The city of Ramsey will partner with University of Minnesota students as it updates its long-term plans on issues including community development, water conservation, community engagement and more.
Now in its fifth year, the University of Minnesota’s Resilient Communities Project, through a competitive process, chooses one community each school year to give university students and a chance to work on a multitude of projects. And it gives the city some extra input as it explores some big topics.
City Administrator Kurt Ulrich believes the city will benefit from the broad range of expertise that can be provided by university staff and students.
“Innovative solutions to today’s problems will help Ramsey be better prepared to provide efficient municipal service, and to realize a productive, safe, and healthy community for generations to come,” he said.
The U of M is currently working with the city of Brooklyn Park for the 2016-17 school year. It will begin working with Ramsey in September for the 2017-18 school year. Previous partners include Minnetonka, North St. Paul, Rosemount and Carver County.
Ramsey identified 20 potential projects for the Resilient Communities Project, including small business incubation, community engagement, Highway 10 corridor planning, environmental and floodplain communication, asset management, greenway planning, housing for all, organics recycling, retail market analysis, water conservation and a community volunteer program.
Program Director Mike Greco said in the last five years, the Resilient Communities Project has involved 39 departments at the university. Students get to strengthen their education and resume and network with people in the fields of study they want to work in.
“So really, the only thing that’s changing is the students are working on an actual live project as opposed to some hypothetical made-up scenario their professor comes up with,” he said.
For the city of Ramsey, this partnership is coming at a time when it is preparing its Ramsey 2040 Comprehensive Plan update for the Metropolitan Council. Community Development Director Tim Gladhill, a University of Minnesota alum, said WSB Associates will still provide technical support and city staff are already hosting community open houses to gather input from residents.
This partnership with the U of M will supplement this work by providing more help on research and assistance with community engagement, Gladhill said. The cost will not exceed $80,000.
Greco said Ramsey will be an interesting community to work with.
“It’s a rapidly growing community. It’s on the Northstar Rail line. And it’s in a growth corridor between the Twin Cities and St. Cloud that we know is going to be undergoing a tremendous amount of development in the next 10 to 20 years,” he said.
Greco said some projects such as water conservation are not unique to Ramsey, but he noted that Ramsey is the first community they’ve worked with that has properties with septic and well systems.
Gladhill said there are about 4,000 septic systems in Ramsey. The city has seen an increasing number of permits pulled for new septic systems. The city wants the students to come up with communication plans to help residents prolong the life of their septic systems.
Greco is particularly interested in working on the environmental and recreation-themed projects and thinks it’s good that Ramsey is thinking proactively about these issues.
The “housing for all” project would seek ideas for providing more housing styles so people can stay in the community as they age, Greco said.
“This is the city’s way of thinking about how do we encourage a range of housing types that will appeal to everyone from a young family buying their first home to someone that is retirement age and wants to live in Ramsey but simply can’t stay in a single family residence anymore,” Greco said.
Topics such as the future land uses for properties along Highway 10 and in The COR development are topics Ramsey is already discussing with its business community, land owners and developers.
For example, the city recently held a meeting with Highway 10 property owners to discuss the appearance of the corridor. Gladhill said this was a kick-off meeting for a process that will include many forums for ideas to be discussed and the students can help the city gather this input.
“A big piece of this is workload in addition to the innovative strategy approach that we find important,” Gladhill said.