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Orono Mayor Recaps 2012, Looks Ahead to 2013

Mayor Lili McMillan discusses city finances, a police merger, road projects, cable franchise agreement and more.

by Orono Mayor Lili McMillan

I would like to ask for a few minutes of your time to recap the City of Orono's 2012 highlights and to identify our priorities for 2013.

The city council and our staff continue to implement proper fiscal management policies for these difficult economic conditions. Both 2012 and 2013 budgets were constructed around a zero levy. Preliminary 2012 results are coming within budget forecasts. We reduced city engineering expenses significantly in 2012 by re-instating the public works/city engineer position and hiring our consultant engineer through a competitive bidding process.

City staff worked diligently to seek and secure grants on behalf of the city. As a result, Orono obtained grants of $10,000 for Crystal Bay playground equipment, $78,000 for sewer repair and $165,000 for storm water improvements. We continue to plan practical infrastructure improvements by scrutinizing both the initial costs and the long-term maintenance/operation of these upgrades. 

On Jan. 1, the Orono Police Department began providing contracted policing to the City of Mound. Last summer, Mound and Orono agreed to a contract, which works in the mutual interests of the cities by offering more robust coverage for the cities, administrative efficiencies of scale and more career opportunities with a larger department. The cost of the 10-year policing contract is paid by Mound and does not increase the tax levy for Orono citizens.

We welcome the addition of new officers, including the reserve officers, into the Orono police department. Under Police Chief Farniok's leadership, his department now serves the 18,000 citizens of Minnetonka Beach, Mound, Spring Park and Orono.

A major revision of our hardcover ordinance was completed creating more simplicity and fairness for our lakeshore owners. Other changes in the past year included a new recycling contract switching the city to a single-sort system. On the volunteer side, a long-time resident and internationally recognized wildlife artist David Maass updated our city logo. Last summer, Orono/Long Lake volunteers grew 4,700 pounds of fresh produce on city land for donation to area food shelves.

Road repair was a high priority for 2012 and will continue to be a focus for many years due to the condition of our streets. Last summer, we addressed approximately eight miles of our 30 miles of city streets through mill and overlay, seal-coating and reconstruction projects. The majority of the Orono Orchard Road reconstruction was completed in early December. Thanks to all who patiently put up with the disturbance.

The rebuilding was complex due to upgrading a major sewer line in conjunction with building the new roadbed. This project, in partnership with Met Council, resulted in a 25 percent savings of the road reconstruction cost for Orono. The Met Council benefited by having an important link in their regional sewer infrastructure updated while the roadbed was undergoing a major repair.

For 2013, Willow Drive between County Roads 112 (old Hwy. 12) and 6 is on the docket for reconstruction this summer. The roadbed is severely lacking in any sub-base and is therefore very prone to breaking apart in large sections after the winter. This road will be repaired with state-aid funds the city receives as part of the state's constitutionally dedicated transportation taxes (i.e. taxes from gas, car tabs and motor vehicle sales).

Looking ahead to this year, the city council is initiating a meeting process to reach out to Navarre citizens and business owners on how to improve the corridor along County Road 15.  A series of bi-monthly meetings, conducted by our staff, are planned with the first meeting on Feb. 11 at City Hall to discuss possible streetscape improvements for both safety and aesthetics. Please check the city's e-mail list for notification of upcoming meetings, agendas and updates on our website titled Navarre Area Updates under ‘Stay Connected - Email Updates’.  

The City Council looks forward to citizen suggestions for improvements benefitting the Navarre neighborhood.

Our cable franchise agreement is up for renewal this year. The council will be aggressively exploring options to increase the availability of cable broadband within pockets of the city not covered today.  

On Jan. 14 of this year, we welcomed Lizz Levang and Kristi Anderson to the dais as our new council members. This council presents with over 130 years of combined residency to guide our city forward.

I am, and will always be, grateful to those who assist my fellow council members and me in governing our city. Decisions, priorities and time constraints are often hard to juggle. I truly appreciate the understanding, guidance and volunteer support we receive from our citizens.

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