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Rushford delves into strategic planning


By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Oct 12th, 2012
Posted in Rushford Government

After the first of several scheduled strategic planning meetings, Rushford’s council and administrative staff is developing a clearer picture of the future of the city. Guided by nine strategies for success, three key topics, including the Public Works, the Police department, and city budget, were discussed at length. At the Monday, October 9 council meeting, the discussion continued.

In regards to the budget, Councilor Vern Bunke offered that perhaps the city ought to prep for budgetary talks far prior than when the preliminary budget is set each September. “We always seem to be working under the gun. If we can get it on the department heads’ calendars early enough, and get it to the council earlier, we could discuss it earlier,” he noted. “I’m more comfortable with that. It’s not just throwing a dart at a board.”

City Administrator Steve Sarvi agreed. “September doesn’t give you much wiggle room and there’s not much we can do after that. I hesitate to go into September tight and not be able to make adjustments later in the year,” he cautioned. “I think it might be a good idea to have a sub-committee to meet with the department heads and crunch the numbers ahead of time.”

Another key point for Bunke is aiming to maintain a 0 percent increase for the 2013 budget. “For our citizens, that should be our goal,” he offered. “We’ve discussed the concept in the past. My point is to maintain a high level of service and performance. If we can find a cheaper way to do it, we should do it.”

As in years past, Bunke also highlighted other potential cost savings to the city. “We need a thorough study of current time/task relationships to seek potential expense reductions, performance enhancements, and training opportunities for each employee,” read a memo to the council provided by the councilor. “The purpose is to provide understanding and definition of the effectiveness and efficiency of the current labor model being utilized within current city staffing needs,” it continued. For Bunke this is especially noted with the Public Works department.

“It’s an opportunity to understand Public Works better, but we’re going to have to ask them to provide us with some data. To them, it’s an onerous thing, but without the data we don’t know. We can make better decisions with it,” said Bunke.

A second strategic planning session has been sch .....
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Rushford sets preliminary levy

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Sep 14th, 2012
Posted in Rushford Government

Having no increase last year, the city council has preliminarily set the 2013 budget levy at 2.9 percent. The increase would garner $762,000 in funding for the city, which City Administrator Steve Sarvi indicated would assist in building back fund b ..... 
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Rushford seeking to retain, expand business

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Aug 31st, 2012
Posted in Rushford Government

The city has received a detailed summary report following a Business Retention & Expansion (BR&E) Needs Assessment by Economic Development Authority (EDA) member Tom Driscoll, Joyce Iverson, and City Administrator Steve Sarvi. Formed in the spring ..... 
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LSP to host workshop on ‘How to Use Township Rights to Control Frac Sand Mining” in Rushford August 30

Fri, Aug 24th, 2012
Posted in Rushford Government

A workshop on how to use township zoning powers to control or ban frac sand mining and processing will be held by the Land Stewardship Project in the southeast Minnesota communities of Frontenac and Rushford in August. On Thursday, Aug. 23, the work ..... 
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Rushford comes to terms with city hall financing

By Kirsten Zoellner

Mon, Jul 30th, 2012
Posted in Rushford Government

Two weeks ago, after much back and forth debate, the city began to move forward seeking bids for the city hall project. At that time, City Administrator Steve Sarvi had stressed the importance of the council being in some accord over where funding f ..... 
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Rushford to seek bids on city hall project

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Jul 20th, 2012
Posted in Rushford Government

