Citizens’ Academies will be offered to teach residents about city government

By Rachel Kytonen

City of Cambridge residents hoping to get an in-depth look at how city government works will soon have their chance.

During the Cambridge City Council meeting Monday, Feb. 6, intern Karla Filibeck presented information on Citizens’ Academies that are currently being offered in other cities.

The Cambridge City Council, together with City Administrator Lynda Woulfe and Cambridge Police Chief Dave Pajnic, congratulated Cambridge Police Officer Chad Saelens and Cambridge City Council member Chris Caulk on their recent awards given during the Isanti County Law Enforcement Association banquet. Sgt. Cauk received a Distinguished Service award and Officer Saelens received a Meritorious Service award. Pictured, from left, are City Administrator Woulfe, Chief Pajnic, Mayor Palmer, Office Saelens, Sgt. Caulk, and council members Dave Schornstein, Lisa Iverson and Bob Shogren. Photo by Rachel Kytonen

Filibeck explained citizens’ academies are a public relations tool used to inform citizens of the functions and services local governments provide, engage citizens in dialogue with government officials and foster greater levels of public participation.

Filibeck said the first Citizens’ Academy for Cambridge will meet eight consecutive Thursdays from March 15 through May 3. Sessions will be held in the evening, and last for approximately two hours.

Registration is free, but limited to 40 citizens. Participants must be 16 years of age or older. Registration will be confirmed upon receipt of a completed one-page registration form and photo release. The deadline to register is Friday, March 2, but may be extended if seats remain.

The sessions will include a look at the different city departments including administration and finance, community development, public works, utilities, police and fire.

Each session will offer at last one interactive or hands-on activity. In addition to small group discussions, exercises and demonstrations, site visits and tours will be conducted at the street garage, waste water treatment facility, police and fire departments.

At the eighth and final session, a special graduation will be held to honor citizens’ participation.

Mayor Marlys Palmer thanked Filibeck for her research, and mentioned the idea for the Citizens’ Academies stemmed from hearing a presentation about them at a League of Minnesota Cities conference last year.

Mayor Palmer hopes many residents will take the opportunity to learn more about how city government works.

Purchase of property

Economic Development Director Stan Gustafson presented information on purchasing 2.23 acres at 33870 Xylite St. N., Cambridge, adjacent to Cambridge Opportunity Industrial Park.

After discussion, the council approved the purchase at a cost of $55,000 or $.57 per square feet. The property had been foreclosed on.

Gustafson explained the goal is to obviously continue to sell the sites in the Industrial Park. However, until the property is sold, it will be used as a site for police training and/or fire department practice burn.

Council Member Bob Shogren cast the sole vote against the motion to purchase the property.

“There is a significant part of the Industrial Park we haven’t been able to sell yet, and I don’t think we should put more money into it,” Shogren explained. “Even though it’s a good deal, I’m against it because I don’t feel is the responsible thing to do for the taxpayers.”

Palmer disagreed, and felt it was a good opportunity and good price for the city.