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The original item was published from 12/12/2022 9:22:38 AM to 1/16/2023 12:00:00 AM.

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Posted on: December 12, 2022

[ARCHIVED] Council Perspective: City Council identifies priorities for next two years

"Strategic Initiatives" with symbols representing water treatment, public safety and sustainab

By Mayor Anne Burt

Every two years, the City Council identifies two or three high-priority focus areas facing the community and reserves time to study them. We recently selected three new strategic initiatives for the 2022-2024 cycle. I want to tell you more about them and explain why they were chosen for further analysis.

Drinking Water - Water Treatment Implementation

The past three rounds of strategic initiatives have had at least some type of water focus. We will emphasize water treatment implementation for the 2022-2024 cycle. 

As of August 2022, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has issued health advisories on nine of our 19 groundwater wells as a direct result of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). A temporary treatment facility is currently treating water from six of the affected wells and the city removed the remaining three wells from service. 

A preliminary engineering report for a permanent water treatment facility has been completed to determine: pipeline alignment, water treatment plant layout and treatment selection, critical path items (permitting, easement procurement, etc.), analysis of state funded, and non-funded infrastructure (funding gap). In addition, the city purchased property for the treatment facility (south of Bailey Road and east of Radio Drive) and the house on the east end of the property was relocated to make room for the future facility. The preliminary design field survey services also are in process (survey crews are out along some of our roadway corridors) and the design for the entire system is beginning at the end of 2022. This will be the largest project in the city's history and will take between five to seven years to complete. State-managed 3M settlement funds will cover the construction of the base treatment facility and associated piping.  

While our drinking water continues to meet state standards and guidelines for PFAS, the well production loss due to PFAS will continue to strain the city's water supply system, particularly during summertime peak demand, until the permanent treatment plant is operational. The city is aware that the MDH and Environmental Protection Agency are expected to release new health standards for PFAS sometime in 2023. Those new health standards may impact water operations. Contingency planning for such an event is currently underway.

This strategic initiative will provide the necessary research, detail and information to help the City Council make informed, long-term and strategic decisions regarding the future of our water quality and treatment, as well as the water system's financial sustainability.

Public Safety - Safer Community through Culture, Connections and Crime Prevention 

In the February edition of this column, I explained that 21 unlocked vehicles were reported stolen from Woodbury in a three-week span in 2021. In order to prevent further crime, protect property, and get ahead of online rumors and hearsay, we shared information on our social media accounts about these crimes at the time and provided some crime prevention tips with you. We felt this was important information to share, even though it can make some feel unsafe or uneasy.

While overall feelings of safety in our community have fluctuated on recent community surveys, the per capita data shows people and property crime rates in Woodbury have remained level. However, we recognize that the safety of the community and public safety services should be continually evaluated, adjusted and enhanced to meet the changing needs and expectations of the public. That is why, for the next couple of years, we will focus on enhancing crime prevention and education efforts and increasing public safety connections with the community. 

Throughout the years, our Public Safety Department has evolved in a proactive and forward-thinking manner while providing exceptional public safety services to our community. I am confident our work on this initiative will yield similar results.

Environmental Stewardship - Improving Environmental Outcomes

In 2021, the City Council directed staff to work with the Parks and Natural Resources Commission to evaluate the past 20 years of the city's leadership in addressing sustainability and environmental issues. Staff created an inventory of key accomplishments, events, projects, activities, programs, and policies and applied it to a timeline. The results showed that the city has made remarkable progress in preserving and enhancing the natural environment over the past 20 years.

However, a City Council-approved action plan supporting sustainability and resilience into the future remains absent. Staff began having conversations with community members and the PNRC and found there to be significant community enthusiasm for developing an action plan for environmental stewardship. As a result, the City Council directed staff to explore this topic more as a strategic priority. A few items that could be part of an action plan include:

  • Actions the city and community can take to sustain and improve the natural environment.
  • Specific goals and strategies that support sustainability and resilience into the future.
  • A prioritization guide that weighs potential to advance mitigation, adaptation and community equity, including related risks and rewards.

Another benefit to having a plan for environmental stewardship is that it would likely better position us as a contender for resources such as grants and awards.

You can learn more about this initiative in the November/December edition of the Green Times newsletter!

I'm eager to see continued progress on all three of these priorities, and we'll update you on our progress in future newsletters and through the city's other communications channels.

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