Mayor Bob Anderson

Mayor Bob Anderson Wednesday provides an update on the city’s economy and services during a “lunch and learn” program at Backus Community Center.

Bob Anderson sees a lot more sunshine in the community, than dark clouds.

And, he hopes others see the community that way, too.

The International Falls mayor provided the community with an update about the city during a "lunch and learn session" Wednesday.

He in general focused on the economy, and the city as a service provider to its residents.

"There is a lot of sunshine and a few dark clouds, but overall it's positive," he said of the state of the city.

In discussing the city economy, he pointed to the "positive side," listing the success of the local paper mill; increases in tourism and visitor opportunities; additions to and accomplishments of the local cold weather testing industry; new downtown stores; ongoing and planned improvements to transportation; and the continued operations of the local banks.

Also on the positive side: The city has not had bonded debt for more than 30 years, he said, crediting current and past city councils and staff.

On the "weaker side" of the equation, his said, is the recent announcement that Kmart will close, along with the closure of Sears and and Tim Hortons.

However, he said he and others are working to offset those losses by looking for new opportunities.

Anderson said he and Koochiching Economic Development Director Paul Nevanen plan to speak with officials of the Target Corp. about what is needed to locate a store, or a mini-store, in the community.

In addition, he said discussions are underway with the owners of 50 acres on Highway 11 between the U.S. Border Patrol building and Voyageurs National Park Headquarters about potential development of the land.

He also noted additions to the city's business park and the designation from 15th Street to Highway 332 as an Opportunity Zone, which allows for tax incentives to draw long-term investment.

Anderson said he's following up with Tony Olson, owner of the former Sears store, who has said he has plans for a similar store at the same site.

The mayor also pointed to the demolition of the former ICO building, along Highway 11-71, and credited Wayne Hasbargen for investing in the community with the additions to the Rainy River Veterinary Hospital facility and its staff.

Anderson also pointed to investments by Rainy Lake Medical Center, and Rainy River Community College continuing to play a role in solving nursing shortages for local medical facilities.

Meanwhile, the mayor answered questions from the group, with Councilor Harley Droba noting "very large challenges" as the council develops the 2020 budget. He asked how the city will balance the budget.

Anderson said the council may consider short-term borrowing to help finance some of the needs of the city.

In addition, he said a local sales and use tax that local businesses will begin collecting Oct. 1, will also play a role.

City stats

  • New demolition policy established. Blight notices sent to more than 84 property owners; nine buildings demolished in 2018; action on five buildings the city wants to be demolished are pending in court.
  • Fire/ambulance: In 2018, 42 city fire calls, 25 rural calls, new ladder truck purchased. In 2018, 906 calls via 911, and 574 facility transfers.
  • Building permits: In 2018, 233 permits issued with value of $57,668. Plan reviews show $12,947 income, with total income of $70,615.
  • Airport use increasing: 2018 enplanements at 17,225 - an increase of nearly 2,000 boardings, with increase also expected this year. In addition, private flights using the facility to clear into the United States are also increasing.
  • Police: Reduction in crime against individuals and property crimes.

2020

  • Unfinished business: Completion and adoption of comprehensive land use plan; platting and zoning ordinance; annexation of city properties outside the city limits.
  • Projects: Highway 53 street and landscape reconstruction begins; Falls International Airport runway reconstruction begins; numerous city street improvements.

Anderson served 14 years as a city councilor, representing the East Ward, prior to being mayor from 1982-1986. He was elected mayor in 2012 and has served in the position since.

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