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This week’s West St. Paul city council meeting was packed with business, though not necessarily headline-worthy business. Tobacco compliance checks, platt approvals, refuse hauler time changes—lots of routine business. But also a couple good news items, including a social worker partnering with the police to address mental health issues and a new flag for Albert Park.
New Flag at Albert Park
The “smallest dedicated park” in the country, West St. Paul’s Albert Park, is getting a new flag. The Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Committee reached out to the South St. Paul VFW, who stepped up to donate a new, properly-sized U.S. flag. The park is also getting some other needed maintenance, including painting and repairing concrete and lighting.
“Can the flag be bigger than the park?” Mayor Dave Napier joked during the presentation of the flag. (If the typical flag flying at a Perkins Restaurant were flown in Albert Park, it likely would be bigger than the park.)
Police/Social Worker Pilot Program
In 2018 a man with a history of mental health issues fired a shotgun at three South St. Paul police officers, injuring two. That incident sparked the creation of a new pilot program that brings together South St. Paul, West St. Paul, and Dakota County.
South St. Paul police officer Derek Kruse, who was injured in that 2018 shooting, along with West St. Paul officer Jesse Mettner, work with Kalyn Bassett, a licensed clinical social worker with Dakota County Social Services. Together they can proactively address issues surrounding mental health, homelessness, and substance abuse.
“I think that allows all of us to do better work, to advocate for people more effectively, because the system is really challenging to navigate. I think it’s always better when all of us can understand the different perspectives and the different things involved and can look at how we can work together to do this better.”Kalyn Bassett
Their efforts have served 300 clients so far this year, including 118 in West St. Paul. Of those, only 46% had a previous connection to social services. That means they’re effectively connecting people to needed services and lessening the burden on 911.
“Only through open communication could such a tragedy be prevented again,” Kruse told the Pioneer Press.
- More flags: The South Robert Street Business Association donated new American flags to replace the current flags lining Robert Street. Look for those to go up soon.
- Police input: Several council members reminded the community that there’s still time to give input on the police chief hiring survey as well as the body camera policy.
- Pawn America is back: The pawn shop that used to be located on Robert Street in front of Menards and moved just south of 494 in Inver Grove Heights is coming back. They’re moving into the South Robert Plaza. They needed a conditional use permit (CUP) to expand an existing location that was only used for high-dollar transactions. Due to city ordinance passed after Pawn America left, there’s a very limited area where a pawn shop can locate in West St. Paul. The Planning Commission narrowly passed the CUP on a 4-3 vote over concerns that ordinance states a pawn shop can’t be within 800 feet of residential property. The new DARTS senior living facility is within 800 feet, but it’s zoned mixed use and not residential. The council approved the CUP unanimously.
- Ordinance tweaks: The inflow and infiltration (I/I) and earlier trash pick up (6 a.m.) ordinance changes went into effect (the first reading was last meeting, there was no discussion or public comment this time).
- Ordinance fun fact: If you want to park a camper or motorhome that’s more than 25 feet in length on your property, you need a special permit from the city council. Such a permit was approved this week as part of the consent agenda (items that are considered routine and passed in one motion with no discussion).
- Glow dash coming in September: The Open Council Work Session included a mid-year report on council initiatives, which is a good look at what the city has accomplished recently (in addition to the State of the City speech). Of the interesting items is a fun upcoming event: “West St Paul is partnering with Mendota Heights and South St Paul to hold the first annual light up the night ‘Glow Dash’ in September. This 1.36 mile dash is designed for all ages and abilities.”
City council meetings are open to the public and generally held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m. You can also watch this meeting online.
Thanks for this article. It’s good to hear directly from the officers. Would you consider exploring this from the perspective of the apartment renters? I’ve hear that a high portion of officer time is directed towards apartments and at the same time apartment renters are very reluctant to contact the police because of negative experiences. I’d like to know what the police department is doing to foster healthy connections with that part of our community.
Also, Dakota County has a 24 hour Crisis Response Unit staffed by licensed Social Workers. I’m wondering if the WSP police use them ?