By Mayor Mark Custer
As we move into the New Year of 1998, the citizens and taxpayers of Howard Lake can look at the administration of the city with pride and a sense of accomplishment for the things that have gotten done. We survived one of the mildest winters on record and can look forward to spring with an enthusiasm not normally found after severe winters.
Our city looks good. It is clean, neat and the pride of all of its citizens. Several business places have opened their doors in Howard Lake and appear to be thriving. The front of the Cartmakers on the corner of Seventh Ave. and Highway 12 has been refurbished and appears to be an entirely new building. Activities like this are the well springs of the feel-good attitude in the city.
The new medical clinic owners, Ridgeview Medical Center, have come to the rescue and filled the gap left by the retirement of Doctor Shin, our local practitioner for almost 40 years.
We can look to the future with the successes of the city as the keystone and the hallmark of the things that can be done when we all work together. None of the successes of the city are the work of any one person. Together with your city council, the staff of city hall, the public safety personnel, the city employees and the staff of the municipal liquor store all contributed to the challenges and victories of the 1997 work schedule of Howard Lake.
Some of the salient points of importance that occurred in 1997 are what I want to tell you about. The city is on a firm financial footing. The city council did everything but carry magnifying glasses when budgetary items were discussed at the council meetings. No expenditures were approved without strong discussion by the advocates of that spending and the members of the council that made sure the expense wes justified.
Of course, one of the most disappointing reports we received in the past year was the failure to bring a new municipal well which would improve the quality of the water available in the city. In spite of the best information available, coupled with some professional embarrassments at the final outcome of the well tests, we did not achieve what I thought was one of the most important goals for the city. The well that was punched down 1,000 feet simply couldn't provide the quality or quantity of water that we needed to fulfill the requirements of the city.
Frankly, we are at a standstill until we come up with another game plan to get a new well operating. You can be assured that this situation is at the top of the agenda for the city administration and we will continue working until we get a solution.
You will have noticed the new homes being developed around the city and they have been a great addition to the existing inventory of housing. The Dutch Lake development project is expected result in about 45 new homes over the next few years, the Lahr golf course lots have been selling at a steady pace and have resulted in four new homes in 1997.
There are 40 available sites in the development which are a compliment to the forward thinking of the Lahr family and the planning and zoning commission of the city.
The Haywood development, operating for about five years now, is almost sold out with a good mix of single family homes and duplex residences.
Shoreline Drive Homes, on the east side of town, only has a couple of lots left and the appeal of the varied home styles in that development are the first impression visitors to our city see when driving along Highway 12.
The total new home permits issued in 1997 are 14. In addition, the spirit of the city continues to show itself in the permits for remodeling existing shops and places of business. We issued nine permits for both major and minor expansions remodeling for our commercial business places.
Among the permits issued, was one to the Lions for improvements to the Lions Park which provides recreation and a place to get away from the daily stress of life. Probably the one major improvement to the city will be the completion of the new school wing of St. James Lutheran School. Just the material going into the school construction is worthy of the many photographs being taken of the progress of the construction.
Let's look at the financial picture of the city. We are in a very good way as finances go, according to our auditors. Initial comments from the firm that is engaged in the auditing process gives us reason to be especially grateful for the wise and talented folks we elect and employ. As I said earlier, they are concerned where and when tax money is spent and want to account for each and every penny. I know, I work with them and discuss with them in depth when extra expenses show up that have to be paid.
Our infrastructure debt, for such municipal amenities as our sewage treatment plant, the library, the new park-n-ride lot, the future Berube parking lot and miscellaneous city motorized equipment, which is being paid-off over the period that ends in 2008, amounts to less than $500 per capita in our city. Compare that to another city to the northeast which found out last year that, because of mismanagement and poor handling of tax funds, has a per capita debt of almost $5,600 per resident.
In summary, I appreciate each and every one of the citizens and taxpayers of Howard Lake for being the friends they have been to me and my family over the years. I am looking forward to continuing as your mayor for the rest of 1998. I also want to assure that, in spite of the example set by one of the other mayors in the Twin Cities metro area, I will not seek, nor will I accept the nomination of any group, to run for the office of governor of the State of Minnesota.