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. Tue, 23 Sep 2014 07:31:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Elk River’s proposed levy shows 2 percent increase Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:42:09 +0000 The Elk River City Council has set a maximum property tax levy of $10 million for 2015, up 2.05 percent over this year.

But the levy won’t be finalized until December and there’s a possibility the council will decide not to levy the full amount of $10,056,118.

“I’m hoping that we can get it lower than 2 percent, but that will be worked out between now and December,” Mayor John Dietz said.

He said he doesn’t know yet if he will vote for a human resources technician position being proposed.

There also may be some other adjustments that could bring the increase under 2 percent, he said.

The City Council will take public comment on the budget during a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 1, at Elk River City Hall, 13065 Orono Parkway.

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Cleaner stormwater comes at a cost Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:22:51 +0000 by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

About half a million dollars a year is needed to pay for new stormwater requirements facing the city of Elk River, and Elk River City Council members have been considering how to cover that bill.

This screen shot from a new Elk River public service announcement shows City Engineer Justin Femrite waist-deep in one of the city's 384 stormwater ponds.

This screen shot from a new Elk River public service announcement shows City Engineer Justin Femrite waist-deep in one of the city’s 384 stormwater ponds.

Two options have emerged: Increase the property tax levy beginning in 2016 or establish a stormwater utility fee.

Preliminary numbers estimate the fee at $2.75 a month for homes and a varying range for businesses based on their size. Of the businesses sampled, their fees would range from an estimated $1.45 to $157.04 a month.

By comparison for the same home and business sampling, levying property taxes for the stormwater program would cost an estimated $1.27 to $7.04 a month for homes and $4.32 to $161.63 a month for the businesses.

The Elk River City Council favors the fee as the fairer way to go but is interested in getting feedback from residents. To weigh in, go to

The city has also produced a public service announcement that can be viewed at It features City Engineer Justin Femrite waist-deep in one of the city’s 384 stormwater ponds.

Femrite said the ponds collect stormwater that runs off from streets and other surfaces in the city.

The ponds are designed to accumulate pollutants such as sediment, fertilizers, yard waste and other garbage that come through the stormwater system, before sending cleaner water downstream, he said.

Years of stormwater runoff and accumulation have contributed to large amounts of sediment and sludge in the ponds, he said. The new permit rules require the city to clean out the ponds and deal with other stormwater issues such as replacing aging infrastructure, erosion control and public education, he said.

“This was mandated to us by the state. We don’t have a lot of choices here. We have to fund this somehow,” Mayor John Dietz said recently. “We have to come up with some money every year to take care of this issue.”

Femrite said the city’s stormwater permit was reissued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in April, and with it comes the new mandates to better manage stormwater.

While it is a mandate, Femrite said the city can achieve some good things with the program.

“Ultimately the idea is we’re producing cleaner water from our stormwater ponds (that runs) into our streams, that drains into our lakes and into our aquifers at the end of the day,” he said.

Femrite said stormwater utility fees are widely used throughout the nation, are a stable revenue and collect from all stormwater contributors including schools and churches that would be exempt from property taxes.

A 25-city sampling of the numerous other cities in Minnesota charging such a fee shows a range for monthly residential fees in 2012 from $1.75 in Blaine to $11.15 in Roseville. The average was $5. Femrite said he looks for those numbers to rise as these cities get their new permits.

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Mike Matter named city’s Volunteer of the Month Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:10:08 +0000 The general manager of Zylstra Harley-Davidson in Elk River is the city of Elk River’s Volunteer of the Month for September.

Mayor John Dietz (right) congratulated Mike Matter, the city's Volunteer of the Month for September.

Mayor John Dietz (right) congratulated Mike Matter, the city’s Volunteer of the Month for September.

Mike Matter

Mike Matter

Mike Matter was honored at Monday’s City Council meeting.

His recent charitable and volunteer work includes:

•Supported the Elk River Fourth of July celebration by sponsoring and organizing event cleanup.

•Helped raise funds for Sherburne County 4-H by wrestling in the AWF event.

•Provides facilities and support in the dealership for Abundant Life Ministries.

•Worked with the H.O.G. Chapter to clear fire hydrants during the winter in Elk River and repaint in the summer.

•Raise money and provide event support for the military-based H.O.O.A.H. Ride, where funds are given to veterans in need and deployed soldiers.

•Supported and donated to the Lynnda Laubach Breast Cancer Ride.

•Sponsored and volunteered with the Harvest Outreach Program through River Center Inc.

•Collected and donated to the CAER food shelf.

•Sponsored and hosted the Minnesota Gun Safety Event.

•Supported and donated to the Michaela Olson Memorial Ride.

•Supported the Hope Center providing care to children in the Ukraine.

