Mayor Larson sees a big year ahead for Farmington
He's said it before, and Farmington mayor Todd Larson will likely say it again: development of the Vermillion River Crossing retail space is one of his top priorities for the community's near future.
The development of Vermillion River Crossing was just one of the many topics Larson touched on during his March 27 State of the City address, held at Farmington City Hall.
Larson gave his annual address to a room of about 20 business and community members, along with a handful of city staff. The first half of his address recapped some of the highlights of 2012, and how the city of Farmington has "started to turn the corner" for its future.
One of those areas highlighted from 2012 is the funding of sealcoating and trail maintenance through the tax levy. The city has started to set aside $350,000 for the sealcoating, and another $15,000 for trail maintenance annually. It's money well spent, Larson said.
"A few years ago, we sent out a community survey," he said. "Basically what the survey was asking was do you want a referendum for community parks and a swimming pool? Overwhelmingly, people said no, it's the wrong time for that, but we love the trails. Maintain what we have and make the connections, and we've done that. We've made the necessary connections to the trail system and we've set up an actual fund for maintaining those trails.... That's a big step in my opinion."
Larson also talked about how careful planning and spending cuts resulted in a profit at the Schmitz-Maki Arena in 2012, and how Farmington's seniors worked hard to pay off their $90,000 financial commitment for the Rambling River Center a full year before it was due.
Renegotiated leasing contracts at both municipal liquor store helped the save significant money, resulting in greater profits in 2012. Some of those profits are used in turn to help fund parks and recreation programs, Larson said. New liquor operations manager Blair Peterson was also hired in the past year.
Peterson was one of two key new employees hired in 2012. Finance director Robin Hanson came on board in September, and has helped to refinance several bonds and restructure the timing of payments on others.
A promising future
The Farmington City Council has had several work sessions to set up a strategic plan for the community's future, Larson said. Now that a plan for financial stability has emerged, council members can turn their focus to other goals.
"We are exploring different ideas in this area, including the capital improvement plan, options for the future of the swimming pool, budget goals and priorities and other issues," he said. "Economic development is very important to every member of the city council. Implementing the strategies that have been worked on over the past year in the EDA will help set the stage for future development, and the city council will ask the EDA to look at options for industrial developments in the city, along with asking staff to make the development of Vermillion River Crossings a priority.
"Council has made it a priority to see what we can do to fill up the Vermillion River Crossing property ... and get something going out there. In my estimation it's kind of a sore spot in the city and I really want to see it full," Larson added.
In full, Larson's comments ran about 30 minutes in time. The State of the City was hosted by the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce. Larson was also filmed presenting the State of the City, so that video can be played on the city's website, www.ci.farmington.mn.us; or on the city's two cable channels, 16 and 22.