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Forward New Richmond to replace economic development committee

New Richmond Community Development Director Beth Thompson briefly described Forward New Richmond (FNR), a new citizen executive board being proposed to replace the existing Economic Development Committee. Thompson told city council members at Monday night's meeting that solicitation of community members to join the new organization had resulted in 16 applications and 14 preliminary interviews conducted by Seth Hudson of the Cedar Corporation. Final interviews are expected to be completed in time to announce the new FNR members by the April 9 regular council meeting.

Hudson explained contemporary trends in economic development and planning and how they might apply to New Richmond's potential moving forward. Hudson and Cedar Corporation are expected to provide consulting services to the city as it moves forward with its recently unveiled community action plan.

Council members also got a conceptual preview of one of the CAP Committee's proposed projects, a river walk connecting the John Doar History Trail to Mary Park.

Public Works Director Jeremiah Wendt explained a number of potential challenges facing such a project including construction of a bridge to cross the Willow River.

Mayor Fred Horne reminded council members such a project is not an immediate priority.

"When you're looking at a $1.5-$1.8 million bridge, we're not looking at putting that in next year, two years or maybe even five years from now. Great idea, but $1.8 million to put a bridge across there, especially when you look at our priorities of a library and some of the other things, they are just more highly needed. $1.8 million's probably not happening any time soon," said Horne.

City Finance Director Rae Ann Ailts told council members she expects to bring forward a proposal to conduct a comprehensive salary and benefit study at the council's April meeting. The last time such a study was undertaken was 2014. A request for proposal would be employed to identify a consultant to conduct the survey and help determine whether the survey would be restricted to the city and utility staff or if it would make sense to include some portion of private sector jobs as well.

Council review of the Capital Improvement Plan continued. Members agreed to define "Critical" projects as those that have a direct impact on the safety or health of staff and or community members and would require repair or replacement within the year in which it was identified.