Four Minnesota communities receive honors from League of Minnesota Cities
(June 12, 2008—Rochester, Minn.) City-administered initiatives involving emergency services, environmental efficiency, and public-private partnerships were honored earlier this evening when the League of Minnesota Cities announced City of Excellence Award winners for 2008. Nominations selected from the cities of Breezy Point, Luverne, Sartell, and Woodbury were selected as winners from among 30 entries in this year’s competition.
To compete for consideration as a City of Excellence, cities nominated a project, program, or initiative that was administered to achieve one or more of the following: improvement of the quality of a city service, development of an effective or innovative way to solve an old or common problem, modification of a program from another community or organization to fit city needs, discovery of a way to save the city money without compromising service results, and/or creative involvement of city staff or citizens in making a decision.
Winning entries were chosen in three population categories and in a special topical category. All winning cities received a check for $1,000, a plaque and special recognition at the League of Minnesota Cities Annual Conference Awards Banquet in Rochester. A description of each winning nomination follows.
The City of Breezy Point with over 1,600 full-time residents, sees that number soar to as many as 10,000 during the summer recreational season. Combined with a continued growth in new home starts in recent years, the city had seen a dramatic increase in the number of requests for emergency medical services.
Life saving medications and equipment, however, were often 15-20 minutes away. The nearest ambulances were stationed outside of city limits, and were not staffed 24 hours a-day. To address this challenge, the city established a partnership with North Memorial Ambulance Services to provide advance life support emergency care.
To make the program work, the city employed police officers whom are licensed paramedics, while North Memorial Ambulance provided medications and other resources. The program now operates seven days a week and 365 days a year. When police officers are not on duty with the city, they are casual employees of North Ambulance, on-call to respond to any medical emergency. Since the inception of the program, a number of lives have been saved.
The benefits of the program can also be seen beyond city limits. Through contracted police services, Breezy Point has recently extended police paramedic services to Pelican Township, and also provides a police paramedic to lend specialized medical care to the multi-agency Crow Wing County Tactical Response Team.
Over the years, stormwater management and drainage issues have proved to be common challenges for older neighborhoods in the city of Sartell. Retrofitting rainwater gardens into Sartell’s street reconstruction projects has proved to be an innovative solution that beautified the neighborhoods, involved residents, generated regional interest, and helped meet the City’s MS4 requirements for water quality protection.
During the 2007 Capital Improvements Project, two residential developments directly adjacent to the Mississippi River were selected for upgrades. The main project goals were to upgrade existing infrastructure, implement a stormwater treatment system using a more innovative approach, and involve area residents. Prior to this reconstruction project, all stormwater runoff was directed into the river with no pretreatment.
A total of 51 households enthusiastically volunteered to host and maintain a garden. Rainwater gardens were excavated, filled with an engineered media, edged and mulched during the street reconstruction project. Design and installation fees totaled under $106,000—a significant savings over traditional ponding methods. City Council and staff members collaborated with area residents to make this project a success.
The City of Woodbury recognized a need to think more strategically about how its public safety department is staffed, and about how it delivered its fire and emergency medical services, or EMS. To facilitate the thinking process, the city formed a Task Force consisting of elected officials, city staff, commission members, and Woodbury residents.
The Task Force made several recommendations regarding appropriate service standards and performance measures to meet community expectations. The Fire/EMS Task Force also tackled the question of how the Public Safety Department should be aligned and staffed. After considering several different organizational structure models, the Task Force recommended a unique full Public Safety Integration Model. That option consisted of cross-training police officers to be firefighters or paramedics, and included hiring additional personnel.
Benefits of this approach include improved response times, and greater organizational flexibility to meet changing service demands. The chosen option also has proved to be more cost effective than others considered, such as a traditional, 24-hour, full-time fire department. To date, all police command staff and 10 officers have been trained as firefighters and have been responding to fire calls during their shifts for the past year.
Given trends and opportunities for growth in the medical industry, the City of Luverne capitalized by collaborating with Sanford Health Systems and Minnesota West Community and Technical College to create medical training opportunities.
The partnership began about five years ago, when Sanford Health met with Luverne city leaders to discuss vacating Sanford’s existing hospital and clinic facility, and constructing a new medical center. As a result, the City assisted with a development agreement that consisted of infrastructure, a new water tower, street improvements, and the acceptance of a donation of the former hospital and clinic building.
City leaders then approached officials from Minnesota West Community and Technical College to propose the possibility of a campus presence in Luverne. Fortunately, the donated building also included medical equipment, and proved to be an ideal location for a medical training site. The three entities collaborated with desire and determination to use existing infrastructure, expert medical staff, and community resources to bring technical hands-on, medical training and education to southwest Minnesota.
The Luverne Educational Center for Health Careers opened its doors in September of 2007. The Center currently offers a Radiology Technician program, Surgical Lab Technician program, and general education liberal arts courses. Additionally, the city moved its offices out of an overcrowded city hall into the new center to facilitate cost-sharing opportunities with Minnesota West.
Judges for the 2008 City of Excellence Awards competition were Dr. Beth Heidelberg-Wielde, professor of Urban Studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato; Dane Smith, former journalist and current executive director for Growth & Justice, located in Minneapolis; and Dr. David Sturrock, professor of Political Science at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.
The League of Minnesota Cities is a non-profit, membership organization dedicated to helping cities throughout Minnesota build quality communities through effective advocacy, expert analysis, trusted guidance, and collective action. The League serves its more than 800 members through advocacy, education and training, policy development, risk management and other services.