David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
- Member for
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WILLMAR -- Local elected officials agree that hiring a replacement for longtime City Administrator Michael Schmit, who will retire at the end of July, is the biggest issue facing the Willmar City Council right now. Council members who met Friday to discuss current challenges and future needs say the city continues to face issues relating to storm water flooding, increasing cost of electricity, revitalizing downtown, economic development, railroad crossing noise, diversity, transportation, privatizing government services, declining revenue and the level of city services. But filling the admin
WILLMAR -- The Charter Commission is recommending an amendment that would increase from 5 to 6 the number of affirmative City Council votes needed to override actions of the Municipal Utilities Commission, Rice Hospital Board and Planning Commission. Commission Chair Shawn Mueske says increasing the threshold to override those actions would be consistent with the charter's present threshold of 6 affirmative council votes needed to override the mayor's veto of any ordinance, resolution or motion. Charter changes require either a vote of the public or 8 affirmative council votes.
WILLMAR -- Growing up in poverty, Marv Otto didn't have much. But as an adult, he invested wisely and gave much to others. "Throughout his lifetime, he was very generous to many, many people and organizations in Atwater,'' recalls Arlys Winkelman of Atwater, a friend of Otto and his wife, Gladys, who many said inspired Marv's generosity. "If people were down and out, he'd probably go down to the grocery store and say, 'Here's a hundred dollars for groceries for so and so, and it's anonymous,''' says Winkelman.
WILLMAR -- Requests to apply for and receive grants for the Willmar Police Department and Willmar Fire Department were approved this week by the City Council's Public Works/Safety Committee. The committee's actions are recommendations to the council. The council will consider the recommendations on Monday night. Police Chief David Wyffels received approval for a grant application through the Minnesota Institute of Public Health for reimbursing the cost of alcohol compliance checks. Wyffels said successful applicants will be reimbursed $30 per compliance check.
WILLMAR -- It may soon be more convenient to pay for licenses, permits and assessments from the city of Willmar. Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday has recommended that the city offer citizens the option of paying for the three items with debit cards or credit cards. Halliday said city staff and departments have been receiving requests to allow payments by debit or credit cards. The Willmar City Council's Finance Committee discussed and approved the recommendation Monday.
WILLMAR -- Willmar Mayor Frank Yanish said he has canceled the appearance of Jerene Mortenson, Ph.D., as speaker for the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast. Yanish said Tuesday he has confirmed three alternate speakers for the breakfast, which is scheduled for 6:15 to 8 a.m. May 12 at the Willmar Conference Center.
WILLMAR -- The Federal Aviation Administration and the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office are insisting the city of Willmar perform a more detailed analysis of reusing the old airport terminal, which in March was declared eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The FAA and the state want the city to analyze a minimum of three reuse options: warehouse or storage purpose; manufacturing; or a use that would require extensive rehabilitation. The City Council previously declared the terminal unsafe and uninhabitable and said the building should be torn down.
The Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission may need to consider increasing electric rates because power supply costs and transmission costs continue to rise. The last time city electric rates were increased was in 2009. The possibility of a rate in-crease was discussed Monday when the commission received a disappointing first-quarter fina-ncial summary for the period from January through March. Electric division revenue during the period was up 0.86 percent from $5,622,132 in 2010 to $5,670,604 in 2011, but expenses jumped 14.36 percent from $4,682,766 last year to $5,355,305 in 2011.
WILLMAR -- Ken and Cathy Balderston of rural Olivia are seeking customers in the city of Willmar who are interested in buying produce from their community-sponsored agriculture garden, also known as a CSA. Under the CSA program, customers pay a fee and receive fresh produce delivered to their door. The CSA is a new venture for the Balderstons who are entering their 14th year of selling produce. They sell at farmers markets in Redwood Falls, Olivia and Willmar. "We started with three coolers and a card table,'' Cathy Balderston said.
WILLMAR -- Staff from the city's Planning and Development Services Department will be driving through the neighborhoods during the next few weeks looking for properties in violation of exterior maintenance and storage regulations. "Every couple of years we've tried to do a complete sweep of the community just to restore neighborhoods to a basic standard of livability and attractiveness,'' says Bruce Peterson, department director. The city planner and two building inspectors will drive through the neighborhoods.