West St. Paul City Council meeting

City Council Recap: June 14, 2021

Thanks to Southview Garden Center for their support.

The West St. Paul City Council started important conversations about police response to mental health and economic development strategy, as well as approved expansions to where liquor stores and tattoo shops can locate. They also approved a 2022 street reconstruction project over neighbor complaints.

Police & Mental Health

During the Open Council Work Session (OCWS), West St. Paul Police Chief Brian Sturgeon started a conversation about the police response to mental health. He made the analogy that prior to the 1960s the police transported injured people to the hospital, but then paramedics and ambulances were instituted to provide better care. Likewise there’s now a better way to respond to mental health challenges where police play a supporting but no longer primary role.

It used to be that dealing with mental health issues happened once a week. Now it happens a dozen times a day. Often that’s because 911 is answered 24/7. Something needs to change, both for better service and to better allocate resources.

Chief Sturgeon is looking for support to expand these efforts. It needs to happen at the county level and get support for funding from the Dakota County commissioners. It won’t happen quickly, but it needs to start moving forward.

Public Hearings

The City Council had three public hearings tonight:

Liquor Stores

The least controversial public hearing was whether or not to allow liquor stores to expand to the B2 zoning district. An existing liquor store that wants to relocate to the Doddway Shopping Center requested this change. No one from the public spoke, and the Council approved the measure unanimously.

Tattoo Shops

The slightly more controversial public hearing was whether or not to allow tattoo shops to expand to more places in the city. Currently they are extremely limited with an 800-foot buffer and the proposed change would drop that restriction entirely. There is still a limit of only two tattoo shops in the city.

One person spoke during this public hearing representing a business interested in moving to the Smith and Dodd area. but Council Member Dick Vitelli again voted no—though the measure still passed 5-1.

Crusader Avenue Reconstruction

The public hearing that did draw members of the public was the Crusader Avenue reconstruction project. This is the proposed street improvement project for 2022 and includes a complete rebuilt of Crusader from Bidwell to Robert Street as well as the Humboldt Avenue cul-de-sac. The $1.6 million project is happening thanks to sales tax funds. The pavement is in such poor condition it’s rated a zero by the city on their 100-point scale.

The project includes narrowing portions of the street to increase safety and reduce ongoing maintenance (while still allowing for parking), adding sidewalks to the north side, and doing needed water main improvements.

Public comment included complaints about narrowing the street, not wanting sidewalks, and home owner responsibility for sidewalk shoveling in the winter (two homes would have more than 200 feet of sidewalk to shovel). The agenda packet explained the benefits of narrowing the street, pointed to other streets of similar width, and listed more than a dozen properties in the city that also have 200 feet of sidewalk to shovel. There was also a petition opposing the project. A few residents did speak in favor of adding sidewalks.

Last month the Council briefly considered delaying the project to focus on other areas where residents weren’t resistant, but given the investment made so far they opted to stay the course.

Despite neighbor complaints, the Council unanimously approved the reconstruction project.

Other Items:

  • Juneteenth: The West St. Paul City Council officially recognized Juneteenth, a holiday on June 19 that celebrates the end of slavery. The Residents of Color Collective (ROCC) is holding a Juneteenth celebration and Freedom Walk sponsored by the city. ROCC presented a Juneteenth flag to the city that will be displayed on June 19.
  • Economic development: New City Manager Nate Burkett started a conversation with the Economic Development Authority (EDA) about a new strategy. Given the many major redevelopment projects underway (and the ouster of former Community Development Director Jim Hartshorn), it’s time to consider what’s next.
  • Vacating easement: The city vacated an easement between Curtice and Winona, a routine cleanup related to the recent sale of Marty’s Bar to the owners of Tappers. It’s soon to reopen as the North 40 Tavern.
  • City hall remodel: West St. Paul is looking to rehab city hall in 2022 or 2023, and the consent agenda included a proposal to engage an architect to formalize those plans. Look for more detail on these improvements in the future.
  • Ice arena: Sibley Area Youth Hockey Association donated $200,000 to the city for the future ice arena improvements. They also donated $3,000 to the West St. Paul Police.

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 EDA work session, OCWS and City Council meetings online.

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

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