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The West St. Paul City Council held a series of public hearings, passing ordinances on catalytic converter theft, fraudulent gift cards, commercial vehicle parking, a marijuana moratorium, and more. They also discussed park cleanup and the Bike & Pedestrian Plan.
Bike & Pedestrian Plan Update
The Council heard a presentation during the Open Council Work Session (OCWS) on the city’s update to the decade old Bike & Pedestrian Plan. The initial report includes a number of recommendations, but it’s not final yet and there will be another round of community input.
Safety has been the biggest concern voiced by residents. Over half of residents said they would bike and/or walk more if there were better facilities in West St. Paul. One of the big changes from the previous plan is more emphasis on off-street trails.
You can still give feedback through the online survey and the map where you can note specific issues will return later this week.
After complaints at the last City Council meeting, Council discussed park maintenance during OCWS, focusing on three problems of garbage, locked bathroom doors, and vandalism. City Manager Nate Burkett addressed a number of the complaints, explaining that locked bathroom doors happened on a single day and were the result of a software issue. It was corrected and it shouldn’t happen again. The bulk of the discussion focused on the staff shortage issue that results in staff not being able to keep up with the garbage piling up as the busiest parks.
Burkett laid out a number of options and price tags, including sticking with the status quo, increasing pay for seasonal workers (potential total cost of $14,400), assigning police during peak vandalism hours (price ranges up to $48,000), and buying a mobile camera unit to combat vandalism ($70,000; something likely to be in the 2023 budget).
Council wanted action and approved immediate implementation of the low-cost measures, and working more expensive proposals into the budget for 2023.
Other Items on the Agenda
- Public hearings: There were six public hearings during the regular City Council meeting and no residents spoke during any of them:
- Edibles: The Council approved a marijuana moratorium stopping the expansion of hemp and CBD products while the city develops regulations. The moratorium was reduced from 12 to six months.
- Catalytic converters: The city approved an ordinance to address catalytic converter thefts. The ordinance limits sales and possession, which gives the police power to take action when the pull someone over and see a catalytic converter in the back seat.
- Mayor/Council salary increase: The Council unanimously approved a 3% salary increase for the next two years, effective starting in 2023. It’s comparable to city staff salary increase.
- Truck parking: Back in April, Council discussed an ordinance to limit large commercial trucks parking in residential areas. This was approved. Council Member Lisa Eng-Sarne noted she’s received more complaints about this topic over the past three years than anything else.
- Gift cards: Another item from April addressed fraudulent gift card usage by requiring retailers to verify ID. The police department is generally investigating a dozen of these type of cases at a time and a similar ordinance in Shakopee reduced annual cases to two. Retailers responded positively to the change. This only impacts the sale of third-party gift cards.
- Sidewalk snow removal: Assessment for Robert Street snow removal were approved.
- Rezoning: Council approved final rezoning for the proposed Thompson Square townhome project on a 5 to 1 vote, changing the zoning from more to less dense. Council Member Dick Vitelli voted against the rezoning, citing his feeling that the project is too dense—even though this vote does make the zoning less dense.
- Expansion: An 18-by-47-foot expansion was approved for St. George Church to expand their sanctuary to accommodate a larger altar space.
- Consent: Council did approve a couple interesting items in the consent agenda:
- Reorganization: The city is reorganizing the Community Development department to add staff and offer better service, as discussed at the previous meeting.
- Robert Street: Watch for more construction on Robert Street as the city will be adjusting the depth of manhole covers and valves after MnDOT did work last year without coordinating with the city. The lack of coordination will cost West St. Paul about $70,000. Robert Street will see single lane closures in each direction for a couple weeks in August.
You can watch the City Council and OCWS meetings online.
Learn more about how city council works with our Guide to West St. Paul City Council.
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