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home : opinion : editorial May 25, 2016

1/9/2013 9:45:00 AM
The year ahead

Flipping the calendar to January traditionally puts us into the "year ahead" mode.
Rather than stopping at the current month, we push forward to February, March, April and beyond. In our own households, we check out the dates of key holidays and make mental checklists of things we want to accomplish in the new year.
That's also a tradition here at the Cottonwood County Citizen. We pick out a few key items and examine how they fit into our future. We consider how those issues were treated in the previous year, the factors that may or may not play key roles and then we wonder aloud how things may play out.
This week, we bring you three issues of 2013 that we anticipate will ultimately have long-term impacts on our community and region.
Economic Development
Without question the Windom Economic Development Authority was riding a wave of positive energy at the close of 2012.
In last week's year-end recap, business development came in as 2012's number two story, thanks to the year's multiple commercial ventures and expansions. And, while all that was going on, there were already hints that Economic Development could rate high on the top story list again in 2013.
However, this time around we foresee industrial development playing a bigger role for Windom and the surrounding communities. Recently, Economic Development Director Aaron Backman reported that the long-anticipated North Windom Industrial Park project will likely be finished by September.
Backman remains confident that this project will not only result in the completion of the park's streets and infrastructure, it will include the construction of buildings for the park's first two tenants.
Our city and county leaders have done an excellent job of supporting development in recent years through tax breaks and other assistance, In this tough and competitive world of economic development, it is critical that such projects continue to receive this type of support.
County transportation
Late in 2012, Cottonwood County commissioners took bold action to address deteriorating gravel roads, a problem that has plagued our residents for several years.
The project was sparked by a rare opportunity to mine gravel in the center of the county, translating into a huge savings in trucking costs. Since the window was closing on this environmentally sensitive land, time was of the essence.
The gravel was extracted by the end of December and will likely be applied to county roads over the next couple of years. All told, the cost of this project will likely exceed the initial $2 million estimate. And, although we preferred the more project-specific bonding approach over the commissioner's decision to raise the levy an extra 8.5%, we believe this was a good use of tax dollars.
During the 2012 gravel road discussions, we learned that the county also faces problems with a few paved county roads that are not eligible for state aid. Clearly our county needs to begin planning for these projects, as well as assure our highway budget reflects the importance of keeping gravel roads in good shape for the long range future.
Cottonwood/Jackson health
Sometimes a year's most significant undertaking is also looked on as being dull.
That is certainly the case with the recent announcement that Cottonwood County and Jackson County will merge their family service agencies. The merger was approved by both boards of commissioners in the waning days of 2012, but it didn't come without some last-minute teeth-gnashing.
Both boards were concerned that the other county was getting the better end of the deal. However, we were pleased to see the commissioners meet jointly and solve this dilemma like mature adults.
Moreover, we were glad to hear that they will continue to meet jointly going forward. One commissioner accurately pointed out that full board meetings will curb communication problems.
It's clear that 2013 will serve as a planning year for this project and that the meshing of these departments will officially occur in 2014. Ultimately, this joint effort stands to save the two counties hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next several years.
In an era where state and federal tax increases are the norm, we need our city, county and school board members to be progressive as it relates to sharing opportunities. As we will see with the new family services system, this type of approach will reward taxpayers not only today, but in the future.
- Rahn Larson

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