Local business leaders heard a “state of the city” update on Thursday, Jan. 23, at the Waconia Chamber of Commerce annual meeting from City Administrator Susan Arntz and Councilmember Nicole Waldron.
Waldron highlighted the city’s priorities: infrastructure planning and maintenance, fiscal responsibility, environmental protection, particularly Lake Waconia, and adequate housing. Arntz laid out the city’s plans for 2020-2023.
In terms of 2020, Arntz reminded attendees that this is a census and election year, and that residents should be aware they will be contacted to answer household questions as the nation counts its population every decade. Census information is used in apportioning congressional seats, redistricting, and influences decisions on housing, business, education, transportation, employment, healthcare and other vital programs.
Residents also will have opportunities this year to vote in three elections: the presidential primary, state primary and general election. Arntz noted that Waconia is the only city in the county where residents will be able to absentee vote in advance of the elections at city hall.
Arntz also announced that after a 2 ½-year process, the city’s 2040 comprehensive plan was finally approved last week by the Metropolitan Council. The plan outlines what Waconia will look like over the next 20 years and will guide future development. The city council is expected to approve the final plan in February.
There are already three developments proposed around the city, and Arntz said she expects sketch plans for those to come together this year. The city also will evaluate concepts for commercial property at 1300 Sparrow Road near Target and is working with the Carver County Community Development Agency on a 76-unit apartment plan for another piece of property also near the shopping retailer.
In terms of infrastructure, Arntz summarized the city’s 2020 project to improve roads, trails and underground sewer and water mains on the west end of downtown and other sections around the city, including a stretch of Oak Avenue from Waconia Parkway South to Highway 5. The 2020 infrastructure project will not require an extensive road closure like last year, she assured listeners, and regular updates will be on the city website: www.waconia.org.
Parks will be another focus in 2020, including a $650,000 restroom remodel and other improvements at Brooke Peterson Park. Also, an ADA compliance study that will result in possible changes to the gazebo and other features at City Square Park.
The city also will be evaluating the way the fire department responds to service calls. Last year, the department received a record 973 calls, many for lift assistance, which doesn’t require a full department response, Arntz noted.
Looking ahead to 2021, the city will be looking at frontage road improvements along Highway 5 east, a possible fire station project and an intersection improvement at Waconia Parkway South and Oak Avenue. In 2022, downtown street reconstruction and a study of Safari Island. And in 2023, improvements to Mani Street West (Walnut to Olive) and Highway 5 east of Olive.