Hello, and Welcome! My name is Olga Parsons, and I am the Council Member representing Section 2 (Wards 3 and 4) of Crystal, Minnesota. This website is used to stay connected with the residents in Section 2. I will post information and updates on pertinent issues, and invite citizen feedback and participation. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns! I can be reached by phone, email, or filling out the form below.
Summer is turning out to be my favorite Council season. So many opportunities to socialize with neighbors, work on projects to better our town, and enjoy the amenities Crystal has to offer. A lot has been going on in the Council world and our community, and it will only get busier. We’re about to go into Budget sessions, and Elections are just around the corner. In this update, I will highlight the central topics for Section 2 and beyond.
Vision and Mission of Crystal
In my Spring update, I wrote about our efforts to create a cohesive vision and goals for Crystal. Here is what we have come up with so far:
Crystal is a city with small-town charm and big city access. Prosperous and fiscally sound, Crystal offers attractive, stable housing, as well as diverse business, cultural and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.
We provide high quality and cost effective municipal services and programs that make Crystal a desirable place to live, work, and play.
Our goals should all coalesce within the vision and mission of the city, creating a recipe for successful growth and stability.
We are proud to have Moody’s Investors Service reaffirm Crystal’s Aa2 bond rating. This means that Crystal has “stable financial operations, very strong reserves, below average debt and pension burden, and manageable fixed costs.” This is great news, and I commend all the hard work of our staff that makes this possible. The Council is further encouraged to strengthen our commitment to a debt-free, fiscally sound future. Moody’s rating shows that we are on the right path!
Budget work sessions are scheduled for August 11, 18, and 25th, with the preliminary Levy vote on September 6th.
Over the last several years, the lackluster health of the Crystal Shopping Center has been a serious concern. Many businesses left, and store fronts were left vacant. Now we are witnessing a tremendous turnaround. The Shopping Center is currently at 95% capacity, an excellent occupancy rate. Take a look at this Sun Post article for a more detailed analysis. Here are a couple of exciting new comers- Planet Fitness will be opening sometime within a year in the space previously filled by Michael’s, and Phoenix Salon Suites will have a Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on July 28th. Click here for their Facebook invite. It’s also wonderful to see the de-malling and parking lot transformation of Crystal Gallery Mall. I am excited to see who fills the Old Country Buffet spot!
Crystal Community Outreach Task Force has been busy developing new ways to engage residents in service projects. So far, they have hosted a bee friendly flower plant, with plants donated by Crystal Fund for Community Progress, and developed a more accessible volunteer sign up system. They are also working with our Communications Director to design a new city flag. The Task Force will soon be recruiting more members, so stay tuned and don’t miss your chance to get involved with this exciting group.
During station area planning, Crystal residents identified a need for a pedestrian bridge over Highway 81. Pedestrian traffic is projected to increase four times, and combining it with heavy levels of car traffic could make access to the Bass Lake Road station hazardous. The Council’s Municipal Consent resolution included a request for a pedestrian bridge, and on July 12, 2016, we came to a consensus on the maintenance and ownership terms with Metro Transit. Unfortunately, on July 21, in an unforeseen and sudden action, the Central Management Committee voted NO on including a bridge in the scope of the project. Their reasoning for a No vote appeared to be entirely ignorant of our recent agreement with Metro Transit. This was a regrettable development, as we have worked with a mutual understanding that a bridge would be included. Just two weeks ago the LRT Project Office and City Council and Staff toured local bridges to consider various design possibilities. The discussion was positive, and only the terms and design details were under negotiation. My disappointment with CMC’s action is great- the idea for a bridge came out of the Community Input Sessions organized by the Project Office and Hennepin County. It is disheartening to see the input of our residents brushed aside. I advocated for this bridge to increase pedestrian safety- provide easier access to the Bass Lake Road station, along with the shopping district further west. The bridge was considered an important element to the success of the LRT station, and an overdue relief to the currently unsafe conditions of that intersection. Many months of work, negotiation, and ultimately consensus were negated by the hasty and inexplicable CMC vote on Thursday.
Here is Mayor Jim Adams’ statement on the matter:
I am extremely disappointed by today's CMC action related to the pedestrian bridge in Crystal.
