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Mayor declares 2012 a success for Willmar, Minn.

Willmar Mayor Frank Yanish makes a statement Monday during the City Council’s regular meeting. Yanish discussed last year’s accomplishments for the city of Willmar and this year’s opportunities in his annual State of the City Address. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR — Mayor Frank Yanish says 2012 was a very successful year for Willmar. Among the successes cited by the mayor were a change in management at the Municipal Utilities, adoption of a new downtown plan, and federal release of old airport land for industrial development.

In 2013, Yanish said the city can look for successful opportunities with railroad crossing quiet zones, a city organizational study, nearly $20 million in new construction, and investigating ways to partner with neighboring cities.

Yanish discussed last year’s accomplishments and this year’s opportunities in his annual State of the City Address at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

A key 2012 success was the federal release of the old airport land that will allow for expansion of the industrial park and construction of the western interceptor sewer line.

The Federal Aviation Administration released the first 90 acres of old airport land in May and 140 acres in the second phase in November. The city awaits the third phase land release and resolving the fate of the former airport terminal building.

“I look forward to seeing the industrial development that will grow our employment and tax base,’’ said Yanish. “The necessary sewer expansion will be funded in part through the local option sales tax. I’m also proud to say the sales tax concluded in 2012, just as the City Council promised it would.’’

Regarding the new airport, Yanish said the council in December approved a new management contract, which the mayor believes will increase airport service. He said city staff and the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission will work closely to more actively market the airport in 2013.

Yanish said he believes the city is on the right path with Wesley Hompe serving as municipal utility general manager.

Yanish said commercial and industrial construction valuation increased by more than $1.8 million, or 18 percent, in 2012, offsetting other decreases, resulting in a net valuation increase of $1.1 million or 7 percent. Also, over 45 dilapidated structures were moved or demolished.

For 2013, Yanish said the goals in the downtown plan include improving downtown access, movement and parking; improving open space and green space trails; improving building conditions; enhancing the business mix and redevelopment; and improving housing.

He said the city has expanded the boundaries of the central business district to encourage redevelopment and a more dense development in the central core.

Yanish said the 2013 levy increase of $147,000, combined with other funds, will provide an additional $240,000 for street overlays, on top of approximately $2 million budgeted for this year’s street repairs.

Some key goals for the mayor in 2013

- Quiet zones. Work is planned for the Willmar Avenue and Trott Avenue railroad crossings. Planning will also occur for the Lakeland Drive crossing. By the end of 2014, three of five quiet zones will be completed.

- Organizational study. The city will review responses to request for proposals to assist city staff and council in analyzing and possibly restructuring city organization to more efficiently and effectively deliver services.

- Growth. Nearly $20 million in new construction awaits final applications and permitting. The projects include Ridgewater College, Rice Care Center and Mills Auto Center, and continued development of the MinnWest Technology Campus and Mid-Central Research and Outreach Center.

- Investigating opportunities for shared services with neighboring cities.

Finally, Yanish thanked City Administrator Charlene Stevens and the hardworking staff for what they have done to make Willmar a strong, growing and vibrant city.

Yanish said he and the council are not perfect. However, he said citizens have a dedicated council “and they want to do what is best for the city.’’

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