The debate regarding Rushford’s proposed city hall conversion and the library project continue. While the council has tentatively approved the city hall move to the former and vacant municipal liquor store, including preliminary design work, little has been finalized due to lack of funding. Both inside funding, using money from existing city funds, and outside funding, such as a USDA loan are both up for consideration, yet it’s unclear whether either is what the council wants for the city. “I’ll be honest, I think it’s unreasonable to spend $160,000 to move city hall down there,” noted Councilor Roger Colbenson. “How do we go about getting it done?” To date, the city has considered leasing the building to an outside entity, transferring it to the Economic Development Authority, letting it sit vacant short term until funding can be raised, and converting it into the city hall space. While the first three options might garner little cost to the city, there has been very little interest in them and options to lease the building were not successful. “Maybe it doesn’t make sense,” responded Councilor Vern Bunke. “Maybe we shouldn’t be spending any money. I’m not hellbent on spending money anywhere until we get a handle on this. I made a motion to move city hall down there, not to approve $160,000 being spent, but a motion to explore the possibility. It’s got to be cost effective.” The proposed $160,000 comes from architect Jose Rivas’ study of the building, yet there is no actual bid estimates. The council has discussed doing the conversion in phases, but the architect would need to review the project as a phased and restructure his estimate, all at added cost. “Here’s the bid package. Bid it, period. We paid for an architect, we paid the money to do all the stuff, and we sit here and argue about it. We’ve got a package ready to go, let’s see what it costs. We still have no idea what it will actually cost,” added Councilor Mark Honsey. “The council needs to come together on a funding source,” noted City Administrator Steve Sarvi. “We never really looked at where we think we can get funding. We were always going to apply as part of the library project, but we were taken off the project and stopped looking for other sources.” Unanimously agreeing, the council has approved putting the architect’s estimate out for bids if only to see what the conversion will actually cost. City staff has also been directed to consider any and all funding options for a conversion, including both inside and outside funding sources. On the other half of the issue, Library Director Susan Hart read a statement to the council in light of recent comments and editorials by some council members. “I have grown tired of misinformation,” she read. “I usually just let it go as not worth the time and effort, but lately I pondering that if misinformation and untruths are repeated long enough and loudly enough, it will then become the truth in the minds of those who want to believe it.” “While it is true that at the end of fiscal year 2011, the city cash reserves were at 11 percent, as FEMA reimbursements come in, that scenario is changing. The citizens of this community should be grateful that prior councils had built up healthy reserves while still encouraging economic growth. The latest financial charts and graphs from Mike Bubany, of David Drown Associates, show per capita debt over a thousand dollars less than quoted ‘fact.’” “There has been one active capital campaign for a new library. The city did not ‘bail out’ the library board’s efforts. The fundraising project has not failed, it just had the rug pulled out from under it by this council stopping the library project, interfering with FEMA funding by rescinding project application, and losing the USDA loan and grant through stalling and massive changes to the scope of the original project. We has really only just begun to fund raise. The library board has returned, upon request, over $200,000 in cash, pledges, and in-kind offers from those who believed in the new library project. “Where is the city strategic plan? What action goals have been set for the city? What has been accomplished in the last couple of years that was not already part of a project underway and moving towards completion? If your ‘plate’ isn’t full, with plans for the future growth of the city and with ways to expand the tax base, you may not be doing your job as a city governing representative,” concluded Hart. The city will continue to wait as the council works to find a suitable resolution to both the city hall and library issues. In other news, the plans for a new Brooklyn Park are underway. The former park was uprooted due to massive utility work following the flood of 2007 and upgrades will need to be made to the site per guidelines. The neighborhood group, spearheaded by Heidi Halverson, has been working diligently with the city on a plan for the site and has a tentative design in place. Working cooperatively with the neighborhood group, the city has approved a plan for the playground with the stipulation that all of the funding for the project is in place prior to any construction start. The city will offer site preparation, insurance, and maintenance of the park, as well as $5,000 in funding, which was set aside for the project at the end of 2011. The projected cost to the new park and play structure is expected to be just under $31,000. The neighborhood group has already conducted fundraising of its own, but grant writing, with approval from the council, will need to be done to seek the remaining funds. Carolyn Dunham will do the grant writing on behalf of both groups. The next regularly scheduled meeting is Monday, July 23, at 6:30pm, at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend. ..... 
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Rushford looking at more infrastructure upgrades

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Jun 29th, 2012
Posted in Rushford Government

Already having completed countless upgrades in just the last 5 years, since the flood of 2007, Rushford is continuing to have to consider further upgrades to both its wastewater and electric systems. Bill change and Jim Stremel, of BDM Consulting En ..... 
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Rushford Library Board architect offers up plans

By Kirsten Zoellner

Mon, Jun 18th, 2012
Posted in Rushford Government

Acting on the council’s last direction to seek out preliminary plans for the renovation of the Tew Memorial Library, the Library Board and architect Val Schute, of River Architects, presented viable options at last Monday’s council meeting. At l ..... 
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