Council Meeting recap for May 5th

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.