The inclusion of a pedestrian bridge to provide a safe crossing of County Road 81 was a request that came directly from neighborhood residents during our community listening sessions. The city has been working in good faith with Metro Transit for several months on negotiations related to the bridge, and had recently reached an agreement regarding the ownership and maintenance of the bridge. Commissioner Opat had not given any indication of his position on the bridge prior to today's meeting. His public comments today blindsided us and were a betrayal of our shared constituents wishes.
In other Light Rail news, the final Environmental Impact Statement is now available for review, and the Metropolitan Council is taking comments until August 15th. Click here to view the report, and for instructions on submitting your input. If you feel strongly about the pedestrian bridge over Highway 81, please comment on this issue directly to the Met Council, and also let me know what you think.
Canadian Pacific Railroad Quiet Zones
Not surprising, public input has been overwhelmingly in favor of quiet zones at the Douglas Drive and West Broadway crossings. City staff submitted a Quiet Zone Assessment and Notice of Intent to the Federal Railroad Administration, MNDOT-Rail, and Hennepin County. While the Federal agency was approving of the plans, Hennepin county required more extensive safety measures. City Staff have amended the design plans, and are currently seeking approval from the County. Residents in the area will also receive the amended plans, and their input will be solicited. I am in favor of a quiet zone in this area. This is the only non-quiet zone crossing in the 6 miles between Zachary Lane in Plymouth and Humboldt Avenue in Minneapolis. Establishing a quiet zone in Crystal could boost property values, improve business conditions, and at the very least improve our quality of life. This has been an important issue for many residents over the years, especially now with the recent increase of freight traffic. More information will be posted here, and I will work to keep you updated.
Phase 15 and 16 Street Reconstruction
I stopped by to check on the progress of Twin Oaks neighborhood (Phase 15). It was great to see the sidewalk being used by kids on bicycles and rollerblades, and I noted the completed curve on Scott and Wilshire. You can view past and recent updates on this project here.
The Skyway neighborhood (Phase 16) planning is underway. Residents will receive notices in the mail detailing the process, along with important dates of neighborhood meetings and various milestones in the project. It is important to get involved early on, and not wait until the assessment hearing in the Spring of 2017. A Public Improvement Hearing will be held mid-October. Please see this page for more information.
Temporary Health Care Dwellings
For a great write-up on this issue, please read Council Member Kolb’s update. Also check out his May and June update for great coverage of other issues.
This is not an exhaustive list, please forgive me if I miss an event.
Check out their website for a detailed daily schedule.
Music in the Park- Splatter Sisters
Wednesday, July 27, 7pm, at Welcome Park, FREE!
Night to Unite
August 2nd- I’ll be attending as many block parties as I can. So excited to see everyone!
Wet and Wild Water Fun Day
Friday, August 5, 12:30-3pm, $4 per person for a wristband.
This is a great thrill for kids and adults!
St. Raphael Parish Festival
August 5-7th, More info here.
Village Fest- Serenity Village Church
August 11th, 6-10pm, More info here.
Crystal Lions Corn Feed and Antique Car Run
Saturday, August 13, 2pm, Becker Park.
West Metro Fire is recruiting!
With the LRT Municipal Consent far behind us (read more here and here), the Council has been focusing on long range planning. In order to identify tangible goals and achieve them, we have to first establish a vision for the city. Where do we want to go as a community? How do we get there? What is great about Crystal, what do we want to preserve or improve? What works for us, and what doesn’t? These are some of the questions involved in this process, and the discussion so far has been fruitful. Currently, we have identified several areas of focus:
Productive working relationships
The Council and the city manager, along with senior staff, should have a unified vision and maintain a sharp focus on agreed upon goals. We are already blessed with strong leadership both on the Council and among the Staff. We enjoy working together, and strive to cultivate relationships of mutual respect and understanding. This foundation is critical to the overall health of our city- most, if not all, of what we want to accomplish flows from this point. We want to strengthen this foundation further to ensure productivity.
Fiscally stable future
One of the ways in which we can help eliminate wasteful spending is to plan for a debt free future. Debt servicing is costly, and it’s a shame to lose money when, with proper planning, we could put every dollar to good use. In the same vein, we would like to eliminate the use of special assessments for street maintenance and reconstruction. As demonstrated by the recent Phase 15 Public Hearing, special assessments are a difficult burden for our residents. Compared to projects funded through taxes, this method is also more expensive. We need to establish a funding method that ensures an equitable and well-managed future for our neighborhoods.
