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West St. Paul City Council approved new sidewalk on Bidwell Street over neighbor opposition and heard about a levy increase from South Metro Fire.
About a dozen neighbors showed up at the City Council meeting to speak out against proposed sidewalk on Bidwell Street between Marie and Crusader. The $110,000 project is coming up because the adjacent Crusader Avenue will be reconstructed in 2022 with the addition of a new sidewalk and it’s efficient to do Bidwell at the same time.
Neighbors argued that the sidewalk is unnecessary and having to clear snow was an undue burden. Three people spoke in favor of the sidewalks, arguing that they would be safer and more accessible than walking in the street.
City Council members pointed to the consistent demands for walkability in every community input survey, the efficient construction timeline (it’s not a question of simply spending this money elsewhere), and the fact that in the past these sidewalk segments prove popular once they’re built.
Council Member Dick Vitelli, in his typical direct style, said that many of these older neighbors are “circling the drain like me” and the properties will soon turn over to younger families who will want the sidewalks. Later he added that the sidewalks would increase the property value when they decide to sell. His larger point, while not made explicitly, is that this is a long-term decision for the future of the city and doesn’t just impact the current neighbors.
Ultimately, Council voted unanimously to move forward with sidewalk on Bidwell.
Ironically, Bidwell sidewalk originally came up in 2016 when Bidwell Street was redone. At the time, neighbors also came out in opposition and City Council voted 4-1 to approve the sidewalk, but it was vetoed by then Mayor David Meisinger.
Former Council Member John Bellows was among the neighbors who came out to oppose the sidewalk. He also opposed it in 2016, but abstained in that vote because he lived on Bidwell.
South Metro Fire Levy Increase
During the Open Council Work Session (OCWS), South Metro Fire presented their plan to raise their EMS taxing district levy and add three more staff positions. The $550,000 levy has been in place since 2012, but couldn’t be increased without state legislature approval. Legislation passed this year removed the levy cap.
Since 2008, South Metro’s calls have increased 46%, EMS transports have increased 192%, and staffing has only increased 6%. If approved by the South Metro Fire Board, the levy will increase from $550,000 to $825,000 starting in 2022. That works out to $20 for a home with a tax value of $165,000.
Other Items on the Agenda:
- Renaissance implementation: During OCWS Council discussed several measures to further implement some of the Robert Street Renaissance Plan recommendations, including standardizing setbacks, limiting parking that can abut Robert Street, and reduce parking minimums by 50% for properties near Robert Street. This was a preliminary conversation and the changes will come before the Planning Commission and City Council as official changes in the future.
- Closed session: The OCWS had a closed session to discuss Minnesota Department of Human Rights litigation from 2017. We still haven’t heard details about what the litigation entails.
- Public hearing: Assessments for Robert Street snow removal were approved unanimously with no one speaking during the public hearing.
- Vacating Kruse Street: A leftover right of way on Augustana Lutheran Church property is being vacated and the first step moved forward tonight.
- Summer Fun Fest donation: The South Robert Street Business Association donated $10,000 to the upcoming Summer Fun Fest on August 14.
- City clerk: West St. Paul welcomes new City Clerk Nicole Tillander, who will officially start at 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 the OCWS and City Council meetings online.
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As a resident on Bidwell street and in opposition to a new sidewalk, I am very disappointed with the decision of the city council.
Their actions supported the idea that community input means nothing to them as they have deaf ears and have predetermined decisions as what they are going to do.
This council is inexperienced except for one who is “circling the drain”, is intimidated by their peers thus cannot make individual decisions. They are like Ducks following their mother.
Comments from the mayor and decisions made is proof that whatever the mayor and ancient one recommend, the council goes along with.
In conclusion, our city council is very weak.
George: Thanks for commenting. Though the idea that this Council just follows whatever Napier and Vitelli say is simply untrue. You can read through our archived City Council recaps for proof, but a recent example would be the union resolution in April when Vitelli and Napier were strongly opposed but the rest of the Council passed it anyway. Napier even threatened a veto on that one (though didn’t follow through). Vitelli especially has been an island of opposition on several issues lately, including relaxing restrictions on tattoo shops, No Mow May, and expanding the Charter Commission.
Far from quietly following, this Council is vocal about advocating for change.