SAUK RAPIDS -- The Sauk Rapids Mayor highlights this year's goals for the city during his annual State of the City address Thursday.

Kurt Hunstiger says they need to hire two or three police officers for open positions. He says applicants are way down, but they don't plan to lower their hiring standards.

We talked about lowering what we require and we just can't do that.  In today's society, we don't feel comfortable doing that.  We'd rather not hire somebody and repost it, than hire somebody, try to train them for six months, and have to let them go.

The city is also looking to hire an additional support staff person for the police department to help keep up with all of the technology demands.

Hunstiger says he also wants to start a mental wellness program for officers.

In general, just in personal life and what's going on in the world today, the lack of respect for police officers, I think there's a need for it.  It's just in the talking stages right now.

When it is fully staffed, the Sauk Rapids Police Department has 16 full-time officers. City staff say, unlike many other communities, Sauk Rapids has not seen a dramatic uptick in crime in recent years.

Over in the fire department, the city's new $1.2 million fire truck is expected to be operational sometime in April.

And, as for road construction projects, Sauk Rapids is planning on 14 miles of street repaving over the next two years, which will be the most ever for the city.

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Big park projects were also a highlight during the presentation. Hunstiger gave his presentation in the new Riverside Terrace building, which is part of the soon-to-be-completed $7 million renovation of Southside and Lions Parks.

He says the new water feature/splash pad will be ready to go this spring and the new playground equipment will also be installed in time for kids to play on this spring.

And, while this project is still wrapping up, the city is already moving on to the next park improvement at Mayhew Creek Park. Hunstiger says, while back-to-back projects like this are ambitious, the timing is right.

I'm not nervous at all, because we've been talking about this in sub-committees and at the staff level for almost as long as this building.  We have money left over, we didn't spend all of our half-cent sales tax money on one project, so we have money left over to do something else.

Sauk Rapids is asking for $10 million in state bonding money and a local $10 million match for infrastructure improvements. Local organizations would then be responsible for creating the amenities from ball fields, to a hockey arena, to a water park.

It's something I think the community wants.  They need more ball fields, hockey arena east has probably served its useful life.  It's hard to keep dropping money into an old building with old refrigeration systems.

Mayhew Creek Park is adjacent to the Sauk Rapids-Rice High School.

Also, during the State of the City, Hunstiger said the municipal liquor store at a net income of $240,000 in 2021, which was down slightly from the record year of 2020 that had a net income of $287,000.


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