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Willmar, Minn., residents can rate city's performance

WILLMAR -- Willmar will be participating in a state-developed survey that will let local residents measure the performance of their city. The City Council voted to adopt performance measures developed by the state Council on Local Results and Innovations.

The state council, created in 2010 by the Legislature to set performance benchmarks for city and county operations, in February released standards for counties and cities to measure the effectiveness of their services and to measure residents' opinions of those services. Participation by cities and counties is voluntary.

City Administrator Michael Schmit recommended the program. He said there is no cost to the city and there are two incentives to participate: payment of 14 cents per capita in local government aid, which amounts to $2,678 for Willmar based on the latest Census; and an exemption from levy limits for taxes payable in 2012.

When council members first considered the program at the June 13 Finance Committee meeting, there was little information and time available to make a decision, said Schmit. The State Auditor's Office had set a decision deadline of July 1 and the matter was received for information.

During the past 7 to 10 days, however, there has been a flurry of emails between cities and an effort to work through the League of Minnesota Cities and the State Auditor's Office to develop a standardized measuring survey, Schmit said.

By the end of the week, officials from 50 counties and 60 cities said they wanted to participate, including Willmar, said Schmit. He called the State Auditor's Office, which gave Willmar an exemption to the deadline if council members adopted a resolution to participate.

Schmit said there is no risk to the city and he feels it is a good way to learn how residents feel about city services. He thinks more cities will participate and he said cities can develop their own systems.

Among the suggested questions are overall ratings for services, safety, quality of fire protection, snowplowing, dependability and quality of city water supply and sanitary sewer services, and quality of recreational programs and facilities.

Council member Jim Dokken said the Kandiyohi County Board has voted to participate in the program.

Council member Ron Christianson questioned staff cost and time required to participate. Schmit did not think the program would cost the city much if anything.

Mayor Frank Yanish said getting a sense of how the citizens are feeling would be a plus.

In other business, the council:

- Canceled a hearing that had been scheduled for Tuesday night to consider ordering plans and specifications for street and utility improvements on 12th Street Southwest. The hearing was not held because public notice about the hearing was published only once by the Tribune and not twice as required. To move the project forward and to meet various deadlines, Public Works Director Holly Wilson recommended 12th Street property owners be asked to sign a petition to waive the improvement hearing. Wilson said approval is needed from 100 percent of property owners.

- Authorized an agreement pending final approval of Schmit and City Attorney Rich Ronning to construct an RV dump site at the Kandiyohi County Recycling Center, 1400 22nd St. S.W. During the open forum, Wendell Swanson of Willmar thanked the council on behalf of two camping clubs for moving the dump site project forward.

- Was told by Police Chief David Wyffels that the police department has since last week been returning calls to people who provide information to the department. Wyffels said the department tells callers that the department appreciates the information. "We're monitoring the amount of time it takes, and responses have been positive,'' the chief said. "The other benefit from talking to people is they seem to provide additional concerns that they have, so it's just something we're trying.''

- Approved the sale of $1,825,000 in general obligation improvement bonds for this year's street improvement program to UMB Bank of Kansas City, Mo., at an interest rate of 2.2618 percent. The bid was the lowest of four bids submitted.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150