Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Committee presentation at West St. Paul City Council

West St. Paul City Council Recap: Sept. 12, 2022

Thanks to our members for enabling us to do these city council recaps. Join them and support neighborhood news in West St. Paul.

The West St. Paul City Council discussed a trail on Butler Avenue, fine appeals, and heard a presentation from Northern Dakota County’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon. The meeting also included discussion of the goals for the Parks and Recreation and Environmental committees, the city budget, and the school resource officer.

Trail on Butler

During the Open Council Work Session (OCWS), the council saw a presentation to remove parking on one side of Butler Avenue and add a trail. A great deal of preliminary work on the trail has already been done, with community surveys and open houses. During those surveys, safety was identified as a top need on Butler.

The proposed designs show a trail on the south side, then at Sperl it crosses to the north side. The trail would be multi-use for bikes and pedestrians. Parking would be eliminated on the south side, and trees would also need to be removed on the trail side. Lane widths would be reduced, hopefully resulting in slower speeds. The proposal is a $1.65 million project, with the majority of the costs paid for by Dakota County. It would be an 85/15 split, with the city being responsible for 15% of the cost. The city would also be responsible for snow removal on the trail.

Dakota County says this is a high priority project. If the city decides to move forward with the project, they would be looking at soliciting regional funds in 2026 and 2027.

The council liked the proposal and Mayor Napier said it was “well thought out” but also noted the challenge of trying to fit amenities into a fully-developed city. Council Member John Justen said the project seems to make sense, especially given the increased activity in the newly renovated Thompson Park.

Fine Appeals

During the August 22 City Council meeting, the council discussed various unpaid fines and assessments. All were approved except two, which were continued to this meeting. The city reached out to both property owners, and heard back from one and not the other. The resident on Annapolis Street could not attend and requested to push his case back until the next meeting. Mayor Napier said, after reviewing all of the background information relating to the assessments (regarding unsheltered storage for one and another for snow clearing), that he supported the fines. Council Member Dick Vitelli moved to keep the fines as is and Council Member Wendy Berry seconded. Council Member Vitelli stated, “Taxpayers are paying the bill and it’s not their fault. Someone’s got to pay the bill and I don’t want to pay the bill.” Council Member Justen expressed that the care of the property on Annapolis had gone up dramatically, and wondered if some of the issues were due to neighbors’ frustrations with the previous owners. Justen supported moving forward with fines against the Arion property and not the Annapolis property. The council voted to approve fines for both properties as is, with Council Members Robyn Gulley and Justen voting “no.” 

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon

Former City Council Member Ed Iago presented on behalf of Northern Dakota County’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon committee. Iago is the business liaison officer for Northern Dakota County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon. He began with an introduction to the program, which connects service members and their families with community support and resources. Iago stated, “[the military] never quits and gets the job done.” He went on to describe the volunteers for Beyond the Yellow Ribbon as embodying the same spirit of going above and beyond and getting things done. 

Chair of Northern Dakota County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Neil Garlock presented three awards. The first went to Sherrie Le, former West St. Paul Assistant City Manager and HR Director. “Sherrie did it all,” Garlock said. “Through her hard work and leadership, the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon organization started to grow.” The second recipient was Bob Klas from Tapemark. When receiving the award, Klas spoke briefly about volunteering and making a mark on the city. “Always put in more than you take out,” he said. The third award recipient was Dawn Anderson, manager of Oxendales. Anderson was not able to attend the meeting, but Garlock said, “The generosity of this business is due to the great store manager, who is professional and a delight to do business with.” Iago accepted the award on her behalf. 

Other Items on the Agenda

  • Committee goals: The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and Environmental Committee both have been working to set goals and objectives for the coming years. Parks and Recreation would like to work with residents and discuss their priorities, develop an events calendar, and assess parks for future projects—with accessibility and equity at top of mind. The Environmental Committee is working on the GreenSteps Cities, developing a climate action plan, and an energy action plan. The council thanked the committees for their passion and commitment.
  • Budget: During the OCWS, City Manager Nate Burkett recommended to council that they consider the original version of the proposed budget (a 6% levy increase) versus a second version that included reduction requests from council (a 4% increase). Burkett noted that a 6% increase still would put our average increase at or below other similar cities, but would “protect the long-term financial stability of the city.” The difference between the two proposals is approximately $28 per year for the average homeowner.
  • Hispanic Heritage Month: The council made a proclamation honoring Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15).
  • Police: The council discussed the shifting of West St. Paul police officer Elyse Wood to a school resource officer (SRO) for ISD 197. Wood will work at the school, and work as an officer when school is not in session, such as breaks and during the summer. The district is paying 60% of the cost of our most expensive police officer. Wood will act as a liaison to the school and make connections with students and community members. Mayor Napier shared that he had met with Superintendent Peter Olson-Skog, and that the district is very pleased with the arrangement and partnership with the city.

You can watch the City Council and OCWS 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.

Thanks to our members for enabling us to do these city council recaps. Join them and support neighborhood news in West St. Paul.

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