by Dennis Dalman – firstname.lastname@example.org
In his annual “State of the City” address, Sartell Mayor Joe Perske had mostly good news to share with his listeners.
Perske was guest speaker recently at the monthly luncheon meeting of the Sartell Area Chamber of Commerce.
Among Perske’s comments are the following:
Sartell residents continue to pay the lowest in property taxes of the five cities in the area – St. Cloud, St. Joseph, Waite Park and Sauk Rapids. The city’s spending levels are also the lowest in the area. Sartell’s tax increases have remained fairly flat during the past 10 years. Last year’s property tax totaled about $4 million. The rest of the money used to run the city comes from fees for licenses, permits and from forms of state and federal aid and grants.
The city staff and council, Perske said, do an excellent job of staying on budget. The last budget of $4.577 million was just about right on target, based on earlier projections – a fact that impressed the auditors.
Sartell is doing fine financially, despite drastic reductions in state aid in recent years, Perske noted. During the last two years, Sartell received only $3,500 each year in local-government aid from the state while St. Cloud received about $10 million. In years past, Sartell used to receive $100,000 and more in LGA. Perske said he is optimistic Gov. Mark Dayton and the new legislature will restore fairness and consistency to the formula used to decide how LGA is distributed, city by city.
Perske gave an overview of the city budget. About half of all expenditures ($2.3 million) are for “city safety,” such as fire and police protection. About 22 percent of revenue is used for public works and 15 percent goes for general government. The rest is used for such things as parks, building inspections and commercial-development processes.
Progress continues on resolutions regarding the Verso paper mill, which was shut down after the explosion-fire tragedy of last year, causing the loss of nearly 200 jobs. American Iron and Metal purchased the company and intends to dismantle it and salvage most materials as recyclables and for other uses. Some big pieces of equipment will be sold. What is left will be put up for public auction. The hydroelectric plant on the site will eventually be taken over by some other interest, Perske said. The office buildings at the site will also likely find a new use. AIM’s demolition and salvaging work should take about 18 months, Perske noted.
This past year, 151 single-family homes and two multi-unit living complexes were built in Sartell, as well as new commercial buildings underway – a good sign, Perske said, that Sartell is holding its own despite a sluggish economy. The bad news is 133 mostly single-family lots came up for sale because of foreclosure; 54 were sold. This year, there are 134 single-family homes up for sale due to foreclosure. A public auction will offer up those homes during the end of May or early June. More information about the auctions is available on Stearns and Benton county websites.
Perske emphasized the value of partnerships in Sartell because they contribute to progress and quality of life. The participants in such partnerships include residents, the school district, the city staff, the chamber of commerce, the many service organizations, SummerFest, the Apple Duathlon, the Sartell Community Band, the Senior Connection and so many volunteers.
New things to look forward to this year in Sartell are the opening of four baseball fields and other amenities in Pinecone Central Park, the completion of the diverging-diamond interchange near Epic Center and more progress in plans for Sauk River Regional Park.
Perske noted in a recent resident-satisfaction survey, at least 7/8ths of respondents rated city services to be from “good” to “excellent.”
Perske closed his informal talk with these words: “It takes great people to have a great city.”
As a prelude to Perske’s speech, he decided to give his listeners a “pop quiz.” The following are the questions, followed by the answers:
1. What is the busiest days of the week for fire calls to the Sartell-Le Sauk Fire Department?
2. What’s is the average cost of snow-plowing city roads on a weekday?
3. How many parks are there in Sartell?
4. How many miles of hiking-biking trails are there in the city?
5. How many single-family homes are in Sartell that are unoccupied?
6. How many building inspections occur each year in the city?
7. How many miles of roadways are maintained by the City of Sartell.
Answers: 1. Tuesdays. 2. About $7,000. 3. 40. 4. About 50 miles. 5. 453. 6. 5,483. 7. About 96 miles.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.