Engage more residents in community and city projects
Already, Crystal is fortunate to have a vibrant community of service-oriented individuals. Crystal Fund for Community Progress, Light of Crystal, Lions, and other volunteer organizations are doing valuable and excellent work. We would like to encourage and promote this activity. There are many potential volunteer projects organized by the city, but it is necessary for us to establish a better network with existing groups so we don’t take away from, or duplicate, their efforts. This way, there are more opportunities for residents to get involved, and we can be more productive.
Attract more businesses to Crystal
Creating an atmosphere in which local businesses can thrive requires us to address several ongoing issues. The City Code Task Force is already working to update the Code. Ensuring that it is easy for businesses to actually start here is a must. Public safety, maintaining clean and strong neighborhoods with quality homes and curb appeal- these conditions align together to make our community an attractive place for businesses. It also takes a bold marketing strategy to promote our city, and time.
This is an ongoing discussion- we’ve had one work session dedicated to this topic, with more to come. This is a conversation everyone can participate in, and I welcome your input. Please don’t hesitate to call or email me with your thoughts!
In Other News
- We are currently considering establishing quiet zones for the Canadian Pacific railroad crossings at Douglas Drive and West Broadway. Click here for more details.
- A majority of Crystal Council Members signed a letter calling to reform the Met Council. For more information, please read Council Member Kolb’s article here. I was one of the signatories.
- Gene Hackett, our Parks and Recreation Director, has retired after many years in Crystal. We are going to miss her! Read this Sun Post article about her long and rich career with the city.
There are so many things going on this spring! This is an exciting time to get involved.
Arbor Day Park Clean Up
Basset Creek Clean Up
Jail and Bail
Tech Dump Electronics Drop Off
Saturday, May 21, 9am at the Crystal Cove Pool. Paper shredding services provided. Click Here for more information.
Bee friendly flower plant at Becker Park
Planning is in full swing! Check out their website here.
Father’s Day Airport Open House and Fly
Here is their website with more information.
The February 2nd Public Hearing has been rescheduled due to the heavy snow fall. The hearing will take place on Tuesday, February 16th, 7:00pm, in the Council Chambers. This Sun Post article gives more detail.
Speaking of heavy snow fall- Click here for an explanation of snow plowing procedures in Crystal.
LRT Municipal Consent
Here is a great article by Council Member Kolb on Municipal Consent. He details the timeline and general process, and our options. We are currently working on securing the Bass Lake Road pedestrian crossing over Hwy 81, with the pedestrian bridge as a favored option. Joe Bowen of the Sun Post wrote this article summarizing the general feeling on this issue. New designs of the pedestrian bridge were presented to the Council during the January 25th work session. Residents also participated in the LRT Station Design workshop that evening. From the input I have received, I understand that the pedestrian bridge would be a welcome solution to the already snarled intersection. Having the bridge as a viable option is an essential sticking point for me- our residents must have a full range of choices. The next step in the Municipal Consent process is the Open House and Public Hearing on February 2nd. The Open House will be held from 5:30-7:00pm in the Community Room at City Hall. The Public Hearing takes places in the Council Chambers during the 7pm meeting. It is very important for us to hear your opinion on the LRT project, and I hope many of you can make it. I am currently on maternity leave, so I will be watching the meeting from home. Your phone calls and emails are welcome, however! Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions and concerns.
Recap of January 19th Council Meeting
My baby boy, Emanuel David, was born on January 17th. We are both healthy and recovering well. I can't wait for everyone to meet him! For now, we are staying put at home, but I anticipate returning to full time Council work in the next two or three weeks. Here he is just two days old.
I’ve been offline for a while, and need to catch up on some current issues of importance to Section 2. For an excellent December overview, which covers the Budget and Utility Rates, please read Council Member Kolb's update here. Take a look at that stack of reading material! On to my update:
LRT Municipal Consent
We are in the Municipal Consent stage of the LRT project. The Blue Line Open House on Thursday, January 14th, 5:30-7pm, at the Crystal City Hall Community Room. The preliminary design plans of the project will be presented, and community input taken. The City Council will also hold a Public Hearing on February 2, 7:00pm, City Hall, Council Chambers.
