City council, school board join forces


Common goals and shared interests were discussed by the city’s leaders Tuesday, July 29, as Maple Lake’s City Council and School Board convened for a joint meeting in the school district’s board room. An annual tradition, the meeting was marked by open conversations and a pervasive spirit of friendly cooperation. 
Topics covered included the area’s changing demographics, efforts to promote the community and potential for sharing of resources and services.
A lack of new home construction was a point of major concern to school board members, as student population and attendant state funding have declined over recent years.
“Right now, our enrollment’s falling off a cliff,” said Maple Lake School Superintendent Mark Redemske. “We’re down well over 100 kids these past four years.” 
This year, the district is looking to graduate around 105 seniors, while only 42 kindergartners are registered for classes this fall. Another component of the problem, he said, is a shrinking overall tax base, explaining that if the population’s number is greater, each person is required to pay less. And while most of Maple Lake’s homes are occupied, the birth rate in Wright County has dropped over the past decade, and many of those homes do not have families with school-aged children. 
The city has issued just one permit this year for new home construction, a typical number for the past seven years, as compared to 53 in 2006, 51 in 2004, and 25 in 2003, plus nine townhomes. In an effort to be more competitive with other cities, the city council has recently reduced building permit fees and escrow requirements. As further enticement to contractors, sewer and water access charges have been transferred to homeowners as an assessment.
That enticement, all agreed, must also be extended to potential newcomers to Maple Lake. City council members spoke of the Maple Lake development group, a subcommittee of the Chamber of Commerce whose major mission is to revitalize the city’s downtown area, which in turn, is hoped to spur further development in the community. They also suggested that the city’s new economic development consultant, Joanne Foust, could be a valuable resource to the school district, as well as to the city. Hosting state and regional baseball tournaments as well as events such as the Gear- Head Get Together and the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, council members said, do much to draw in visitors and increase Maple Lake’s visibility. Mayor Lynn Kissock pointed out the Maple Lake Ambassadors as an excellent example of student participation in, and promotion of, community events. It was noted that 2015 will be Maple Lake’s 125th anniversary, and as Kissock pointed out, “It’s a huge opportunity to promote Maple Lake and get people to come on in.” 
It was agreed that the school district, Chamber of Commerce and city council should work more closely together in this endeavor, beginning with a common linking among the entities’ websites.
More information appears in this week's Messenger.