I’m having a hard time believing that another year has come and gone. Last year was not the best year, but it truly wasn’t the worst. There are many great things happening in and around Little Falls.
Many people from various groups and organizations are collaborating on thoughts and ideas to make a better Little Falls. I am continually amazed at all the people who diligently strive to make our town a better place to live, work and play. It is abundantly clear to me that goodwill, friendship and kindness are alive and well.
I’ll give an update on some of the activities we have participated in this past year to keep the city alive and flourishing.
Members of our City Council all have one thing in common: our love and commitment to Little Falls and its citizens. We each bring something different to the table with a vast amount of knowledge, good financial skills, a love for our history, the ability to listen, the ability to speak, the ability to make peace and so much more. We each do things differently and have different ideas, goals and vision for Little Falls, but we all want to see it remain a great city; one that is known for the quality of life it offers.
Without thoughtful planning by staff and the Council, Little Falls would not be able to move forward and thrive. For the past several years, the city has been on a very tight and controlled budget due to state cuts and restrictions on local government spending. We reduced spending, froze salaries, paid the bills and worked hard to pay down the large city debt that was incurred from numerous projects done in early 2000.
During this past legislative session, changes were made to local government aid. The money the Legislature brought to cities during the 2013 session allowed cities to hold the line on property taxes and restore critical services that had fallen victim to years of drastic cutbacks. Due to these changes, the Council passed a 3.88 percent levy decrease for 2014.
City boards, commissions, committees and task forces are comprised of numerous volunteers who put in many hours working on city projects.
The Heritage Preservation Commission has been working on city street lights, historic downtown signage, hosting the 2015 Heritage Preservation Conference for Minnesota and declaring our downtown as a State Historic Site.
The Planning Commission advises the City Council on planning and zoning issues. One of its main tasks this past year was the sign ordinance and new bed and breakfast ordinance. This board has tackled issues such as the Rosenmeier pond cleanup, park activities and uses policy, consideration for Mill Island Park, or Le Bourget Park, as a campground, bike lane signage, trails in and around Little Falls, a sales tax, Tree City USA designation, golf course security cameras, rock wall rehabilitation and a new roof on the shelter at Pine Grove Park.
The Energy and Environmental Committee implemented new garbage bags and is discussing storm water drain markers. The Cable TV Board is considering Great River Arts and the Little Falls School District to operate public access television.
The Little Falls Area Recreational Complex is a newly-formed task force assigned to develop a use for the donated 22 acres of Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) property located north of Little Falls. Their recommendation was a playground, splash pad/all wheel skate park, baseball fields, trails, disk golf, community center and doggie park, with bathrooms and more. The Youth Task Force’s main focus is developing and implementing the playground, splash pad and skate park. It has received a playground design, proposed park layout, a grant from the Laura Jane Musser Fund, a $100,000 donation from Paul and Emily Twitchell for the playground and is organizing a citywide garage sale, May 17.
Little Falls has received two bike rack grants and themed bike racks have been placed in six locations to date around Little Falls. Many area businesses are purchasing their own racks and old racks are being refurbished by area students. We hope to expand the program through grants and donations. The Police Department is working with the Healthy Community Collaborative for bike training, bike safety, bike rodeos and a helmet program.
We are implementing our first open streets event June 15; new downtown lighting is being added and we are looking at the aesthetics of the downtown, trying to create a welcoming atmosphere for local citizens and tourists.
The city of Little Falls belongs to the Morrison Area Coalition, and we are working on collaborating with city projects, cross promoting each other, developing a co-op marketing campaign, trail development and more. Housing has started to climb as we are seeing an increase in permits from new residential housing in Little Falls.
The Economic Development Authority collaborated with Community Development, North Central Economic Development Association and the Initiative Foundation to contract with CTC for installation of fiber optics in Little Falls.
The Camp Ripley Veterans State Trail Committee has worked diligently at developing the Camp Ripley Veterans State Trail (CRVST) and the Mississippi River Trail. When the CRVST is completed it will become the longest, continuous, paved off-road bike trail in the world, with more than 400 miles of continuous trail. It will draw international tourists to downtown Little Falls.
There is a new enthusiasm growing within the community and I am excited to be a part of it. You can become a part of the change, as well. Call me at 632-6847 with your questions, concerns, thoughts or to volunteer. You truly can make a difference in our community.