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West St. Paul City Council recognized police officers and fire fighters for saving a life, approved a new parking lot design for Heritage, and had another closed session on the Hy-Vee property, among other business.
Heritage Parking Lot Reconstruction
Heritage ESTEM Magnet School is getting a new parent drop-off loop and redesigned main parking lot. ISD 197 is repaving many of their parking lots, but for Heritage they’re taking the opportunity to make larger improvements. The goal is to reduce the size of the parking lot and make the drop-off/pick-up time safer.
Council unanimously approved the changes with little discussion.
Saving a Life
Back in March, when Wendy Walberg missed a doctor’s appointment and couldn’t be reached by phone, her home healthcare nurse, Susan Hill, asked West St. Paul police officers to check in on her. When Officer Jose Marrero and Sergeant Phil Windschitl stopped by, they could hear a TV on inside the apartment but no one answered the door. They obtained a key an entered the apartment, finding Walberg asleep. South Metro Firefighters Tony Gutierrez and Mark Domann arrived on the scene and were concerned about Walberg’s status. They transported her to the hospital, where she stayed for 12 days.
“If it wasn’t for their actions, I would have died,” Walberg said. “I think they should be acknowledged and I want to say a heartfelt thank you for saving my life.”
A standard rental license approval took an interesting twist when Council Member Wendy Berry pulled it from the consent agenda for discussion. The item included approvals for a dozen rental licenses and Berry had questions about the license for 1028 Seminole Ave. after hearing repeated concerns. Council Member John Justen echoed those concerns, noting he’s heard more complaints about this property than any property in his ward.
City staff acknowledged that there have been problems with this property, but they’ve had productive conversations with the owner and issues were being resolved. They didn’t see justification for moving to a provisional license. The city attorney noted that without verified violations, the only option Council had was to approve the license.
Several Council members wanted to have a longer discussion about these kind of rental properties that are owned by large companies who own multiple properties they don’t maintain. Some members seemed to want to wait on approval until they could have that conversation.
Berry grudgingly voted yes, saying it wasn’t fair to the other license holders up for approval. Justen voted no and Council Member Robyn Gulley abstained. The rental licenses passed on a 4-1 vote (with one abstention), for a rare split Council vote.
Other Items on the Agenda
- Hy-Vee: The Economic Development Authority (EDA) held another closed meeting to discuss a purchase offer on the Hy-Vee property. There’s no pending offer yet, but the discussion is about whether or not to make an offer and under what terms. They also discussed a potential offer for 1619 Oakdale.
- TIF Boundary Expansion: Council and EDA approved a measure to expand the tax increment financing (TIF) district from a narrow corridor along Robert Street to the entire city. The move is recommended by the city’s financial advisor, Ehlers, and gives the city more flexibility in creating TIF districts and using TIF funds.
- Audit report: Council will heard the audit report during the Open Council Work Session (OCWS). Council Member Julie Eastman pointed out a detail in the report—the city issued 1,741 building permits in 2021, representing an increased market value of $142 million.
- Robert Street: Council also talked about Robert Street maintenance during the OCWS, including a pessimistic outlook for a potential business district to cover maintenance. They also talked about the potential of adding holiday lights to the median, a project that would first require running electrical. Assuming that can be completed, there’s still the cost of putting up lights. Public Works Director Ross Beckwith noted that Burnsville does a top-notch holiday display and it costs them around $80,000.
- Pride Month: Council proclaimed June to be LGBTQIA Pride Month.
You can watch the City Council, OCWS, and EDA meetings online. You can also watch the video recap from Ward 2 Council Members Robyn Gulley and John Justen.
Learn more about how city council works with our Guide to West St. Paul City Council.
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