State of the city address presented at recent chamber meeting
By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN Each year, the Delano Area Chamber of Commerce hosts a state of the city address at one of its spring meetings.
At this year’s event at the Delano City Hall, City Administrator Phil Kern and Mayor Dale Graunke said the city is experiencing moderate residential growth.
Kern said Delano has seen a market improvement in the recent past.
“There’s a moderate growth activity in the market,” Kern said. “The residential side, in particular on the east side of Wright County, is picking up steam again.”
Low interest rates and bank-owned properties tend to be fueling some growth, he added.
Within Delano, Kern said the listing times of properties has decreased by 26.5 percent, while the average home sale price is up 19.1 percent. Existing home inventory is around the lowest it’s been in eight years.
Kern reviewed Delano’s new housing permits since 2007, which showed 41 permits. In the years that followed (2008-2011), there were 24 total. Then, in 2012, the number rose to 30, and, to-date for 2013, there have been 11.
“It’s not showing any signs right now of slowing down any,” Kern said. “That’s continuing to move forward. We’re showing some good, moderate growth right now.”
Turning to the industrial side of things within the city, Kern said 2011 was a record year, where there was more than $10 million of commercial and industrial investment in town.
He highlighted projects such as Randy’s Environmental Services’ new station, a 30,000-square-foot expansion at Modern Molding, and, looking forward, Kern said an expansion project of just under 30,000 square feet was approved for Solar Plastics.
Looking at commercial activity in Delano, Kern highlighted Sarophia’s new location on River Street, along with the opening of The Bohemian Wine Bar and Pub and Aspen Green Home and Garden on Bridge Avenue.
Along the Highway 12 corridor, he noted Chevrolet of Delano’s expansion, which includes facade improvements; and also the Ridgeview Medical Clinic’s 2012 expansion. This project added Wayzata Children’s Clinic and Ridgeview Rehab Services.
“It’s a very good thing for your community when you have the medical industry investing,” Kern said.
In terms of public activity, Kern talked about investments at Municipal Stadium and Central Park, with a lot of upgrades at the baseball park area.
Kern said Municipal Park has been named the 2013 Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Association’s field of the year, and said the field will play host to some section baseball games this spring.
A couple flood improvement projects have also been in the works, including the purchase of property at 93 River Street, the Xcel Energy building site on Bridge Avenue, and also the Ranchers Auto site along Highway 12.
“This provides for us the ability to protect the community long-term from potential flood impacts,” Kern said. He noted this allows the river levee to be expanded, and also allows for a pumping station.
On the public safety side, Kern said a new fire rescue/engine truck is set for delivery in the near future. The current rescue truck was purchased in 1991. The fire department combined the needs of two trucks into one truck, resulting in a substantial cost savings to the city.
Kern also showcased the city’s Spirit of Community project (see related story), and the Best of 12 effort.
The kickoff for the Best of 12 event, which includes communities along the Highway 12 corridor from Delano to Dassel, took place in Montrose April 13. This is an effort to raise awareness of the Highway 12 corridor.
“Trying to raise the awareness that we’re not as far away from the metro area as you think; trying to raise awareness this is a great place to raise a family, and that we have great labor here for businesses, and it’s a great place to do business,” Kern said.
He said the Best of 12, at this point, is purely a “marketing awareness effort.”
The Healthy Delano project is also coming to the conclusion of its first year. This is an initiative to promote getting active, eating right, and living well.
Kern said a conclusion event to Healthy Delano will take place in conjunction with the St. Paul Saints baseball event at Central Park Saturday, May 11.
“The group is going to continue, and wants to try to work with the chamber and businesses in the community to push these messages and make Delano a healthier place to live,” Kern said.
Looking at the city operations, Kern said the city’s financial health is strong. He said the city’s budget and tax rate is stable, and said Delano has the second-lowest property tax rate in Wright County.
He also highlighted the city’s building department merger with the City of Watertown, and a data management project.
Reflecting back to the 2012 elections, Kern said Delano saw a voter turnout of just more than 85 percent. He said 3,156 voted in 2012, which is up from 2,490 in 2010.
Moving forward with 2013 initiatives, the Northwest Business Park is a priority for the city. Kern said the plan is to break ground on the business park this summer, and said it is a private/public project.
A developer is going to be the landowner, marketing and selling the land, and paying back the city’s investment on the project.
Randy’s Environmental Services is slated to be the first tenant of the business park. Kern said the business has some exciting things in the works in terms of generating energy from waste.
The city is also undertaking a street improvement project in 2013. The city has about $5 million in street repairs scheduled this summer. Some streets will receive a full reconstruction, while others will receive mill and overlay work.
Kern said there has been a lot of discussion over the last few years on how to pay for street improvements, and said this project is proceeding with the property tax levy as its primary source of funding, along with state road aid.
Delano Municipal Utilities is also completing a project that will bury all overhead lines underground. Work is also taking place on the water line on Bridge Avenue.
Other expansion projects that are known to be planned for 2013 are Lil’ Explorers adding a gymnasium to its structure; and a $300,000 renovation project at Ridge Manor.
The Central Park restroom facility is also being restructured, with the Delano Lions taking the lead on fundraising efforts for the project.
“They have certainly been leaders and trying to help this thing move along,” Kern said.
Upcoming major events in the city include the Fourth of July Celebration July 3-6, the state baseball tournament in August and September, and the St. Paul Saints exhibition game at Central Park Saturday, May 11. He also noted the River Street Jam Friday, May 31, the Taste of Delano Wednesday, Aug. 7, and the Relay for Life Friday, July 26.
“It will be another fast and furious summer when it gets here,” Kern said.