City initiatives involving government collaborations, parks and recreation development, and effective use of volunteers were recognized with the League's 2011 City of Excellence Awards. The awards were presented June 16 at the League’s Annual Conference in Rochester.
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. A description of each winning nomination follows.
Population over 20,000
Cities of Maplewood and North St. Paul – Recreation Joint Powers Agreement
The cities recently entered into a joint powers agreement for Maplewood to provide recreational programming and staffing for North St. Paul. As part of the agreement, the two cities also share recreational facilities and parks for various programs and events.
The agreement went into effect on Jan. 1 of this year, and has led to new offerings for Maplewood and North St. Paul residents at a fraction of the existing cost by using the economies of scale that exist between communities. The City of Maplewood anticipates a net gain of more than $125,000 in additional revenue for their part in the joint venture, while North St. Paul will see a savings of about $180,000.
Population 5,000 to 19,999
Cities of St. Michael, Albertville, and Hanover – St. Michael City Center
The St. Michael City Center, which includes a library, senior center, city hall, and public meeting rooms, was completed in November 2010 as a collaborative effort by the cities of St. Michael, Albertville, and Hanover, along with the Crow River Senior Center and the Great River Regional Library (GRRL) system. The community also supported the new center by forming a volunteer committee and raising $75,000 in contributions.
The collaboration allowed the cities to bring improved services to their growing populations and resulted in increased community participation, enhanced customer service, improved efficiencies, and lower costs. Since opening last December, the senior center has attracted 15 new volunteers, and the library has seen an increase in program attendance of almost 300 percent. Costs are shared among collaborating communities based on facility location, population, and tax capacity.
Population of less than 5,000
City of Medina – Hamel Legion Park Field House
The city completed construction of the Hamel Legion Park Field House in May of 2010. The facility consists of a concession service, plaza area, restrooms, storage for youth organizations, and future capacity for ball field lighting and scoreboard controls.
The Field House project was included as a long-term goal in the city’s capital improvement plan and was accomplished through a collaborative partnership with local and regional organizations. The City committed $325,000 for the project construction as well as several in-kind hours in project development and partial site work. By partnering with others, including the Hamel Athletic Club and Hennepin Youth Sports Program, the city saved about $200,000 on the construction of the building. The Field House has greatly improved the experience of using the ball fields, and it is estimated that more than 10,000 visits were made to the facility in 2010.
Topical category – Effective Use of Volunteers
City of Burnsville – Mobile Volunteer Network
The Mobile Volunteer Network is a group of 55 citizens who give their time and talents to assist the Burnsville Police and Fire departments. They are trained to provide back-up assistance to public safety personnel during emergencies and special events.
Network members attend quarterly trainings on such activities as traffic control, crowd control, missing person searches, media relations, table top exercises, and first aid. The volunteers have helped in numerous emergency situations, including fires, missing person searches, and the Black Dog Power Plant explosion. The group also brings tremendous cost savings to the city by reducing overtime costs for safety personnel.
About the judges
Judges for the 2011 City of Excellence Awards were Jane McPeak, associate professor for the School of Business, Public & Nonprofit Department, at Hamline University; Louis Jambois, executive director of the St. Paul Port Authority and former executive director of Metro Cities; and Mary Quirk, volunteer resources leadership project manager with the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration.