Looking Ahead to 2019
It’s hard to believe that 2018 is half over and we’re looking ahead to 2019! I hope you’ve had an opportunity to spend time with family and friends and recharge!
The word patience seems to be the best word to describe this season of road construction. We have many streets around the City being reconstructed and resurfaced as part of our commitment to invest in our community and continue to make Becker competitive. MN DOT is reconstructing the eastbound lanes of Hwy 10 and will be installing a Reduced Conflict Intersection (RCI) at Hwy 10 and Sherburne Avenue. This a link to MN DOT’s RCI explanation: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/roadwork/rci/ We accept and thank MN DOT for the capital investment in the area and their efforts to reduce crashes in Becker.
This past April I testified on behalf of the residents of Becker at the House Capital Investments Committee. Our goal was to ask the 2018 Legislature to help fund improvements in our industrial park to solve existing transportation issues, improve safety, and anticipate future transportation needs. With this letter, I am excited to announce that Governor Dayton signed the bonding bill fulfilling the City of Becker’s request for a $3.3 million grant that will make Becker more competitive for large-scale industrial improvements. This project will connect Hancock Street South to Liberty Lane and Sherburne County Road 8 within the Becker Industrial Park. We anticipate construction project to kick off in 2019!
With summertime comes increased water use. With a lower amount of rain than years past, we have noticed that our wells are pumping longer to help supply enough water to all City residents. One of my goals as your Mayor is to secure another municipal well location. Even though finding a location with adequate supply and quality is challenging we are on the right track to accomplish this goal. The Becker City Council commissioned our engineering firm, Short, Elliot, & Hendrickson (SEH), to study the area’s aquifer. The study has been delivered to the City Council and we have taken the next step to secure future water needs of the community.
Along with summer comes the preparation of the 2019 tax levy. Our City Council spends many hours in meetings walking through each department’s budget which accounts for the overall levy. Preliminary levy numbers are established in September and are continually tweaked until the final levy is approved in December. The city’s debt level when I started on Council back in 2009 was $27.9 million and in 2019 it is expected to drop to $8.7 million of which $6.9 million will be covered by Liberty Paper Inc. (LPI) as part of a public/partnership to recapitalize our industrial wastewater treatment facility.
On August 23, we will have a ribbon cutting ceremony to help celebrate the completion of the CSAH 24 trail that will connect our community members who live on each side of the Elk River. Join me for a stroll, roll or a bike ride on the path that evening.
MPCA's Northern Metal Follow-Up
In response to the questions asked during the MPCA’s open house on the Northern Metal Recycling project, we would like to take a moment to answer a few questions.
As many of the questions at MPCA’s meeting were related to the air permit and environmental assessment worksheet (EAW), the best way to get those questions answered would be to submit an official comment to the MPCA by the Friday, May 18th deadline. The MPCA stated that they would respond to each comment that gets submitted. The link to the full EAW and draft permit can be found on the MPCA’s website - http://www.pca.state.mn.us/publicnotices - you will need to scroll to Monday, April 16th to find the Northern Metal Recycling documents.
At the beginning of the presentation, the MPCA mentioned the EAW and air permit would not discuss a handful of items, including the City’s zoning. We recognize there were a couple questions near the end that were directed towards the City. As this was the MPCA’s meeting and focused on the environmental pieces, the City did not participate in the question and answer session per the advisement from MPCA so that information and authority of permitting wouldn’t be confused.
We would like to reiterate that the new state-of-the-art facility will have the metal shredding and sorting processes fully enclosed. This is unlike their Minneapolis facility and according to the MPCA, “unlike any other facility in the Country.” Even though there are reporting and monitoring requirements that the company must follow, the facility itself will be built to a much higher standard. The MPCA, the City, Sherburne County, and Northern Metal Recycling are going to work collaboratively to make sure pollution mitigation is as strong as it can be. As the MPCA mentioned during their meeting, even in the “worst-case” modeling, the facility will be operating well below health risk levels. The metal shredder and metal recovery plant will be operated within buildings and controlled by particulate matter control devices over and above state and federal requirements. Building openings, such as conveyors and vents, will be covered with plastic strip curtains or vented through control equipment such as air collectors, fabric filters, and thermal oxidizer.
As part of our transition away from the coal energy and coal economy with the retiring of two of the three Sherco units in 2023 and 2026, we are marketing property for industrial development. Northern Metal will be located on a 75-acre site by the coal pile. The 75-acres is owned by Xcel Energy. In regards to the land transaction, the City has no participation or authority, since it is a transaction between the two businesses. The City’s authority falls within the planning and zoning portion of the project. The site is zoned for heavy industrial and the Northern Metal Recycling industrial process of shredding metal and sorting for shipment is a permitted use within that district. With permitted uses, there is no public hearing or City Council decision.
