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, 04 Oct 2015 10:56:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Plant Place receives conditional use permit for an off-site nursery Thu, 01 Oct 2015 10:28:36 +0000 by Sue Webber

Contributing Writer

The Elk River City Council approved a conditional use permit for Plant Place Inc., north of County Road 33 and east of Highway 169. The company will conduct an off-site nursery retail operation and on-site wholesale nursery business not open to the general public.

ESN e-editionIt will include storage of greenhouse equipment and plant materials for use at seasonal garden centers throughout Minnesota.

On-site nursery sales will be by appointment only. Hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

Leeseberg said the vice president of the firm lives on the property, a 24.5-acre lot. One percent of the property will be dedicated to storage, he said.

“This didn’t quality as a permitted home occupation,” he said. ]]> 0 Mayor Dietz awards Burandt volunteer of the month honor Thu, 01 Oct 2015 10:07:22 +0000 Submitted photo Elk River Mayor John Dietz gave Dave Burandt the volunteer of the month award as Burandt’s wife and council member looked on with pride.

Submitted photo
Elk River Mayor John Dietz gave Dave Burandt the volunteer of the month award as Burandt’s wife and council member looked on with pride.

Mayor John Dietz recognized Dave Burandt as Elk River’s Volunteer of the Month. Burandt’s wife, Barbara, is a member of the City Council.

Dietz noted that Burandt, is a bailiff at Sherburne County, is a monthly Care Call volunteer, works with nutritional assistance for seniors, volunteers at Zabee Theater, delivers brochures for Elk River Park and Recreation, serves on the SALT (Seniors and Law Enforcement Together) Council, and is a volunteer at his church. — Sue Webber

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Emmer hands out national award to Anderson Wed, 30 Sep 2015 10:59:55 +0000 U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., attended the Sept. 21 Elk River City Council meeting to recognize David Anderson as the recipient of the National Recreation and Park Association’s Robert M. Artz Citizen Advocacy Award.
Submitted photo Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano, shook Dave Anderson’s hand after he giving him a national award.
Submitted photo
Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano, shook Dave Anderson’s hand after he giving him a national award.

The award was presented to Anderson Sept. 17.

The national award “recognizes quite an accomplishment,” said Emmer, who represents Minnesota’s 6th District in the U.S. Congress.

Anderson has been with Elk River’s Park and Recreation Commission since 1987 and is the group’s chairperson.

“Things happen in our cities because of the incredible volunteers we have,” Emmer said.

Anderson, as an advocate for public parks and expanded opportunities, has donated up to 1,000 hours or more each year to working for the city, according to Emmer.

ESN e-edition“This is going above and beyond the average person’s giving back,” Emmer said. “We should hold him up as an example. I could not be more proud of this recipient.”

Replied Anderson: “Behind every good volunteer is a community and its leaders. I couldn’t do what I do without the leadership and support you provide. I’ve got a lot more things to do.”

The National Recreation and Parks Association’s  national awards are presented to individuals and agencies in the U.S. “to honor their efforts, both professional and personal, in the field of parks and recreation,” according to information given to the City Council.

The awards program includes 10 categories. Recipients are selected from a pool of applicants by an award and scholarship committee assembled by the organization on the basis of excellence in professional and volunteer service, programming, leadership, research and public outreach. — Sue Webber

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Ordinance change adds accessory dwelling units Wed, 30 Sep 2015 10:27:14 +0000 by Sue Webber

Contributing Writer

Families in Elk River will have a new way to coexist.

The Elk River City Council approved an ordinance amendment to allow accessory dwelling units, as presented by Chris Leeseberg, senior planner.

ESN e-editionAn accessory dwelling unit is a room or set of rooms in a single-family home in a single-family zone that has been designed or configured to be used as a separate dwelling unit and has been established by permit.

Leeseberg said staff had been asked to draft an ordinance amendment to its land use regulations on accessory dwelling units six weeks ago. Since then, the Planning Commission and city attorney have reviewed the ordinance.

Stipulations include one accessory dwelling unit per property, either attached or detached; a lot of 250 to 1,000 square feet; two sleeping rooms maximum; no front yard entrance; one additional off-street parking spot; property owner must live on the property; no subdivision; one address; and must have cooking, sleeping and sanitary facilities.

Owners of an accessory dwelling unit would need a license from the fire chief, even if a family member were housed there, Leeseberg said. A building permit and rental license also will be required.

“The Planning Commission had no concerns,” Leeseberg said. No one came forward to speak at the public hearing during the Sept. 21 meeting. ]]> 0 HRA blighted property program wins Elk River City Council approval Tue, 29 Sep 2015 10:25:44 +0000 by Sue Webber

Contributing Writer

The council approved an HRA (Housing and Redevelopment Authority) Blighted Properties and Forgivable Loan Program for commercial and industrial properties.

Amanda Othoudt, Economic Development director, said more work is needed before the residential properties portion of the program is ready for approval.

ESN e-editionGoals of the program are to stimulate private investment in the community, improve the tax base, spur new construction and redevelopment, create employment opportunities, and promote sale and redevelopment of substandard properties.

“We need to identify eligible properties as structurally substandard,” Othoudt said. “The state offers a similar program, and we will follow that format.” The state statute definition will be used to acquire and demolish identified properties, she said.

Money for the program will come from a predetermined amount of reserves from the HRA fund balance, now at approximately $1 million.

Companies selected for the program will receive a $75,000 forgivable loan on the condition that they provide five new jobs at $12.19 per hour (federal minimum wage). If the jobs are maintained for two years, businesses may apply to the HRA to forgive that portion of the loan, she said.

“A couple of businesses have expressed interest already,” Othoudt said. “It is definitely needed.”

To be eligible, companies must be for-profit corporations, partnerships or single ownership, and must be small businesses with a positive net worth.

Property owners applying for the program will pay a $2,000 fee. Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis and are due the first of the month. ]]> 0 Elk River City Council approves preliminary levy Mon, 28 Sep 2015 13:18:45 +0000 by Sue Webber

Contributing Writer

The Elk River City Council Sept. 21 authorized a maximum preliminary tax levy of $10.3 million for 2016, a 2.88 percent increase over 2015.

The levy can be decreased but not increased prior to public comment and final adoption on Dec. 7, according to Finance Director Tim Simon.

“The budget is not done,” Simon said.

The preliminary levy must be certified to the county auditor by Sept. 30. ]]> 0 County expansion takes one more step forward Sun, 27 Sep 2015 11:26:35 +0000  

by Jim Boyle


The clamor for an expansion of the Sherburne County Government Center took a tangible step forward last week as county commissioners hired a construction manager to review the plans for a potential project.

Adolfson and Peterson, aka A&P, will be hired at a cost of no more than $32,689 following the board’s vote.

The firm will be tasked with working with BWBR, the county’s architect, to review a 2008 master plan that has been dusted off and is being updated to determine the size and cost of a project proposal, according to Sherburne County Administrator Steve Taylor.

The project would include a new courts wing as well as office space expansion and remodeling of the existing facility. It could include partnerships with other entities like the Sherburne County Soil and Water Conservation District, where they would have direct access to county engineering, zoning and public works. There have also been talks with the Elk River Area School District about a partnership, but nothing has been set in stone on that front.

Other options being explored are bringing the administrative offices for the 10th judicial district into the government center and rolling in the Minnesota Motor Vehicle Department where license tabs are purchased.

Advancing technology that allows more work to be done remotely is also being considered as a way to limit the amount of space that will be proposed.

“We’re looking at what work space is needed and whether it needs to be dedicated and when privacy is needed,” Taylor said, noting that those questions can be the difference be the need for walled offices for personnel and other confidential matters and what are termed huddle rooms.

Taylor said A&P can help with the scheduling and cost estimating. The St. Louis Park-based construction and management firm will be asked to wrap up this phase of the project by November, and Sherburne County Commissioners will decide from there what to do next.

Among the options, Taylor said, will be a thumbs up or a thumbs down on the long-awaited project that got put off after the economy tanked in the 2000s. There’s also a possibility the work will trigger more work if cost estimates come in high and that number has to be brought down a notch to meet up with expectation.

Individual department heads and other county officials provided information this past week about their needs and current space constraints, as well as their visions for the future.

The firm will provide an update in October at a County Board meeting.

A&P was one of six firms to respond to Sherburne County’s request for proposals. The architect and Taylor recommended the County Board consider A&P, Kraus Anderson and McGough as finalists, which were then interviewed by Taylor, Public Works Director John Menter and Building and Facilities Director Steve Becker. This panel recommended A&P, and the board went along. ]]> 0 Dugout plans strikes out — for now Fri, 25 Sep 2015 19:00:22 +0000 by Sue Webber

Contributing Writer

A proposal to renovate four dugouts at Elk River’s Youth Athletic Complex struck out at the Sept. 21 City Council meeting, at least for this year.

Photo by Jim Boyle A U-9 Northwest Diamonds softball team practiced Wednesday night at the Elk River Youth Athletic Complex for a 9 a.m. game Saturday in Eden Prairie.
Photo by Jim Boyle
A U-9 Northwest Diamonds softball team practiced Wednesday night at the Elk River Youth Athletic Complex for a 9 a.m. game Saturday in Eden Prairie.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Commission had allotted $95,000 for athletic field improvements in 2015, according to Steve Benoit, recreation manager.

“Staff asked youth organizations for projects,” Benoit said. “The only group to respond was Elk River Youth Baseball.”

Drinking fountains and fence caps were on the group’s list, as lower-cost items. But because the dugouts on fields 5 and 6 the group wanted would be more than $50,000, they were required to go through a City Council process, Benoit said.

“There was strong concern about the cost of the high-end dugouts proposed, but the majority of the commission supported moving forward,” Benoit said.

Two bids were received for the four dugouts: one from Terra, for $107,308, and one from Hanson Brothers, for $75,400.

However, on Sept. 9, the majority of the commission recommended delaying the project to 2016, reaching out to other athletic groups in the city to find additional projects, resubmitting bid requests, and perhaps considering in-house staff and volunteers help to complete the project at a lower cost, according to Benoit.

“These are city funds,” Benoit said. “The cost would be affected dramatically if volunteers did the work.”

According to Benoit, player safety and privacy are major issues in the need for new dugouts. Aesthetic value also is a consideration, he said, “to make this a destination ballpark.”

Dave Lodermeier, president of the Elk River Youth Baseball board, said: “Covered dugouts are a big thing. It’s what these kids need and deserve and what the community deserves. It would mean a lot to our association to get these two fields done. They are premier fields.”

Though some have commented that the plan is “over the top,” Lodermeier noted that outstanding facilities would draw people from the metro area and outstate to play baseball in Elk River, and also to spend money in the city’s restaurants, stores and hotels.

Photo by Jim Boyle There’s an effort to replace wooden dugouts, but so far it has been deemed too pricey.
Photo by Jim Boyle
There’s an effort to replace wooden dugouts, but so far it has been deemed too pricey.

“When they see our fields, they’ll want to come back for a tournament,” he said. “We’ve learned how to run a tournament. Now we want to improve our facilities.”

Mayor John Dietz said: “If we set a standard, we’re setting ourselves up to do it at all the other parks. I don’t know if we would be able to maintain that standard at all our play fields. If we don’t do all of them, it will look funny.”

Dietz said it is likely the city could get better bids in the spring than in the fall.

“I’d like to set aside this money with the budget for next year,” he said. “We can add a lot of other things to it and still get the fields done before next year’s season starts.”

Councilor Jennifer Wagner, who said she has been a fastpitch softball coach, said: “I want to make sure we spend the money wisely. We can’t sustain fields at $50,000 or $60,000 apiece. These dugouts would be different from others at the same park.”

Eric Hansen, a parent, association member for 13 years and fencing contractor, noted that the group has worked on the project since February.

