West St. Paul City Council meeting

City Council Recap: Jan. 25, 2021

We provide these West St. Paul City Council recaps with your support.

The West St. Paul City Council heard from residents about an ongoing racial harassment issue, appointed citizens to committees, and covered a number of other topics.

Racial Slurs and Threats

An article in the Pioneer Press last week (which we also reported on) exposed a racial harassment issue in West St. Paul. Daryl and Christine Morrison, the target of these racial slurs and threats, spoke during citizen comments, expressing their frustration with a lack of response and follow up from the police department. The incidents happened five times last spring, then again twice last week. There have now been two more incidents in the last 24 hours.

The Morrisons raised a number of issues and wanted to see accountability. Mayor Dave Napier cut them off after several minutes and expressed sorrow that this was happening but reiterated his confidence in the police department. He noted that the Public Safety Committee will be looking at this issue next week. Council Members Lisa Eng-Sarne, John Justen, and Robyn Gulley all spoke in support of the Morrisons.

Committee Appointments

The City Council made appointments to several committees and commissions, a process that’s always a little confusing and complex. The Planning Commission was straight forward since the mayor makes appointments and the Council just approves.

Mayor Napier appointed the following people to Planning Commission:

  • Maria Franzmeier (reappointment)
  • Samantha Green (reappointment)
  • Tim Haubrich
  • Lisa Stevens (reappointment)

Council Member Eng-Sarne noted that Haubrich is currently serving on the Charter Commission. City Attorney Kori Land said there’s no prohibition from serving on more than one committee.

The Environmental Committee and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee were less straight forward thanks to confusion in the process, the redacted names that required voting by number, applicants applying for multiple committees, and tie votes. Voting happened during the Open Council Work Session (OCWS) by private vote with no discussion of the applicants. Council Member Dick Vitelli opted not to vote until there was a tie and then weighed in.

Another wrinkle where council members have the option of nominating someone from their ward threatened to overturn the process, but finally the following appointments were made:

Environmental Committee:

  • Nicholas Hager
  • Lauren Hazenson
  • Ken Paulman

Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee:

  • Bonnie Bellows (reappointment)
  • Sara Blair
  • Kelly Gibbons
  • Kelly Hagler

The good news is there were a number of applicants, which means a lot of people are willing to serve. Congratulations to the new members and thanks to the outgoing members for their service.

Other Items:

  • Sewers: For fans of inflow and infiltration (I/I), representatives from the Met Council made a presentation during the OCWS to talk about the progress West St. Paul has made in keeping clean water out of the sewer system. The Met Council noted a 40% reduction in I/I in the main portion of the city, which shows our program is working well.
  • Sidewalk: During the OCWS the Council discussed the potential of adding a new sidewalk on Bidwell between Marie and Crusader as part of a 2022 project for Crusader. It will cost in the range of $100,000, though the Council was supportive of this effort to add more sidewalk and improve safety and walkability.
  • Town hall meetings: Virtual town hall meetings are tentatively planned for Thursday, February 11th from 1-3 p.m., Wednesday, February 24th from 6-8 p.m., and Saturday, February 27th from 10 a.m.-Noon. There will be an online survey component and a chance for people to call in with comments.
  • Car wash: Crew Car Wash, proposed for the former Bakers Square location, came up for a public hearing and was approved unanimously with no public comment.
  • Definition of family: An updated definition of family that includes domestic partnerships had a public hearing and was approved 5-1, with Council Member Vitelli voting no (presumably based on debate from the last meeting).
  • Financial update: The city’s Financial Director Char Stark gave a presentation on where the city is at financially, especially in terms of addressing debt and the progress that has been made in recent years.
  • Thompson Avenue: The city is moving forward with a proposal to shift control of Thompson Avenue from the county to the city. Known as a turnback, the agreement outlines specific improvements the county will pay for before the transfer of jurisdiction, as well as a lump sum payment to cover future road improvements.
  • EDA bylaws: The Economic Development Authority (EDA) changed their bylaws to make the city manager the executive director of the EDA. Previously the city’s community development director was in that role and reported directly to the EDA and not the city manager. This clears up that chain of command issue and ensures that all city staff report to the city manager and the city manager in turn reports to the City Council and EDA.
  • EDA update: The EDA meeting also included an annual report, which gives a helpful update on economic development across the city. The report lists a development projects in progress, including ones we’ve long known about (e.g., Hy-Vee—we’re told construction will begin this spring and finish this year) and others we haven’t heard details about (e.g., Burger King—there are plans to demolish the existing building and construct a larger Burger King).
  • ROCC: During citizen comments, Kimetha “KaeJae” Johnson” made several announcements for the Residents of Color Collective (ROCC), noting that they’ve started a mental health initiative, are doing a monthly supply drive, and are hoping to set up community fridges to address hunger.
  • Bond sale: The city’s coming sewer projects are funded with a bond sale of $2,275,000 with a true interest rate of 1.03%
  • Translation: The Council ran out of time to discuss translation during the OCWS. That issue was pushed back to the next meeting.

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: EDAOCWS and regular City Council.

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