Tag Archives: Special Assessment

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.

 

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.