About Me

My Photo
I have served the City of Isanti as Mayor since 2007. We have accomplished great things together and I look forward to building on our success. United, we move forward to a better future. You may contact me at 763-442-8749 or e-mail me at george@georgewimmer.com. My website is www.georgewimmer.com

Friday, February 29, 2008

Industries Incorporated Fundraising Dinner

You are invited to join us for;

INDUSTRIES INCORPORATED
SATURDAY, MARCH 8, 2008
Spectacular Events
1001 County Road 5 NE • Isanti, MN
(One mile East of Highway 65)
6:00 p.m. – Social Hour & Auction Bidding 7:00 p.m. – Dinner & Speaker
7:45 p.m. – Silent Auction & Games

Silent Auction!
Games & More Games!
Including wine pull, heads & tails; etc.
Banquet Bucks
Available for pre-sale.

For more information contact Industries Incorporated:
Kris McNally, 320-679-2354 x 14 • 500 S. Walnut St. • Mora, MN 55051
Denise Johnson, 763-689-5434 x 15 • 601 S. Cleveland • Cambridge, MN 55008

Tickets
(Available thru Feb. 29)
$30.00 each
AVAILABLE AT:
Kanabec State Bank Mora
Cambridge State Bank Cambridge
Community Pride Bank Isanti
Industries, Inc.
Mora & Cambridge

FUNDS RAISED ARE USED TO SUPPORT THE MISSION OF INDUSTRIES, INCORPORATED

Supporting people with disabilities and other challenges for over 40 years, by providing training and employment services for greater independence in the community.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Arctic Plunge in 3 Cold Days

2008 Arctic Plunge The Arctic Plunge is coming up soon. March 1st at Captians on Long Lake. I am placing a link here and to the left if you are interested in jumping. This makes my third year jumping and second year sponsoring.

The Plunge captures our community spirit of giving. I am enclosing a few words from the Plunge Website:"Each year the committee determines the event beneficiary. This year's beneficiary is the Isanti County Safety and Rescue.Please join us for a fun filled family day on March 1st!

The event start at 10:00AM with Vintage Snowmobile Races sponsored by the Long Lake Improvement Association. The old fashioned Ice Cutting demonstration begins at 1:00 PM. Brought to you by the Englund Family. Finally, the much anticipated ARCTIC PLUNGE begins at 2:00PM.

This year we will have two sets of bleachers for your convenience. Tell your friends and come early to get a good seat!"Go to http://www.arcticplunge.com/ for more information and to look at the Zodiac last year's fund raiser bought for Isanti County and Rescue.

Everyone needs to help make this event a success....plunge and help raise money for Isanti Safety and Rescue...the money you raise may one day help save your life.

Union Contracts

Union negations have been ongoing in the City of Isanti. We were able to settle with the Public Works Union but unfortunately the Police Union has rejected the contract proposed by the City after months of negotiation. We were notified today that the Union is filing for mediation. I am personally very disappointed in this outcome that a contract that asked for no concessions from the Police Union but offered 3% pay increases per year, an excellent health plan, the start of a shift differential and a number of smaller City concessions did not pass a union vote.

The City, state and country are heading into incredibly difficult financial times and to have a contract that still offers more to our officers than they currently have rejected is difficult to understand.

Our excellent health plan is incredibly expensive for the City but we feel it is important to maintain a high level of benefits for our employees but it comes at a cost. Unfortunately the proposal the Union made to the City was to average four communities Police Officer pay rates.

The communities proposed were North Branch, Cambridge, St Francis and Princeton. I asked that we should then take a look at the populations and tax bases of each community and then adjust the rates as a percentage compared to Isanti. North Branch's tax capacity is $9,068,153, Cambridge is $7,040,025, St. Francis is $5,755,259 and Princeton is $3,425,349. These figures are based on League of Minnesota Cities information for 2007, the most recent information provided. Isanti's tax capacity is $3,438,930.

Oddly enough Princeton's pay rates are less than Isanti's and our tax bases are virtually equal and St Francis does not provide a health care plan instead they give a cash payment for the officers to purchase their own health care. This payment is less than what it cost the City of Isanti to provide health care.

The 2008 top pay rates provided to us show North Branch at $28.44 per hour, Cambridge at $26.31, St. Francis at $27.99 and Princeton is $24.02. Isanti's proposed rate would have been $26.39. Cambridge just settled and Princeton and St Francis were also tentative settlement agreements. These are new numbers not from years old contracts.

Even if you accept out of hand the premise that we should be compared to these cities we are above Princeton and Cambridge whose tax base is double ours. We are less than St Francis and North Branch whose populations and tax bases are quite larger than our own.

The Isanti police department is stable, officers are not fleeing for higher paid jobs in the metro nor do we lack high numbers of qualified applicants for police positions. I know this as we just hired a new police officer.

I wish we could offer more than a 3% pay increase per year but financially this would put us on a course that would do harm to the City and department. We have grown our department over the years, renovated the former City Hall to a modern police station so our officers no longer had to work out of a former hair salon, and finalized the third purchase of a new Dodge Police car as requested by the officers. The new police information system the city purchased last year has improved our policing tools. We need to be fiscally responsible so our Police Department can continue to grow and serve our City. It does no one any good to expand cost at such rate they can not be sustained.

We have a good department and I want to make sure it last for generations. It is difficult to not be able to do everything that is requested by our fine officers but Isanti's tax revenues are already in a shortfall position. I serve on the finance committee and we are already struggling with a roughly $140,000 short fall in property tax revenue. These are property taxes that are not being paid and we have no idea when they might get paid. This is unfortunately only the beginning.

We should all know by now that the national and state economy is suffering. The state will be releasing a deficit projection believed to be over a billion dollars. When the state needs to balance its budget it often does it on the backs of cities, counties and school districts as it did in 2003. Isanti has a 21% cut in Local Government Aid last year and I fear there will be more of the same. This coupled with the mortgage crisis and its affect on property taxes; I will be compared to scrooge or the grinch when I have to constantly talk about fiscal discipline.

The way out is to build our commercial tax base. We have had brilliant success in 2007 and this year looks to be strong as well. We need to continue this growth by keeping taxes and fees fair to attract more businesses. It roughly takes two years to start receiving the full tax revenue from new businesses when it is new construction. Just as a new homes first year tax bill is often just the lot tax it is the same with a business.

Property taxes are incredibly regressive. No matter your income, you pay the same rate, rich or poor. Property taxes hurt lower income families the most of all. High taxes and the hidden tax of increased valuations are running some families out of their homes. This is just one of my motivations, and perhaps the one I take to heart the most, to make the City live within its means.

We have a plan for success....we need to follow it....

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

City Engineer Update

Well there is no good way to say this so here it is…..Wenck will not be the City Engineer. Wenck did not disclose the primary engineer that would serve Isanti would be unable to attend Planning Commission meetings nor Council meetings because he was already dedicated to another city.

I was frankly quite angry and disappointed that at the very least this was an overt act of omission. I firmly stated at the Council meeting that the promises made by each engineering firm were my base line expectations. I met with Wenck and expressed my reaction to their proposed changes in a blunt exchange. Wenck failed in their first act and performed a bait and switch and therefore can not be our engineering firm.

The Council will take this up at the next meeting and decide how to proceed. As I know more I will inform you.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

City Services

In 2007 The Isanti City Council initiated an important reform, one of many. This reform was to initiate the process of consultant review in an orderly process. These include City Engineer, City Attorney, Financial consultant, banking services, bond consultant and so on. We would take these major consultants and go out for a RFP, request for proposal, from the industry. Speaking for myself, I did not like the idea that you simply continue with a current firm until they make a major mistake. Going out for RFPs makes sure we always have the best possible service at a competitive price. This year it was city engineering services and next year it will be City Attorney services. Last night we also finalized our review of City banking services.

MFRA has been the City Engineer for many years and has done good work. There were a number of difficult issues however that needed to be addressed, again speaking for myself my greatest concern rest with communication. Communication with Citizens and taxpayers, businesses and the Council needed to be dramatically improved. I will not go through the list of specifics but time and again the same type of problem would occur. The Council and I have constantly stressed the need for city government to improve communication. The City has worked hard on this front with great improvements to the City website, the Isantian Newsletter and hopefully soon we will have audio and then video available online and through cable access. We expect the same commitment from our service providers.

When I ran for Council in 2004 and Mayor in 2006, I stressed the need for a more responsive government. This means a government that listens and responds with speed and respect. This does not mean everyone will get the answers they want but it does mean that our Citizens and taxpayers will be treated with respect and dignity. I am always amazed that some seemed to be constantly surprised when we follow through on a stated goal.

Isanti received many excellent proposals and we interviewed four prospective engineering firms, MFRA was one of the four. The Council chooses Wenck on a 4-1 vote. This was an incredibly difficult decision for the Council. Any of the four would have served the City well. I can only speak to my decision which was based on the written proposals and the interviews. Wenck’s written presentation spoke to Isanti’s needs and goals better than any of the four. Their interview was good and the approach they will take to providing service to Isanti will continue moving us forward. I did state last night that the promise of service is our expectation. If Wenck does not fulfill our expectations I would not hesitate to fire them.

The banking service RFP brought proposals from all our local banks and credit unions. Landmark has been Isanti’s bank for generations. Landmark came forward with an aggressive proposal for services that made the most financial sense for our taxpayers. The Council voted to approve Landmark’s proposal 5-0 and to continue our banking relationship. Landmark has always served Isanti well and in the rare situations that do arise they respond immediately.

It was a tough night for the Council but a good night for the City.

Friday, February 15, 2008

New Isantian Example

The new Isantian example is located at;

http://www.isanticountynews.com/images/stories/promotions/isantian/isantian.pdf

View it and let me know what you think. If you are a business and interested in placing an ad please let me know.

george@georgewimmer.com
763-442-8749

3rd District Commissioner Race

There has been a lot of talk and rumor about the 3rd District Commissioner position. Commissioner Pagel’s announcement not to seek re-election has energized our district. I have been inundated with questions regarding this position. I am honored by the outpouring of support and confidence that I would be able to have a positive impact on County Government. We have made great progress in the City of Isanti in 2007 and I am working hard to continue our success.

With all our success Isanti still faces perhaps the toughest two to three years in our history. We face the ever growing mortgage crisis, failed developers leaving devastation in their wake and lower City revenues due to unpaid property taxes and utility fees. The reforms that have been put in place along with the reforms yet to come and the tremendous commercial growth all hinge on continuing the plan we started in 2007.

We have turned a corner as a City but as hard as it was to make the great progress in the past year it can slip away just as fast. I can not in good conscience leave the City of Isanti. I made a promise to do the best with my limited abilities to lead our City out of the mistakes of the past and into a brighter future. We are succeeding better than any of us could have hoped in such a short time. There is a lot of work yet to be done and our job will only be tougher.

You and I did not create the local, state and national mortgage crisis or the looming economic recession but only together can we continue our success. 15 plus new businesses and relocations in 2007, property tax cut, leveling off of City spending, fully funded new water treatment plant, new police lieutenant and patrol officer, dramatic decrease in crime, Long Term Financial Plan, developer fees that actual pay the cost of development, Council rules and procedures, nuisance ordinance reform and so on and so on…..I can not promise there will be no hardships to bear in the future, I can promise I will not leave you this November to shoulder them alone.

I will not equivocate; I will not run for the 3rd District Commissioner position this fall. We have hard work to do and I intend to continue doing just that.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Plunge is just around the Corner

2008 Arctic Plunge

The Arctic Plunge is coming up soon. March 1st at Captians on Long Lake. I am placing a link here and to the left if you are interested in jumping. This makes my third year jumping and second year sponsoring.

The Plunge captures our community spirit of giving. I am enclosing a few words from the Plunge Website:"Each year the committee determines the event beneficiary. This year's beneficiary is the Isanti County Safety and Rescue.Please join us for a fun filled family day on March 1st!

The event start at 10:00AM with Vintage Snowmobile Races sponsored by the Long Lake Improvement Association. The old fashioned Ice Cutting demonstration begins at 1:00 PM. Brought to you by the Englund Family. Finally, the much anticipated ARCTIC PLUNGE begins at 2:00PM.

This year we will have two sets of bleachers for your convenience. Tell your friends and come early to get a good seat!"Go to http://www.arcticplunge.com/ for more information and to look at the Zodiac last year's fund raiser bought for Isanti County and Rescue.

Everyone needs to help make this event a success....plunge and help raise money for Isanti Safety and Rescue...the money you raise may one day help save your life.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

February 5th Council Meeting Update

The Council has, I hope, laid the idea of a new or significantly renovated liquor store to rest tonight. The request to spend another $16,300 on design plans for a major renovation lost on a 2-3 vote.

We moved forward on a project I have been working on. I have always believed the City needs to do a better job communicating with our residents. In this light the Isantian will be given a facelift. The City staff photocopied quarterly news letter that goes out to 2000 homes and tax payers will be professionally printed. We will be selling advertising to defray the cost. These will be business card sized ads at the bottom and a possible full page ad.

The new Isantian will cost the City less, save labor cost and photocopier wear and tear. This is the quintessential project that offers more, cost less and becomes a blue print for future progress in communicating with our Citizens.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Friday, February 01, 2008

Commissioner Pagel not to seek Re-election

Third District, City of Isanti and Bradford Township, Commissioner Tom Pagel will not seek re-election... http://isanticountynews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2621&Itemid=1

I have grown to appreciate Commissioner Pagel's abilities and skills as I have worked with him on City issues. I was unaware he was not seeking re-election and his experience and expertise will be missed.

February 5th Council Meeting

The February 5th Council meeting will be held at 3pm as to not conflict with the evenings Caucuses. We have to end no later than 6pm by state statute. We have a few items I want to highlight.

We will be holding a public hearing on the Minnesota Investment Fund Program application for Ever Cat Fuels bio-diesel facility. This is not only a benefit for Ever Cat Fuels but a benefit for the City. We get to keep 20% of the loan repayment plus interest for a city revolving loan fund. This fund can used to expand current businesses or attract new businesses. Free money from a state program to make our City business climate more attractive to new growth is a wonderful benefit. I am also hoping we can add to this fund.

The other item I want to discuss is less optimistic in my opinion. The Liquor Store Committee is recommending we spend another $16,300 for architectural plans. It will not shock the regular readers of my Blog that I think this is good money after bad.

We can not afford a major renovation that will eat up our cash reserves and add new debt. We have already spent over $100,000 on this project, this does not include the hours and hours of staff time, we do not need to waste another $16,300.

CM Duff and I lost the vote last time to block this. I hope we can gain the needed votes to put a halt once and for all to this process. Here are my previous post about the liquor store math and why it makes no sense…

http://georgewimmer.blogspot.com/2007/11/liqour-store-by-numbers.html http://georgewimmer.blogspot.com/2007/12/liquor-store-by-numbers-ii.html