Category Archives: West Metro Meeting Recap

City Meeting Recap – August 2015 (First Half)

This recap covers the Council Meeting on August 18, the EDA meeting on August 18, the West Metro Fire work session on August 12, and the two budget work sessions on August 6 and 13. August is when the budget process starts, and we have had two of the three budget work sessions so far.

Regular Work Session Highlights

  • Traffic - A citizen presented his concerns regarding traffic on Nevada Ave between 56th and 58th Ave.
  • Settlement – The council discussed a settlement regarding the assessments for phase 13 street reconstruction with two businesses.  This was approved at the council meeting later that evening.
  • Security Training – Chief Revering performed security training for the council.  If you listen to the work session we didn’t record that part.
  • West Broadway / 48th Ave Crossing – I covered this topic in detail during my last update.  We were looking at options for a crossing that needs to be reconstructed if the light rail goes through.  I’m happy to report that we have a solution that seems to meet the approval of the neighborhood (including a retired traffic engineer that lives nearby), the city staff, and the county.  The county has backed off their position on accelerating the turnback of West Broadway and we have that in writing.
  • Utilities – Another topic I discussed in detail (probably too much detail) in my last update- the council reviewed two proposed versions of a new (new) ordinance about undergrounding of utilities.  Still leaning toward voting against this one.

Council Meeting Highlights

  • Awards and Appearances – We had the presentation of several awards and a few appearances at the beginning of the meeting.  That’s what the pictures above are from.  Apologies to all for me being a terrible photographer.  Awards were presented to 1) Crystal PD from New Hope PD for Crystal’s assistance during the council chamber shooting earlier this year 2) Officer Tim Tourville for being the DWI All Star for the third year in a row 3) Sergeant Brandon Dorr and Officer Julie Severson for their award from the Northstar Council for excellence in the Police Explorers Post.  The Post advisors won an award, but the Post also won Post of the year. Very impressive! 4) The Parks Department won an award for the fall Program Brochure.  5) We had an appearance from the Ride for Freedom Club who presented a check to Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, and 6) Mayor Adams presented a Commendation for Susan Carstens.
  • Point Of Sale Inspections – The council voted 5-1 to approve the second reading of an ordinance repealing the requirement that the city inspect your house before you can sell it.  We heard from several members of the community at the meeting.  One was opposed and the remainder of those who spoke were supportive of the change, including two long term residents of Crystal who are also Realtors, one who has been selling real estate since 1977.  I always appreciate hearing thoughts from Crystal residents on items that are before the council.  The council received quite a bit of feedback on this change, most in support of the change and a few concerns about safety and maintaining the quality of our housing stock, which are certainly valid concerns.  However I continue to believe we have enough tools in the toolkit to manage these concerns without this ordinance.
  • Miscellaneous – We approved the installation of Yield Signs at 48th and Maryland and a fuel contract with West Metro Fire (see below).

EDA Meeting – Only one item on the agenda, the approval of the authorization of a sale for one EDA owned lot at 45th and Yates.

West Metro Fire

There was a joint work session that included both the New Hope and Crystal Councils and then a special meeting and work session after that. (All on August 12).

  • Check In – The first work session with both councils was our annual check in where we get an update on West Metro and both councils have the opportunity to ask questions and check in with each other.
  • Grievance Procedure – At the meeting the board discussed updating the grievance procedure.  The board recently received a complaint from a fire fighter and I believe it exposed flaws in the existing procedures.  The HR departments of Crystal and New Hope will be reviewing past complaints and the existing procedure to recommend updates.  We’ll be discussing at a future meeting.  It’s critical that all West Metro Employees feel there is a process in place that is fair, and that the process is followed properly.
  • Fuel – The West Metro Board approved a fuel contract with Crystal.  West Metro currently buys their fuel from Robbinsdale Schools but will be getting it from the new Crystal Public Works Facility once that opens.
  • Long Range Planning – The board held its first work session dealing with long range planning.  This was an overview of the history of the district with some information about changes over time.  There will be several more work sessions where we dig into specific aspects of the District and discuss where we should be going in the future.

Budget Work Sessions – As I mentioned above, the budget process starts in August.  We have had two work sessions so far, the first to discuss the operating budget and the second to discuss the capital plan.  There is another work session tonight.

