By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN The last time Delano City Administrator Phil Kern spoke before the Delano Area Chamber of Commerce membership, it was the day after a major snowstorm. This year, the same thing happened.
“This will probably be my last time speaking before the chamber of commerce,” Kern joked at the beginning of the annual state of the city address he and Mayor Dale Graunke presented at the Delano City Hall April 17.
“Things are going pretty well in Delano right now, as far as the residential construction and the home market overall,” Kern said, diving into a number of areas of city focus.
The city had a “pretty good run of construction” between 2003 and 2006, he said, noting that it tailed off in 2008.
There were five new residential permits in 2010 and 2011. There were 30 in 2012, and 45 in 2013.
“There have been nine issued so far this year, with a few applications under review,” Kern said, adding that existing home sales in the city has seen a similar curve to that of new residential permits.
On the commercial/industrial side, Kern said 2011 was a significant year for Delano with expansions or new buildings for Landscape Structures, Sil Pro and Bauer Design Build, Lil Explorers Childcare Center, and Angela Kalthoff Photography.
Kern said there was about $10 million in project value in 2012 and 2013 which, he said, helps the city’s tax base.
“That adds about a 2 percent tax base impact, which has led to taxes remaining pretty constant in Delano,” Kern said.
Shifting the focus to the future, Kern said the big effort in 2014 is on the city’s northwest business park.
Ground was broken last fall, and a lot of dirt has been moved and land cleared in the area. Utilities are also being installed. Kern said there are about 220 acres of land in the first phase, of which about 60 is buildable. The rest are for ponding and wetland areas. The park’s development group has been working with Commercial Realty Solutions of Buffalo in marketing and selling the park.
“Progress on that business park is going quite well,” Kern said.
Chamber member Dick Grinley asked if the current phase includes a signalized intersection at Highway 12 and the entrance point into the park. Kern said the first phase does not, and said one won’t be installed there until traffic counts meet Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) specifications.
Kern said Solar Plastics is hoping to break ground on a 26,000-square-foot addition to its facility in the existing industrial park. This will increase the size of its facility by about 50 percent, which will lead to an additional 20 employment opportunities within the community.
“We are also hoping this is the year that Delano gets a hotel,” Kern said. He noted the Grandstay hotel project was approved last year, and organizers are working on financing for the building. He said they are hoping to begin construction in May on the proposed 54-room hotel at the intersection of 13th Street and Highway 12.
A building project in that same area for Verizon Wireless is also on the horizon, Kern said, noting the city is hopeful that project can move forward this summer.
Kern noted the 2013 street reconstruction project, and said about $5 million of work was done on almost two miles of city streets.
He said Bridge Avenue remains to be done, as does Second Street between Bridge and Elm avenues. Tiger Drive will also be reconstructed from Wright County Road 30 to the city’s wastewater treatment plant this year.
Kern also touched on the Central Park bathroom reconstruction, and surrounding plaza area outside the grandstand.
“That project was led by a number of community volunteers,” Kern said. “The Lions raised money for it. It was really a pretty neat community project. A lot of people got their hands dirty and put time and energy into it.”
The Delano Athletic Club also completed more than $200,000 worth of renovation to the main ball field.
“It really led to a first-class baseball facility,” he said, adding that Delano hosted the 2013 Minnesota Amateur Baseball Tournament.
“That brought about 15,000 folks from out of Delano into town over the three weekends,” he said. “It was a pretty great event. There was a lot of volunteer effort went into that.
He also noted the recent Delano SciTech Fest an initiative try to integrate and improve the communication and awareness of the jobs there are in the community. He noted it is already scheduled for the next two years.
Shifting gears to some city services, he said the Delano Fire Department has just over 20 members of the department, and responded to just under 450 calls in 2013.
“More than once a day, their pagers are going off,” he said.
Both 2012 and 2013 were close for the number of calls responded to. About 90 percent of the department’s calls are medical related.
He said the department is in the process of recruiting more firefighters.
Kern spoke about the city’s bond rating, and said the city’s general fund balance for the very healthy.
“In Wright County, Delano currently has second lowest property tax rate,” he said.
Another large focus for the city in 2014 is ongoing flood mitigation efforts.
A removable floodwall project will move forward after this year’s Fourth of July Celebration. He said 90 percent of the wall’s structural integrity will be beneath the ground.
He said it is not a certified corps of engineers project, but rather a local initiative to help avoid flood damage. He said the wall manufacturers say that, with a crew of six, and the right equipment, the downtown wall will be able to be built in a day.
He reviewed additional design and utilization of the area, which will include a canoe launch, fishing access, and ampitheatre.
Kern also noted the city’s flood forecast, which isn’t showing much for potential issues, a Safe Routes to School grant for a trail to be constructed along Tiger Drive, and provided an update on public transportation (see related story).