The Crystal City Council had two work sessions, a Council Meeting, an EDA meeting, and a bus tour sponsored by the Parks Commission during May 2015 week 2 (week beginning May 3).
Work Session Highlights
- Charter Commission – The council met with three candidates for an open position on the city’s Charter Commission. The Charter Commission reviews potential changes to the city’s charter, which can kind of be thought of as the Constitution for the city. There were three applicants- two former council members, and a third who is currently a member of the Parks Commission. This commission is unique, in that the council doesn’t select the members, but instead the selection is done by a judge. The council still likes to meet with the applicants to learn a bit more about them and thank them for applying. We were informed earlier this week that the judge had selected Nancy LaRoche (the aforementioned Parks Commissioner) as the new Charter Commissioner, so congratulations to Nancy.
- Boulevards/Right-Of-Way – One of the most confusing things that I deal with, and something that I get a lot of questions on, is the right-of-way. Since she did such a good job of recapping this discussion, I’ll excerpt from my colleague Olga Parsons’ recap:
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).
This topic can be quite confusing, so if you have any questions, let me know.
- Boulevard Trees - We also briefly discussed trees that are located in the boulevard- so technically on city property, but for all intents and purposes in your front yard. This has been a hot topic of conversation, as Olga mentioned above. Our city staff, led by our new City Engineer, is working on a proposal to clarify the polices related to boulevard trees, so more to come on that.
- Water Main Repair Financing - I covered this about a month ago, but Crystal has to come up with an unplanned $1.5 million to repair the water main that runs under Robbinsdale. This is the pipe that has broken twice in two years and created sinkholes in our neighboring city. Several options were proposed, but the option that seemed to be preferred was a rate increase of $1 per 1000 gallons of water used to go into effect immediately, and then freezing water rates for 2 years. We’ll be covering the upfront cost by moving some money from the sewer fund to the water fund, and then gradually paying back the funds over the next few years. We looked at about 15 different proposals, and this one was the only one that didn’t put undue strain on the water fund. I also like the certainty of knowing that rates will stay steady for the next few years. We’ll be voting on the final plan to make it official at the next meeting.
- Commissions - The council is continuing our ongoing conversations about city commissions. The conversation will continue in about 2 weeks. I would like to stress that no decisions have been made on anything, and that I am seeking feedback from anyone with an opinion on the topic.
Council Meeting Highlights
- Pledge of Allegiance – I was contacted by Brian Lindahl, a Boy Scout who lives in Ward 2 and is working on a merit badge that requires him to discuss a current issue with an elected official. We discussed the proposed rail connection prior to the meeting, and I invited him to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance, which he skillfully did.
- Police Awards – Police Chief Stephanie Revering presented two awards- one to Officer Tim Tourville who received the MADD award for efforts to decrease drunk driving, and one to Officer Mason Barland who won the Meritorious Service Award from the MN Chiefs of Police Association. Congratulations to both!
- Alley Construction Project – We held the public hearing for this year’s alley reconstruction project, which is part of a long term project to reconstruct all of the alleys in the city. We heard from a few citizens during the public hearing. This project will come up for two more votes before it is complete.
- Three Rivers Trail – I’ll send you over to my colleague Elizabeth Dahl’s website for a recap of this, since and she did a great of summarizing what happened. Almost all of the trail will go through Ward 1, which Elizabeth represents.
EDA Meeting Highlights
- Only one item on the agenda- acceptance of an proposal by Novak-Flek to option a vacant lot for redevelopment. Novak-Flek has developed several lots in Crystal, and are entering into an option agreement (basically reserving the lot) to develop later.
On Wednesday, May 6 I joined the Parks Commission (and my wife, who currently chairs the commission) on a bus tour of eight of our city parks. The commission is working on a long range plan for our parks, and this tour was an opportunity for them to visit the parks together and share some of their vision with members of the council. The commission has a lot of work to do to ensure that our parks continue to meet the needs of our residents well into the future. I am excited to see the long range plan they come up with.
The next council meeting is May 19, and the next work session is Tomorrow (May 14).
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.