2017 City of Excellence Award Winners

Four Minnesota communities receive honors from League of Minnesota Cities
Cities of Chatfield, Hutchinson, White Bear Lake, and Brooklyn Park selected as 2017 City of Excellence Award winners

(June 14, 2017—Rochester, Minn.) City-administered initiatives that included improving water meters and the meter reading process, increasing the community’s skilled workforce, creating a shared recycling program for local businesses, and fostering civility through a community visioning process were recognized today when the League of Minnesota Cities announced City of Excellence Award winners for 2017. The awards were presented at the League’s Annual Conference in Rochester.

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 Chatfield—“Water Meter & Meter Reading Improvement Project”
The city of Chatfield updated and replaced all the water meters in the city and added meters in buildings where there were none. The new water meters use remote monitoring technology. As a result of the project, the city reduced the amount of unaccounted water use, secured revenue from previously unmetered water use, and dramatically reduced the amount of labor associated with reading meters.

In order to administer this project, Chatfield tapped the assistance of Jeff Dale of the Minnesota Rural Water Association, who provided technical expertise. Mike Bubany of David Drown & Associates helped the city arrange for financing through the MRWA micro-loan program, which was free of the costs associated with issuing traditional bonds. Chatfield also saved an estimated $30,000-$40,000 in consulting fees by managing the project with their city staff and partnerships rather than retaining consultants.

Because of the project, Chatfield now receives timely data on potential leaks. This data allows the city to proactively address problems, resulting in savings and improved service for consumers.

Population 5,000 to 19,999
City of Hutchinson—“TigerPath Skilled Workforce Development Initiative”
The City of Hutchinson collaborated with its local school district, Ridgewater College, 18 local manufacturers and two individual funders to address a skilled workforce shortage in the community. Instead of trying to recruit employees from outside of Hutchinson, the “TigerPath Initiative” supports five integrated strategies to develop existing human resources within the community—students at Hutchinson High School and at the local technical college.

Initiative partners worked together to realign the school district’s high school education system by implementing “TigerPath Academies,” designed to help students find the best possible education and career fit based on their own interests and aptitudes. Students now have the opportunity to earn industry recognized credentials, such as “certified welder,” in the classroom; participate in a senior-year internship program with local employers; and tour local industries.

Additional investment underway ensures that Hutchinson High School will have the best equipped, most advanced technical education program in Minnesota by September 2017. TigerPath is also working to change the narrative about manufacturing jobs, shifting perceptions of these opportunities to better reflect the lucrative, high-tech positions available today.

So far, the initiative has recruited 21 partners and a total of $1.2 million has been raised to support the TigerPath Initiative, which is projected to be fully implemented by the end of the 2017-2018 school year. TigerPath not only brings about a paradigm shift in how the need for skilled workforce is addressed, but it is also building the Hutchinson of tomorrow by giving local students the tools they need to succeed today.

Population 20,000+
City of White Bear Lake—“Washington Square Waste Consolidation Project”
The Washington Square Waste Consolidation Project developed a successful shared recycling and organics collection program in downtown White Bear Lake. The collection program, which is shared among 11 small businesses surrounding a city-owned parking lot, beautifies the area, decreases disposal costs, and makes the city more sustainable.

The city was awarded a $96,760 Ramsey County Public Entity Innovation Grant that funded a shared enclosure on the city parking lot, which was designed through collaboration between White Bear Lake, Rust Architects, Aspen Waste Systems, and the local business lead. Ramsey and Washington County’s BizRecycling program provided grants for the businesses to purchase necessary supplies to set up programs internally. Businesses were also able to utilize BizRecycling’s consultant, Minnesota Waste Wise, for free assistance applying for grants, setting up bins, and educating staff about their new programs.

The project improved the aesthetic appeal of the downtown area by eliminating clusters of dumpsters at each business; increased waste diversion by standardizing recycling arrangements and adding an organics recycling service; and reduced overall disposal costs for participating businesses. The success of this project serves as a demonstration to other public entities on the multiple benefits of building a shared enclosure for a group of businesses.

Topical Category—Promoting Civility in Your City
City of Brooklyn Park—“Brooklyn Park 2025 Community Visioning Process”
Brooklyn Park city officials realized that civil discourse and collaboration hadn’t always been part of its community’s culture. To change that, the city made an intentional shift toward embracing community engagement during its strategic planning process. Brooklyn Park set a goal to collect input from 1,000 community, council, and staff members to create one unified set of goals: The Brooklyn Park 2025 Community Plan.

The Brooklyn Park 2025 Community Plan was created with the feedback gathered through the following community engagement efforts: collaborating among 17 community groups, using an online forum and Facebook polls, facilitating six community cafe events, holding community meetings with local businesses and institutional leaders, interviewing young people, tabling at various events, offering staff workshops, posting large whiteboards for feedback at local businesses, engaging mobile recreation participants and their families, and hearing from North Hennepin Community College students whose families were often under-engaged by traditional government outreach.

In the end, 2,481 voices contributed to the 2025 plan. The plan has wide community support and serves as a way for the city to foster understanding, connection, and civility in an increasingly polarized political and civic climate.

About the judges
The 2017 City of Excellence award nominations were judged by a panel of former members of the LMC Board of Directors, including Carol Mueller, mayor of the City of Mounds View; Brian Scholin, councilmember for the City of Pine City; and Craig Waldron, former administrator for the City of Oakdale and current professor at Hamline University instructing in public administration.