ST. CLOUD (WJON News) -- St. Cloud Mayor wants us to be able to swim again in a southeast city park within the next few years.

During his 18th annual State of the City Address, Dave Kleis says the city will form a partnership to clean up the quarries at George Friedrich Park.

We're now working with St. Cloud State University, we're going to clean up these swimming ponds and we're going to do that in the next two years.

The city officially took over the park from SCSU in September 2015. The park dates back to 1921 but was closed to the public by SCSU in 1976. The park has about 75 acres.

Also during his speech, Kleis encouraged residents to go out and plant a variety of trees in their yards. He says nearly 17 percent of the city's trees are ash, which are in danger of the continual spread of Emerald Ash Borer.

St. Cloud's crime rate continues to go down. Kleis says from 2021 to 2022 the violent crime rate went down 22 percent in the city of St. Cloud, compared to a three percent decline in the area of a 60-mile radius around the city.

Kleis credits the men and women who serve the community.

In my opinion, it's because of the people.  The quality of the individuals that we hire.  We hire the best of the best.  When it comes to public safety there is no department in this entire country that can match the men and women that we have in our local police department and fire department.

Kleis also announced St. Cloud Police Lieutenant Lori Ellering is being promoted to Commander.

If you want to talk about crime rates, or anything else, Kleis will be hosting his 920th Town Hall meeting this Thursday all day at his office.

He says coming up this summer the city will be holding St. Cloud 101 Public Safety Edition in each of the city's four wards as well as in the downtown, with specific dates and times to be announced later.

Kleis touted St. Cloud as a world leader in renewable technology.  He says an announcement is coming soon on a partnership between the city and local businesses, one of which is Coborn's Inc., that will make energy out of food waste.

He says there is also a partnership coming between the city, Metro bus, and New Flyer to build buses powered by hydrogen.

Kleis took the time to recognize and honor several members of the community, which is typical for him during his State of the City.  He highlighted young leaders and a number of champions.

This year's Legacy Award winner is Sandy Hilsgen.  The award goes to someone who has retired.  Hilsgen has worked for four different mayors in her 27 years with the city.  Kleis says she's "the face and the smile of the city of St. Cloud".

Kleis highlighted that during his first State of the City in 2006 the city's budget was $87 million that year, he says now it is $82 million, a $5 million decline over the 18-year span.


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