The 2010s are just about over and the 2020s are a few weeks away. The ‘10s were very interesting, as we started the decade with the Great Recession and are ending with a strong economy. When the economy was slow, the city went through significant planning processes for downtown and southwest Chaska to prepare for when the economy rebounded.

As I look back on the past 10 years, these planning efforts with our community helped us accomplish many different objectives, making the ‘10s a great decade in Chaska. The ‘20s look to be another exciting decade in Chaska.

As we enter our last winter of this decade, we are already off to a crazy start. We’ve already had January temperatures and plenty of snow, and we’re only halfway through December.

STATE CHAMPS

I would like to start by congratulating our Chaska High School football team for bringing home a state championship. I attended the championship game, and it was so fun to see this year’s Hawks bring home Chaska’s first State 5A football championship in school history! We are proud of you and your coaching staff.

We had the team stop by our City Council meeting earlier this month, and I was impressed by how much the community meant to the team.

Team Captain Eric Spielberger summed it up when he described his mindset just before that last drive: “I looked up to the crowd, and I saw our whole town behind us had our back. And after that, everything just went away, and I felt completely confident we were going to win.”

That was music to my ears, as our mission is to strive to make Chaska the best small town in Minnesota. What Eric Spielberger said is exactly what builds that strong sense of community and is so important to helping our city meet its mission.

CITY SERVICES

As we look to 2020 and beyond, the City Council has started to focus its strategic planning on how to maintain the high standard of city services.

Over the past 30 years, our city has steadily grown. Having steady, but controlled, growth was a strategy important to this and past city councils. As the city continues to grow, we want to make sure we are staffed appropriately to provide the level of service our community expects.

To this end, the city just completed a staffing study with our financial advisors to examine the gaps we currently have in staffing and what we need to plan for over the next 20 years as we move to be a fully developed community. We will use the findings of this study to provide us with a staffing roadmap so that we can continue to provide exceptional service.

Our facilities are also a big part of the services our city offers. Most of our city buildings are over 30 years old, which means that we need to start reinvesting in these community assets. Next year, we’ll begin implementing a building maintenance division. This new division will help us focus on improving our existing facilities and provide us with the resources necessary to keep these facilities in good shape as we move forward with our building reinvestment projects.

Within the next couple of years, we will also be close to completing the Downtown Street Reconstruction Program which started in 2010. This program has been significant to our downtown area, because it adds new sewer, water, electric and stormwater facilities to all our downtown streets. This updated infrastructure ensures we maintain uninterrupted utilities long into the future. This program has also provided an incentive for residents reinvesting back into homes in the downtown area, making this one of the best places in the community to live.

CITY SQUARE WEST

Speaking of projects, we are continuing to work on the City Square West Redevelopment Project. This was the last of the major catalyst projects identified in our Downtown Master plan and will take place on the block just south of City Hall and west of City Square Park.

We continue to talk to existing building and business owners on this block and will shortly start the process of identifying a developer to help bring this project to reality.

This project, along with a new Chaska Library, should bring more people, events, and business to downtown Chaska, which was a primary objective of our Downtown Master Plan.

NEW ADDITIONS

I am not sure I have ever seen a new business draw as much attention as Dunkin’ did when it opened a few months ago.

It is great to see the old Hot Spot gas station property getting new life. Dunkin’ was only the start, with AT&T also opening and Fitness First relocating there by the first of the year. There are two other tenants planned for this space that we hope to see open over the next few months. This project helps clean up a highly visible site in our community and makes the land around Firemen’s Park more attractive.

While Dunkin’ may get most of the headlines, our industrial sector of town has been busy too.

Aryzta, which makes Otis Spunkmeyer Cookies and other custom-baked goods, added more capacity to its production line in Chaska this past year. American Flexible Products is expanding its warehouse space, and Formacoat recently opened its new headquarters at the old Chaska Building Center site. This is a great reuse of the old Chaska Building site.

It is great to see our industrial sector growing and bringing more jobs and business to our city.

NEW INTERCHANGE

We recently opened a new interchange at County Road 44 (Big Woods Boulevard) and Highway 212.

It may seem like just a highway on-ramp and off-ramp, but this connection is already making a big difference for southwest Chaska. With the new access to the highway, we expect to see residential and industrial development really take off. This is important, as we are running out of industrial space in Chaska. We look for this new industrial area of Chaska on the west side of Highway 212 to start opening in the summer of 2020, providing us with great opportunities to grow jobs within the community.

While the interchange is complete, next summer we will be finishing this project with the reconstruction of County Road 44 from Savanna Road to Chaska Boulevard.

While this will cause closures during the summer months, when this is complete, it will provide for great transportation connections between the new interchange and downtown Chaska.

You can follow along with the construction progress by signing up for email updates at www.hwy212interchange.com.

COMMISSIONS

If you’re looking for a way to get more involved in our community, consider applying for one of our commissions.

We currently have openings on our Planning Commission, Park Board, Human Rights Commission, and Heritage Preservation Commission. These commissions help provide guidance and direction for our community, which is important as we move into the future.

You can find an application and more information on our website, www.chaskamn.com. The deadline to apply is Friday, Dec. 20. Please consider applying.

POLICE CHIEF

Since Scott Knight announced his retirement, some of you may have wondered about our plan for finding our next police chief. We will be starting this process in early January by putting out advertisement and plan to have the hiring process completed in the early spring.

Thanks again to Scott for his 44 years of service to the Chaska Police Department and the Chaska community. Best wishes in your retirement!

HOLIDAYS

Thanks to everyone who made it out for Hometown Holiday and the Firemen’s Park Tree Lighting Ceremony. Special thanks to the Chaska 100 Club for funding the holiday decorations.

The 100 Club is a local nonprofit group that purchases all the holiday decorations in the city, with no tax dollars. This year, they funded the new Santa and sleigh in City Square Park. They also purchased all new wreaths that hang on the downtown streetlights. These are all things that add to our mission of creating that small-town feel.

Mark Windschitl is the mayor of Chaska.

We also had an outstanding turnout at our “Celebrate! A Feast and Conversation for the Holidays” event that we hosted with Marnita’s Table and the Eastern Carver County Schools Community Education department. It was great to get know so many amazing members of our community and to eat some delicious food! We’ll be having another community dinner Tuesday, Feb. 18, so mark your calendars!

As we prepare to leave the ‘10s and enter the ‘20s, I hope you all get the chance to spend the holidays surrounded by family and friends.

Have a very merry Christmas/happy holidays and a happy and prosperous new year! Bring on 2020!

Community Editor

Mark Olson, the Chaska and Chanhassen community editor who has worked in Carver County for 20 years, makes any excuse to write about local history. In his spare time, Mark enjoys perusing old books, watching blockbusters and taking Midwest road trips.

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