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State of the City: Mayor sees a bright future for Willmar

WILLMAR -- Willmar's future is bright and full of opportunities, according to Mayor Marv Calvin. "We are a blessed community. Our community is functioning in a more collaborative manner and the council has become a better listener to the needs of...

Erica Dischino / TribuneMayor Marv Calvin, left, makes opening remarks with Steve Brisendine, director of Willmar Community Education and Recreation, during the Rice Park grand opening Wednesday evening in Willmar.
Erica Dischino / Tribune file photo Willmar Mayor Marv Calvin, left, speaks at the grand opening of the refurbished Rice Park in this June file photo. Updated park amenities were among the city accomplishments cited by Calvin Tuesday when he gave his state of the city address.

WILLMAR - Willmar's future is bright and full of opportunities, according to Mayor Marv Calvin.

"We are a blessed community. Our community is functioning in a more collaborative manner and the council has become a better listener to the needs of all our constituents," Calvin said in his annual state of the city address at Tuesday's meeting of the Willmar City Council.

The council's priorities for 2019, based on discussions during the council retreat in early January, include the local option sales tax projects, a new city hall in downtown Willmar and continued improvements of the city's stormwater system.

Calvin said he is pleased 2019 will mark the start of the city hall project after years of discussions.

"This will be a legacy building that will serve the citizens of Willmar long into the future and will include the latest technology and architectural aesthetics that are pleasing to the eye," Calvin said.

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Once the state Legislature gives its approval for the local option sales tax, the city will begin the process of planning, designing and constructing the projects to be funded through the local option sales tax revenue. All of these projects, and the city hall, could help build the legacy of Willmar.

"In my opinion, these projects will start a framework that will jump-start our revised community image," Calvin said.

There have already been many recent improvements in Willmar, Calvin said, from updated park amenities to new events and programs such as the Celebrate the Light of the World display of Christmas lights now located at Robbins Island.

"There is great optimism for things to do in Willmar," Calvin said.

Last year's transfer of the Eagle Lake Sanitary Sewer System to city ownership and the establishment of the Carris Health partnership - the merger of Affiliated Community Medical Centers and the city-owned Rice Memorial Hospital into the new subsidiary of CentraCare Health - were also mentioned in the speech as milestones of 2018.

Calvin continues to be proud of the city's welcome to those of different backgrounds.

"Having a community that is open and welcoming to our diverse community continues to be a strong point for the city of Willmar," he said.

Calvin wants the city to continue to work to bring more housing and economic development opportunities to the city.

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"Housing continues to be a major concern and I receive frequent calls from people looking for housing ownership and rental," Calvin said.

Last year, several housing projects came to the council's attention and one of them, 15th Street Flats, is under construction. This is the first major multi-family project to take place in Willmar for at least a decade, Calvin said.

The city continues to use tax increment financing to entice new commercial and industrial projects to town, Calvin said, projects that might not have been possible without that kind of assistance.

"Willmar's economic engine continues to fire on all cylinders and this is evident by the growth we have seen in our industrial park and other commercial projects throughout our community," he said.

Calvin urged residents to get involved in the community and with the major projects. Subcommittees are being formed to help plan the local option sales tax projects and public input will also be gathered for the new city hall.

"Our community is stronger today because of the public input we have received from our citizens and I look forward to hearing from you as we work to make our community even stronger," Calvin said.

There are also employment opportunities within the city, which the mayor urged residents to consider.

"Our employees continue to be our strongest assets," Calvin said. "Our goal is to be the employer of choice and we still have a ways to go to make this a reality."

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He said Willmar has much for which to be thankful and he is grateful for the city residents' ongoing investment in the future of the city as well as the support they have given him and the council to help build Willmar's legacy.

"The citizens of Willmar have asked the city to be forward-thinking, community-minded and are giving us an opportunity to leave a legacy for the leadership of the city of Willmar in 2019," Calvin said. "This is a tall task and one that I take very seriously and look forward to the community's input as we move our projects forward."

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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