Time for a recap of the recent council meeting! Tuesday evening kicked off at 6:00pm with Citizen Input time. Citizen Input time is a half hour session designed for residents to come and speak to the council, mayor, and city staff about issues most important to them. Unfortunately, this time has been under utilized in the past. I hope that now more residents will take advantage of this opportunity to bring their concerns and ideas forward. I would like to create a welcoming, relaxed, and conversational atmosphere, so residents can feel confident and at ease. Please don’t hesitate to take advantage of this opportunity! The next Citizen Input time will be on Tuesday, February 17th at 6:00pm. Take a look at my calendar for more event dates and details.
Immediately after Citizen Input time we held the first work session. The agenda consisted of just one item- to discuss the apparent plans of Canadian Pacific railroad for a new freight connector track leading to the BNSF line. It appears that the railroad companies have been planning this project for several months, and have kept our community and city staff mostly in the dark. The new track addition will run from the CP line near the Broadway Ave intersection, and lead to the BNSF line along Broadway Ave. The objective of this is to relieve the high traffic CP line, and allow more trains to pass through the BNSF track, which is generally less utilized. It appears that this project will directly affect several businesses located in the proposed new track area, forcing them to either relocate, or discontinue their operation entirely. Also, there is a potential for longer and more frequent trains, greater traffic congestion and subsequent public safety issues, and more noise. Overall, it appears that this does not bring any benefit to our community, and only creates more stress on an already train weary area.
So, how can the train companies plan such a project without appealing to the local community for input and approval? How can they entirely exclude our city council and staff? The Federal Surface Transportation Board and the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration regulate the railroad industry. Railroad companies are afforded many liberties, which include the ability to unilaterally carry out projects without any meaningful input from the local community. At this point, the Federal Surface Transportation Board is conducting an Environmental Impact study, and will invite our “input” shortly after its completion. Will our concerns be heard, and taken into serious consideration? Will they amend their plans, and work with us to meet our public safety goals? It's hard to tell. It appears that Canadian Pacific and BNSF are entirely confident in their plans, and aim to complete the project in 2015. The council agrees that we must advocate for our community, and we will take every opportunity to do so. This story is unfolding, so stay tuned for further updates!
Now onto the Regular Council meeting, which convened at 7:00pm in the Council Chambers. The highlight of the meeting was the presentation of the Outstanding Agency Award to the Crystal Police Department by the MN Office of Traffic Safety. This award recognizes the department’s efforts to increase traffic safety in our city. Crystal PD participates in the Towards Zero Deaths program that strives to eliminate traffic related fatalities in Minnesota. Our community has achieved a zero death rate since 2011, and has one of the lowest crash rates in the state. The installation of “blue lights” in our most dangerous intersections has helped achieve this goal.
The regular agenda also included the approval to purchase several new utility trucks- a truck and necessary equipment; trucks with plows; and a televising truck and trailer. The expenditures were necessary, were well within the budget, and even left a sizeable surplus in the designated fund.
Following the Regular Council Meeting, we went on to the Economic Development Authority work session. The outgoing community development director Patrick Peters talked us through the various functions of the EDA. We received a map of the properties owned by the city of Crystal, talked through the timeline of selling these properties, and the possibilities of attracting new businesses to utilize some of the commercially zoned areas.
Our evening concluded with another work session. We discussed the Citizen Connection Initiative- adding more ideas and goals to the list, and agreeing to prioritize our goals during February’s work session. Speaking of which, take a look at this article recently published in the Sun Post!
This was my second full council meeting, and I feel like I am beginning to grasp the full scope of this job. I love the feeling of anticipation for what’s to come, and the satisfaction of being able to help my fellow Crystal residents. I am happy and honored to be in this position!
Click here to watch the council meeting.
Click here to listen to the work sessions.
Off the topic of council meetings- my kids and I stopped for lunch at the new Noodles and Company this week. Great food and ambiance, and the place was packed too! It’s also cool to see the progress that’s being made on “de-malling” of the Broadway strip mall. I am hopeful that our business district will continue to make improvements and meet the needs of our community.
Things I am looking forward to: Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Bowling Fundraiser. This event will be held at Doyle’s on Broadway, sign up starts at 10:30am, and all proceeds go to benefit the Veterans in our community. Three games of bowling and lunch at the VFW are included. Take a look at my calendar for details!
I am also going to the League of Minnesota Cities training seminar for newly elected council representatives the last week of January.
That’s all for this week. As usual, I welcome your emails and phone calls with any ideas, questions, or concerns!