Station Area Planning
Community members have been actively participating in the Station Area Planning phase of the project. One of the issues has been the use, and potential improvement, of Becker Park. Residents have singled out Becker Park as one of our most important public assets. The park is in need of updates, and there is significant excitement about the possibilities. Residents and the Council agree that Becker Parks should remain its current size; we now need careful planning and community input to bring out the best in this space. Another issue is the pedestrian crossing over Hwy 81. The current design and traffic conditions of the 81 and Bass Lake Road intersection make it nearly impossible for pedestrians to cross safely. There are several options to improve this intersection and make it more user friendly, including building a pedestrian overpass. Click here to learn more about Municipal Consent and Station Area Planning.
Freight Rail Quiet Zones
City Staff are officially researching the establishment of Quiet Zones at the Canadian Pacific intersections at Douglas Drive and West Broadway. Staff is working directly with SRF (the city's quiet zone consultant), and representatives from Hennepin County, MnDOT-Rail, Federal Railroad Administration, and Canadian Pacific railroad. A meeting was recently held on the actual rail crossings to review the options. This issue will be discussed in more detail at a work session in approximately one to two months.
New Tenant at the Crystal Shopping Center
Robbinsdale School District plans to open an educational facility at the Crystal Shopping Center. This facility will be geared towards children with disabilities and adult learners. The leased space will be 42,000 square feet in the south two- thirds of the west building. Most of the space is currently vacant, with the Dollar Tree and Pro Nails Salon moving to another unit within the Shopping Center. Both the Council and Paster Properties feel that this is a positive step for the area- expanding the Shopping Center’s use by serving the community, and bringing in more consumers for established businesses. The proposed opening date for the school is July 2016.
City Code Review Task Force
City Code Review Task Force is making great progress! This Sun Post article gives a good overview of their work.
Looking for Commissioners
We are recruiting volunteers for our Commissions! Click here for more information.
I am due to have my third baby at the end of January, and will be on a semi-official maternity leave for approximately 6 weeks. In the meantime, I will be watching the council meetings and listening to the work sessions. My plan is to come back as soon as possible, with baby in tow.
A detailed summary of each Council Meeting is now available in this handy format:
Upcoming Community Events
Light of Crystal Half Way Happy Hour
Friday, January 15th, 5:30pm, Buffalo Wild Wings
Quad Community Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Bowling Fundraiser
Fundraiser to benefit our local Service Members and Veterans.
Sunday, January 31
Sign up at Doyle's Bowling & Lounge begins at 10:30 a.m.
Bowling begins at 11:00 a.m.
(includes 3 games, shoes & lunch)
In September, we've had the Public Works Grand Opening, voting on the preliminary Levy, Run for Rocco, and Council members bagging groceries at Cub, among many other things. I'll provide an update on the biggest issues currently at play.
On September 1st, the council voted to set the preliminary Levy at a 3% increase. This means that the increase cannot exceed 3% when we vote on the final Levy in December. Please see my last post for background. The EDA Levy was also increased by 3%. The EDA is a separate entity, and has its own budget and Levy. As I’ve stated before, I would like to continue working with staff to find ways of lowering this number for the final December vote. Council Member Kolb talks about the Budget process in his council recap here.
METRO Blue Line Extension
The plans for the Blue Line Light Rail are progressing. On Monday, September 28th, community members met to identify strengths and weaknesses of the area immediately surrounding the proposed LRT station. The meeting was very well attended, and residents provided thoughtful and insightful input. For many years, The LRT project has been planned and managed by groups outside of our community, but the people who really matter are Crystal residents. We know and love Crystal, and our opinions are essential to any plans that these groups may have. The Federal Transit Administration, Hennepin County, Met Council, the Counties Transit Improvement Board, and MNDot are all very powerful entities, and our own community may seem lost in the shuffle. It’s essential that we are present to advocate on behalf of our city. There is also a myriad of committees- Mayor Adams and I are members of the Corridor Management Committee and the Steering Committee. We also have the Crystal Community and Business Advisory Committees, and the Community Working Group. The CWG is focused on managing the plans for the area immediately surrounding the proposed station, and is made up of residents, council members (Julie Deshler and myself), and city staff. All these committees are active for the purpose of bringing the community's interests to the table. Here is a link to all the committees involved, and the dates on which they meet: METRO Blue Line Committees.
