Tonight’s West St. Paul city council meeting included procedural business, information, and a ranting resident. The preceding Open Council Work Session (OCWS) was the more informative and productive meeting of the night.
Mayor Dave Napier was absent this evening, so Council member Dick Vitelli served as mayor pro tem.
Interim Police Chief Brian Sturgeon reminded residents about emergency alert notifications the police department uses to let residents know about active shooters, missing persons, or other dangerous or emergency situations. The system can send automated calls and texts within a set radius, allowing officers to notify a neighborhood of a missing person, for example.
While the system is used infrequently, Sturgeon gave an example of when it was used last night for a situation calling for residents to shelter in place.
Land lines are automatically registered, but you can also self-register a cell phone, email, or other number.
Sturgeon also reminded residents that now is a good time to get on the city’s notification system for snow emergencies and avoid having your car towed.
Another hot topic during OCWS was sidewalk assessments. Currently new sidewalks are assessed 100% to property owners, a policy none of the current council members seem to support. Most seem to want to change the policy to make the city budget cover new sidewalks, spreading the cost of improving the city’s walkability throughout the city.
Everybody in the city benefits from sidewalks, so everyone in the city should help pay for them.
That’s the argument, but making it work within the city budget is another matter. Most likely the money would come from increased property taxes.
State Senator Matt Klein and Representative Rick Hansen appeared at the OCWS to coordinate legislative priorities with the council. The biggest item is critical wastewater infrastructure, primarily a pumping station as well as continued support for inflow and infiltration (I/I) improvements.
Police HQ Renovation
City council also heard about plans for the police headquarters renovation, a $1.1 million project that if approved will likely begin in December 2019. While Interim Chief Sturgeon described it as a “band aid” measure, it will bring a lot of necessary improvements to the building and the police force is excited about the changes.
- Adopt-a-Drain: Council member Lisa Eng-Sarne noted that city residents can now participate in the Adopt-a-Drain program. You can sign up online to clean up a drain in your neighborhood and help keep trash and debris from going into lakes, streams, and rivers.
- Outstanding Properties: Five more properties were recognized with Outstanding Property Awards, making for 10 such recognitions in one year. If you know of an impressive property that needs to be recognized, you can nominate them using this form.
- Resident Rant: During citizen comments, a resident went on a 10-minute rant ranging from the proposed apartment complex at the former K-mart site to the supposedly empty city parks (fact check: not true) to ever increasing taxes. At one point he asked what happened to a previous mayor who cut the ribbon at the dome and then disappeared, going on about elected officials who spend our tax dollars. Later in the meeting, said former Mayor John Zanmiller took to the podium to explain where he went—which included getting run over by a Cadillac Escalade and fighting cancer. He also commended the council on their work, noting “You do what you believe to be in the best interest of the city… this is not an easy job.”
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.