Tecla Karpen and local Hastings students helping to restore 'Karpen Woods' on the blufftop. Karpen passed away in 2017. Photo courtesy of the Friends of the Mississippi River
Karpen gift will help with river conservation projects in city

By John McLoone

A big gift to the city of Hastings will help with conservation efforts in the Mississippi and Vermillion River watersheds.

The Hastings City Council last Monday night approved a resolution to accept a donation from the estate of Tecla Karpen in the amount of $260,000.

A memo to the council from City Administrator Dan Wietecha states, “In 2019, the city was contacted by Tecla Karpen’s Estate Manager to inquire if a cash donation could help the city to complete projects in Hastings that would honor Tecla Karpen’s visions and passions for natural area habitat protection, enhancement and restoration, specifically within the Mississippi River Corridor and Vermillion River Watershed.”

Wietecha said the city initially looked into purchasing a piece of property adjacent to Lake Rebecca Park, but ultimately that won’t be necessary.

“In talking with the owners of that property, Flint Hills Resources, it led to them just donating the land. We didn’t have to spend the bequest to make that purchase.”

“This is really exciting,” said Wietecha. “We’re extremely grateful for the $260,000 donation. The uses of the funds certainly will be in keeping with Tecla Karpen’s intent.”

Projects could include habitat restoration/enhancement at Lake Rebecca Park, Jaycee Park, Hastings River Flats Park in the Mississippi River Corridor and C.P. Adams Park, Old Mill Park, Vermillion Falls Park, and Vermillion Linear Park within the Vermillion River Watershed, according to Wietecha.

Following Karpen’s passing in 2017, Tom Lewanski of the Friends of the Missippi River wrote, “I first met Tecla in 1999 during a visit to her bluffland home along the Mississippi River in Hastings. As the relatively new conservation director at FMR, I was spending a lot of time out of the office meeting landowners and trying to understand the lay of the land. Tecla was one of the first.

“What struck me then and every time we got together was her passion for and innate understanding of the Mississippi ecosystem and the importance of protecting land along it. Tecla’s keen interest in this fortified me to go out and engage more and more landowners. If there are more landowners like Tecla, I thought, this was going to be so fun and productive. It didn’t take long to discover that not all landowners are like Tecla. In fact, no one was like Tecla.”

Fee adjustments

Fees for city services and its aquatic and ice centers were adjusted following a public hearing.

“The most notable of the fees are in the city utilities: water, sewer and stormwater. Those are going to touch every one of our residents and businesses,” said Wietecha.

A rate study was conducted, and it was decided to incorporate small increases annually, rather than having a large increase when projects require funding.

The increase in utilities is 3.15 percent for water, 1 percent for sewer and 4 percent for stormwater.

“The thought was having that as an annual increase to avoid the boom or bust of 20 percent in one year, zero percent in others,” said Wietecha.

Mayor and council wages

The city will incorporate its mayor and city council wages into a salary study that will be conducted in the first half of 2022. Wietecha said interviews were done with firms making proposals to conduct the study, which will examine the complete city compensation structure.

The Hastings mayor is now paid $9,400 and city councilmembers earn $7,200 annually. Comparable pay in the Twin Cities metro area is $10,077 for the mayor and $7,693 for councilmembers.

December 29, 2021