One specific LRT issue that the Council recently resolved is the West Broadway “S Curve” intersection at 48th Avenue. This intersection will not be functional as is if Light Rail is built, and we had to negotiate with the County to find an appropriate solution. We did not want the burden of remediation alone, as the County suggested, but we did arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. You can see the proposed layout here. Hennepin County is responsible for construction, and will continue to maintain West Broadway as a County road.
Future Meetings and Opportunities to participate:
Please give your feedback on the LRT station by filling out this survey. In the Seach window at the top left corner type "Crystal", and you will be directed to the appropriate section.
The next community Open House will be on Monday, October 19, 5:00–7:30 p.m. at the Crystal Community Center. This meeting will provide information on the results of the Environmental Analysis. Click here for more details.
Many residents in Section 2 have expressed a desire for creating Quiet Zones at train intersections, specifically at Douglas Drive. City Staff are currently researching the details of this project. The Federal Government regulates all laws pertaining to freight rail, but the financial burden of establishing Quiet Zones falls directly on local communities. Here is some basic information on what is involved in this process. This is a lengthy and expensive project, and often times, cities may receive County or State funds to make it possible. You can contact our County Commissioner Mike Opat, and State Representatives Lyndon Carlson and Ann Rest, and let them know that this is important for your quality of life as a Crystal resident.
Click Here to contact Commissioner Opat
Click Here to contact Representative Carlson
Click Here to contact Representative Rest
Twin Oaks Reconstruction
On October 1st, the City held an informational meeting for those in the Twin Oaks Neighborhood. Earlier, Julie Deshler and I door knocked on Wilshire Ave to inform residents that a sidewalk was proposed for their street. During the open house, residents were polled on their preference regarding the sidewalk. The jury on it is still out, so there is plenty of time for residents to weigh in. Please don't hesitate to contact me with your opinion on this issue.
A Public Hearing will take place on Tuesday, October 6th, 7:00pm, at City Hall. This is another opportunity for residents to give their input on this project.
The Council recently came to a consensus on how to improve the function of our Commissions. This conversation spanned the entire summer, and I am confident that we have reached a good conclusion. Here are the changes that we hope to implement:
- Move to annual recruitment and interview process for commissions.
- The whole Council interviews candidates.
- We will be working with the City Code Review Task Force to move Commissions from the Code to Resolutions.
- Implement annual orientation for Commissioners.
- Formalize expectations of Commissions, with a work plan and annual reporting- There will be a whole work session on this soon.
- Require biennial review of Commissions.
- Increase City Staff presence during Commission meetings.
I feel that these changes will put Commissions on the forefront of Council priorities, improve communication and our ability to work more cohesively.
City Code Review Task Force
I recently attended a City Code Review Task Force meeting. The caliber of work was impressive, and I am looking forward to discussing their ideas with the whole Council! I am pleased to see diversity of background and opinion in this group, and feel confident that their proposals are made with careful deliberation. Simplifying the City Code is one of our top priorities, and we cannot do this without the work of our volunteers. Thank you to all who have stepped up to this challenging task!
Council Member Kolb wrote a recap of this event. You can read it here.
Here is what's coming up in Crystal!
Crystal Shopping Center’s Halloween Event
Click Here for the Facebook Event Page
Fourth Annual Herzing from the Heart- Healthy Halloween Fun
Light of Crystal Half Way Happy Hour
Thursday October 15th at El Loro, 5:00pm.
Are you interested in getting to know your Crystal neighbors? You are invited to this casual and fun social gathering!
Click Here for the Facebook Event Page.
That's all for now! As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns!
Crystal Cove Pool is closing this week, and school supplies are out in stores! This summer has gone by quickly, and it's been a busy time in Crystal. Here are the issues that we have been working on:
- 2016 Budget Season
As a newly elected council member, this is my first experience with this task, and it is proving to be a unique challenge. We will be voting on the preliminary tax levy on September 1st. The final levy will be voted on in November. The original proposal from city staff was to increase the levy by 6%. We were not comfortable with this number, and requested a revision. The current agreement is to set the preliminary levy at no more than 3%, which is the final cap for how high 2016 taxes can go. Once the preliminary levy is set, that number can only go down, which is something I'm sure our residents would like to see. The key objective for me is to be mindful and respectful of the resources our residents provide, and realistically acknowledge the financial needs of the city. The city is faced with rising wage and health insurance costs, but Crystal residents have similar challenges. The difference is that the city can tax people, but residents can't tap into some source to make up for their new budget demands. The solution for the city's financial needs and wants is not to tax without limit. What else can we do? This is the challenging reality, and we don't approach this task lightly. To get the detailed budget conversation, listen to our work sessions here. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you'd like to weigh in on this issue!
