2015 City of Excellence Award Winners

Four Minnesota communities receive honors from League of Minnesota Cities
Cities of Alexandria, Belle Plaine, Eden Prairie, and Paynesville selected as City of Excellence Award winners for 2015

(June 24, 2015—St. Paul, Minn.) City-administered initiatives that included development of a recreational trail, redesign and reconstruction of a downtown district main street, revision of a snow and ice control program, and development of a municipal archery park were recognized today when the League of Minnesota Cities announced City of Excellence Award winners for 2015. The awards were presented earlier today at the League’s Annual Conference in Duluth.

To compete for consideration as a City of Excellence, cities self-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 under 5,000
City of Paynesville—Lake Koronis Recreational Trail
Following the launching of a unique collaboration and many years of planning, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place this year to officially open a trail connecting the City of Paynesville around the entire 18 miles of Lake Koronis. The goal of constructing the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail was to provide a safe, non-motorized option for pedestrians and bikers. The city partnered with nearby Paynesville Township to assume responsibility for planning and maintenance. The city and township contributed approximately one-quarter of the cost, and were able to leverage local contributions, as well as monies from Stearns and Meeker counties, the state Department of Natural Resources, state bonding, and federal government transportation grants for the remainder. The project also benefitted from in-kind contributions from residents, and the fact that all easements needed for construction and use were provided by landowners at no cost.

Population 5,000 to 19,999
City of Alexandria—Broadway Reconstruction Project: Taking public involvement to a new level
In the summer of 2014, the City of Alexandria completely reconstructed and redesigned Broadway Street through the city’s downtown district. With the construction scheduled during the prime tourist season for downtown shops, high levels of public engagement and involvement were critical to the success of the project.

During the planning process, numerous public information sessions were held, and a committee—comprised of city staff, business groups, the local media, and tourism professionals, among others—was formed with the charge of communicating progress through use of social media, a dedicated website, advertising, and other tools. The public involvement portion of the project began in 2010, with the formation of three public visioning sessions. Each of the sessions were attended by more than 60 people representing all aspects of the community. The sessions were structured to allow public input in all aspects of preliminary design, and resulted in the identification and establishment of the project’s critical success factors.

Population 20,000+
City of Eden Prairie—Snow and Ice Control Program
During the 2011-2012 winter snow season, the city decided to re-examine how snow and ice control operations were performed. Based on comments received from the public, as well as employees involved in snow removal operations, it became apparent that delivery of this critical service needed to be revisited with a goal of clearing all roadways within nine hours of the end of a snow event. An internal task force was appointed consisting of employees from the city’s utilities, streets, fleet services, parks and public works division. The work of the task force resulted in a rewritten snow and ice removal policy, the installation of two non-intrusive road and weather stations, deployment of automatic vehicle location systems and material tracking systems, and the creation of an incident command room. By the end of the 2014 snow season, city employee morale was at an all-time high and satisfaction among Eden Prairie residents had greatly improved.

Topical category—Parks and Recreation Programs and Projects
City of Belle Plaine—Archery Park
The City of Belle Plaine first took a serious look at the recreational opportunities of archery when a local enthusiast approached members of the Park Board with the idea of developing a site. As a result, over a span of about two-and-a-half years, city staff went to work on efforts to locate land, establish partnerships, and identify potential funding sources.

The Archery Park was a true collaboration of local entities and organizations, along with a group of involved citizens appointed to a newly formed Archery Subcommittee. A piece of open land owned by Scott County was identified as a potential site, and the country agreed to make it available to the city at no cost. A local Boy Scout with a keen interest in archery contributed time for planning and construction of seven archery target frames for the park, which he completed in the summer of 2014. Funding for development of the park was provided from the city’s park budget and the local Chamber of Commerce.

About the judges
The 2015 City of Excellence award nominations were judged by a panel of past League of Minnesota Cities presidents, including: Susan Hoyt, former administrator for the cities of Falcon Heights, Northfield, and Lake Elmo; H. Dan Ness, former mayor of Alexandria; and Les Heitke, former mayor of Willmar.