by Mike Knaak
A city services app, a spruced-up downtown and an expanded city storage facility are among the changes on the horizon for the new year, according to St. Joseph Mayor Rick Schultz.
Prospects look good for state bonding money to boost two local projects as well as federal support for affordable housing, Schultz said during a speech to the Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 12.
The planned app will allow residents to communicate and engage with the city for a variety of services including public works and safety.
“We are way behind when it comes to engagement via phone,” Schultz said. The app will include city forms and permit applications.
Schultz also wants to use technology to add surveillance cameras and improve the software used for city operations.
Schultz expects to see a plan by March 1 for improving the downtown streetscape. Tree roots are buckling the sidewalks and the plan will probably include new trees and planters. Schultz also wants to upgrade the signs and lighting at entrances to the city.
Sand Properties received approval for a federal affordable housing grant. To support the new building, the city plans improvements on 20th Avenue S.
Schultz said his No. 1 goal is to secure state funding for the Community Center, a prospect that appears more likely now that Gov. Tim Walz has included money in his bonding plan. Walz requested $4 million for the Community Center expansion and $300,000 for East Park. Area lawmakers backed legislation to fund the projects.
If the Legislature approves the funding, the bonds would cover $4 million of the estimated $16 million price tag for the community center. The remaining money would come from a capital fundraising campaign and revenue from the city’s half-cent sales tax.
Development of East Park would receive half of its estimated $600,000 cost.
If the money is approved, Schultz said it will be time to update the building plan and set a timeline for the capital campaign.
The Community Center would be created by renovating and expanding the old Kennedy School. Planners see the project as a space for residents of all ages to connect. Additionally, the Jacob Wetterling Recreational Center would be part of the center as a space for young people to gather and as a resource for health and wellness.
Recreational facilities could include basketball, pickleball and volleyball courts, an elevated walking track, a climbing wall and locker rooms.
Last month, the city hired John Anderson as a part-time activities and recreation director.
Schultz began his comments by noting he’s been mayor for 10 years. He ticked off all the changes in St. Joseph during his tenure including new city officials, businesses opening and closing, the new city hall and Army Reserve Center.
Looking ahead, he asked “are we still moving the needle” and asserted the need to be “persistent and consistent.”
Although St. Joseph is one of the state’s safest cities, Schultz wants to expand the police department, pointing to the recent search and arrests for drugs and handguns.
“We need to be diligent and add more staff,” he said.
During the question session, Schultz was asked about Metro Bus service. The city started negotiating five months ago and Schultz said the original cost proposed to the city was “outrageous.” Schultz said the city can’t afford the price.
Schultz’s two-year term is up this fall and he hasn’t indicated if he’ll run for re-election. Current City Council member Anne Buckvold said she intends to run for mayor. The filing period doesn’t open until July 28.
Author: Janelle Von Pinnon
Von Pinnon has been publishing the St. Joseph Newsleader since 1989, the Sartell-St. Stephen Newsleader since 1995 and the Sauk Rapids-Rice Newsleader since 2015. She graduated from Minnesota State University-Moorhead with degrees in mass communications (with an emphasis on print journalism) and biology. She lives in southeast St. Cloud with her husband and two children.