•Provided funding and support for the Store House through River Center Inc.

•Hosted Pray Elk River Roundtable.

•Provided support for Bless Minnesota initiative.

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City will host fats, oils and grease workshop Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:02:36 +0000 A workshop is scheduled for food service establishments and food manufacturers and processors to learn about new regulations to reduce sewer system overflows associated with fats, oils and grease used in daily operations.

The workshop will run from 1:30-3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25, at Elk River City Hall, Upper Town Conference Room, 13065 Orono Parkway.

The workshop will cover:

•The Federal Clean Water Act and City Ordinance 78-156.

•Restaurant grease and environmental concerns.

•How to reduce grease through effective kitchen best management practices.

Responsibilities and compliance requirements take effect Nov. 1.

RSVP to the Elk River Wastewater Division at 763-635-1171.

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Elk River, Kiffmeyer seek road improvements Tue, 16 Sep 2014 21:19:10 +0000 by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

Elk River is submitting three road projects to be considered for funding by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Rush-hour traffic headed west on Highway 10 near Main Street in Elk River. Star News file photo

Rush-hour traffic headed west on Highway 10 near Main Street in Elk River. Star News file photo

The state has $25 million available statewide in Corridors of Commerce funding to pay for things like right of way acquisition, environmental studies and preliminary engineering. The primary intent is to prepare eligible projects for future years should additional funding become available, according to MnDOT.

The three Elk River projects being submitted are:

•Complete preliminary design work for interchange improvements at Highway 10, 169 and 101 to add ramps and eliminate an existing stoplight.

•Complete preliminary design work and right-of-way acquisition for a future frontage road and interchange on Highway 10 at a future extension of Twin Lakes Road (south of 167th Avenue).

•Design and construct adaptive signal controls on existing signalized intersections on Highways 10 and 169 in Elk River.

All three projects are intended to improve mobility on the highways through Elk River, according to Elk River City Engineer Justin Femrite.

The Elk River City Council voted Monday to submit the projects to MnDOT to be considered for funding.

Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer

Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer

In a related matter, Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, said she intends to carry legislation in the 2015 session for construction of the interchange improvements at Highways 10, 169 and 101 in Elk River. “That’s a real jammed-up intersection,” she told the Elk River City Council on Monday.

Under the proposal the stop light at the top of the interchange would be eliminated, the last two lobes of the cloverleaf would be constructed and the exit ramp for southbound Highway 169 traffic seeking to go west on Highway 10 would be modified — all subject to MnDOT final design.

Kiffmeyer said that local support for the project from the city, the county, the chamber of commerce and citizens is critically important to being chosen for funding.

“It really does make a difference,” she said.

A groundswell of local support was key in getting funding for a lane addition on Interstate 94 from Highway 101 in Rogers to Highway 241 near St. Michael, she said.

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New access hours set at Elk River compost site Tue, 16 Sep 2014 21:13:08 +0000 Effective Oct. 1, the city of Elk River’s compost site drop-off hours will change to 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

The compost site has experienced illegal dumping under the 24/7 accessibility, which has resulted in the decreased service hours.

Use of the site is free for Sherburne County residents. The site is located near the maintenance facility at 19000 Proctor Road. Use requires an access pass which may be obtained with proof of residency (i.e. valid driver’s license).

Non-Sherburne County residents wanting access are required to purchase a $50 access pass valid for the calendar year. Commercial users are required to purchase a $200 access pass valid for the calendar year. The Elk River compost site will only accept cash or checks payable to the City of Elk River.

Visit the streets department page at for more information on the compost site, passes, and a list of acceptable items.

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Open house set on Houlton Farm acquisition Tue, 16 Sep 2014 21:06:11 +0000 The city of Elk River will host an open house on the Houlton Farm property acquisition from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept 24, at Elk River City Hall Upper Town Conference Room, 13065 Orono Parkway.

The Houlton Farm is outlined in red.

The Houlton Farm is outlined in red.

Topics covered will include:

•How and when the city will acquire the property

•Grant requirements for the property

•A wildlife and native habitat designation

•Potential recreational opportunities allowed with the grant

The 335-acre farm is located along the Mississippi and Elk rivers, near the Orono Dam.

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Ralphie’s Victory Lane gets permit for car wash Tue, 16 Sep 2014 21:01:33 +0000 A car wash will be added to Ralphie’s Victory Lane at 13374 Highway 10 in Elk River.

The Elk River City Council has approved a conditional use permit request by Brian Brehmer for the car wash. It will be built onto the east side of the building.

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Powered by Nature art initiative draws 22 registrants Tue, 16 Sep 2014 20:59:41 +0000 Twenty-two people have expressed interest in producing a piece of public art reflecting the city of Elk River’s Powered by Nature brand.

The city of Elk River's Powered by Nature brand.

The city of Elk River’s Powered by Nature brand.

The 22 registrants include local artists, as well as artists from the metro area and outstate, according to Economic Development Specialist Colleen Eddy.

Mediums vary from fiberglass, steel and metal to stone and bronze, she said.

The next step is for registrants to submit a rendering, mockup, proposal or sample of their project by Nov. 6. A judging panel will be formed to consider the submittals and make a recommendation to the Elk River Economic Development Authority, which will then make a recommendation to the City Council.

Where the piece of art will be placed hasn’t been determined. Each artist has been asked to recommend a location on city property for their project.

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Ambulance service changes questioned Mon, 15 Sep 2014 17:09:33 +0000 • Decision to stage units differenty created a flurry of uncertainty, distrust, officials say

by Debbie Griffin

Contributing Writer

The Zimmerman-Livonia Fire District board, made up of elected officials from both places, met the night of Sept. 9 to address concerns and questions about mid-August changes made to the local ambulance service.

North Memorial Ambulance Service responds to medical emergencies in Zimmerman and Livonia. NMAS local-service manager Rob Almendinger and Director of Outstate Operations Rick Wagner explained that the city and township sit on the extreme southern tip of a “primary service area” that includes Princeton, Milaca and points north, as well as territory east and west of Highway 169.

They said local service has not changed or been reduced; the difference is where ambulances are being “staged,” or stored when not on a call. Both men emphasized that any changes aim to better serve patients and reach the response-time goal of 12 minutes or less.

Almendinger and Wagner made clear that the same service is always available regardless of where the ambulances are parked, and it is most practical to have them centrally located within the “primary service area.”

Before the change, Zimmerman had an advanced life support ambulance in town for 24 hours on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; for 12 hours on Thursday and Friday; and not at all on Saturday or Sunday. Now the advanced life support ambulance is in town noon to midnight seven days week, Zimmerman’s peak time for calls, the representatives said.

Almendinger said response times since the change have been about 9.9 minutes; before the change they were around 8.1 minutes. He added that it isn’t unusual for the service to move things around to achieve better service for its territory.

The board members asked about response times and call numbers. Almendinger offered them for all of the area’s 2013 “code 3” calls, which require lights and sirens. The average response time was 11.1 minutes for 384 calls in Princeton, 313 calls in Milaca, 213 calls in Zimmerman and 123 calls in Livonia.

Almendinger said the types of coverage also vary. There are ambulances providing advanced life support, like a mobile emergency room and with paramedics aboard; other ambulances are equipped for basic life support and staffed with highly trained emergency medical technicians but not always paramedics.

Wagner observed that Zimmerman has never had 24-hour coverage with an advanced life support ambulance in town, but at times had supplemental volunteer coverage that probably gave the perception of constant coverage.

Communication        at issue

Neither the fire chief and board nor the city staff had been informed that service would be any different, and Butch Hass, a board member for Livonia Township, said he thinks clients should be notified when their services will change.

He pointed out that the locals had to ask for a meeting to get information and felt distrustful. Zimmerman Mayor Dave Earenfight agreed people were unhappy with the lack of communication and perceived cutting of hours.

The fire board asked about switching services, but it found its options limited. The state assigns coverage areas and any changes in service provider must be cleared by the entity currently responsible for the primary service area.

Wagner questioned the need for a change, since service had not suffered, asking, “When you need an ambulance, what’s important?”

Wagner said the ambulance service contracts directly with patients and is not paid by city monies; therefore, it is not a regular practice to inform cities when adjustments are made. Almendinger apologized repeatedly for the unintentional slight and offered to provide whatever updates and data the group wanted.

Asked how often they analyze response times and make changes, Almendinger said the service looks at the numbers daily and analyzes them about every six or eight weeks, with no set schedule for adjustments. Wagner said the business is a constant process of trying to place many dynamic resources where they’re most needed while adhering to budget.

The representatives said their system generates a report when an ambulance fails to meet the response-time goal of 12 minutes, but the board members seemed skeptical that only an internal quality team inspects the reports.

The board expressed concern for its growing population and asked about adding another ambulance. Wagner said the service is not based on population – it goes by demand within the service area and is a fixed market. He said adding another ambulance would significantly increase costs across the service area.

NMAS keeps six “trucks” available in the Zimmerman-Princeton-Milaca service area, staged mainly in Princeton and Milaca. Anytime demand exceeds resources, it can call other services to send another ambulance.

Almendinger asked how often the fire board would like reports and if he should attend their monthly meetings. The board members settled on having him attend the fire-district board meetings once per quarter and share with them information about response times, call volumes and any pending changes.

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