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Street maintenance and marijuana regulation moved forward at the West St. Paul City Council. Discussion covered potentially removing stop signs at the Butler and Stassen intersection and some tense but postponed discussion over possibly shopping for a new city attorney.
Butler and Stassen Intersection Changes
During the Open Council Work Session (OCWS), Dakota County gave a presentation on proposed changes to the Butler and Stassen/Sperl intersection (the entrance to Thompson Park). The presentation looked at standards and best practices for proposed changes to improve traffic flow and safety—which can be counter-intuitive. Dakota County has already cleared brush near the intersection and relocated a stop sign to be more visible.
The problem: At that intersection, 4% did not stop at all (that equates to 400 vehicles per day running the stop sign) and 24% of vehicles do a rolling stop. Those numbers are indicative of drivers feeling like the stop isn’t necessary, so they don’t obey it. Based on traffic data, only 10% of the intersection traffic is coming from Stassen or Sperl, which isn’t a good fit for an all-way stop. Generally the traffic at an all-way stop should be more evenly balanced.
Solution: Remove all-way stop. Dakota County is proposing switching the intersection from an all-way stop to a ‘side stop’ where only Stassen and Sperl traffic have a stop sign and Butler traffic doesn’t stop. There would also be pedestrian improvements, including a shortening the crosswalk and installing a push-button flashing light warning system for pedestrian crossing.
- “Having a stop sign that doesn’t work may make you feel good, but 28% not using the stop sign makes it even more dangerous,” said Mayor Dave Napier.
Historical context: Council Member Dick Vitelli noted that the stop sign was initially installed because a pedestrian was killed. He also wants to see the 35 mph speed limit reduced to 30 mph, a larger decision that’s made by the state.
Timeline: Public engagement would happen this fall and winter with project construction potentially happening in 2023.
Shopping for a City Attorney
The City of West St. Paul has retained the legal services of Levander, Gillen, and Miller with City Attorney Kori Land for over 27 years without getting competing quotes. While there are two years left in the contract, there is a termination option. Some members of Council want to get bids from other attorneys to compare costs and consider a possible change.
Why: Council Member John Justen said he’s always wanted to get bids out of a sense of fiscal responsibility. Council Member Robyn Gulley said she wonders about alignment and wanted someone more willing to help Council get where they want to go.
Tension: Mayor Napier and Vitelli both said they were blindsided that this was on the agenda, creating some tense moments between them and Gulley over determining the agenda.
- Napier insisted council members talk to him to put items on the agenda or three council members can request an item be added—a rule apparently based on tradition, not codified in city charter, ordinances, or council rules.
- Gulley pushed back, saying discussion happens at the table. She said she’s tried to meet with both of them and it hasn’t happened.
“This is where we interact, and so there’s never been an opportunity to have that discussion,” Gulley said.
“I have a phone,” Vitelli interjected.
“I have a phone too,” Gulley responded.
To be continued: The item was ultimately pushed back to a future meeting, on November 14, due to a lack of time.
Other Items on the Agenda:
- 2023 road projects: City Council reviewed next year’s mill and overlay street repair projects, including projected costs and assessments for residents. Several roads were bumped off the list because the pavement condition is too poor to be a good candidate for mill and overlays. (We’ve previously covered the various approaches the city takes to road maintenance.)
- Marijuana regulation: With the state legislature allowing certain marijuana products, the city is adding ordinances to regulate sales of the new intoxicating THC products, including licensing, zoning, and more. City Council approved the first reading. A public hearing will come on October 24.
- Marthaler Park: Improvements for Marthaler Park were put on hold while the city applied for more funding. After securing a DNR Outdoor Recreation grant, the city is moving forward with the project and combining two phases in a previously approved contract. Work will begin in 2023 and finish in 2024. An updated contract was approved in the consent agenda.
- Charity hockey: The Police vs. Fire Charity Hockey Game over the weekend raised over $22,000 for the American Cancer Society.
- Sperl farm: Council Member Lisa Eng-Sarne noted that this will be the last year for the Sperl farm on Charlton that’s sold produce and seasonal items for years.
- Thompson/Oakdale roundabout: Also in the consent agenda, the city approved a combined construction contract for the Thompson/Oakdale roundabout and the Thompson/Oakdale sidewalks and trails. There is an open house about the project at Wentworth Library on Wednesday, Oct. 12 from 5 to 7 p.m.
- Indigenous Peoples’ Day: City Council declared today, October 10, 2022, to be Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
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.