The city of Coon Rapids hosted its fifth and final 2012 Summer in the City event Aug. 28 at Aspen Park.
It marked the fourth year that members of the Coon Rapids City Council and city staff have met with neighborhood residents in a park in the five different election wards in the city.
Aspen Park is in Ward 5.
Earlier this summer, gatherings took place in Cardinal Woods Park in Ward 1, Burl Oaks Park in Ward 2, Parkside Park in Ward 3 and Vineyards Park in Ward 4.
An open house, at which ice cream bars are served, is followed by a formal presentation by Mayor Tim Howe on citywide projects and issues and the respective ward councilmember speaking on neighborhood projects and concerns.
The program is designed for residents to interact with their councilmember, talk with city staff and learn about projects and activities going on in the community, according to Kristin DeGrande, city neighborhood coordinator.
Howe likes the format and would not change a thing, he said.
According to Howe, the city is able to provide information to residents in an informal setting and get good information back from residents on their concerns.
This can take place verbally in the question and answer part of the meeting or by residents filling in a written survey and turning it into staff, Howe said.
“People are more comfortable opening up at an informal gathering like Summer in the City than they would be at a council meeting,” he said.
“It works really well and is one of the best things we do as a council and city.”
Attendance at Aspen Park was down a little from the prior Summer in the City meetings this year, which have ranged between 75 and 100 people at each one.
Part of the reason might have been a weather forecast that called for hot temperatures when, in fact, it was very comfortable, according to DeGrande.
In addition, Foley Boulevard did not make pedestrian access from the east side very feasible, DeGrande said.
Of those present and making comments, most focused on the planned reconstruction of Foley Boulevard from Highway 10 to Egret Boulevard in 2014 and proposed closures of some intersections.
This is an Anoka County project – Foley is a county highway from Coon Rapids to Northdale boulevards – but the city was able to get an up-to-date map from the county to have on display at the meeting, DeGrande said.
“We heard a lot of comments and concerns and we encouraged residents to go on the county website and sign up for updates that the county will be posting on the project,” she said.
Phillip Roeder, a 50-year resident of the area, did not have many concerns, he said.
“Things are fairly decent,” Roeder said. “I have nothing to complaint about.”
But he did congratulate the mayor on his vote against the prepay gas ordinance, which went into effect Aug. 1, according to Roeder.
Wendy Olson, who has lived in the neighborhood off Foley since 2005, brought her dog, Annie, a 10-year-old black labrador/golden retriever mix, to the Aspen Park meeting.
Olson took part in the Coon Rapids Police Department Citizens Academy last fall and that piqued her interest in city government, she said.
She came to the Summer in the City meeting because she likes the way the council and staff are interacting with the residents, Olson said.
“It makes government so accessible,” she said.
The Summer in the City events also had table displays set up from city departments, including public works, trees, cable television, Bunker Hills Golf Course and city clerk (new ward and precinct boundaries and polling places) with various information, plus a fire truck, police squad car and a public works vehicle for residents to browse and for kids to climb into.
In their presentations, Howe and Ward 5 Councilmember Bruce Sanders talked about a variety of topics, including development projects, technology, roads/streets/transit, park improvements, redevelopment and the neighborhood reinvestment program.
Residents were invited to fill out a survey which made them eligible to win a gift certificate to the Harvest Grill restaurant at the new Bunker Hills Golf Course Clubhouse.
Among the questions on the survey were the most critical issue of the neighborhood, if they are interested in more neighborhood events, how they rate the value of city services, safety in Coon Rapids, how they would describe the city to someone that does not live in Coon Rapids, is the city moving in the right direction and if there is anything the city should be doing differently or better to greatly improve quality of life.
To notify residents of the Summer in the City events, postcards were sent to residents living in the neighborhood of the park.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]