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Bits & Briefs

Rescued by Yetis
Yeti Last winter was rough on even the most seasoned Minnesotans, prompting cities to try new community outreach methods to aid in public works and public safety. Example: the City of Richfield Fire Department is partnering with SeeClickFix. org to try out a new crowdsourcing application called SnowCrew. By using SnowCrew on their phones or computers, people can report covered hydrants. Residents who volunteer through the application to help keep hydrants clear are called “Yetis.” These volunteers will receive notifications of where to find the buried hydrants in their neighborhoods and, once they have cleared the hydrants, they can also report that fact through the app. Find out more at http://snowcrew.org.

2014 LMC Directory coverFrom Ada to Zumbrota
It’s time to order your 2014 Directory of Minnesota City Officials, the only printed resource that provides comprehensive information on all 853 Minnesota cities—from Ada to Zumbrota. City information includes elected officials, key staff members, and department heads; city hall address, phone number, email, and website; council meeting times; election year; and population. In addition to city information, this handy desk reference includes listings of League staff, counties, legislative and congressional members, and more. Get your copy now for $59. For more information and an order form, visit www.lmc.org/directory.

Hutchinson’s Make-Good Guarantee
The City of Hutchinson recently upgraded its wastewater treatment plant with variable frequency drive motors as well as more efficient lighting throughout four public buildings, all without raising taxes or issuing bonds. How’d they do it? Through the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Guaranteed Energy Savings Program, projects undergone in an “energy savings performance contract” are paid for over time with the resulting annual savings. The state also provides project development support and technical assistance. While the city is off the hook for any costs not recovered through savings, it turns out Hutchinson needn’t have worried—the project resulted in nearly double the (conservatively) estimated annual savings. The city also reports reductions in staff time maintaining the old equipment and an improved look in the City Hall, library, liquor store, and recreation center where more efficient lighting was installed. Learn more about Hutchinson’s experience at http://bit.ly/1dwHclQ.

Ending Chronic Veteran Homelessness
homeless vet The cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis are two of 16 cities launching the Homeless Veteran Leadership Network, an initiative by the National League of Cities (NLC) to end veteran homelessness by 2015. In response to a challenge from the White House, the NLC is coordinating a “friendly competition” between participating cities to eliminate veteran homelessness through cooperation with stakeholders. Minneapolis and St. Paul are set to take on Columbus, Ohio, and Des Moines, Iowa. At the beginning of the year, it was estimated that roughly 350 homeless vets live in Minnesota, and about 200 live in the Twin Cities, according to a state specialist on homelessness. The cities of Phoenix, Ariz., and Salt Lake City, Utah, began a similar competition in 2013, and both cities say they have successfully eliminated chronic veteran homelessness. Learn more at http://goo.gl/W29s5S.

housing imageOvercoming Obstacles for Workforce Housing
In cities facing shortages of workforce housing, every rental unit counts. A recent report from the Urban Land Institute and Enterprise Community Partners could help local governments looking for ways to jump-start development of affordable market-rate housing in an era of diminished resources. The report, “Bending the Cost Curve: Solutions to Expand the Supply of Affordable Rentals,” identifies common cost drivers and regulatory barriers to development. The report also identifies recommendations for local government and private stakeholders who want to overcome these obstacles and put out the welcome mat for new residents. Access the report at http://bit.ly/1kzsGvw.

City Partnership Saves Money and More
A collaborative partnership between the cities of Coon Rapids and Brooklyn Park is resulting in savings, staff development, and even an award, according to ABC Newspapers. Dubbed “Cities Unlimited,” the partnership has resulted in diminished consulting costs for the two cities since it began in 2012. The cities have instead consulted with each other on developing Coon Rapids’ innovation team and Brooklyn Park’s performance measurement system. The cities have also taken advantage of dual training opportunities to develop staff. City officials involved described the partnership as sustainable and easy to replicate. The partnership received a Local Government Innovation Award from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs in partnership with the Bush Foundation.

Improving Economic Trends Fuel City Optimism
The League’s recently released 2014 State of the Cities Report shows that city governments are increasingly optimistic about their abilities to meet financial challenges than in previous years. The proportion of cities reporting an improved ability to meet financial needs increased for the fourth year in a row, from 51 percent in 2012 to 71 percent in 2013—the largest share since the League began administering the annual survey in 2003 (see chart below). City-reported factors include increases in the value of local tax bases and improving health of local economies, among others. The 2014 State of the Cities Report presents results from the 11th annual fiscal conditions survey, which was sent to the chief administrative officer in each member city. A total of 411 cities returned the completed survey between Dec. 11, 2013, and Jan. 11, 2014, for a response rate of 49 percent. Access the online report at www.lmc.org/sotc.

SOTC graph

LMC Training & Events

2014 LMC Annual Conference
June 18-20—St. Cloud

2014 Clerks’ Conference Orientation
June 18-20—St. Cloud

2014 LMC Regional Meetings
Oct. 7—Biwabik
Oct. 8—Hinckley
Oct. 21—Granite Falls
Oct. 22—Madelia
Oct. 23—Mantorville
Oct. 28—Thief River Falls
Oct. 29—Vergas
Oct. 30—Waite Park
Nov. 13—Minneapolis

Learn more about these and other events at www.lmc.org/events.

Read the May-June 2014 issue of Minnesota Cities magazine

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