EPy Employee Awards

Each year I have the privilege of hosting our spring and fall employee recognition events. Yesterday was our spring recognition event where we presented our annual employee awards — something we refer to as the “EPys.”

Following an introduction by Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens, we honored our fellow employees for reaching milestones in their years of service. We then recognized our fellow employees with the special EPy Awards.

EPy Award recipients are nominated by their peers. The Department Directors and I evaluate the nominations to make a final determination for who will receive the awards. These awards pay tribute to those employees who consistently went above and beyond in 2013 to perform their duties and serve the people of Eden Prairie.  

Congratulations to the following 2013 award winners:

  • Tina Eide, Community Center: Carl J. Jullie Award for Excellence in Customer Service
  • Steve Matula, Fleet Services and Terry Enstad, Building Inspections: Mayor Jean L. Harris Awards for Community Service
  • Tiffany Robinson, Finance: James G. Clark Award for Excellence in Teamwork
  • Christine Ruzek, Human Resources: Scott H. Neal Award for Excellence in Leadership
  • David Lindahl, Economic Development; Patricia Fenrick, Housing and Community Services; Lori Creamer, Planning ; Christy Weigel, Police; and Kelly Hanink, Fire Department: City Manager Quality Awards

2013 EPys

Pictured (L to R): Christine Ruzek, Lori Creamer, Patricia Fenrick, Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens, Kelly Hanink, Rick Getschow, David Lindahl, Christy Weigel, Steve Matula, Tina Eide and Terry Enstad

AAA X 2

Recently we received some very good news about our city credit rating.  The Standard and Poor’s rating agency assigned a AAA bond rating to our City.  This is the highest bond rating that any organization can receive.  Since 2003 we have maintained a Aaa rating with Moody’s Investor Services.  This now means that we have two credit rating agencies providing our city with the highest possible rating.                                                                                                       

standard and poorsThe following is a brief summary from the report released last week by Standard and Poor’s:

Rationale

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services assigned its ‘AAA’ issuer credit rating (ICR) to Eden Prairie, Minn., based on our local GO criteria released Sept. 12, 2013. The outlook is stable.

The rating reflects our assessment of the following factors for the city, specifically its:

· Very strong economy, which benefits from participation in the broad and diverse economy of Minneapolis-St. Paul (the Twin Cities);

·Very strong budgetary flexibility, with 2012 audited reserves at 55% of general fund expenditures;

·Strong budgetary performance, which takes into account its stable revenue stream, as well as general fund operating surpluses and operating deficits on a total governmental basis;

·Very strong liquidity, providing very strong cash levels to cover both debt service and expenditures 

·Strong management conditions, with policies we consider good; and

·Strong debt and contingent liabilities position, driven mostly by low overall net debt and rapid debt amortization.

Based on the two AAA ratings we will continue to receive the most favorable bids on interest rates in the bond market.  This will provide ongoing savings for all city taxpayers.

City Food Truck

There was a Star Tribune article in the paper this Wednesday titled “Eden Prairie proposes Live Well food truck”  regarding our possible foray into the food truck business for the purpose of promoting healthy food options in our community.

Food truck 2

Later that morning, I received an email from a City resident questioning whether we should venture into this particular line of business. I thought the questions that he asked were very good. I also thought the questions (and my answers) would make a good blog entry while providing a bit of background on this potential project. 

1) What competency does the City have in the food business that would give the Council the confidence to invest tax dollars in this manner?

The City is currently in the food business through the café at the Community Center. In fact, we view the potential food truck as an outward expansion of that operation into our community. There are a number of events throughout our City such as sports tournaments whereby a mobile food truck could make healthy food options more accessible.

We do not intend to invest tax dollars with this potential project. We have a committee that intends to raise private funds to get this project off the ground. The plan is that the operations of the truck would fund itself. If it does not fund itself, we would most likely plan on exiting the business.  

2) Do the constituents of Eden Prairie really want the City competing with other businesses that are run by dedicated professionals? 

We do not want to compete with other businesses — we would welcome other food trucks in our City. In fact, we encourage other food vendors to be present at City events like the July 4 celebration. As of yet, there have not been any food trucks planning to offer healthy food options in our community. 

 3) What is the goal with this initiative? Are there ways to involve the private sector and avoid expanding government into areas that are traditionally driven by the free market?

The goal of the initiative is to further our City commitment to healthy eating and active living. In 2012, our City Council made Eden Prairie the second city in Minnesota to pass a resolution to be designated as a healthy eating and active living community. This was through the Twin Cities Obesity Prevention Coalition, whose mission is to provide leadership in mobilizing a community-based coalition of organizations, physicians and individuals who are committed to improving public health by advocating for healthy eating and active living strategies in metro-area communities. 

One of our first projects in this area was the construction of an “edible playground” at Prairie View Elementary. It was built to teach children how food is produced and inspire kids to eat healthy and nutritious food. The next major project in this area would be the healthy food truck. With this new concept, we do plan to partner with Eden Prairie farmers. We hope that we can market and sell their products in the community. This could be a win-win for our local businesses and for our residents.  

food truck

 4) If the private sector doesn’t see a viable market and desire to invest in this initiative, why is it a good investment for Eden Prairie tax dollars?

