HJ/EDHerald Journal, Feb. 13, 2006

HL mayor talks taxes, change, and giving the people what they want

By Liz Hellmann
Staff Writer

Serving his first term as mayor of Howard Lake, Terry Ostgulen is met with the challenge of giving the people what they want – the best of both worlds.

“People want the small-town atmosphere, but also want growth,” Ostgulen said. “Our challenge is, how do you make that happen?”

Ostgulen, who has lived in Howard Lake for 45 years, wants to prepare the city for growth, without reaching into the taxpayer’s pockets.

“That’s one thing we’re trying to do, create a balance. We don’t want to jack up the taxes,” Ostgulen said.

How does the mayor plan to welcome growth, and keep taxes low?

“There is a difference between preparing for growth, and expecting growth,” City Administrator Kelly Hinnenkamp said.

For the City of Howard Lake, preparing for growth in 2005 included creating the city’s first Park Commission, approving a 5-year capital equipment plan, and approving a capital improvement plan.

The capital improvement plan includes $7.5 million in reconstruction projects, and $4.6 million in facility upgrades. The facility upgrades will be funded by new construction and new subdivisions, and 65 percent of the cost will be funded without bonding.

“My biggest thing was having plans going forward and not borrowing money,” Ostgulen said. “My goal would be to keep as much in people’s pockets as possible.”

However, these projects have not been without some growing pains, as water and sewer rates were raised to align the city with where its rates needed to be.

“I think that was the hardest thing for people to swallow,” Ostgulen said.

“But it was probably one of the more positive things you (the council) did, too,” Hinnenkamp said.

As for the future of Howard Lake, both Ostgulen and Hinnenkamp see the town maintaining a good balance of residential, business, commercial, and recreation.

After serving as a council member for two years, Ostgulen decided to become mayor to affect change.

The changes that have come under his leadership in the past year have included financial planning and project management. But that change is the result of input from several sources.

“It does work well, because we have good committees, and get a lot of good input from the various departments and the people on the street,” Ostgulen said.

In the coming year, Ostgulen hopes to continue on the same path by updating the city’s comprehensive plan, working on developer and new homeowner packets, making park improvements via the park commission, and creating a city logo and marketing plan, among other projects.

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