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Ostrander progress story

Fri, Jan 22nd, 2010
Posted in Progress Edition

For the last eight years Linda Schwenn has been the mayor of Ostrander, and we found her in city hall on Martin Luther King's birthday, working with City Clerk Rhonda Klapperich. It's common to find her in the office from 8am to noon most days.

Ostrander is typical of many small communities across Minnesota where it's tough to manage finances in troubled times. "I guess we are fortunate," said Schwenn, "that we are under 1,000 population and last year there were no cuts in LGA because of that."

Ostrander has finished up a major sewage treatment plant rebuild, costing roughly 1.5 million dollars. Like many communities, they were able to get a grant from the USDA for $400,000.00 to build the plant. The city discovered that the first cost estimate was not enough to meet the capacity required so they had to adjust the project. Now, the plant is up and running and is performing well.

There is a concern from Mayor Schwenn that over half of the residents of Ostrander are senior citizens and it becomes difficult to do required projects without raising taxes. "Putting money aside is difficult," said Schwenn, "when ongoing costs require action immediately."

She looks back and says that the streets are being evaluated. For the next three years the sewage lines will be inspected. It is also reported that the city streets are in reasonably good condition for a town the size of Ostrander.

"We were able to purchase a used fire truck from Spring Valley, and we hope to make the community center more useable," said Mayor Schwenn. The roster of firemen shows 10 volunteers and the numbers are dwindling because of retirements, but they are still active and reliable, along with the first responders.

On her wish list is a plan to install bathrooms in the city park to be available next to the shelter and ball fields. She also talked about the need for a convenience store that would pump gas... something they don't have now.

Mayor Schwenn said that the two bar/grills on the main street are very busy and appear to be holding up well during these tough times. "I just wish we could get a restaurant that would serve a noon lunch," said Schwenn.

As for cooperating with other cities, she replied, "We do that with Fountain. Our chief of police, Tom Mosher, is also the officer for Fountain, so we share those costs."

On a drive through the main street of town, you can't help but notice the impressive array of grain bins. "It's so heartening to see the remodeling and rebuilding by the Co-Op and people investing back into the community," she said.

Ostrander, like so many communities, is dealing with tight budgets, infrastructure replacement and rebuilding, but yet their vision is on the future and how this town can continue to serve its residents.

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