The preliminary levy will be set at the September 1 meeting, which means we’ll set the levy amount that we can’t go higher than.  The number can be decreased later this year.

I will have more thoughts on the budget process as we go along.  Right now my focus is absorbing the numbers, listening to the city staff, and asking lots of questions.

In the Community

  • Night To Unite was August 2. I got to 7 or 8 (I lost count) parties across Ward 2.  Many thanks to Officer K for carting me around.  It was great to see so many people out and involved in the community.  My favorite part of going around to the various parties is observing the different traditions each neighborhood has.
  • I made it to the Crystal Lions Corn Feed on August 8, but I only ate 2 pieces of corn, which is pretty weak.
  • I distributed about 200 copies of my first newsletter in the Lee Park neighborhood.  I still hope to get to a few more neighborhoods before the snow comes.

In the Community – Upcoming Events

  • The city is conducting a resident survey as part of the State Performance Measurement Program.  It’s short and anonymous. Take it here.
  • Beyond the Yellow Ribbon is hosting a “glow golf” tournament on September 3. I’m thinking about doing this because maybe playing in the dark will improve my golf game.
  • The city is hosting a Traffic Symposium/Open House Thursday September 10 at the community center from 5:30 – 7:30 PM.  Come learn about traffic control and transportation in Crystal, share your concerns about traffic, and share your thoughts about potential changes to the overnight parking ordinance.
  • The ribbon cutting for the new public works facility is September 16 from 5-7 pm (5001 W Broadway).  The actual ribbon cutting with the big scissors and tape is at 6.
  • Battle of the Badges Blood Drive August 26.

The next council meeting is September 1. There is a budget work session tonight.

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.


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.

West Metro Fire-Rescue Meeting Recap, February 18, 2015

The West Metro Fire-Rescue District Board of Directors met on February 18, 2015.  I was appointed to be Crystal’s representative on the West Metro board earlier this year, and this was my first meeting.

The meeting kicked off in a fun way- with the swearing in of 9 new firefighters and one new lieutenant (pictured above).

After that we headed back into the meeting room to get the meeting started.

We first dealt with some old business- things that were discussed at the end of last year before I became a director.  We passed a revision to the by-laws that was made redundant by recent changes to the joint powers agreement, accepted the chief’s 2015 goals for the department, and discussed how the department will allocate donations it receives from the West Metro Relief Association.  The Relief Association has a charitable wing that earns revenue from charitable gambling (and other sources), which is in turn sometimes donated to the department.  For instance, the Relief Association donated $7,500 to the department at Wednesday’s meeting.  The discussion was about where the donated money would be allocated, and a few accounts were identified for those funds.

Next we went on to new business- approving the purchase of a new Chevy Tahoe to replace an old Ford Expedition, approving the purchase of some furniture for sleeping quarters for when firefighters spend the night at the station (during extreme cold weather or when they need to be on standby for major events), and the purchase of some iPads which will replace old laptops that are at the end of life.

The only item on the agenda that generated any significant discussion among the directors was the next item, which is a plan to replace 3 part time fire inspectors with one full time inspector.  The department has had turnover in their part time inspector ranks and feels this will be mitigated by going to a full time inspector instead.  I had concerns with this approach on two fronts- 1) that we are trading 72 hours per week of inspection time for 40 hours, and that 2) the cost went up to do so, based on an increase in wages, benefits and pension for full time employees.

The chief felt that the increase in productivity and decrease in expense based on lack of turnover would justify the new plan.

In the end it seemed that I was the only director who had any reservations, and the item ended up passing .  I did end up voting in the affirmative, as I didn’t feel I had enough information to vote against the measure, and decided to trust the judgement of department management on this issue.

Next we moved on to preliminary discussion about the 2016 budget.  Although it’s only February, the West Metro budget needs to be started now, because it must be approved by the councils of both New Hope and Crystal, and that needs to be done before the cities can work on their budgets.

So we’ll be discussing the budget in more detail at the next meeting.

One thing that I need to mention is the fifth annual “Firefighters Fighting Hunger” food drive.  It will be held on March 21 this year.

Last year our firefighters collected enough food and cash to provide over 10,000 meals! Please see this link for more details including where to drop off food.

West Metro’s board meets every other month, so the next meeting is April 8 at 6:30 PM at First Station 3 in New Hope (next to New Hope city hall).