City reflects on goals, engaged in planningPublished 9:16am Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Column: City View, by Chad Adams
In the past few weeks, Albert Lea city staff and the City Council have taken the opportunity to reflect on our 2012 achievements and establish goals for the next two years.
On Jan. 26, the City Council met via a special meeting to hear presentations from all city departments on last year’s successes and desired goals for the upcoming year.
Additionally, Mayor Vern Rasmussen and I recently conducted a State of the City address to discuss our achievements, financial condition of the city and 2013 goals. The State of the City is now airing on the local government access channel and can be viewed on the city’s website at www.cityofalbertlea.org.
We had a number of notable achievements in 2012 that reflect our mission, vision and values statements as an organization.
The city’s mission statement is “to deliver exceptional services that enhance the quality of life for current and future generations.”
One example of striving to achieve the city’s mission were the three neighborhood picnics we held in 2012 to simply showcase the services we provide and to listen to our residents. Our departments and elected officials enjoyed visiting with the community and we plan to conduct the picnics in three different parks in 2013. We also restored the Fire Department to a full-time five-person crew, which our residents and businesses provided a lot of great feedback on to preserve our quality of life.
The city’s values statements include respect, integrity, pride, innovation, appreciation, collaboration and planning. As an example of good collaboration, we were pleased to work with both Senior Resources and the Albert Lea Senior Center through a senior services task force in 2012 to outline a plan for both agencies.
The task force created a three-year plan to work together more effectively. The city also worked with Albert Lea Community Theatre to establish a lease for operations of the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center, which is not only benefitting both organizations, but most importantly the community through enhanced programming and events.
At present, the city’s overall financial condition remains stable. Our general fund budget continues to experience over a 50 percent fund balance, and we are expecting an operating surplus again from 2012. The Minnesota Office of the State Auditor recommends a fund balance between 35 percent and 50 percent.
Departments have managed their budgets well these past few years in tight economic times to achieve this strong fund balance in the general fund. We also closely examined our water and sewer enterprise funds this past year and verified that our water fund reserves were too low, particularly considering the number of water infrastructure improvements planned for the next several years.
In response, we needed to raise our water rates significantly to meet both our present needs and prepare for the future. We were fortunate to not raise our sewer rates significantly for 2013 due to strong operations and reserves.
Over the next couple of years, we plan to work on a number of community projects, including more community engagement through a long-term strategic plan, identifying a use for the Blazing Star Landing, completing the Broadway infrastructure and streetscape project, redeveloping the Freeborn National Bank and Jacobsen Building, and advocating for funds to restore Fountain Lake, among many others.
We have a number of other organizational goals as well that center around achieving our city mission statement. One quantitative tool that departments are using to measure our progress is the recently completed 2012 National Citizen Survey that ranked the services that we provide to the community. We have established goals to improve on our services in the next few years and plan to conduct the survey again in spring 2015 to evaluate our progress and needs identified by the community.
I personally look forward to providing more information to the public through this column and other forums in 2013. I enjoy getting out in the public to visit with you and to learn about our community. Please feel welcome to contact my office at City Hall if you need information about a city project, or if you would like me to visit with your organization or club to discuss what’s happening in the city.
Chad Adams is the Albert Lea city manager. His column appears monthly.