HJ/EDHerald Journal, Jan. 30, 2006

Industry, good finances propel Winsted into 2006

By Liz Hellmann
Staff Writer

Halfway through his 13th term as mayor of Winsted, Don Guggemos is heralding the year 2005 as “one of the best years in a long time” for Winsted.

“I thought it went exceptionally well,” Guggemos said.

The mayor’s optimistic approach to the city’s position is not a mere feeling, but is anchored in a number of important city projects and growth.

During 2005, the city finished the lower level of the Historic City Hall, now available for rent, and installed the new city skate park in Hainlin Park.

Several new industrial companies have also been added in 2005, or will be added in 2006, to Winsted’s already strong industrial base, bringing more job opportunities to the area.

Such industries include Five Star Direct, Apex Advantage, Advantage Mailing, and AAA Galvanizing.

“We’ll probably come up with 150 new jobs in place in the next 18 to 24 months,” Guggemos said. “That’s an amazing number, even for a bigger city.”

Expansion projects are also underway at existing industrial plants, such as Millerbernd Manufacturing and Millerbernd Fabrication and Design.

With the future increase in jobs, Winsted will probably be increasing its population, which currently stands at an estimated 2,400.

“We are in control of our growth,” Guggemos said.

That control included issuing 21 permits for new home construction in 2005 – a number that Guggemos expects to rise in 2006.

On the south end of town, where the Lueck farm used to be, Winsted Ponds is seeking final plat approval for 69 single-family lots.

Grass Lake Farms is planning to start construction on 37 more lots in the spring, and a small 11 lot subdivision has begun by Scenic Homes, near Baker Avenue and 3rd Street north.

All that residential and industrial growth leads to an increase in the city’s utilities and water and sewer usage – a problem that could drive up taxes for most cities, but not for Winsted.

“We’re doing some things that make sense,” Guggemos said. “The city is in very good shape financially because we’re paying off some bond issues. It’s like paying off the mortgage on your house.”

Because of money saved by the city for these projects over the years, grant money, and the retirement of the city’s debt, Winsted is able to finance necessary water and sewer projects totalling more than $1.5 million.

Even those these projects aren’t “romantic,” according to Guggemos, they are needed.

The city will begin work on the construction of two harvester sludge storage tanks at the sewer plant and complete work on a new well in Hainlin Park that will meet the new federal water standard.

The city also will complete the installation of a permanent generator for the Kingsley Lift station.

“It’s nice to start seeing some of the things you’ve been working on come together,” Guggemos said.

One of the biggest projects the city is working on is a new city center along the lake.

If it goes forward, the city center would include a new city hall and police department office, along with a community center as a lower level walkout. It would also encompass the building of a new public works building and landscaping.

The city is currently in the process of nailing down figures for the project. Guggemos is confident that this, like the other current city projects can be funded without tax increases.

As Guggemos looks back on his 26 years as mayor of Winsted, he is excited about where Winsted is now. Although the jobs, industries, and city projects are all steps in the progression, it’s not all about facts and figures for this long-time mayor.

“It’s a matter of giving back from what I’ve gotten from this community. I’ve raised my family here, and I enjoy being mayor,” Guggemos said.

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