Our agenda for the evening was very full. Mayor Adams was absent due to severe illness, and Council member Deshler acted as Mayor Pro tem. Council members Dahl and Libby were also absent.
Citizen Input Time
The Council has recently put in place a tracking method that ensures timely resolutions of all constituent issues. We receive updates on all “open” cases, and discuss ways to provide a satisfactory solution. Our goal is to make sure no one falls through the cracks. During this Input Time, one resident came to speak about an ongoing issue with the lack of maintenance of a pond located in her neighborhood. This has been a problem for several years, and the whole neighborhood would like this resolved as soon as possible. Our city manager agreed to a timeline and a plan that appears satisfactory to the resident.
First Work Session
Representatives from Hennepin County Assessor Department spoke about the process of appealing the estimated market value of a home in Crystal. Each year, homeowners receive a letter from the County Assessor Department stating the current estimated market value of their home. If a homeowner disagrees with the estimated value, they can appeal to the County to discuss adjusting the assessment. Most disputes can be resolved by working directly with the assessor’s office, and some issues are brought before the Local Board of Appeal and Equalization. The Board meets each year with the specific purpose of ensuring that all local property is correctly assessed, and judge on disputed assessments brought forward by the homeowners. If the dispute cannot be resolved with the local board, the homeowner can appeal to the County Board, and finally to the Minnesota Tax Court.
The Crystal Board of Appeal and Equalization will meet on April 7, 2015, at 7:00pm. Click here for more information on this meeting. Click here for more information from Hennepin County on how you can appeal the estimated market value of your home.
Regular Council Meeting
Following the approval of the agenda, we heard the following presentations:
Tech Dump event presented by the Environmental Quality Commission. Click here for more info.
The 5th Annual “Firefighters Fighting Hunger” Drive presented by Assistant Fire Chief Joel Nelson. Through the end of March, The West Metro Fire-Rescue District is collecting food and monetary donations to benefit The Food Group. On Saturday, March 21st from 11:00am-3:00pm, they will be out in many of the local grocery store parking lots collecting donations. The Crystal City Council will be assisting by bagging groceries at the Cub Foods on Hwy 100 and 36th. I am very excited for this event! Click here for more info.
We breezed through the Consent Agenda, heard one resident speak during Open Forum, and moved on to the Regular Agenda with the reading of disbursements over $25,000.
The Council continued by approving contributions of $750 each to NEAR and PRISM food shelves. NEAR and PRISM food shelves serve hundreds of local families each month, and provide food for school children during the summer. All monetary donations are matched during the month of March, and I highly encourage our residents to pitch in with this very important service to our community.
The Council considered civil penalties for the illegal sale of tobacco to an underage person by A-1 Liquor. A-1 Liquor failed an annual compliance check conducted by the Crystal Police Department. City Code outlines the following civil penalties that the Council may impose against the business owner:
First violation results in a fine of up to $750, and loss of tobacco license for one day.
Second violation within 24 months is a fine of up to $1,500 and a loss of license for up to five days (three days for alcohol)
Third violation within 24 months after the first is a fine of up to $2,000 and a loss of license for up to ten days.
Fourth violation within 36 months after the first is a permanent revocation of license.
The council recently changed the penalties for underage sales of tobacco and alcohol, and this was the first case in about a year. This Sun Post article explains the history of the revision.
This was the first violation for A-1 Liquor. The Council received the police report with details on the incident, and the business owner appeared before the council for questioning. According to the owner, the clerk responsible for failing to properly I.D. the underage customer has dyslexia, and has been sent to receive proper treatment. The owner was respectful and apologetic, and understood the severity of such an offense. Following the questioning and a thorough discussion, the council unanimously voted to impose a fine of $750, but forego the license suspension. I felt that suspending the license on the first offence in this case was too harsh. The fine, along with the arrest and having to appear before the council, is a punishment that meets the crime. Much tougher consequences should be reserved for repeat offenders. I felt that the council treated this matter seriously, and A-1 Liquor fully understood their responsibility in the matter.
Next we considered imposing penalties for a failed alcohol compliance check by Liquor Liquidator. This was their first alcohol offence, and the penalties are similar. The owner appeared before the council, and informed us that the business purchased an electronic card reader to ensure that this never happens again. The council had a more difficult time arriving at a consensus, with Mayor Pro tem Deshler wishing to suspend their liquor license in addition to the $750 fine. The council finally voted to impose the fine in the full amount, and forego the license suspension, with Julie Deshler voting No.
Both decisions were difficult. The council had to fairly balance several factors- the health and safety of our community and youth, the needs of small businesses, and imposing proper punishment that will deter repeat offending. I feel that we were able to strike that balance.
Following this, the Council heard a presentation about Crystal’s Storm Water Pollution Prevention Program.
We approved a resolution ordering hearing on proposed assessment in Phase 14 North Lions Park Street Reconstruction.
We approved the 2015 Alley Reconstruction Feasibility Study.
We approved expenditure for the new Bassett Creek Playground. This project is funded mostly through Grant money, and will be a wonderful addition to our community.
We approved several expenditures for the new Public Works facility. Many of the purchases are coming in below budget, and we are happy to see the savings.
The council was presented with a Cooperative Agreement with Hennepin County on the purchase of the land necessary for CP-BNSF freight connector track. This article provides some background information. Hennepin County wants Crystal to cooperate in this process. We felt that the language in the document needed clarification, and more discussion was necessary before approval. Our city attorney agreed to work with the County to obtain better verbiage. The council voted to continue the discussion during our work session on Thursday, March 19th. The council received the revised document on Thursday, and we voted unanimously to approve the agreement.
The final item on the agenda was approving the second reading of the city code amendment relating to council rules.
We approved the sale of three residential plots to developers. We were happy to see a new company expand their operations into Crystal.
Second Work Session
The Crystal Police Department presented their annual report. You can read it here.
City Manger Anne Norris provided an update on unresolved constituent issues.
That’s all for Tuesday, March 17th! Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like clarification, or to discuss any issues. You can listen to the Work Sessions here, and watch the Regular Council Meeting here.