Willmar Ward 2: Bjur says he'll be a champion for citizens
WILLMAR -- As a Willmar City Council member from Ward 2, Andrew Bjur believes he can do a lot of good for the city and says he'll be a champion for all citizens.
"I feel like I can get things done. I know (city) staff really well. I've worked with them and we've accomplished things in the past,'' says Bjur, who is running against incumbent council member Ron Christianson in the Nov. 2 general election.
Bjur feels he has a good chance of unseating Christianson, who is in his 16th year on the council. Bjur feels the city is ready for a leadership change.
"We shouldn't have council members elected forever in their positions and I don't plan on being elected forever in the position either,'' he said.
Bjur's top issue is improving storm water management. He said Ward 2 gets hit sometimes with the worst amount of flooding in town. Ward 2 is in the southwest quadrant of the city.
Bjur wants to develop new policies to control the rate of storm water discharge into the storm sewer, execute new strategies to eliminate problem areas in neighborhoods and implement a strategy to improve storm water control for the entire city.
One possibility would be to have smaller street sizes in new developments to slow the rate of storm water runoff.
"We've already had some damage to houses because of the flooding and I'd like to take care of that by implementing some new storm water policies as well as following through on some of the ones that are being looked at right now,'' he said.
"If we can slow that down, we can solve some of the problems that occur,'' he said. "Storm water is a big issue and it will take many, many years to solve it. But that is high on my agenda to look after.''
Bjur says his No. 2 issue is supporting development and improvement of parks and trails. He said this will promote healthier living, attract young professionals to the community, and provide Willmar with a positive identity.
"I'd like to work with city staff and there are also private groups that are working on unifying the trail system and making Willmar a destination for biking and hiking and exploring the lakes, and also our parks, our great green amenities, to attract young families and young professionals to the community,'' he said.
"Those kind of free activities are what young families are looking at using in the city of Willmar, and I'm certainly looking to expand their opportunities,'' he said.
Bjur supports rehabilitation of existing housing for either rental or owner-occupied residences.
"I think it is something the City Council should do. We should find incentive programs to develop existing houses that might not be in the best shape and rehabilitate them and turn them into functional either rental or home-occupied structures,'' he said. "And there certainly could be a study done on that and that would be beneficial to the city as well.''
Bjur said the Westwind low-income housing project has come up while campaigning.
There was no vote at any time early to stop the project "and that's one thing that the public really should know. The first vote that came in front of the Planning Commission was whether or not the buildings should be rental units or owner-occupied, and the city ultimately voted for rental units,'' said Bjur.
"They didn't vote against the project. The vote really was about rental units. The second vote that came in front of the City Council was about lot sizes or zoning and that one, if you look at the development, fit the zoning ordinance. So there shouldn't have been anything controversial on that, but it was kind of controversial.''
Bjur said much of the controversy surrounding the project didn't have anything to do with the vote.
"But if you try and stop it, you're not looking at the vote. You're looking at other arguments that probably wouldn't be relevant in the legal system,'' he said.
Bjur has been employed as an architect for the past 11 years. He said his experience serving on the Community Education and Recreation advisory committee and the Planning Commission has given him knowledge on citizen needs as well as a familiarity with city staff.
"I have a good relationship with city staff and I have worked with them to achieve goals. I have assisted in receiving grants for the YMCA, the city trails, as well as developing the disc golf park,'' he said.