Even though City Council does not need to make any zoning decisions regarding this project, the company has been working with us to schedule meetings to provide the public, City Council members, and City staff time to ask questions and learn about the project. The first meeting was held in March 2017.
The full video of the meeting can be found on YouTube by searching “Northern Metal Informational Meeting 3-3-17” or by going to this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWldBThWa3M&t=3s.
The City hosted a second public meeting, which had information tables set up by City Staff, Northern Metal Recycling, the project engineers, and the MPCA, on July 26th, 2017 at the Community Center. The MPCA’s open house was the third public meeting, which was hosted specifically for the air permit and EAW. Publicizing the meetings is important to us and each meeting was publicized. Even though the EAW and air permit meeting was hosted by the MPCA, we had it on the City website, posted it multiple times on Facebook, listed on the City Hall’s sign, and it was in the local paper. The Mayor also gave a State of the City address to the Chamber of Commerce, which included the MPCA’s meeting information.
This project brings new capital investment, job opportunities, and renewed interest in industrial development.
State of the City Address - 2018
Delivered: May 9, 2018, to the Becker Area Chamber of Commerce
My main focus today will be what the City of Becker is doing in our community development efforts to ensure our local economy is strong and maintain our excellence. But to start us off, I would like to give a quick review of 2017 and highlight a few great accomplishments.
In review, 2017 was another successful year for Becker. Our streets department completed a variety of streets projects and new home construction had increased. Our water and wastewater department completed a variety of infrastructure upgrades and were most recently awarded a certificate of commendation from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and a fluoridation quality award from the Minnesota Department of Health. The governor signed the gas plant bill which will assist the Sherco power plant in transitioning away from coal-powered units to a new natural gas unit. Also, the Becker Police Department implemented the use of body cameras for more accountability. There was so much more that happened, but I am really excited to share with you the projects which are up and coming.
As I mentioned, the City has a focus on ensuring we are a strong thriving community long into the future. As many of you know, two of the three Xcel Energy Sherco power generating units will be decommissioned in 2023 and 2026. I understand the nervous reaction to these upcoming events, but I stand strong in my sense of hope and excitement for what is coming next for Becker. The transition from a coal-based economy is an opportunity for new collaborative efforts in leveraging the current assets of this community for a better tomorrow.
In order to smoothly and strategically leverage the assets we have, the City of Becker is participating in a rail impact study in partnership with Sherburne County, the City of Big Lake and the Initiative Foundation. This study is currently in process and will help us better understand how our current mainline rail infrastructure can be expanded to assist in the economic transition. The study will provide the city with different concepts and best practices to help boost private local investment.
The City is also partnering with other area jurisdictions to analyze the opportunity for a new Mississippi River Crossing. Currently, to get to I-94 from highway 10 you can utilize Clearwater or Monticello. As many of you have most likely experienced, the Monticello route can be quite congested at times. With current needs and anticipated regional growth, our area is working together to establish a site for a new river crossing to improve the regional traffic flow. This will not be a quick project, but it’s an important piece of our economic future. This project is different than the high-speed crossing debated about a decade ago. This monumental task of building a bridge over a river, when completed, will spur commerce, reduce traffic congestion, and positively impact the people of Sherburne and Wright Counties.
As the community pursues a more diversified tax base we are anticipating the need for improved transportation connections within the Becker community. The City completed an Industrial Rail and Transportation study to provide the City with multiple concepts on how to move traffic safely, effectively, and efficiently around Becker and onto Highway 10. The ultimate goal is to improve mobility and accessibility to the I-94 interchange in Clearwater. The study analyzed concepts for changes to County Road 8 to realign with Minnesota State Highway 25, a new frontage road within the Industrial Park and an extended frontage road on the commercial side of Highway 10.
Along the same lines of transportation improvements, the road construction season has already kicked off for 2018. Maintaining our current infrastructure is also a high priority for the City and our partners. The City Council awarded a contract in April for the 2018 street improvements that will be taking place this summer. In addition, Becker is working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation with the goal to improve safety at the intersection of Sherburne Ave and Highway 10. During the 2018 construction season, MN DOT will be resurfacing the eastbound lanes of Highway 10 between Clear Lake and Big Lake. As part of the project, MN DOT will be installing a Reduced Conflict Intersection (RCI) at Highway 10 and Sherburne Avenue.
