Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Oct. 4, 1999

HL community meeting poor in attendance, rich in ideas

By Andrea Vargo

Either people didn't know about the Howard Lake community meeting, or busy lives kept residents from attending Tuesday.

The lack of participants didn't dampen the spirits of the six people who did show up.

They were full of ideas and suggestions for the future of Howard Lake.

Bill Leskee, an independent consultant from Minneapolis, will assist the city council in the creation of a Capital Improvements Project (CIP).

The CIP will determine what the city needs and how to plan for the future money for those plans. It is a part of the budget, he said.

He guided the people through the development of a list of city and community strengths, as well as a wish list for many different areas of the city.

All the information for the CIP is in one place, and that makes it easier for the city to apply for grants or other funding to make those projects reality.

Business surveys were sent out, and Leskee said they are starting to come back to him. He will compile the information to present to the city council.

Businesses that come into the city looking to set up shop, want to know if a city is prepared to support them with services or incentives, said Leskee.

Quality of life

The first things Leskee wanted to know about Howard Lake were the perceptions people have of the quality of life in the city.

Some positive remarks about the city included:

  • Still a moral sense in the community
  • Public safety is not much of an issue, right now
  • People feel a responsibility for others
  • Relatively crime-free city
  • Friendly people
  • People move here to raise their children
  • Lake is a huge asset
  • Lots of traffic for a business on Highway 12
  • Location is small town, but the Guthrie and other big city entertainment options are close
  • The Howard Lake City Hall is on the National Historic Register
  • A number of concerned citizens invest a lot of time in the city
  • Excellent fire department
  • Lions and Legion provide a lot of extras for the city; things that wouldn't be done with tax dollars
  • Seven churches have good attendance and lots of activities

Some of the negative statements were:

  • Odors from area businesses
  • Possibility of losing some of the businesses during the Highway 12 improvements
  • Small town can't afford more staff and service people
  • Traffic needs to slow down through town
  • Some people seem to think their small town will stay small, yet they want big city services
  • Shabby buildings, no uniformity in the downtown area
  • Library needs more space
  • Poor sidewalk maintenance, weeds and debris
  • Eighth Ave. needs more garbage containers
  • Need to expand an industrial area
  • Children need more gathering places

It's a fact, that as a city grows, some things change, Leskee said.

Growth pushes the limits of city services.

For instance, the wastewater treatment plant was built with expansion in mind, said resident Welton Zander.

Mayor Gerry Smith said the city is building a new water tower, but it needs another well.

Park and recreational ideas focused on bike and walking paths.

Most present wanted a connection around the lake, between Memorial Park and Lions Park.

Also, a wish was expressed that city trails might eventually be connected to other local and regional trails.

The city has two parks, and park areas are a part of any new development, said Smith.

But, Zander said he thought Dutch Lake Woods was supposed to have a park in the first stage of development, and there isn't one.

Smith said he would have to find out.

Some suggestions that could be considered to improve recreation facilities for the youth might be to pave the ice skating rink to make it useful in the summer for rollerblade hockey.

It was also mentioned that the kids like to jump with their bikes and maybe an area could be made to fit this activity.

Not only do a city's parks need to be functional and attractive, but the downtown area needs to be shopper-friendly and provide a variety of businesses for the shopper.

"The business association doesn't pay enough attention to promoting excellence," said Molly Van Oss.

There are significant businesses that are not involved in the business association, due to lack of time or energy, she said.

Smith said, "We need to find a way to motivate our people. If people get involved, what they do that is good for the town, is good for their business."

"(Good businesses) have a good impact on the town, even if they aren't involved in the business association," said Van Oss.

City administration has never been big on supporting committees and such that want to promote the town, said Smith.

He said he thinks that should change.

Leskee told the group that a CIP is a public document that takes these ideas and wishes and forms a plan for the city. This gives it a better chance to get funds.

These ideas need to each have a price tag, and the city needs to schedule them, said Leskee.

That schedule is not set in stone, and an unforeseen problem like a broken water line that costs more than anticipated, could take precedence over a park project.

The plan and budget can then be adjusted according to need, said Leskee.

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