by ADAM GRUENEWALD
NYA City Council members and city staff took time to plan for the future during a special workshop on Thursday, April 3.
Guided by consultant Dave Unmacht of Springsted, the 2.5-hour session helped them develop project ideas in conjunction with the city’s five-year financial plan, which might be completed as early as the end of June.
People present included Public Works Director Brent Aretz, Fire Chief Steve Zumberge, City Clerk Diane Frauendienst, City Administrator Steve Helget and members of the city council.
In all, the meeting resulted in about 25 possible capital improvement projects, ranging from smaller scale projects such as recycling and appearance development to larger projects such as parks, Second Avenue and the south fire station, including long-term concepts such as Highway 212 expansion, use of lakes and the pedestrian bridge.
Helget explained the five-year financial plan, which is an ever-changing document, will identify the current financial picture, where the city wants to go into the future and the steps required to get there.
“What we’re trying to do here is take control of our financial future,” he said. “In the past… the city has done its due diligence and done some long-range planning and a lot of good projects and good things have happened over the years. What we’re trying to do here is take it one step further.”
Specifically it includes the 2013 financial audit, a debt management study, enterprise rate study, an equipment replacement schedule and capital improvement projects.
Helget said identifying those projects is crucial given recent economic struggles for NYA and other cities across the nation.
“Over the years, the last few years especially, we all went through the great recession we had to scale back on a lot of things as you know,” said Helget. “We all felt the pain and there was a lot of it.”
Unmacht, who has more than 30 years of experience in city government, helped get the group thinking about some big picture concepts in terms of the future of NYA and its place in Carver County and the metro area.
To stimulate the process, Unmacht encouraged the council to plan for the future, understand its roles and responsibilities, strive for efficiency, share common values and place an emphasis on communication.
He then encouraged attendees to think about whether NYA should focus on simply sustaining or take risks for the future, while identifying past, current and future changes expected to take place.
Once stimulated, the group then got to work, suggesting ideas for capital improvement projects which varied significantly, but shared some common threads.
While the group did not consider financial costs in their suggestions of potential projects, the meeting concluded with identification of assets and limitations for the city.
Assets included location, people, businesses, senior housing, library and the school district, while funds, side effects of the Norwood and Young America merger, having multiple commercial districts or downtowns and a general reluctance to change were among the limitations.
To move forward, the group agreed to review the list prior to a second meeting on Wednesday, April 16, when it will begin to prioritize projects with financial considerations and create timelines as well as a plan for communication.
“In some respects these are things you have been talking about for a long time,” said Helget. “You’ve got a ballpark idea of which ones will be the big ones and which ones are not so big. So I think from that you can draw some conclusions as far as priorities.”
The NYA City Council will next meet for its regular meeting on April 14.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at email@example.com.