For more information on the RCI or resurfacing project, visit: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/d3/2018/clearlaketobiglake/
MNDOT will also be working on Highway 10 in Elk River and Highway 24 from Clearwater to Clearlake. There will be a lot of construction, but we look forward to the smoother ride, extended life of the roads, improved traffic flows, and improved safety and accessibility within our region.
Not only are we ramping up the rail and road planning, the parks and rec department has launched a parks and trails system plan study to assist the city on the shaping the future of area parks and trails. The City is proud to partner with the Becker School District on the athletic facilities portion of this study, as we already collaborate, share space and work together to provide the best facilities and spaces possible for our community. The study will provide the community with a better understanding of our current strengths and shortfalls as measured against national standards and peer communities. The study will also identify opportunities and challenges we may face in the future. There will be many occasions for input from all interested parties, including online surveys, pop-up information events, and community engagement opportunities.
Not only is the City promoting economic development, but Xcel Energy is also promoting the Becker community and the many assets and amenities that we have to offer to attract jobs and capital investment. Xcel Energy has started to market property around the Sherco plant. Northern Metal Recycling has committed to purchasing some of the Sherco property for a new state of the art metal shredding facility. The property is well suited for Northern Metal as it has great access to rail line and roadways and will support expansion of the Industrial Park. The site they are looking to purchase is larger and more appropriate for their operations compared to their current location. I believe this project will act as a springboard for the next big economic development project for the community.
With economic development comes the demand for water. In an effort to prepare for new industry and expanded residential developments, the City is exploring the next steps in establishing additional wells and water infrastructure. This will ensure the needs of current and future users are met.
Lastly, I want to say thank you to the Chamber, participants, and guests that came to Celebrate Becker. 2017 saw the kick off of the annual fat tire bike race and 2018 kept up the momentum. It is fantastic to see the community come out and enjoy each other during these events. With summer around the corner, Becker Freedom Days is on the horizon. I hope to see all of you there!
Enterprise Fund vs. Special Revenue Fund
When asked about Pebble Creek Golf Course and what they were trying to accomplish, the founders of Pebble Creek, stated clear and concise goals for why a golf course in Becker was a great investment in the City and its residents. The idea behind Pebble Creek was to build an attraction to draw people to Becker, use the City’s financial position to leverage the building of a community rich with amenities while fostering a high quality of life and showcasing existing amenities like the local schools. In addition, Pebble Creek was intended to create another opportunity to recreate locally and was conceptualized to provide jobs for our kids and our retired residents.
Some of the founders also shared that Pebble Creek wasn’t necessarily built to be financially independent. In fact, it was built knowing the likelihood of a profit, especially in the early years, was not going to happen. Early on, Pebble Creek was envisioned to be a special revenue fund as opposed to an enterprise fund; profit was not meant to drive the decision to build or not to build. Pebble Creek was built to be an amenity and improve quality of life; it was intended to be an instrument of development and a place for entrepreneurs to conduct business. A vision for generations to utilize for years to come for business and pleasure.
During the 2017 budget cycle, the Becker City Council had conversations centered around its entire book of business and how to best manage, maintain and improve the community. Those conversations eventually included Pebble Creek Golf Course and redefining Pebble Creek from an enterprise fund to a special revenue fund. The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) defines each fund:
Enterprise Funds may be used to report any activity for which a fee is charged to external users for goods or services. Activities are required to be reported as enterprise funds if any one of the following criteria is met. Governments should apply each of these criteria in the context of the activity’s principal revenue sources.
- The activity is financed with debt that is secured solely by a pledge of the net revenues from fees and charges of the activity. Debt that is secured by a pledge of net revenues from fees and charges and the full faith and credit of a related primary government or component unit—even if that government is not expected to make any payments—is not payable solely from fees and charges of the activity. (Some debt may be secured, in part, by a portion of its own proceeds but should be considered as payable “solely” from the revenues of the activity.)
- Laws or regulations require that the activity’s costs of providing services, including capital costs (such as depreciation or debt service), be recovered with fees and charges, rather than with taxes or similar revenues.
- The pricing policies of the activity establish fees and charges designed to recover its costs, including capital costs (such as depreciation or debt service).
Special Revenue Funds are used to account for and report the proceeds of specific revenue sources that are restricted or committed to expenditure for specified purposes other than debt service or capital projects. The term proceeds of specific revenue sources establishes that one or more specific restricted or committed revenues should be the foundation for a special revenue fund. Those specific restricted or committed revenues may be initially received in another fund and subsequently distributed to a special revenue fund. Those amounts should not be recognized as revenue in the fund initially receiving them; however, those inflows should be recognized as revenue in the special revenue fund in which they will be expended in accordance with specified purposes. Special revenue funds should not be used to account for resources held in trust for individuals, private organizations, or other governments.