- Traffic Symposium
The most reoccurring issue in Crystal is traffic and transportation. Drivers speeding through residential streets, missing stop signs, questions about proposed future light rail, pedestrian crossings, over-night parking, etc. Council members from each ward and section are contacted regularly with these concerns. The past approach has been to try to resolve each problem individually, but we sensed a need for a better method. The Traffic Symposium was designed to address Crystal's transportation needs holistically- to gain a better understanding of what we must do to improve safety and quality of life in our neighborhoods. I hope you can attend and give your input! Without your participation we cannot easily accomplish this task. For more on traffic, particularly our conversation about over-night parking, read council member Dahl's update here.
- Repeal of Point of Sale Inspections
Point of Sale inspections have been viewed as an unnecessary and redundant burden for everyone going through the home sale process in Crystal. Only a handful of cities in Minnesota require such a procedure. Take a look at this list. Currently, sellers must already comply with state mandated disclosure statements, private home inspections are widely used and are much more thorough, and lenders even conduct their own inspections prior to issuing a mortgage. Residents experienced with Point of Sale know that the inspection check list is arbitrary and limited, and the city is not liable for any problems it may miss. This gives buyers a false sense of security- if the city conducted an inspection the house must be safe, correct? That is not the case, and it's a disservice to our community. Instead of meddling with the private sale process, the city can proactively educate residents on how they can better maintain their homes, encourage buyers and sellers to engage certified inspectors, and enforce visible code violations in problem properties. I am happy to say that the Point of Sale ordinance has been repealed. The repeal will go into effect on September 26th. If you are selling your home and closing before 9/26/15, then you must still comply with the inspection. If your closing date is after 9/26/15, you are in the clear.
- 2015 Citizen Feedback Survey
Here's your chance to give feedback on living in Crystal through an online survey! This is part of the State Performance Measurement Program. Click here to fill out this short and anonymous questionnaire.
- Upcoming Community Events
Battle of the Badge Blood Drive, Wednesday, August 26th. Walk ins Welcome!
West Metro Fire Station 3
4251 Xylon Ave. N
New Hope, MN 55428
Wednesday, August 26th 2015 9:00 AM-12:00 PM
West Metro Fire Station 2
4141 Douglas Drive
Crystal, MN 55422
Wednesday, August 26th 2015 2:30 PM- 6:00 PM
More information can be found here.
Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Glow Golf
I’m trying out a new format for my council meeting recaps. Due to the number and variety of council meetings, it may not suit to provide a detailed recap of each event. Instead, I’m going to highlight current council issues and community news. Each update will have up to four categories- Regular Council Meetings, Work Sessions, Other News, and Information and Announcements. I hope this format will provide a more straightforward snapshot of what’s happening in the city!
May 5th Regular Council Meeting:
Phase 14 North Lions Park Street Reconstruction
The council authorized the sale of general obligation improvement bonds in the approximate amount of $2,620,000. The council will consider award of the bonds at the June 16th meeting.
Welcome Park 2015 Alley Reconstruction
The council authorized a resolution approving plans and specifications and ordering the advertisement for bids. The council will consider this project one more time before giving the final green light.
Repair of the 42nd Avenue Joint Water Commission Water Main
I covered our discussion of this topic in my previous recap. This issue is of utmost importance to the council. We have an aging water infrastructure, with most of the city’s water pipes installed in the 60’s when the city was being established. The recent water main disaster shows that we must maintain our infrastructure to prevent this from happening again. After considering several options, the council concluded that the most responsible and transparent financing option was to raise the water rate by $1.00 per 1,000 gallons. The council voted to approve this increase, with the intention to maintain this rate until at least January 2018. Even with the increase, Crystal provides clean and great tasting water at the rate of less than one cent per gallon. We can now ensure that this essential service is protected for the future.
