Waconia appoints downtown task force

The future of downtown Waconia appears to be in good hands after 18 dedicated business owners and citizens were appointed to a special Downtown Task Force during the Waconia City Council meeting on Jan. 22.
The task force members will help city officials develop a plan that addresses the future economic development and infrastructure needs of the downtown area. The plan will review current economic development tools as well as guide future infrastructure such as “this way to downtown” signage and other improvements.
The appointed members of the task force are: John Prondzinski, Summer Jensen, Dan Neubauer, Robert Schmaltz, Steve Yetzer, Paul Melchert, Myron Karki, Craig Sharp, Pat Anderson, Jeff Bonner, Steve Hebeisen, Margaret Milne, Shonna Caswell, John Schmidt, Paul Scheuble, Dermott Cowley, Donald Osmundson, and Fr. Bennet Tran.
“I think this is a really, really good task force,” Mayor Jim Nash said. “I’m glad to see it underway. We’ve talked about it somewhat extensively. We’re going to see a group of people who are both stakeholders in the business community and residents come together and sort of map out what’s next and I think with that type of input it’s going to be a really powerful group of people.”
Nash said they tried to keep the group to a manageable size and that’s why they chose who they did for it.
“We’re going to work in earnest to deliver a really good product and integrate that into our building plans as we have major road construction projects coming up in the near-future so … integrate that in, get the work done ahead of time,” he said.
According to Assistant City Administrator Shane Fineran, the task force will convene in early to mid-February so a schedule of the group’s meetings is expected to be available sometime next month. Once it is available, it will be put on the city website. It was noted that citizens are welcome to attend the task force meetings.
In other matters:
• Charles Erickson was officially sworn in as the newest member of the Waconia City Council on Jan. 7. Erickson narrowly defeated incumbent Larry Millender in last fall’s general election.
• Sgt. Mark Williams of the Carver County Sheriff’s Office introduced himself to the council. Williams is the new officer that will be covering the city of Waconia. He replaces Sgt. George Pufahl, who now works in Chanhassen as a patrol sergeant.
Williams started with the Carver County Sheriff’s Office in 1976.
In recent years, he has worked with the Southwest Metro Drug Task Force. Willliams noted that his first patrol shift occurred in Waconia. He said it was nice to be returning to the Waconia community and hopes to serve the community well and make Waconia an even better place than it is today.
• The Winterfest 5K, which was scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 2, has been cancelled due to insufficient registration. The Winterfest Carnival will still be held that day at Safari Island from 1 to 3 p.m.
• The council approved a final plat application by Ryland Homes for the Interlaken 6th Addition, which consists of 37 single-family home lots and four outlots and is located on the northeast side of the development. Final plat approval will be subject to the city and the developer entering into a required Developer’s Agreement. Officials expect the council to consider that agreement sometime in February.
• Fire Chief Mark Morse gave an update on recent fire department activity. As of the meeting date, the fire department had responded to 25 emergencies — mostly medical calls — during January. However, Morse noted a couple of the bigger calls, including one that occurred at Lighthouse of Waconia on Jan. 2.
In that incident, the department received a water flow alarm. At the scene, firefighters discovered water coming out of the ceiling lights in the main lobby because of a broken water pipe. Although the damage probably exceeded $25,000, Morse noted that it could have been higher — he commended his firefighters for going the extra mile in getting rid of the excess water and Lighthouse officials must have been equally pleased with the effort as evidenced by the Card of Thanks they ran in last week’s Waconia Patriot.
Morse mentioned the fire that occurred at Waconia High School on Jan. 7. He said the fire in that incident caused approximately $10,000 or more in damage.
Morse also talked about the house fire on Lakeview Terrace Boulevard on Jan. 9. The cause was found to be accidental due to an unattended fire in the fireplace. Fortunately, no one was in the house when the fire occurred but the house was destroyed. The estimated damage was approximately $500,000. Morse noted that a firefighter suffered a steam burn while working at the scene but that individual was fine now.
In other fire department notes, Morse said they are developing department-wide and officers goals.
• The city is looking into a possible solar energy project that would help reduce the operating expenses of the ice arena. JRR Power will present a non-binding proposal detailing the project and if it appears that the project would be beneficial for the city, a more in-depth analysis of the project will be pursued. It was noted in information provided to the council that state and federal tax credits, Xcel Energy rebates, and an energy purchase agreement with the installer could result in the city obtaining the system at no cost.
• The council’s next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 4.

Contact Todd Moen at [email protected]