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The West St. Paul City Council passed the 2021 budget and tax levy, reviewed improvements for Thompson Park, and passed liquor license rebates for 2021. Thanks to COVID-19, the meeting was closed to in-person attendance, and broadcast live with call-in available for public comments.
The City Council approved the final 2021 budget and tax levy as well as the conceptual 2022 budget. The total budget is nearly $46 million, a big increase from 2020’s $33 million, however most of that increase is capital expenses that rely on third-party funding sources. The actual operational budget only increases 3.73%.
The tax levy equates to a 5.61% increase. For comparison’s sake, here are recent tax levy increases:
- 2021: 5.61%
- 2020: 6.51%
- 2019: 9.96%
- 2018: 10.9%
- 2017: 6.33%
- 2016: 4.77%
No one commented during the public hearing.
Thompson Park Improvements
Most of the Open Council Work Session (OCWS) focused on Dakota County’s planned improvements to Thompson Park. A presentation detailed the many improvements, primarily to the playground, picnic area, and around Thompson Lake.
The project is expected to begin in May 2021 with construction completed by November 2021. Full details of the improvement plan can be found on Dakota County’s site.
- Recognition: Outgoing Council Members Anthony Fernandez and Bob Pace were recognized for their service. Mayor Dave Napier presented them with framed pictures and welcomed Robyn Gulley and Julie Eastman, who will replace them in January (as well as Lisa Eng-Sarne, who was elected to a full term after being appointed in 2019).
- Rebated liquor licenses: The Council made a last-minute change to the agenda to add rebated liquor licenses. With the Governor Tim Walz’s emergency orders closing bars and restaurants to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the city will rebate on-site liquor licenses for any period of time in 2021 that bars and restaurants are unable to serve liquor due to the emergency orders. Walz hasn’t yet announced an extension to the closure, though it’s expected any day now. The Council wanted to act proactively and give bars and restaurants some piece of mind.
- Drugged driving: The biggest issue West St. Paul Police deal with is traffic and driving while intoxicated (DWI) has been an increasing problem, primarily due to “drugged driving.” Those cases require an inordinate amount of officer time to process blood and urine evidence (six hours was cited), so the city has been awarded a grant to hire a DWI enforcement officer.
- Logo: During the OCWS, Council briefly discussed the city’s logo, branding, and tagline. Back in 2014 there was an attempt to redesign the logo, complete with a contest. The results weren’t ideal and the winning logo wasn’t used. At this point the cost of changing the logo is prohibitive and Council is happy with the existing logo. Discussion focused on reworking the branding and coming up with a new tagline (no one is happy with the minimally used “Close to it all” tagline), which is substantially cheaper. The current star logo with the city’s initials was the result of a 1989 design contest and the work of Inver Grove Heights designer John Baskerville.
- Angie Craig: Congresswoman Angie Craig got a double shoutout during Council comments, with Mayor Napier thanking Craig for the opportunity to moderate Craig’s recent townhall and Council Member Lisa Eng-Sarne attending the Citizen’s Climate Lobby with Craig and West St. Paul resident Claudia Egelhoff, supporting the climate resolution passed by City Council last year.
- Keep it local: Speaking of the federal government, Council Member Dick Vitelli noted that the electoral college confirmed Joe Biden as president-elect and pointed out that we find ways to come together on the local level to get things done, unlike Washington. Vitelli then said he hoped President Donald Trump would concede the election and stop the conspiracy theories, noting that Attorney General Bill Barr had just resigned. Then Mayor Napier interrupted, urging Vitelli to “keep it local.” Vitelli responded that it all impacts us, before wrapping up his comments.
City Council meetings are currently held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m. (though there will only be one meeting in December due to the holidays). You can also watch these meetings online: OCWS and regular City Council.
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