Council Recap and Review for Tuesday, February 3rd

It appears that the current theme of our council is trains.  Our evening started off at 6:15pm with a special Bottineau Light Rail Transit presentation by the Corridor Management Committee. The Corridor Management Committee exists to advise the Met Council on all issues pertaining to the project, including design and construction.  The committee is made up of local elected officials, with Mayor Adams representing Crystal.  The members presenting were Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat, project manager Dan Soler, and Public Involvement representative Robin Caufman.  The main objective of their presentation was to illustrate the overall scope and status of the project, as well as plans for community outreach and education.

Some interesting points: The Federal Transportation Administration New Starts program is partially funding this $1 billion project.  The price tag is only an estimation at this point.  The FTA is involved in 12 other such projects throughout the U.S.  The rest of the financing burden falls on the State of Minnesota (10%), Hennepin County (10%), and Counties Transit Improvement Board (31%).  The Counties Transit Board consists of five counties- Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, and Washington.  Their vision is to fund transit projects using money derived from the quarter cent sales tax, and the $20 per motor vehicle sales tax.  The individual breakdown of the involved entities is interesting to see- Hennepin County, State of Minnesota, Metropolitan Council, the CTIB, and the Federal Government.  Our challenge as a community is to make sure our voices are heard and respected throughout this process.  It’s easy to get lost underneath all this bureaucracy and big money.

What does this mean for Crystal?  Crystal is planned for one LRT station on Bass Lake Road and Cty 81, with the train passing through the BNSF tracks along Broadway.  Our involvement in this project is addressed in the Municipal Consent Process, outlined by Minnesota Statute 473.3994.  Crystal will have an opportunity to review and approve the design of the preliminary plans, including the location of LRT track and station, pedestrian trails, and other features.  Several months ago, our city staff compiled a list of safety and noise concerns, and asked the project managers to address these issues.  We need to make sure that these issues are not swept under the rug, are approached with respect and sincerity, and properly addressed before any plans are solidified.  Mayor Adams is currently representing Crystal as a member of the CMC, and I have been appointed as an alternate during Tuesday’s meeting.

What is the timeline?  The project is currently in the development stage, with the Municipal Consent Process taking place in 2016.  The Corridor Management Committee foresees construction in 2018-20, with projected passenger operations in 2021.

What can you do?  The Corridor Management Committee is currently recruiting Crystal residents to serve on the Community Advisory Committee, and members of the Crystal business community to serve on the Business Advisory Committee.  The committees will work in tandem with Corridor Management to advise the Met Council on the project.  Please contact me if you are interested, and I will provide the details!

These are some of the details as presented by the Corridor Management Committee.  I welcome your input on this issue.  This project has the potential to dramatically change the atmosphere of our town, and it is essential that your voice is heard and taken seriously during this time.

Now on to more trains- Canadian Pacific and BNSF freight connector track update: 

Our city staff is working hard to approach this problem from as many angles as possible to ensure that the negative impact of this project is lessened, if not entirely eliminated.  We also want to use this opportunity to push for establishment of official Quiet Zones.  Train horns are on top of the list of Crystal resident frustration.  Council member Kolb has written another thorough update on this project, you can read it here.

 Approval of Phase 14 North Lions Park Street Reconstruction Project:

The council passed a resolution approving plans and specifications, and ordering the advertisement for bids for Phase 14 North Lions Park Street Reconstruction Project.  I’ve attended the neighborhood meetings for this phase, and was able to see that the reception of this project is positive throughout the neighborhood.  Initially, residents were displeased about the proposed sidewalks.  They were, however, able to voice their concerns and have the project amended to exclude any unnecessary sidewalk plans.  The financing of this project will be through special assessments, and I have stated in the past that I do not favor this method.  Crystal is in the last stages of finishing a 20-year street reconstruction process, and it appears that the last three phases will go ahead as initially projected.  My plan is to reevaluate the financing of future street maintenance and reconstruction, and make sure that we have provisions in our budget to cover these expenses without the use of special assessments.  Special assessments are indeed a tax, and to tax our residents on top of the property taxes already paid is an excessive burden.

City Hall Safety Precautions:

Following the regular council meeting, we held a second work session addressing the recent attack in New Hope, and discussed our current security provisions in City Hall. With the input of our Police Chief, we thoroughly reviewed our current policy, and agreed on several new safety measures.  Per the advice of our city attorney, this conversation took place during a closed meeting, and the recording will not be published.  Due to previous situations that have occurred during our council meetings, city staff and council members understand the difficulty of dealing with a potentially violent and disruptive situation.  We are happy to make improvements that help keep everyone safe, while protecting the rights of individuals to freely participate in city government.

Citizen Connection Initiative:

The council is currently going through a period of prioritizing and goal setting.  We have identified a number of goals we would like to accomplish, focused mainly on increasing citizen participation, building community and preventing crime, reviewing the budget process, and increasing transparency and accountability.  We hope to have a concrete timeline and specific projects outlined in the next month or two, so we can continue to work on improving our city and engaging our residents in a meaningful and rewarding way.

That is all for now!  As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions, ideas, or concerns.  I’d love to hear from you!

Click here to watch the council meeting.

Click here to listen to the work sessions.