Week in Review – April 2015, Week 2

The Crystal City Council had three work sessions, a council meeting, and an EDA meeting during the second week of April, 2015.  In addition, there was a West Metro Fire Board meeting on Wednesday the 8th.

I’m continuing to play around with the format of my recaps to see what works best, so here goes.

Work Session Highlights

  • Blue Line Technical Issues – We met with Blue Line staff to discuss a report regarding some technical issues with the station that would be located in Crystal.  I had, and still have, serious concerns about the traffic impact that the Blue Line would bring to Crystal, especially in light of recent developments with freight rail.  The report from the Blue Line team did not adequately address my concerns.  This will be an ongoing process.
  • Phase 14 Street Reconstruction – We met with engineers to discuss the cost of the Phase 14 street reconstruction project.  This is happening in the north part of the city and is part of the ongoing street reconstruction program.  Costs are in line with what was expected.  Residents affected directly by this project are receiving communication from the city about what they need to do and when.
  • MAC Park – In what was the highlight of the week, a group of citizens came in and gave a presentation about MAC Park and what they would like to see done in the park in the short and long term.  It was really cool to see an organized group of citizens come in and have a very productive conversation with their elected officials.  They even brought a friend from Germany who wanted to see what an American city council was like!  We will be connecting them with the Parks commission to ensure their feedback is incorporated into the long range plan for the parks.
  • Water Main Funding – As you’re probably aware, we have a water main that needs emergency repairs.  It’s the one that created sinkholes in Robbinsdale twice in two years.  The pipe is currently not being used and we’re running without a backup.  We share our water system with New Hope and Golden Valley.  Our share of the cost to repair the main is about $1.5 million, and because this pipe was not expected to need replacement for many more years, we don’t have the $1.5 million in the bank saved up for this repair.  We do have money in other city funds so that we can essentially loan ourselves the money for the repair, but then we have to replenish these funds.  The logical place to come up with the additional funding is through an increase in water usage fees.  We’re currently looking at a few plans regarding how large the increase needs to be to cover the costs in a reasonable amount of time.  Stay tuned.
  • Advisory Commissions – We had the first of what will most likely be many conversations about how advisory commissions work in Crystal, which ones work, which ones don’t (and why), what the role of commissions is, and what this should all look like in the future.  We have homework, and are scheduling the next round of talks soon.  Bottom line, we want to make sure we have a clear understanding of the roles of commissions in our city, where our needs are, and make sure we’re meeting those needs.  Council member Dahl has done a ton of research on this topic in comparing what Crystal does to other cities, and in researching the history of various commissions.  In addition, Mayor Adams and I had a meeting this week in Shakopee, which has a very successful commissions program, to see what we could learn from them.

Council Meeting Highlights

  • Board of Appeal and Equalization Meeting – we held a Board of Appeal and Equalization Meeting, which is the first place you need to go if you want to appeal your property’s valuation or classification.  I wrote about that here.  We didn’t have any citizens petition the board directly this year.
  • Blue Line Committees – We appointed two citizens and two business representatives to two new committees created for the Blue Line project.  We had many great applicants for these positions.  We appointed John Slama and Denny Walsh as Crystal’s representatives to the Blue Line Extension Business Advisory Committee, and Justin Youngbluth and Gene Bakke as our representatives to the Community Advisory Committee.
  • Three Rivers Park Trail – We were presented with a resolution in support of Three Rivers applying for a grant from Hennepin County to complete the Bassett Creek Regional Trail.  Although this project has been going on for many years, this is the first time many members of the council have ever been involved with it, or have had to take a vote on it.  After some discussion with Three Rivers Park staff we voted to continue the motion until the next meeting so we had time as a council to engage with residents about the project before taking a vote.  In addition, council member Parsons and I have a meeting with Three Rivers next week to get some more information about the project.  We’ll take a final vote at either the next council meeting or the one after that.
  • Becker Park Improvements – We approved funding for cleaning and painting of the building at Becker Park, and for resurfacing of the tennis courts.  There was $75,000 in the budget this year for a new fence, but the fence ended up only costing about $30,000 (we were able to reuse the old poles).  With all three projects we are still under the $75k that was in the budget.

EDA Highlights

  • Lot Sales – We held two public hearings regarding sales of EDA owned lots to builders.  There were no public comments and both sales were approved.  That’s two more brand new houses on formerly empty lots in Crystal!
  • Lot Acquisition – We authorized staff to begin the process of acquiring a lot in Crystal that is currently owned by the County so the EDA can redevelop it.  If we acquire it, the lot could be used for either commercial purposes (a small office building) or for single family homes.

West Metro Fire Board

  • Capital Purchases – We approved the purchase of capital equipment that was in the budget for this year including a garage door, an air compressor, and turn out gear for the newly hired firefighters.
  • Budget – West Metro’s budget process starts very early because it needs to be approved by both the New Hope and Crystal city councils and figured into the city budgets.  The preliminary budget looks like a $67,000 increase which is about 3.4%.  Crystal would pay about half of that.  Budget talks will continue.  The budget must be approved by July 31.
  • Strategic Planning – The board discussed scheduling work sessions to complete strategic planning for West Metro.  We haven’t started the strategic planning yet- at this point we’re talking about how to develop the process for developing the strategic plan.  No word on if we’ll need a strategic plan for that.  I kid.  (Sort of.)  It’s important that there is clear vision for West Metro, but the added bureaucracy that comes with a shared department and the challenges of wrangling players from two cities is becoming very apparent.

The next council meeting is April 21, which also includes citizen input time.

You can watch the video of the council meeting here and find the agendas and meeting notes here.  Audio recording of work sessions can be found here. Check the city calendar for updated meeting dates, locations and times.

And for a different take on the meetings, check out council member Parson’s site.

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