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First West St. Paul City Council meeting of the year! That means some official business and a packed consent agenda, but otherwise the night was pretty calm. Most of the interesting stuff happened during the Open Council Work Session (OCWS).
The City of West St. Paul recognized the West St. Paul Youth Athletic Association (WSPYAA) for their dedication and service to the kids. In the past the organization has offered a number of sports, but as those efforts have merged with other organizations, today the WSPYAA is focused on baseball.
WSPYAA is one reason why Harmon Park is so busy (contrary to the opinion of a certain citizen). Their youth baseball program has grown by 50% in the past five years. They see 1,200 people come to Harmon Park in one weekend for their tournaments.
“This is what builds strong communities,” said Mayor Dave Napier, as he congratulated WSYPAA and their president, Brad Shepherd, who was on hand to receive the award.
Registration for 2020 WSPYAA baseball is now open.
Empty Lot to Community Pollinator Garden
During the OCWS the Council discussed a proposal for a uniquely shaped community pollinator garden at the empty 1010 Dodd site.
“This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” Napier said. “We need this in our city.”
The proposal is meant to be temporary to accommodate future road realignment and turn an otherwise empty lot into an amenity. As planned the proposal will cost an estimated $23,000, though the city will be pursing grants, donations, and volunteer work to reduce that cost.
“We just talked about a $2.3 million project,” Council Member Anthony Fernandez said, referring to the ice arena expansion. “$23,000 is easy.”
Council members had a lot of questions and some reservations, but were willing to move the idea forward. The idea might even go beyond the Smith/Dodd intersection to other parks and open spaces in the city.
“Maybe we can implement this across the city, in various shapes and sizes,” suggested Council Member Lisa Eng-Sarne. “If we can do one of these and do it well—and low budget—we can replicate it.”
“I love this design,” said Council Member John Justen. “I want to see it in more places.”
Council Member Eng-Sarne gave a nod to Jade Pennig and Rebecca McCarty who headed up the subcommittee of the Environmental Committee that developed these plans.
Senator Matt Klein and Representative Rick Hansen attended the OCWS to give an update on legislative priorities for the coming session. Getting state money to upgrade critical wastewater infrastructure was the highest priority back in September.
The request will be included in the House bill, but the city hit a bump when Governor Tim Walz declined to include any local projects in his budget proposal. Walz did include money for the Public Facilities Authority (PFA), however West St. Paul could likely only get loans and the city is trying to avoid more debt.
“I wouldn’t give up hope,” Hansen said. There likely will be local projects in the final budget, it’s just a matter of whether not West St. Paul can get support in both the House and Senate.
Ice Arena Expansion
The OCWS included continued discussion of an ice arena expansion. Done in partnership with ISD 197 and Mendota Heights, West St. Paul would be looking at contributing $580,000 on the $2.3 million project.
“Do we have $580,000?” Council Member Wendy Berry asked.
“No,” City Manager Ryan Schroeder admitted, though it would be a 2021 or 2022 expenditure so it could be part of a levy increase. The improvements to the ice arena might also mean more lease and rental income that could offset the city’s expense.
- Mark your calendar: Upcoming city events include the Winter Fun Fest at Dodge Nature Center on February 22 and a trio of town hall meetings:
- March 11 at Harmon Park at 6 p.m.
- March 19 at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church at 1 p.m.
- March 21 at Wentworth Library at 10 a.m.
- Fats, oils, and grease (FOG): If you’ve ever wanted to see what fats, oils, and grease do to a sewer system, Ross Beckwith’s presentation on the FOG program included pictures of nearly blocked lines. Every two months we have to send someone down into the sanitary lift station to clean out FOG, so keeping that waste from getting into the sewer system will ultimately save the city money.
- Tunnel moves forward: The Economical Development Authority (EDA) approved a sale of a small strip of land to Dakota County that’s one more small step forward in getting the River-to-River Greenway tunnel completed. The remaining 1.5 acres will be sold to a developer to finish the townhome project. There are several interested developers and the project will result in 16 more townhomes by the library.
- Trail grant: Score another one for trails—West St. Paul received a $30,000 grant to conduct a feasibility study for trail/sidewalk improvements along Thompson and Oakdale.
- More money: And how about a $20,000 donation from the Coss Foundation to our Police Canine Program? Nice.
- Congrats to Chief Sturgeon: Council Member Berry noted that Police Chief Brian Sturgeon needs a new name plate (it still says “Lieutenant”) to reflect his new position and congratulated him.
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.
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