ANOKA COUNTY – (Jan. 11, 2018) – The Anoka County Board of Commissioners has decided to make a continued focus on economic development a priority for 2018. The county initiated a study last year regarding economic development opportunities and now has started to digest the findings from the study. Rhonda Sivarajah she served as the commissioner in District 6 since 2003. Sivarajah has seen and experience a lot in her years on the board.
“So it really is about alignment, making sure that everyone knows what their role is in economic development, there was also a recommendation that the county actually brings somebody on board as well and so we’re really working through that process with the cities to identify, so if we bring somebody on, what is it that you want that person to do?” Sivarajah said.
The study was intended to help the county discover opportunities and challenges it has as it works to be a welcoming place to developers and businesses. Also, the county is working to be a partner with its cities that are already engaged in this work.
“It really is about what each individual city wants for their community and that was even something that came out loud and clear within the study itself is that each community needs to develop their own plan and identify what type of businesses do they want within their community,” she said.
In order to spur economic development you need to have quality roads and easy access for commuters and goods. According to Sivarajah the county will continue to work to improve transportation across the north metro.
“Highway 10 is always right up there as one of our priorities and we are making progress,” she said. “It’s exciting when you look at Armstrong. The overpass there and pulling together between seven to nine different funding sources, it was a puzzle, difficult to do but we were able to get it done and in partnership with the city of Anoka. We have actually been successful in getting dollars to the project at Fair Oak and Thurston as well,” she said
Additional funding will need to be secured before that project can move forward. Highway 65 is another congested roadway that impacts a large portion of the county. After failing to get state dollars approved for a traffic study last legislative session the county has received positive news from MnDOT about 65.
“MnDOT has assured some of our county board members that they are going to take it upon themselves to do a similar study on Highway 65 that they did on Highway 10 so that we can really identify what needs to be done, what is the most cost effective way to approach the needs that we have on 65,” Sivarajah said.
The county tax levy for 2018 rose almost four percent. Sivarajah explains this was necessary because of expanding public safety needs.
“We have had significant needs within our public safety area, as our jail population rises and we end up having additional classifications jail that we have, many times we have to separate so many of the prisoners that we actually end up boarding a number of prisoners out,” she said. “Our staffing within that area, also because of all of those classifications, we needed to actually boost the number of staff.”
Moving forward the Anoka County Board will continue to address issues that affect the lives of everyone who lives and/or works in the county and Sivarajah wants the board to be a place where diverse ideas are welcomed and heard.
“I have always said that I do not have the market on ideas, I think it’s important that everyone brings their thoughts and ideas to the table because there are many things that one person may not think about and another person brings a very different viewpoint to the table, bringing all of that together and then coming up with an end result, you end up with a better product in the end,” she said.