Q & A With Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes:
Sports complex: What are the realistic expectations for the city after completion of the regional amateur sports complex in terms of economic development.
I think conservatively we can say, in the short run, there will be an economic impact because of the construction - not only of the amateur sports facilities, but also the driving track at the MERIT Center and the addition of the classroom building. We're at a good construction time.
Right here in Marshall we probably have more construction planned for 2013-2014 than many other parts of the state, so it will be a busy construction time. The hope is that local contractors will be able to get the awards for the contracts, but we can't guarantee that. I'm confident we'll have local contractors that will be very competitive.
The longer-term economic impact would be that these are facilities that first off have strong support from the community, but the community has given them strong support because they see the potential in both these projects in drawing people to the community and creating economic activity in the community.
Cancer institute. Does the proposed Avera Cancer Institute Marshall put the city 'over the hump' when it comes to health care in southwest Minnesota?
A number of years ago when the community made the decision to move away from municipal ownership of the hospital, the primary driver of that was how can we expand the medical services in the community, because that's what people expect in a regional community.
Since we have made that decision we have seen a dramatic expansion in the number of physicians in the community, the number of medical offerings in the community, the number of specialties that are available to the community - both at Avera and at ACMC (Affiliated Community Medical Centers). The addition of the cancer care clinic, there's a profound need for that in the community. It simply is the right thing to do, to have that available in the community. That's a service that's a specialty that really does need to be provided in the region, and Marshall, as the regional center for medical care, should provide that.
Will this be one of the developments that solidifies Marshall's presence in the region and service to the region as a regional medical center, I think the answer is definitely yes.
Crime. In light of the increase in thefts and burglaries in 2012, is Marshall losing its claim as a safe community, or was this year's spike nothing more than a phase every community goes through?
I think it's a very real concern the community has experienced; it's not a concern that's unique to Marshall but it's a very real concern as a growing community that we have had experience with burglary. Even the larger concern is, is this indicative of larger concerns of perhaps drug trafficking activity or even gang activity? That's why we are quite supportive of our local police department, but what we're dealing with is not limited to our community, so that's why the relationships and the joint efforts we have between communities.
The folks involved in this in some cases are transient between communities - (they) might be active in the Sioux Falls area, might be active in Worthington, might be active in Willmar. Those departments really need to be working together. Secondly, we need to have a little bit of patience with our law enforcement, because while they are investigating they really do need to take the time to be sure they have enough evidence so when they do make an arrest and do make the charges that the court system has enough evidence that they can deal with these people. I think the most frustrating thing for the community is when an arrest is made there's not a conviction. The third thing is I think this has really raised the awareness that as the community continues to develop, there are things that are changing.
We do need to pay attention in our neighborhoods; neighbors need to watch out for each other, locking doors is a good idea - things we may not have needed to do a generation ago.
With growth comes an increase in population, and with the assumption of continued growth and expansion in the city, does Marshall's police force need to be expanded?
It is possible, but I think we also need to take a look at how our police department is staffed - how are we using parttime officers, what's our staffing structure? One of the things we're concerned about is dealing with is the times of the day that we really need officers is the time of the day that you and I are probably sleeping - that time from 11:30 at night to two-o'clock in the morning, that's when we need additional staffing. And we need to be concerned about the officer's safety. Having one officer in a squad car report to a complaint at a house where perhaps there's a party with 80 people at, that doesn't put the officer in a safe situation.
I think our department will be looking at how can they staff to make the most efficient use of their time. That may mean there's some other things that will be of lower priority, whether it's unlocking of vehicles, all the way to how well we do routine, drive-around patrols.
What can Marshall residents expect to see in the coming years as far as new businesses and new opportunities?
I think the focus of our economic development efforts has been, No. 1, a focus on creating jobs, then some of the other businesses will follow, so if we have a community where industrial and commercial jobs are created, then some of those retail and hospitality businesses will follow. As we have opened up new industrial development land, the focus will be on getting tenants for that land. Ralco Nutrition will be the first tenant in the newly-expanded industrial park. There's efforts under way for other businesses to either locate or expand into that area.
On Airpark East, we anticipate that in 2013 we will complete the ramp that will be the final stage that will connect the runway area of the airport to the area that is available for the air-related businesses. Until we get that done we can't market that, but I think we will see air-related businesses (package delivery services, airplane engine repair) see a feasibility of relocating. With the developments of the amateur sports facility, with some of the development we see in the Running's-Wal-Mart-Menards area, there will be continued development there with the potential for the private sector to be involved in additional lodging facilities. There's a very good possibility you'll see that in 2013.
The city has no direct involvement in that, but the development of the city creates the opportunity for that to happen. As far as city development, in addition to the amateur sports facility and MERIT development, we also still have plans to potentially start construction of the replacement of the current municipal liquor store. We also potentially will see some long-needed expansions of our street department facility. I do have concerns about our municipal building; that's been a concern for a number of years, but there's only so many things we can focus on at one time.
Our municipal building has health and safety issues; we have a portion of the building that we cannot use, because the floor of the garage is simply falling away and we can't use that area. It doesn't function well for the public and it certainly doesn't function well for the employees. In the long term we need to address the municipal building office, whether it's in the current location or it's in a different location, but I don't see that happening in 2013.
We should also see the first phase of the development of the trail system between Marshall and Camden State Park.