Owatonna officials meet public for State of the City meeting - Owatonna MN: News

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Owatonna officials meet public for State of the City meeting

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Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014 6:00 pm | Updated: 9:25 pm, Thu Jan 30, 2014.

OWATONNA — Officials with the City of Owatonna were pleased with the progress made in several key areas around the city in 2013, progress that they hope continues in the coming year.

On Thursday, Mayor Tom Kuntz and City Administrator Kris Busse held the annual “State of the City” meeting at Owatonna SeniorPlace. The meeting gives the city the opportunity to give status updates for projects completed in the previous years while laying out goals for the future.

“Hopefully, we will see a bumper year in 2014 like we did in 2013,” Kuntz said.

Many of the city’s successes in 2013 centered around development projects. Among the top projects were Viracon’s addition, the construction of new grocery stores, investment in the city’s auto dealerships and a new development on the south end of town.

Many of those projects required city assistance through Tax Increment Financing or through infrastructure improvements. Projects like the Viracon project needed both.

“That involved some major, major work on the city’s part like relocating sewer, water and utility lines. We had to get that all done in a timely manner so the project could move forward,” Busse said.

The city also spent millions of dollars on infrastructure improvements, most of them coming in the streets, where crews did three full street reconstructions and five full-depth repairs to go along with several overlays.

Also included in the city’s infrastructure improvements was the Owatonna Public Library, which made several improvements thanks to a grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation. A grand opening for the new look library will likely take place in February, Busse said.

In 2013, the city used grant money to remove some homes from the flood plain on Lemond Road as part of its flood mitigation plan. There will likely be more this year.

“We have three more purchase agreements for homes also on Lemond Road,” Busse said.

Other successes for the city include the installation of new warning sirens that provide more coverage for the city, which was funded through a grant. The Owatonna Police Department also established its first citizen academy and a new police reserve unit, which logged more than 2,500 volunteer hours in 2013.

In looking to the future, further development is planned for 2014. Some new projects include an addition at Vision Processing Technologies, Inc., a new Kwik Trip store and possible changes at the Pillsbury campus.

As part of the Kwik Trip project, a left turn lane will be put into 26th Street Northeast to allow access onto Landmark Drive, which city officials hope will encourage further development in the area.

Gary Schwartz, a citizen in attendance at the meeting, said he’d like to see 26th Street kept intact.

“We should not mess up that street any more than it already is,” Schwartz said. “It should be a belt line, not (one for) turning in and out because somebody wants to put up a gas station.”

Kuntz said Owatonna said a lot of the development has been targeted on the north end of the city because of the lack of infrastructure to support growth south of Highway 14.

While there several development projects that have been announced for 2014, Kuntz indicated that more are in the works.

“There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes that we don’t have permission to talk about,” Kuntz said.

The State of the City address will be put on public access and will be available for viewing online. Additionally, Kuntz and Busse will be giving further presentations to groups around town.

Reach reporter Al Strain at 444-2376 or follow him on Twitter.com@OPPalstrain

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