Tag Archives: Infrastructure

Budget and Parks

Our 2018 Budget focus has been long term planning, and eliminating special assessments and debt. The Parks Master Plan was a big topic of discussion.

We started the Parks Master Plan because we had no clear direction, and no understanding of how much it costs to improve our parks, or even to maintain them. Now we have a clear picture of the costs. Maintenance is our first financial hurdle. Previously, the entire parks department received about $100K for improvements per year- replacement of aged equipment, fences, benches, roofs, etc. The process of thorough inventory revealed that maintenance actually costs over 300K/year. Over the years, our parks have been treading water at best, and will be falling into full decline if we do not provide adequate funds. During our recent budget talks, we have committed to provide at least this funding. The Master Plan outlines our entire wish list for improvements and development, but we are not bound to execute every detail. We can amend as financing dictated. Some ideas are grants, private/public partnership with business and civil groups, and selling unused park space. We will be discussing all the options in the near future. The Parks Department leadership is qualified and motivated to tackle this challenge, and the council is committed to investing in our public assets. 

Check out the latest on the Parks Master Plan here.

On Septermber 5, the Council voted on the preliminary levy, and we have agreed on no more than 6% increase.

This includes:

Adjustments in wages and insurance

Potential addition of another parks maintenance employee, or more capital Parks funding, or leave this off entirely, brining the levy lower.

Police (body cams, two additional officers)

Parks and capital maintenance

It is important to note that Crystal is dramatically different from other cities: we are eliminating hidden fees, debt service payments, and assessments. We want to be transparent and upfront- what you see is what you get on your tax bill. Your tax bill from Crystal is full disclosure. At this time, the budget cannot increase by more than 6%, but can only decrease. The maximum increase amounts to approximately $40 per capita. The amount you pay depends on your property values. Property values have seen a dramatic recovery, especially in our part of town, so residential tax load is increasing. Despite this, the amount you pay can actually go down or remain unchanged. Chances are, however, if you live in the north half of town, you will see an increase.   

We are offering an opportunity for public comment on October 3, and also on December 5th, during which time we will have another presentation, and a final vote on the budget.

You can watch the tax presentation here. Click on agenda item 5.2 to jump ahead. Click here for the meeting calendar if you'd like to attend a meeting. As always, please contact me with your input!

Quiet Zone

We are really getting a rail road crossing quiet zone! Construction begins in October, and the trains will sound their last horn sometime at the end of November. Great news for the Holidays, and the overall quality of life in Section 2. Update here.

Bass Lake Road and Hwy 81

We recently acquired a four-plex apartment building near the Bass Lake Road and Hwy 81 intersection. This property was notorious for its unkempt appearance and high crime rate, and was a nuisance to the neighborhood. On October 3rd, we will decide to either tear it down and offer the lot for a single family home construction, or make slight improvements to the parking configuration and put it back on the market. Demolishing the property will make the corner more favorable for a construction of three single family homes, while preserving the building will allow the market to dictate its future, leaving room for one single family home. Area residents greatly favor demolishing the property. Their consensus is that it will cut back crime, beautify the area, and prepare the way for positive development once light rail comes through. The private market can do all these things as well, but having the city take charge appears to guarantee a positive outcome. The price tag is hefty- well over $400,000. This money comes from the Economic Development levy, and we would possibly recoup some of the costs from the sale of the lots. Check out the EDA Work Session packet here, jump to page 130 to see the details. I'm currently taking phone calls and emails from residents with their opinions on the project.

Public Works

Flashing yellow arrows are being installed at Bass Lake Road and West Broadway; 57th Ave and Broadway; Bass Lake Road and Sherborne Ave; West Broadway and 55th Ave. Flashing yellow arrows are surprisingly expensive, requiring a whole hardware update. Hennepin County and city of Crystal are splitting the cost on this set. Thanks to Public Works for making this a priority!

On a different note, we ask you not to flush "flushable" wipes.  We approved a city code regulation "banning" the flushing of wipes. This really is an impossible code to enforce, but it communicates the dangers of these wipes to our infrastructure. Public Works employees actually have to pull them out from the sewer by hand, as they do not disintegrate like toilet paper. Here is a short video from Consumer Reports demonstrating the issue.

Congratulations to Mark Ray for receiving the American Public Works Association 2017 Myron Calkins Young Leader of the Year Award! Residents have reported high levels of satisfaction with Public Works since Mark took the reigns. He is considerate, professional, and deeply committed. We are so lucky to have you in Crystal, Mark. Learn about the award here.

Bass Lake Road Street Scape

Update here.

Crystal Resident Survey

It's still going on!  Give us your feedback here

Openings on Commissions

We are looking for volunteers! Commissions serve the Council and Community by providing information and guidance on various issues. Please check here for details.

In the Community

Diaper Drive

 

 

 

 

 

Run for Rocco

 

 

 

 

 

Coat Drive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waffle Breakfast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Order your Crystal flag here.We also have buttons and decals available for low cost. You can pick them up at City Hall. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That's all for now!  Thanks for reading!

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.

Work Sessions:

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!

newPlaygroundWe have neighborhood parks with a lot of potential and in need of TLC, and this is definitely something we would like to focus on as a Council.

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!

arborday2

 

Memorialday

 

 

 

 

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:

SooLineCommGarden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frolics Buttons and Button Registration for Prize Drawings

Crystal Airport Open House

Get ready for Night to Unite!

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.