police Chief Brad Rolfe on Monday.

He had been police chief since 2010 and with the department since 1982.

Mayor John Dietz presented Rolfe with a plaque during the council meeting Monday night. Dietz described Rolfe as a dedicated public servant and professional and a mentor to other police officers. The mayor said it was bittersweet to see him retire.

Rolfe spoke briefly, thanking the city and the citizens for the privilege of serving. He also thanked his family members, who were sitting in the audience, for their support and sacrifice and said he was looking forward to spending more time with them. And, he thanked his staff, many of whom were in the council chambers.

Capt. Bob Kluntz spoke on behalf of himself, Capt. Ron Nierenhausen and others in the department.

“We really care about this man,” Kluntz said of Rolfe. “He’s not only been our boss and our co-worker, but he has been our friend for a lot of years.”

There’s not a piece of the police department that hasn’t been touched by Rolfe in a good way, he said.

Integrity, caring, work ethic and sense of humor are among the words that describe Rolfe, he said, calling him “the real deal.”

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Two new Elk River council members sworn in; mayor dedicates term to his parents Tue, 06 Jan 2015 22:21:34 +0000 by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

Two new Elk River City Council members were sworn in Monday, during the council’s first meeting of 2015.

Jennifer Wagner took the oath of office Monday.

Jennifer Wagner took the oath of office Monday.

Jerry Olsen was sworn in as a new Elk River City Council member on Monday.

Jerry Olsen was sworn in as a new Elk River City Council member on Monday.

Jennifer Wagner and Jerry Olsen took the oath of office from City Clerk Tina Allard. Both won election in November to four-year terms. Wagner beat then-Council Member Paul Motin in Ward 4 while Olsen edged Garrett Christianson in Ward 1, where Council Member Stewart Wilson did not seek election.

Mayor John Dietz, who was elected without opposition to a second four-year term in November, also was sworn in Monday.

Mayor John Dietz with his parents on the day he was first sworn in as mayor in January 2011.

Mayor John Dietz with his parents on the day he was first sworn in as mayor in January 2011. Star News file photo

Dietz addressed the audience after he took the oath of office, and paid tribute to his parents, George and Ann Rose Dietz.

“My parents sat in the front row here four years ago to watch their son get sworn in as mayor,” he said. “They are both gone now, but I dedicate the next four years to them. They contributed a lot to the city during their 30 years in business here. My goal as a public servant is to simply try to follow in their footsteps.”

Much has been accomplished in the city, but there is much more to do, Dietz said. He listed storm water, the Elk River ice arena, staff retirements, Pinewood Golf Course and the annual budget as some of the issues facing the new council.

Keeping the tax rate as low as possible, fostering economic development and having a business-friendly climate are other important considerations, he said.

“My goal every day is to make Elk River a little better than it was yesterday,” he said.

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