1/23/2014 12:13:00 PM City administrator Reeves looks back on six years in CF
by Ken Haggerty
Aaron Reeves' last day as Cannon Falls city administrator was Friday, January 17. Reeves started work for the city of Rochester as city clerk on January 21. The Rochester position is a department head that is responsible for elections, licensing, some parts of assessment, local ordinances, city records and council resolutions and ordinances.
Reeves resides in Rochester, has children in school there and calls it a great opportunity.
Reeves came into Cannon Falls in February 2008, just as the real estate boom was collapsing and the economy was starting to tumble. The city council was also forced to deal with reduced government aid from the State.
"We had some big challenges to deal with, but all I tried to do was lay out three or four different options on budgets and actions, present them to the council, and let them decide how to proceed," said Reeves.
Among the issues dealt with during this period was the failed new condominium development on Hwy. 19. Reeves said the city was lucky that the Oxford Group came in and the property was successfully transitioned to the Twin Rivers senior living campus.
Midwest also announced it was closing its distribution center in the industrial park, a city owned warehouse that had brought in good lease revenue over the years. Reeves said again the city was lucky as Twin Cities Container stepped in as a willing buyer and patiently awaited for the city to work out a deal for the sale of the facility. That revenue helped the city in tough times said Reeves.
Reeves said the city was also fortunate to have Progressive Rail come in and pay the back taxes on the vacant malt house and start up rail operations, which has led to other activity.
Reeves said he had the good timing to come in just as Invenergy was starting up in the industrial park. They made a nice payment to help fund the firehouse expansion and make important annual revenue payments that help the city's bottom line, said Reeves.
Reeves said he is proud the city has had four years of reductions to the levy and one year of a freeze. He said the Union and non-Union employees were good to work with during contract negotiations and recognized some concessions had to be made. He said department heads were also good at prioritizing capital spending.
Reeves said that though there was little new residential development in his tenure, the parks have been maintained well and some improvements made. He credits the establishment of park dedication fees in previous development deals as key in that process.
Reeves said money is in the budget to finalize the city portion of the Trail to the west as new Trail construction comes eastward from Lake Byllesby.
Reeves said he hopes the pool referendum passes in March. "It would be a really big improvement and a community asset." Reeves said look at how great the new Library turned out and how much more use it is getting as an example. Reeves said the library was built during his tenure, but the library board and volunteer foundation were the ones who made that project happen, along with truly amazing community donations. These facilities are long-term investments, said Reeves.
The fire hall remodel went in while Reeves was here as well. Reeves said he wishes the construction of that facility had gone more smoothly, but he says the city learned from it and it turned out very nice, with some great space for more and bigger equipment. Reeves said the ambulance service is a great success story that actually brings in revenue, even as it has grown from one to three full-time employees. He said the city is lucky to have Brenda Voshalike and Mike Althoff involved in that service.
Reeves thinks he has helped change the reputation of the city to one that is "business-friendly" with some great work from the EDA board and EDA director David Maroney. Through a tough economy, the city has seen some nice commercial/industrial growth.
Reeves thinks the city should consider cooperating with other cities moving forward on sharing resources, possibly looking at police as an area where employee or management pools could be used.
Reeves said dealing with MnDOT has been frustrating, especially when the Elk Run project was funded over the Hwy. 52/County 24 interchange, but said that it seems that the Cannon Falls is finally being taken care of as he leaves. He thinks a bridge at 52 and 86 will really help with developing the industrial park as it makes travel in and out of that area better.
The new interchange on the south end, the new hospital out there and the new County 24 that will diagonal from there to Hwy. 19 by the school will also really spur some development, he believes. Getting the Olmsted Clinic on the north side was a surprise that he thinks is another great asset to the community. "Options and competition are good things that not all smaller towns have," said Reeves.
Dealing with the cable company and with the utilities on CapX is also frustrating at times, he said, but thinks Cannon Falls will end up with improved infrastructure as both of those deals are completed in the coming years.
Reeves said building up budget reserves is sometimes hard, but is glad the city council has supported the moves. He is also proud the city has established and stuck with an orderly capital improvement plan. Major work has been done on the east side and west side streets and utilities and he hopes the plan continues to be moved forward.
He'll leave with fond memories of how well public safety workers dealt with repeated "100-year floods." He said the way the whole community quickly pulled together and hosted the President was another great experience.