Cambridge highlights successes during annual State of the City

By Rachel Kytonen

Cambridge Mayor Marlys Palmer said “it has been an exciting year for the city of Cambridge,” during her annual State of the City Address held March 9.

During the State of the City, hosted by the Cambridge Area Chamber of Commerce, Palmer noted the city’s growth is slow, but still positive.

“Our city is very fiscally solvent,” Palmer said. “With the turn-back, and economy, we are happy our population continues to grow. Our population is now at 7,752, and a year ago we were 200 less.”

Also, over the past 10 to 11 years, Palmer noted more than one-half of all the city residential streets have been improved, and the city has a new water tower and water treatment plant. She also noted the recent four-lane expansion of Hwy. 95 on the east side of Cambridge.

“When I first moved here, I remember saying to my husband, ‘my this is a beautiful town,’ and I have never changed that opinion,” Palmer said.

Palmer highlighted Cambridge’s strength as having a mix of commercial, industrial and residential tax base, and its solid role as a service and retail center.

The opening of Kohl’s was a successful project for the city this past year, and also the improvements at Sandquist Park, with the addition of a restroom facility. Palmer also noted the success with Normandy Townhomes, and how the city worked with New Pathways to make sure some of the townhomes would be affordable housing.

The ground-breaking of the Cambridge-Isanti Bike/Walk trail was also a highlight of Palmer’s year.

“The idea for the bike/walk trail really came from students at the high school about 20 years ago,” Palmer said. “The city and other organizations then picked up the project about 10 years ago, and we were also able to secure a lot of bonding funds for the project. We’ll probably be celebrating a ribbon cutting in June.”

Palmer was pleased to report the city received $611,417 in state bonding funds to help pay for the cost of the 2nd Ave. SW bridge improvements over the Rum River. The cost to replace the bridge is $1.3 million, and work is expected to begin in October and be completed in May.

Palmer said being able to improve the 2nd Ave. bridge eliminates the 15-mile detour the community was facing when the Hwy. 95 Rum River bridge is replaced in 2014. The 2nd Ave. bridge route will serve as the primary detour route.

Property taxes makeup approximately $3.8 million of 2011 general fund revenues for the city of Cambridge. In 2009, that figure was $4.1 million, and in 2010, it was $3.9 million.

“It costs a lot to run a city, and we have heard we must get our taxes lowered and we have done that,” Palmer said. “We keep taxes as low as we can, but we still must provide the services we need for the community.”

Local government aid is projected to make up $376,546 of general fund revenue for the city in 2011. LGA funding has also decreased for the city the past couple of years.

Total general fund revenues for the city is 2011 is estimated to be $5,138,175. In 2009 it was $5,855,684 and in 2010 it was $5,474,352.

The largest general fund expenditures for the city is its police and fire protection, with a 2011 budget of $1,694,584.

Palmer explained when she started with the city council 12 years ago, the city had two police officers. She said as a community, it was decided to rebuilt the Cambridge Police Department instead of contracting with another agency to provide the services.

“We now have 13 sworn officers, and have had a 100 percent commitment to the police and fire department,” Palmer said.

The Cambridge Fire Department has 25 firefighters, and services the entire city, as well as other areas within the county.

General fund 2011 budget expenditures for parks is $340,144 and public works, $1,231,743. Cambridge now covers seven square miles, and 55 miles of street is plowed each winter season.

General fund total budget expenditures for the city of Cambridge for 2011 is estimated at $5,262,375.

Future challenges for the city, Palmer noted, is sanitary sewer system improvement. She said the city renews its wastewater discharge permit in 2011, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will require the city to lower the amount of phosphorous in its wastewater discharge as part of the renewal.

She said a wastewater facility review plan is currently underway to determine the level of investment the city will need to make to achieve the lower phosphorous level. An estimated cost of the project is $5.5 million, and the city has been saving for the expense.

Palmer noted gas prices are also presenting a huge challenge for the city.

Besides the bridge improvement projects mentioned for 2nd Ave. SW and Hwy. 95, future projects also include Dellwood Street (formerly Hwy. 293). Palmer said it may be improved in 2012 depending upon bid prices. Cambridge has $2.1 million in turn-back money from MnDOT to improve the street.

Palmer said the city is also exploring the idea of a citizen’s academy, which would be a six-week course for the citizens’s that covers all area of the city’s operations.

Palmer said Cambridge is a great city to live and work in.

“We have an excellent city staff, and city council, and we work together very well,” Palmer said. “We pay close attention to details, and we also thank the citizens of Cambridge, who support us daily. We really want everyone to come to the table. We want to know what your talents are, and want to know what your needs and ideas are.”