The ‘coolest civics class around’

by Peter Bodley
Managing Editor

An up-close behind the scenes look at Coon Rapids city government is available for the first time to residents of the city.

The city of Coon Rapids is hosting its first Citizens Academy over eight weeks on Monday evenings between March 5 and April 23.

But there is a class limit of 20 people and applications are already coming in, according to City Manager Matt Fulton.

Fulton describes the Citizens Academy as “the coolest civics class around” and an opportunity for residents who sign up to learn more about city operations.

There is no cost to register for the Citizens Academy.

Participants will tour the city’s police and fire departments, take a tour of the city’s cable television studio and public works facilities and learn about city budgets.

In addition, community development and planning will be discussed and participants will visit the new Coon Rapids Ice Center.

All sessions will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. with the first session at the Harvest Grill Event Center which is located in the new Bunker Hills Clubhouse.

This unique opportunity will allow residents to gain a better understanding of city departments and services, and participants will also be able to provide valuable input to city leaders, according to Fulton.

“We are trying to encourage more citizen engagement in the things we do every day,” Fulton said.

“We’re also really going to make it fun each night.”

For example, during the session at CTN cable television studio, participants will have a chance to broadcast and when they are at Fire Station 1, they will be given the opportunity to climb the fire department’s aerial ladder truck, Fulton said.

“Residents will learn how their tax dollars are spent and they’ll end up having a better sense of the work that people are doing in the city on residents’ behalf,” he said.

The Coon Rapids Police Department has had a very successful Police Citizens Academy for the past six years, but this is the first Citizens Academy designed to explore all city departments, Fulton said.

“We are hoping to build on the success of the Police Citizens Academy,” he said.

Citizens academies are also popular in other communities, according to Fulton.

Following is an outline of the eight-week course:

• Monday, March 5, Harvest Grill Event Center, 12800 Bunker Prairie Drive, introduction to city operations with a welcome by Mayor Tim Howe – form of government, organizational chart, demographic overview, election process and city commissions.

• Monday, March 12, Coon Rapids City Center, 11155 Robinson Drive N.W., council chambers, understanding administrative areas – legal, city clerk, finance and assessing.

• Monday, March 19, Coon Rapids Public Works Garage, 1831 111th Ave. N.W., public works, engineering, parks, recycling, streets and utilities.

• Monday, March 26, Coon Rapids Civic Center, 11155 Robinson Drive N.W., community development, planning, neighborhood reinvestment and building inspection.

• Monday, April 2, Coon Rapids Police Department, 11155 Robinson Drive N.W., police and fire departments, crime and fire statistics, emergency management, tours of police department and Fire Station 1.

• Monday, April 9, CTN Studios, 11215 Robinson Drive N.W., technology, including cable television and city web page.

• Monday, April 16, Coon Rapids Ice Center, 11000 Crooked Lake Blvd., capital projects, including Bunker Hills Clubhouse, new ice arena and road reconstruction.

• Monday, April 23, Harvest Grill Event Center, 12800 Bunker Prairie Drive, graduation celebration with keynote address by the mayor.

To sign up for the 2012 Coon Rapids Citizens Academy fill out an application form online. Go to www.coonrapidsmn.gov, and click on Citizen Academy.

Hard copy application forms are also available at the front desk of the Coon Rapids City Center, located at 11155 Robinson Drive.

Deadline for applications is Feb. 20.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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