The Council continues to discuss the ways to improve our Commissions. Read this Sun Post article for a little background. The article now contains outdated information, however, since we have made more progress in our conversation. Our ideas are still in a rough draft format, and I welcome your input if you have any ideas to add to this discussion. Please don’t hesitate to contact me!
We have recently interviewed candidates for the City Code Review Task Force. This group is charged with reviewing the entire code, and recommend changes to the Council. We have more Task Force projects planned for the future. For instance, the “Crystal Ball” Task Force will focus on organizing a new community celebration event with music and dancing. Another suggestion is to create an Urban Agriculture Task Force.
Download the Council packets here
Watch the Regular Council meetings here
Listen to the Work Sessions here.
Read Council Member Kolb's update here.
In other news:
Recently, I've been able to go on two bus tours of the city- one organized by the Parks and Rec board focusing on our parks, and the other a general tour of the city. We were able to see the various projects in process, and get a broad understanding of the needs for improvement. It's exciting to see the progress of the new Bassett Creek Playground, with the zipline going up first!
Another great event was the Arbor Day Celebration and Park Clean up at Forest Park. A fun time of cleaning up, food with neighbors, and the kids planted a tree with the help of our City Forester!
Memorial Day service at Glen Haven Gardens with Julie Deshler speaking on behalf of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon.
Information and Announcements:
Basset Creek Park Cleanup is tomorrow morning, Saturday, May 30th, at 9am.
Lion’s Soo Line Neighborhood Community Garden:
I missed recapping April 20th, but you can read Council Member Kolb's nicely done highlights here.
First Work Session
During our first work session we had the opportunity to meet and greet candidates for the Charter Commission. The Charter Commission is comprised of 9 members from the community. Their job is to review the city charter and recommend any changes to the city council. We are impressed with the caliber of our applicants, and had a nice time getting to know them during this time.
Per the request of several council members, we received a primer on the differences of public right-of-way, boulevards, easement, and private property. This issue has surfaced several times since I have taken office, primarily as a question about trees located in the boulevard- who is responsible to take care of trees located in your front yard, but not exactly on your private property? Why do some residents find new trees planted in their yard without their consent? This issue is also at play with the planned Three Rivers Park District bike project. Many people, myself included, are unsure exactly where their private property line is drawn. The city and county are able to use a part of your front yard for their purpose, and this arrangement can be unwelcome and distressing to many residents. Boulevards and Public Right of Way are city property, and are reserved for city and public use. Boulevard is generally the area between your property line and the curb, and Right of Way is the entire street (and sidewalk area). Residents do not pay taxes on the this piece of land, but are responsible for the Boulevard's upkeep (mowing the grass, shoveling, etc). If you have any questions about your Boulevard or Public Right of Way area, please do not hesitate to contact the city (or me)!
Regular Council Meeting
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by a Boy Scout Brian Lindahl. Thank you, Brian! We had a special appearance by Police Chief Revering, who recognized Officer Tim Tourville as a recipient of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Award. Chief Revering also presented Officer Mason Barland with the Chief’s Award recognizing his excellent service in our community. Take a look at this Sun Post article commending the outstanding work they are doing!
During Open Forum we heard from the members of the Environmental Quality Commission. They expressed their views on the importance and direction of their commission, and what the council can do to assist them in their work. For a little background: The council is currently discussing what we can do to improve our commissions. This is an important conversation, and it is vital to have the input of our citizen volunteers. My hope is to establish a plan that will revitalize and improve our commissions, fostering an action-oriented and rewarding experience for everyone. We are addressing issues of communication, structure, function and necessity of certain commissions, and the candidate interview process. I am grateful to the EQC for their helpful and very important contribution to this conversation!
We held a Public Hearing on the Alley Reconstruction Project in the Welcome Park neighborhood. Three alleys are up for reconstruction, and we heard from several residents with various questions and concerns. We discussed the timing and necessity of the project, materials used (concrete vs. asphalt), concerns for residents who do not actually use the alley but are paying for it, and amount of the assessment. This is indeed financed through a special assessment, and I have voiced my opinion on this before. My belief is that special assessments are an excessive burden on our residents, and we must work to find alternatives for future city projects. I anticipate this conversation during our budget sessions this summer. The council ultimately voted in favor of ordering preparation of plans and specifications for this project. The city will be following up with residents who had specific concerns.