“The price is not going to go down; I can guarantee that,” Hansen said, noting that steel prices increased 7 percent as of July.

“The issue is that no one wants to spearhead it,” Hansen said. “We won’t get volunteers. No one wants the liability.”

Hansen said that although he didn’t want to manage the project, he doesn’t want to see it die.

“We will manage the project, but decisions have to be made now,” he said.

Dietz said he remains skeptical that the high-class dugouts can be maintained and suggested that a middle-range dugout be selected and used throughout the city’s parks.

ESN e-edition“We should have a middle-of-the-road,” Dietz said. “These are over the top. I don’t know that we have to have something this fancy. This is a great looking dugout, but it’s a costly dugout. I agree with delaying to spring and revising it to get more dugouts for the money.”

Michael Hecker, Parks and Recreation director, reiterated that although the commission reached out, the Youth Baseball group was the only group that responded to requests for projects.

“If we do this, I would like to see it sustained,” Wagner said. “We can do better with an overall plan. I’m disappointed that other youth organizations didn’t step up. We have to look at all youth sports, not these two for youth baseball. My job is to make sure we look overall.”

The mayor agreed that the city “has a responsibility to all the groups, even though they chose not to come forward.”

Hansen said the association is trying to make the dugout project their “crown jewel.”

“I’ve been part of the association for the last 13 years, and we’re looking to get things jump-started to get members involved,” Hansen said. “We’re trying to attract bigger and better tournaments to generate revenue for the city. This would set us apart from other cities.”

But Wagner maintained that the city needs to “work harder to get the numbers down.”

“What are our costs, and what are our needs?” she said. “We have a duty to make it right and do it correctly.”

Dave Anderson, chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, said the project is “a challenge to our community.”

“It’s a challenge for all of us to work together to get quality for less money,” Anderson said. “It’s a community process.”

But Hansen said, “We’ve gotten together on this project since February. We’ve had 15 meetings. We’ve exhausted all our avenues, other than cheapening the dugout. What we’re looking at as an association won’t be cheaper. A lot of effort has been put forward. We’ve tried volunteers. We’ve tried to get the city to spearhead it.”

After an hourlong discussion, the council voted unanimously to refer the issue back to the Parks and Recreation Commission. ]]> 0 Elk River City Council: Plans to improve dugouts in Elk River postponed Tue, 22 Sep 2015 22:09:11 +0000 A proposal to improve dugouts at Elk River’s Youth Athletic Complex has been postponed until the spring of 2016. The City Council Monday night discussed the issue for an hour before voting to refer the proposal back to the Planning Commission for further study on ways to reduce the cost of the project. 

In other council action, members authorized a maximum tax levy of $10.3 million, a 2.88 percent increase over 2015, and set a date of Dec. 7 for public comment prior to final approval of the 2016 budget.



  ]]> 0 Parking ban lifted before snow flies Thu, 17 Sep 2015 11:53:16 +0000 by Nate Gotlieb

Contributing Writer

The Elk River City Council approved changes on Sept. 8 to its snow and ice control policy, amending parking restrictions during winter months.

File photo Elk River has changed its winter snow and ice control policy.
File photo
Elk River has changed its winter snow and ice control policy.

Previously, city code prohibited street parking 2-6 a.m. from Nov. 15 to April 15. That prompted a lot of angry phone calls from Elk River residents, Police Chief Ron Nierenhausen said.

The new policy limits street parking when more than 1 1/2 inches of snow has accumulated within the past 24 hours or is predicted to fall within the next 24 hours. The city will use the Code Red weather alert service to let people know about snow emergencies.

“I think this will be much, much better for everyone involved,” Nierenhausen said.

The revised policy also clarifies that property owners are responsible for nondesignated city sidewalks. It notes that residents are subject to fines if they violate the parking restrictions and or shovel snow onto public roads.

The policy also says that residents cannot put trash containers on the public roads. In addition, it says that the city will replace mailboxes damaged by city equipment with “swing away” style mailboxes or a $75 reimbursement.

City staff estimated that plowing equipment damages 12 to 15 mailboxes a year.

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