Regardless of the fund type, the expectation of the Becker City Council is performance. Performance that meets budget expectations, remains transparent, minimizes expenses and maximizes revenues each year so as to minimize the burden on residents. Pebble Creek as an enterprise fund has become a barrier to maintaining Pebble Creek.
The City Council’s objective is to maintain and improve all of the City’s holdings, regardless of the fund type, including Pebble Creek Golf Course. The goal is to make certain we protect all City assets and invest in future generations. The Becker City Council does have the authority to make this fund change. The City Council, in consultation with its finance professionals, is conducting research on the mechanics of the change and how it will be implemented. In addition, the Becker City Council commissioned a long range financial plan that will be completed in 2018. This financial plan will help the City Council better manage its entire book of business from a long-range or legacy perspective. This long-range approach will systematically and methodically maintain and improve all City assets and amenities.
For years the City’s audit firms have made a case for a different approach for accounting for Pebble Creek’s finances. That is to say, the data shows that Pebble Creek has not been self-sustaining and maybe a different approach should be considered. To that end, the Becker City Council plans on continuing the conversation to move Pebble Creek to a special revenue fund as it will produce a budget process that is more robust, transparent, and accurate.
Exciting Projects on the Horizon
Hello, Residents of Becker,
2017 has been a catalyst year for growth within the City of Becker and surrounding communities!
The Streets Department recently completed the 2017 street improvement projects along with the newly expanded parking lot in T-Town. We are planning ahead with our Streets and Engineering team for the 2018 projects. Not only will the City be completing multiple street projects, MnDOT will also be completing an intersection safety improvement project at the intersection of Highway 10 and County Road 23. The intersection is known as a “Reduced Conflict Intersection” or also known as “J-Turn” or “RCUT.” With the higher number of accidents at this intersection, we look forward to the necessary safety improvements.
You may have also heard about the Transportation Report that was completed in August. This plan helps us visualize the possibilities that could be implemented within the Industrial Park to better leverage the great assets already in place to better position Becker for industrial growth and development. With the transition of the Sherco Power Plant, now is the time to leverage the upcoming economic transition to promote Becker’s valuable infrastructure and current assets. With I-94 a short distance from the Industrial Park, local linkages via County Road 8 and Highway 25 are going to be indispensable for a healthy economy. The Transportation Report gives City Council multiple ideas and options for transportation improvements that would provide for better access to the Clearwater I-94 connection to make our Industrial Park even more competitive and attractive. If you are interested in reviewing the concept layouts, the report is available on the City’s website. A specific layout has not been adopted, but it is a great development tool to help the City move forward.
As you can imagine, transportation and infrastructure improvements can be costly. City Staff is collaborating with area partners to prepare applications for submission to the Federal Economic Development Administration and other government grant programs to assist in the new infrastructure construction costs. We are confident that our strong public and private partnerships will make our grant applications competitive.
The City of Becker is also partnering with area communities to conduct a study to establish the most feasible location to build an additional crossing over the Mississippi River between Wright and Sherburne Counties. The increase in mobility between Counties and throughout our region will help grow our regional and local economies and strengthen our tax base.
The City of Becker recently purchased the tan and brown corner building at the intersection of Hancock Street and 1st Street. With the Highway 10 Corridor improvement plan that was adopted in early 2016, the City began implementing the plan to transform the highway corridor into a more attractive, economically vibrant and mixed-use corridor. Such goals include the expansion of the City’s 1st street right-of-way to improve safety along the corridor’s local streets. The City is working with the current renters on a new lease. At this time there is not a set date for demolition, but the acquisition of the building is a great step forward for the Highway 10 - 1st Street Corridor Plan.
With so many exciting projects in the works and on the horizon, we look forward to a groundbreaking 2018!
Tracy Bertram, Mayor
City of Becker, Minnesota
State of the City Address - 2017Below is the State of the City Address as delivered by Mayor Tracy Bertram on May 10,
A PowerPoint Presentation was given in conjunction with the presentation and is incorporated in the address below. To view the PowerPoint presentation individually click here.
I am very pleased to be able to spend time with you all this afternoon to provide another annual update on the state of our city.
We can begin with the basic assessment first: Becker continues to be in a very good state, and we continue to be well-positioned to stay that way for the foreseeable future.
Becker continues to benefit from a strong local and State economy as well as our excellent location within the region. We can be proud of our employment base, businesses, innovative and forward-thinking school district and educational institutions, our great parks and trails system and other amenities, as well as our solid transportation connections.