During our Regular Agenda, we discussed a resolution supporting the Three Rivers Park District grant application to Hennepin County for the Bassett Creek Regional Bike Trail. The trail will connect French Regional Park and Theodore Wirth through residential areas in Crystal. The park district held an open house on April 27th where residents were able to converse with the project officials, and provide their comments. Council members Kolb and Dahl proposed amendments to the resolution providing more focus and ensuring Crystal’s involvement in the design and construction process. In light of the amendments and the input we have received, the council voted in favor of the resolution. Three Rivers will now proceed with their grant application to Hennepin County. Construction is anticipated in 2016.
The council approved the purchase of replacement wastewater pumps. Two of the pumps have been in operation since 1992, and had major repairs completed in 2014. The pumps process a total of 69 million gallons of wastewater per year!
We approved the purchase of a floor sweeper for the new Public Works facility. The council discussed the necessity of this expensive purchase, a total of $28,170.00. The possibility of saving money and contracting out for cleaning services was discussed. This purchase was approved due to the technical needs of keeping cleaning “in house”. The council plans to discuss the potential for contracting out other services during our budget sessions this summer.
Second Work Session
During the April 9th work session, we began discussing financing options for Crystal’s share to replace the water main that runs through Robbinsdale. Here is some background reading on the break that occurred last year, and this article on our plans for repairs. The estimated total cost of the project is $5,600,000, and our anticipated share is between $1,500,000 and $1,700,000. At this time, our Water Fund cannot easily come up with this amount, and the council came to the conclusion that we must increase water rates to provide revenue for this project. The proposed rate increase is $1 per 1,000 gallons, with a two-year rate freeze. This way, we will be able to pay our share of the cost, and provide water rate stability until 2018, at which point the rate increase will resume to the regular .20 cents per unit (1,000 gallons) per year. The new rate will go into effect on July 1st.
That is all for May 5th! To watch the entire council meeting, listen to the work sessions, and read the packet you can click on the links below. As always, I welcome your feedback!
Listen to the Work Sessions here.
Watch the Regular Council Meeting here.
Read the packet here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – APRIL 16, 2015
“Citizen Connection Initiative” – The First 100 Days
Significant Progress Made Toward Goals; Work to Continue
Crystal, MN – In January 2015, incoming Crystal City Councilmembers Olga Parsons (Section II), Elizabeth Dahl (Ward 1) and Jeff Kolb (Ward 2) announced the creation of the “Citizen Connection Initiative,” a program designed to guide their priorities and decision making throughout their term in office.
April 16 represents 100 days since the three new council members were sworn in, and there is much progress to report on the initiative.
“We are pleased to announce that the Citizen Connection Initiative was embraced by most of our colleagues on the council, and with their support we have accomplished several of the initial goals we identified,” said Parsons.
Key initiatives already accomplished include:
• Implementing new council rules to govern the council in a responsible manner
• Implementing a new tracking system to monitor feedback from residents
• Testing a new interview process for boards and commissions
• Sending thank you notes to citizens who speak at council meetings
• Began the Plain Language Initiative to streamline communications from the city to residents
• Restructuring work sessions to include dedicated time to discuss issues raised by residents
• Establishing an Ordinance Review Task Force to streamline outdated ordinances
• Kept residents informed about key issues, such as the proposed rail connection, through various channels
“While we have accomplished many of our initial goals, there is still much work to be done, and we intend to keep the focus on serving the residents of Crystal and maintaining a customer service focus in the city” said Dahl.
Ongoing and upcoming initiatives include:
• Reevaluating the structure and goals of city commissions and boards
• More neighborhood meetings throughout the summer
• A traffic symposium scheduled for this fall
• A long term branding and communications strategy
“Our goal was to make the Crystal City Government more transparent, open, and responsive to its citizens, and I think we are making good progress,” said Kolb. “I look forward to building on our success over the next few years.”
As a reminder Initial steps to the Citizen Connection Initiative included a pledge by all three incoming councilmembers to do the following:
• Maintain a personal website where they will post information about key votes made by the council
• Maintain a Facebook presence where residents can interact with their representative
• Post occasional updates to Nextdoor.com about relevant community meetings
• Strive for a 72 hour or less response time to citizen inquiries
For more information on the Citizen Connection Initiative contact the individual councilmembers using the contact information below: