West St. Paul City Council meeting

City Council Recap: Nov. 9, 2020

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City Manager Ryan Schroeder is retiring and residents came out to voice complaints about the Moreland Avenue reconstruction project. Other City Council business included future park plans and a historic proclamation.

City Manager Retirement

West St. Paul City Manager Ryan Schroeder has announced his retirement. During the Open Council Work Session (OCWS), the Council discussed a transition plan. Schroeder intends to stay on until a replacement is found. The Council has a few options for a search plan and will finalize those over the next two weeks and approve the final plan at the next City Council meeting.

Schroeder came to West St. Paul after nearly 20 years as the city administrator of Cottage Grove. He initially filled in as the interim city manager in West St. Paul in 2017 before being chosen for the full-time job. He replaced former city manager Matt Fulton, who was forced out after the 2016 election changed the make up of the City Council. Fulton later sued and settled with the city over comments about his performance compared to Schroeder.

Schroeder came out of retirement to take the job, so it’s not entirely surprising that he’s retiring after only a few years. Schroeder said much of the work he set out to do has been accomplished or is on the right track, and he felt like it was an appropriate time to finally retire. He has three grandkids he’s looking forward to spending more time with.

Moreland Avenue Reconstruction

The big road construction project next year is a $5.3 million reconstruction of Moreland Avenue from Delaware to Robert Street. The project will include narrowing sections of the street and filling in a sidewalk gap, which will help with traffic calming, storm water, safety, and connectivity. Affected homeowners are looking at an assessment capped at $7,400.

The City Council held a public hearing before moving into the finalization phase of the project. Six residents showed up in person to voice complaints and one called in to express support for sidewalks. Some concerns centered around a changing assessment policy for corner properties that may result in homes being assessed for multiple streets. When the assessment hearing comes up next fall, it’s likely City Council will give those homeowners a break. Other concerns cited the lack of parking, wanted sidewalk on the south side of Moreland, and questioned the wisdom of narrowing the street.

Mayor Dave Napier defended the design and emphasized the impact of sidewalks and connectivity. Ultimately Council approved the project, but wanted to incorporate community concerns as much as possible and tie in things like drain tiles or driveway lips that would resolve issues.

Other Items:

  • Park improvements: With the influx of park dedication funds coming in the next few years from development, the Council reviewed park improvement plans. There is an existing plan for $7 million in upgrades over the next 10 years. But that doesn’t mean new ideas couldn’t be considered, such as the perennial topics of pickleball and a skate park (the Parks & Recreation Committee will discuss the skate park idea at their next meeting on November 10) or a sledding hill at Marthaler with lights and a tow rope (which the city used to have—it opened 50 years ago).
  • Pond survey & Mud Lake: City staff completed a survey of the city’s 42 ponds and during the OCWS, Council discussed treatment options and specific improvements for Mud Lake. At this point more education and research is needed, though the city will continue to encourage residents on private ponds to pool resources for treatment.
  • Fundraising plan: During OCWS, Council discussed developing a plan for outside fundraising. This is an idea that’s often thrown around, but there’s never been a specific policy for who’s going to ask for money and how that would work.
  • Proclamation: For the first time the City Council recognized November as Native American Heritage Month.
  • Thanks: Council comments focused on thanks to election officials, City Manager Ryan Schroeder, and the completed art park project.

City Council meetings are currently held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m. You can also watch these meetings online: OCWS and regular City Council.

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