2016 was a great year! An abridged version of accomplishments, including:
- Recapitalization of the industrial wastewater treatment plant;
- Realignment of Hancock Street South to improve safety, traffic flow, and to position the city to implement a Train Whistle Free Quiet Zone;
- Improvements to the Becker Community Center as we invested in an air handling/dehumidification system that was twenty-two years old.
So much of what gives us those advantages and assets in which we can take such pride comes from the hard work and commitment of the people who live here, work here, own businesses here, volunteer here, and care about their community.
I believe the best thing we can do as the local unit of government is be sure that everything we do contributes to the success of all those other efforts – or at the very least stays out of the way of those efforts.
These priorities have developed through our community’s vision, and in my opinion serve as a useful means to measure where we are. The priorities include:
- Financial Sustainability
- Community Growth and Development
- Promote a Safe and Healthy Community
- Partnerships and Collaboration
- Improve Becker’s Brand
You will also notice that as we converse, each and every topic we discuss today will fit below one or more of the above priorities. By design. We want to become stronger as a community. We will work smarter. We will work more efficiently. We will leverage our current resources to better position our community for the next generations.
As you may have heard, Xcel Energy will be decommissioning two of the three coal fired power generating units in the next decade or so. One of our top priorities will be to collaborate with Xcel Energy in an effort to change the tax structure from taxing equipment to an energy production tax. This change will help stabilize the City’s budgeting process and financial future as this new structure will allow the city to forecast future revenue and better plan for our distant future.
Even though the decommissioning may have seemed like the end of the road for us, I believe it is just the beginning of something bigger. For example, the 2017 Legislature (Representative Newberger, Senator Mathews, and Senator Brown) passed a Bill and Governor Dayton signed it into law to build an 800-megawatt natural gas fired power generating plant right here in Becker. This $800 million gas plant will not be a retrofit to one of the retired and mothballed units. This will be a brand-new freestanding facility that will create a large number of construction jobs as it is being built. In addition, the transmission line will create additional opportunities as we will have additional gas capacity.
The collaborative efforts that lead up to the Natural Gas Plant bill signing has created stronger relationships between the City, Xcel Energy, Sherburne County, the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and the Governor’s office. The City had the honor of meeting with the Commissioner of DEED and the Governor’s office regarding the transition from a coal based economy to a more diversified economy in the coming years. The Governor has instructed DEED and other departments and staff to assist the City with our transitional efforts. This is a great opportunity to bolster our economic development efforts with extra resources from the State of Minnesota.
Xcel Energy is also partnering with the City on economic development projects. Our Community Development Department has been working tirelessly to get our City owned industrial park lots certified and marketed as “shovel ready.” These certified lots allow the City to broaden the marketing efforts of our Industrial Park. Not only is the City promoting business to locate or expand in Becker, but Xcel Energy is also promoting our community as a great location for businesses to build and grow. In fact, just last week at the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation annual meeting I witnessed firsthand Xcel promoting the City of Becker. Not only are we talking about them, they are talking about us on a regional/national level. In addition, Xcel Energy is marketing Xcel-owned property for future growth of the industrial park. One example that stands out as a potential new resident is the site acquisition slated for Northern Metal Recycling. This 53-acre site would be used to locate NMR to property close to the Sherco plant and close to the BNSF railroad.
Mayor's Welcoming Message
Hello Residents of Becker!
I am humbled by the opportunity you have given me to lead the City of Becker. Becker is on the cusp of something great and I’m absolutely thrilled to be part of this community during these exciting times.
My family and I have called Becker our home for over 20 years. One of my family’s favorite things to do here in Becker is to take in the sights of Snuffy’s Landing while kayaking on the Mississippi River. One of my personal favorites is the people who call Becker home. I am amazed every day by the community pride each of us has. I have met a lot of you at various community activities, while sitting on various committees throughout Becker and by being on City Council for the past 8 years.
My family’s values fit well into what I see as the city’s priorities:
- Augmenting the City’s collaborative efforts;
- Promoting economic vitality;
- Continuing to strengthen the City’s financial position;
- Reinforcing the organization as a number one employer;
- Enhancing our community’s safe, healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
Becker has so much to offer:
- Great schools;
- Great recreational opportunities;
- Great transportation;
- Great corporate partners;
- Superb volunteers;
- Competitive tax rate.
The Becker City Council and I have hit the ground running. It is true we have some challenges in front of us. It is also true that we look forward to meeting those challenges. We have exciting times ahead!
You have my pledge to make Becker a better place, our government more effective, and our image more positive. I have great confidence in what we can accomplish as we move into the future.
Becker truly is a great place to live and will only become better!
Tracy Bertram, Mayor
City of Becker, Minnesota