Once again, we do not plan on this being an investment of City tax dollars. The City Council and the Mayor’s Health and Wellness Committee are currently of the opinion that improving access to healthy food is worth the time and energy. 

5) What are your priorities? Seems like we have plenty of real government issues for the Council to focus on. 

This is one of many City priorities. 

It is very timely that you raise this question because at a recent State of the City address I touched on this very issue. I stated that health and wellness initiatives and public art programs can be important quality of life initiatives, but the City must still continue to focus on and deliver our core services such as police, fire, water, sewer and snowplowing. One of the reasons we feel that we have been ranked multiple times as at top 10 city in the country by Money Magazine is because we are able to succeed at providing the core services at a reasonable price, while also considering additional quality of life programs in partnership with non-profits and the private sector.

Building Inspections Year in Review

Building InspectionsI recently received a year-end report from our Building Inspections Division. It provides some interesting insights into activities and projects in 2013 that I thought I would share.

Record Year
Construction in 2013 produced record permit revenue for the City in the amount of $4,231,094 and 9,441 permits were issued, which is 50-percent greater than the number of permits for 2012. Our four building inspectors were very busy, performing more than 11,000 inspections.

Storm Damage
In August a hail storm hit Eden Prairie and caused more than $45-million in damage. The Building Inspections Division issued 3,551 permits for storm-related damage, which produced permit revenues of $1,001,000. Our workload went from busy to hectic. In the last quarter of the year our inspectors performed almost 2,700 additional inspections for storm-related damage. Damage of this magnitude brought contractors (storm chasers) from across the United States. Our Building Inspections Dvision received 100s of inquiries regarding which building codes we are enforcing and what the inspection requirements are. Contractors lined up several deep in front of our counter to obtain permits. Minnesota has license requirements for contractors and for each permit application staff had to register and verify that companies possessed the proper licensure. We anticipate that storm damage repairs and permits will continue into 2014.

Other than a storm what else happened?

UnitedHealth GroupUnitedHealth Group/Optum
In 2013 the twin eight-story towers and parking ramp at the business campus located at Shady Oak Road and Highway 62 were completed. The City has issued permits for a 15-story office building and parking structure on this site valued at $118.6-million.

Other Projects
Here is a sampling of permit activity for 2013: 

  • Five new restaurants
  • Four new clothing stores
  • One new apartment building
  • Two hardware stores
  • A multi-use amateur athletic, recreation and event center
  • A new airport hangar
  • A new three-story residence hall
  • A luxury electric car repair center
  • A specialized bakery
  • 80 new single-family dwellings.

Rental Licensure
In 2013 more than 1,000 single-family homes and 5,371 multifamily units were licensed as rental housing, producing $107,855 in permit revenue.

New Services
Our customers may now track permit information and inspection results online in real time. We have been aggressively promoting this feature with our customers and are receiving very positive feedback.

2014 Projects
In 2014 City staff will:

  • Finalize the Point-of-Sale ordinance and present it to the City Council for approval
  • Look at the feasibility of on-line permit submittals and rental housing license renewals
  • Prepare for the scanning of all property files, thus making them available to our customers electronically

Last year we thought it would be impossible to repeat the record results of 2012. Decisions to develop, build or remodel are speculative at best, thus making it difficult to accurately predict the future. If the economy does not falter we believe construction in 2014 will remain strong, providing another year of excitement and unique challenges.

750-Million Gallons Less

Utility employees 2010 014Every city in the seven-county metro area pays the Metropolitan Council to treat their wastewater. The Council owns and operates several wastewater treatment plants in the metro area where all city wastewater is piped to. That sewage is metered and each city is billed for their treatment based on the volume of wastewater. 

In some cases, unwanted water can enter the sanitary sewer pipes. This is called inflow and infiltration (I&I). This I&I comes from such things as leaking manholes, leaking pipe joints, sump pump discharges into the sanitary sewer system, or cross connection of storm sewers into sanitary sewers.

Reducing the volume of unnecessary wastewater is important because it can avert expensive system upgrades like treatment plant expansions, pipe upsizing and lift station upgrades. It can also save a significant amount of energy since lift stations and water treatment plants consume large quantities of electricity. Finally, it frees up capacity in the wastewater piping system which helps prevent sewer backups into homes and businesses.

We recently received data from Metropolitan Council Environmental Services documenting the change in volume of wastewater originating from Eden Prairie which is treated at the regional Blue Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant in Shakopee. The data seems to suggest that our efforts to conserve water and eliminate unwanted I&I into the wastewater system are paying off.  

Total wastewater volumes declined over 16% in Eden Prairie from 2011 to 2012 followed by another drop of 5% between 2012 and 2013. That amounts to a reduction of almost 750-million gallons of wastewater over a two-year period, which is one of the largest percentage decreases of all cities in the metro area. 

While not all of this decline can be attributed to water conservation or improved I&I management, there is little doubt they both are playing a significant role.