Five cities honored by the League of Minnesota Cities for outstanding programs and projects

(Aug. 10, 2020 –St. Paul, MN) The League of Minnesota Cities recently selected five winning cities for 2020 City of Excellence honors. The awards recognize cities for outstanding programs or projects. Each winning city will receive a plaque, a check for $1,000, and recognition in League publications and promotional activities throughout the coming year.

Winning City of Excellence entries were chosen in each of three population categories, and two winners were selected in a special topical category.

City of Excellence – population under 5,000

City of Wells – Citywide LED Conversion

The City, along with Wells Public Utilities, collaborated to improve city services through a conversion of all city lighting to LED. The project began when the city sought to illuminate the decorative lights in downtown, which had been dormant for several years. Upon investigation, new technology was available to light the fixtures. The project was expanded into a citywide project once the benefits were realized. It is already saving money for the City and has created a more appealing and safer environment. Citizens have been very supportive and complimentary of the changes. To date, the downtown and beltline high traffic areas have been converted. Parks and other commercial and residential areas will be completed within the next couple of years.

City of Excellence – population 5,000-19,999

City of Hopkins – Sound Off Fire Safety Program

The Hopkins Fire Department was one of three cities in Minnesota that volunteered to deliver a newly developed fire safety education program established by the Center for National Prevention Initiatives at the Michigan Public Health Institute. The Sound Off Program provided a new style of fire education taught to second and third graders. It was delivered through the school system by both teachers and firefighters in the City, creating an encompassing communication network to get education and life safety devices into the homes of residents. The program included pre- and post-testing measurement, and program administrators were given a $500 stipend, 200 smoke alarms, 100 carbon monoxide detectors, and educational materials. Each class that participated received three lesson plans and activities over a three-day period.

City of Excellence – population 20,000+

City of Shakopee – Fraudulent Gift Card Reduction Program

For some time now, there has been a substantial increase in the fraudulent purchasing of third-party gift cards at retail establishments within the City of Shakopee. Third-party gift cards are often purchased by individuals using cloned or stolen financial transaction cards, counterfeit checks, or other fraudulent means. These incidents affect numerous victims and require considerable law enforcement resources to investigate.

Through collaborations with local businesses, the Shakopee Police Department adopted a first-in-the-nation ordinance requiring retail establishments to verify identification at the point of sale to deter criminal behavior. The gift card ordinance requires customers to show proper identification before using a credit card to buy third party gift cards from American Express, Mastercard or Visa, unless they’re paying with cash or a check. Also, purchases made at the self-service checkouts will no longer be allowed.

City of Excellence – Topical: Fire Department Staffing and Coverage (2 winners selected)

City of Eagan

The City of Eagan hired Citygate consultants to perform a Fire Department Staffing, Emergency Medical Services, and Response Times study. The study concluded that the City’s current volunteer staffing model could no longer provide a system to meet the needs of an urban community with diverse risks. It also concluded that the fire department should take primary responsibility for all EMS calls in Eagan, freeing-up the City’s police department to respond to police-based calls. The study recommended that Eagan should change to a mostly full-time career department, augmented by a small part-time firefighter force. Since the study, the City has changed from having 100+ paid-on-call firefighters to a combination staffed department with 30 part-time firefighters. Additionally, the City hired a total of 36 full-time firefighter/EMTs who cover three fire stations 24/7.

City of Mankato

For decades, the City has utilized live-in volunteer firefighters to supplement full-time staffing. These volunteers have lived rent-free in a dormitory style setting in exchange for staffing 10 nights per month. The City took an innovative approach to expand its live-in program by opening three townhomes on city property adjacent to a fire station. As opposed to living in a dormitory-style room, these townhomes provide a rent-free living opportunity to share with family, friends, and pets. Live-in firefighters have provided nearly 10,000 hours of service in the last three years alone, and the city will recoup the cost of the construction over nine years. The City also added part-time firefighters to the ranks to meet weekend daytime staffing needs by recruiting experienced firefighters from within a 100-mile radius of the city, which helped enhance coverage throughout Mankato. Finally, the city enhanced its partnership with Mayo Clinic Ambulance through retrofit of a retired downtown fire station for ambulance service, which has reduced medical response time by one minute in the downtown at no cost to the city.

Award judges

The 2020 City of Excellence award nominations were judged by a two-person panel of former members of the League’s Board of Directors including Andrew Johnson, councilmember, City of Minneapolis; and Heidi Omerza, councilmember, City of Ely.

About the League

The League of Minnesota Cities is a 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 830 member cities through advocacy, education and training, policy development, risk management, and other services.