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Read about awards, recognition, projects, celebrations, staff changes, and other announcements about Minnesota cities.

Awards & Recognition

Pipestone receives Aquarius Award

The City of Pipestone has received an Aquarius Award through the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program for its excellence and leadership in the financing and construction of a new water treatment plant to address public health and environmental issues.

Pipestone needed to reduce the concentration of gross alpha emitters in its drinking water to protect public health.  The new treatment plant was also designed to reduce the hardness of water leaving the plant, eliminating the need for residents to have water softeners in their home, which contribute to chloride concentrations at the city’s wastewater plant.  Reducing the chloride concentration protects the environment in surface and groundwater downstream from the wastewater facility.

The Pipestone project was one of the first in Minnesota to deal with a wastewater issue by treating their drinking water supply.  “By taking a holistic approach to solving their problem, the city was able to meet both their public health and environmental standards far more cost effectively,” said Chad Kolstad of the Minnesota Department of Health DWSRF program.

With the new water treatment plant, Pipestone has reduced gross alpha emitters to below detection levels and has allowed the city to continue to optimize and remove home water softeners as needed to meet their chloride wastewater discharge permit limit.  In addition to the new water treatment plant, the project included the installation of watermains and new wells.  The $15.4 million project was funded with a DWSRF loan of $8.4 million and a point source implementation grant of $7.0 million from the state.

The Aquarius award recognizes exceptional projects for excellence in innovative financing, problem solving, and protection of public health and serves as an examples of the high level of innovation possible with the DWSRF.

Public works professionals receive awards

The Minnesota Chapter of the American Public Works Association recently honored four public works professionals with awards.

Jary Lee, Engineer III with the City of St. Paul, was the winner in the Public Works Employee category. Linda Mullen, Utilities Superintendent with the City of Burnsville, was the winner in the Superintendent/Supervisor category. And John Olson, public works manager with the City of Hutchinson, was the winner in the Public Works Manager/Director category.

Kristin Asher, director of public works with the City of Richfield, was awarded the Hugo G. Erickson Award in recognition of her many years of outstanding service to the Minnesota Chapter of the American Public Works Association.

These individuals were selected based on exemplary public service within their respective communities by a panel of their peers in a 2020 statewide call for nominations. Russ Matthys, director of Public Works for the City of Eagan and president of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Public Works Association, noted that public works officials often perform their public service duties quietly and without public recognition.

Staff News

St. Louis Park city manager to retire

Tom Harmening has announced his retirement following a successful 17 years as city manager of St. Louis Park.

Harmening began his career with the City of St. Louis Park in 1995 as community development director. He was closely involved in the $160 million-dollar premier revitalization project at Excelsior and Grand, among other community renewal efforts and significant redevelopment and housing initiatives.

Since being appointed as city manager in 2004, the leadership he provided for staff, city council and the community led to many major accomplishments including the redevelopment of the West End, a AAA bond rating, racial equity and inclusion efforts, and more. In 2014, Harmening was recognized for his leadership and dedication when the League of Minnesota Cities awarded him their top honor for appointed officials, the James F. Miller Leadership Award.

Harmening has offered to continue as city manager until a replacement is hired, although he does not plan to remain with the city past Aug. 1, 2021. In the coming weeks, the St. Louis Park City Council will be determining a plan for filling the city manager position.

“On behalf of the city council, residents, and businesses in St. Louis Park, I want to thank Tom Harmening for his 26 years with the city,” St. Louis Park Mayor Jake Spano said. “Hardly a corner of our community hasn’t benefited from Tom’s wisdom and guidance over the course of his career with St. Louis Park. … Tom has embraced the work of the council to improve the lives of our neighbors with dedication, caring and respect.”

In Memory

Worthington City Council Member Mike Harmon, passed away on March 4 at the age of 79. A Worthington resident for more than 40 years, Harmon was elected to City Council in 2014 and also previously served on the Independent School District 518 Board of Education, Worthington Public Utilities Water & Light Commission, and the Prairie Justice Center and Center for Active Living boards, along with multiple city council subcommittees.

Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle, said Harmon “had a heart as big as Worthington. He was always looking at how to better this community.”

For example, Harmon was a vocal advocate for an important city bridge that was completed last year. “We probably wouldn’t have had that bridge if it wasn’t for him,” Kuhle said.

Scott Hain, manager of Worthington Public Utilities, expressed his gratitude for Harmon’s willingness to travel to St. Paul to lobby for Lewis & Clark, as well as his repeated participation in public events of energy-related organizations. He noted that Harmon and wife Elena both served on the Water & Light Commission at different times, and that he had a keen interest in public utility matters. “He was very engaged … and was always willing to help out when it was needed,” Hain said.