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2023: Year in Review

As I sat down to write my last column of the year for the Forest Lake Times, my calendar made me realize how fast a year flies by in Columbus.

I would like to take this opportunity to recap some of the progress and other notable items that have taken place in our City this year.

We have extended high-speed Internet services to large areas of the city (just under 200 households) that have historically been underserved or not served at all — a special thank you to Council Member Janet Hegland and Administrator Elizabeth Mursko for the hours of meetings and negotiations that were necessary to make this happen so that citizens were not bearing the cost of this necessary infrastructure. More negotiations for more Internet upgrades and additions are currently underway.

In the business corridor, our new Love’s Travel Plaza has proven to be a great addition to our City and to any traveler who needs to top off their tank. For anyone who has questioned the placement of a world-class Travel Plaza at this intersection, they should be re-assured by the low fuel prices, high-volume of customers, smooth flowing traffic, and the substantial tax revenue to the City of Columbus. Purportedly, Loves has also increased sales for the Holiday station by double digits. Columbus has gotten the reputation as the “best fuel prices in the Metro area.”

Columbus’ first Fall Fest since the Covid pandemic was a rousing success thanks to good weather, our outstanding support from the business community, City staff participation, the Columbus Lions, and the extraordinary efforts of the Fall Fest leadership team which included, Lynn Carver Quinn, Karen Fleming and Janet Hegland. It was a great weekend of fun family activities including a Drive-In movie and Columbus Race Night on Friday evening hosted by Running Aces, a myriad of exciting activities and business displays at Columbus Park on Saturday, and a wonderful Columbus Lions Pancake Breakfast on Sunday.

The Columbus’ EDA was pleased to host two ColumBiz events this year. We were pleased by the attendance of the business leaders who took time from their busy schedules to interact with their city, county, and state officials (Senator Michael Kreun, Rep. Nolan West, County Commissioner Jeff Reinert and Forest Lake Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Nannette LaNasa), as well as with other staff member from Anoka County and Columbus.

More good news! According to the Anoka County proposed 2024 property tax statement received by everyone in the past week or so, Columbus was the only taxing entity that had a flat or negative proposed property tax levy for 2024. Twenty-one cities, Linwood Township, and nine school districts including the Forest Lake School District have raised their proposed levies by up to 24.36% while the City of Columbus was able to lower our levy by a remarkable negative 0.02%. This is a result of an intentional focus on economic development in Columbus over the past 5 years coupled with a conservative fiscal approach to budgeting — again thanks to the City Administrator, the EDA, and the City Council for looking out for the taxpayers of Columbus.

Perhaps the only issue that is not a positive to share is that our City Administrator Elizabeth Mursko has announced she will be leaving her position in Columbus early next year. Administrator Mursko has served Columbus for more than 24 years.

It has been my privilege to have worked with Elizabeth professionally during her lengthy tenure in Columbus—as business owner, Planning Commissioner, and Mayor. Columbus became a city in 2006 and has grown and progressed with her at the helm. On behalf of Columbus residents, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly say thank you for doing so much for our City and best wishes in the next chapter of your life. Stay tuned, there will be a public gathering to allow all to express their best wishes to Administrator Mursko after the holiday season.

Lastly, we are currently searching for a new City Administrator to take over her multitudinous responsibilities that are involved with running the City of Columbus. The Personal Committee is working diligently to ensure a smooth transition which will take place over the next six months and includes hiring an experienced Interim City Administrator to bridge the gap until a search is conducted and a permanent replacement hired.

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Jesse Preiner, Mayor of Columbus

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