West St. Paul City Council

City Council Recap: March 8, 2021

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

The West St. Paul City Council had little on the regular meeting agenda, but did cover a few things during the Open Council Work Session (OCWS). In addition to approving a new committee appointment process, the city is moving forward with a Crusader Ave. construction project in 2022 and a new contract with the YMCA to run the city pool. A council member also took heat for recent comments at the virtual town hall.

Citizen Complaints

Recent comments from Council Member Dick Vitelli during one of the virtual town hall meetings prompted response from a couple residents during citizen comments. In response to a conversation about diversity and inclusion, Council Member Dick Vitelli pushed back: “All this talk of inclusiveness and diversity is starting to get to me because you make us sound like the City of West St. Paul has been run by a bunch of dinosaurs for the last 50 years.” He went on to argue that the city has “never been discriminatory” to women or minorities.

The residents argued that systemic sexism and racism clearly exist and rather than get defensive it’s something we all need to be aware of and work to overcome. Vitelli was not present at tonight’s meeting to respond.

Committee Appointment Process

The City Council has been reconsidering the committee appointment process since it went off the rails at the January 25 meeting. Tonight the Council approved a new process that will hopefully make things more transparent and clear.

The new process will separate reappointments from new appointments, with the Council first considering whether or not to reappoint any current members who want to continue to serve. Next the Council will consider new applicants and interview at least two applicants for each position. Council will vote on their top picks, and those will be forwarded on to an official Council meeting for approval. There’s also a stipulation that people can’t serve on two committees at once.

Other Items:

  • Survey results: The consent agenda includes the results from the recent town hall survey. Among the interesting numbers are also 15 pages of unfiltered comments from residents, which range from the instructive to the conspiracy-minded, and everything in between. Multiple council members noted how helpful the survey results were to the recent strategy session.
  • Pool contract: The YMCA has been running the city pool for a decade and the contract is being renegotiated. Thanks to COVID-19 and changes at the YMCA, their cost is going to go up and will have to be absorbed by the city, to the tune of about $25,000. City Council was OK with doing that in order to get the pool open, and some of that gap might be covered with CARES Act funds. There’s also agreement on ensuring West St. Paul residents pay the same or less than YMCA members for pool access.
  • Crusader reconstruction: OCWS included a presentation on the reconstruction of Crusader Ave. in 2022, complete with new sidewalk on the north side.
  • City manager interviews: The Council will be interviewing the three city manager finalists (one of the original four dropped out due to a medical emergency) on Friday and Saturday. Friday will include televised presentations from the candidates and the interviews will be Saturday (open to the public, but not televised).
  • Mental health: Police Chief Brian Sturgeon spoke briefly about the Vitals app, which can notify officers of mental health needs of residents when they come in close proximity. Town Square TV recently did a feature on the program:

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

We’re able to do these City Council recaps thanks to your support.

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