West St. Paul’s City Council changed law firms for city attorney services for the first time in nearly 30 years. They also discussed an occupancy extension for Net Ministries, with some pushback from a former Council member.
New City Attorney
In November, City Council approved getting bids for a new city attorney contract. Levander, Gillen, and Miller has provided city attorney services to the city for nearly 30 years, with current City Attorney Kori Land holding the top post since 2005, and serving as assistant city attorney before that.
Land expressed her gratitude for her time in West St. Paul. She recounted being mentored by Rollin Crawford, the previous city attorney and a former West St. Paul mayor. She listed city progress during her time, including code enforcement (“a passion of mine, because it impacts people where they live”), establishing the Economic Development Authority (EDA), and the Renaissance Plan.
“I made sure every decision I made, everything I worked on was thoughtful and in the best interest of this community,” Land said. “This is not just a client to me. I didn’t grow up in West St. Paul, but I did grow up in West St. Paul. … It has left an imprint on my life. Just as my firm’s DNA is here and rooted in WSP, I want you to know that West St. Paul’s DNA is in mine.”
“The growth that you helped us with along the way, I will never forget,” said Council Member Lisa Eng-Sarne, also crediting Land with giving her confidence. “My mom watches our meetings, from Maplewood, Minn., and my mom has the highest praise for you and I like praise from my mom, so I wanted to pass that along.”
Earlier this month city staff interviewed three firms and recommended Council interview two finalists. City Council approved hiring Kennedy and Graven for a new legal services contract. Pam Whitmore will serve as lead city attorney with Sam Ketchum and Mary Tietjen serving as assistant City Attorneys. Ketchum will cover City Council meetings and Whitmore will cover Planning Commission and Charter Commission meetings.
The Council agenda noted that because of different billing approaches, it’s hard to directly compare costs of the two firms, though they are roughly similar.
Net Ministries Occupancy Extension
During the Open Council Work Session (OCWS), Council discussed extending an occupancy exception for a single family home owned by Net Ministries. The organization owns several single family homes adjacent to their campus for staff housing that were rezoned to allow for greater occupancy of unrelated people.
One of the homes is not adjacent to the campus, but they were given temporary permission to exceed occupancy there with a plan to purchase another adjacent home where they have right of first refusal. The timeline has expired without purchasing the adjacent home. The homeowner is still willing to sell when they eventually move out, so Net Ministries is seeking an extension of the existing arrangement. Council was open to a one- or two-year extension, and this will come forward at the next meeting.
Former Council Member John Bellows, who lives near the property in question, asked to speak during the discussion. Public comment aren’t normally taken during work sessions, and Mayor Dave Napier encouraged Bellows to call or email with his concerns or speak at the next meeting. Bellows said he’d already spoken to staff and didn’t seem satisfied with their response. Napier directed staff to pass along Bellows’ concerns. Bellows left in frustration.
Other Items on the Agenda:
- Bonds for Hy-Vee property: City Council held a public hearing for the sale of bonds to purchase the Hy-Vee/YMCA property for redevelopment, a plan approved last month when a development deal couldn’t be finalized in time. No one spoke during the public hearing.
- Committee appointments: During the OCWS, Council discussed committee reappointments and the challenge of balancing ward representation. Committee membership is skewed to Ward 3, especially after the recent redistricting process. Ultimately, Council opted to reappoint members and declare five vacancies across Planning Commission, Environmental Committee, and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. Applications will be accepted for the next 30 days.
- Economic Development Authority: The EDA elected officers for the new term, Napier as president and Lisa Eng-Sarne as vice president, and approved the annual report.
- Black History Month: City Council officially declared February to be Black History Month.
Learn more about how city council works with our Guide to West St. Paul City Council.
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