Commentary: City makes progress; citizen input still key
Greetings from City Hall! 2013 has been a busy, productive year at the city of Red Wing, for both staff and elected officials. This year we were able to focus on our Strategic Plan and make great headway on several key goals:
• Closure of city incinerator July 1
Even with drastic cost cutting measures and reassignment of employees, the incinerator has struggled for years to bring in enough waste to allow the facility to break even. The City Council decided to temporarily close the incinerator July 1, as we wait for legal disputes at the state level to be resolved about additional waste coming from large scale waste collectors.
For now, the city has an agreement with Xcel Energy to bring waste to the NSP incinerator at the south end of town.
In the coming year council will decide if we should re-open the incinerator or find alternatives. Either option entails significant cost and planning, for what is a core responsibility of the City.
• Operation of city marina and transfer of Port Authority property to city
With the resignation of our longtime marina manager in August, the Port Authority, Harbor Commission and City Council agreed that the city should take over management of the Ole’ Miss Marina. The Public Works Department will now manage the marina and a new marina manger will start Jan. 6.
We have already arranged to install wi-fi capacity at the harbor and started meeting with boaters. Plans include investing in dock and slip infrastructure, establishing transient dockage and aggressive marketing and customer service.
The Port Authority and City Council also agreed to transfer ownership of the Port Authority land being held for development (including the RiverBluffs Development and the Highway 61/19 property) to the city. This will free the Port Authority from using its small budget to pay for the land carrying costs, allowing it to focus on selling the properties and other economic development.
• Mississippi National Golf Links turned over to local non-profit management group
In 2013, the city settled its litigation against Wendell Pittenger Golf Operations over the management of MNGL and grappled with what to do with the 400-acre property.
A request for proposals turned up only one bidder: the Red Wing Municipal Golf Corporation, a local non-profit group made up entirely of Red Wing citizens who proposed to run the course, with a paid professional staff. After hours of spirited public meetings and other input, the council voted to negotiate an arrangement with the group. This involves an initial city investment to upgrade the club house (except the kitchen equipment) and some cart paths. The city investment will decline each year for five years until it zeros out.
The local group is working hard to take over management April 1.
• May 2013 ice storm
The historic ice storm in May 2013 stretched the capacity of our pared-down Public Works Department, but the staff performed outstandingly, plowing in terrible conditions, removing hundreds of downed trees and branches, repairing ruined equipment, processing so much downed wood that our city wood chipper dramatically fell apart.
Our local legislators, Sen. Matt Schmit and Rep. Tim Kelly, found much-needed funding to replace the equipment.
In 2014, the city is well situated to tackle some large projects, including intensive planning for the large scale reconstruction project on Highway 61/Main Street planned for 2015.
We’ll need lots of involvement from local businesses, community leaders and residents to help us plan for what will be a big upgrade to the street’s intersections, walkways, and water and sewer lines. We will continue to work with MNDOT to plan the new high bridge, set for 2018.
We’ll be making significant decisions regarding our solid waste campus, and continuing our efforts to get the nuclear waste stored at Prairie Island nuclear plant moved out of the city.
A state-funded reconstruction of West Avenue will be a necessary inconvenience for some months in 2014.
As the economy continues to stabilize, the reconfigured Port Authority will be able to focus on local economic development efforts, working closely with Downtown Main Street and local businesses to stabilize and increase our job market.
This coming year we will continue, with much-appreciated input from our state legislators, the Chamber of Commerce and local businesses, to advocate for state bonding funds for our waterfront initiative — RiverFront Renaissance Project.
This funding would allow the city to realign Levee Road, making it safer for pedestrians and cyclists and avoiding the frequent flooding problems. It will create a bike trail along the river, connecting parks and walkways, and will fund critical infrastructure repairs at the Sheldon Theatre.
None of these efforts can happen without the involvement of our citizens. In 2013, volunteers put in hundreds of hours serving on city boards and commissions, attending public hearings, giving time to our parks, playing fields and waterfront. Your involvement is so appreciated; thank you for all you do.
Please continue to give us your opinions, your time, and your ideas. There are so many ways to get involved — visit our city website, at www.red-wing.org for more ideas.
I look forward to hearing from you.