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City Manager Blog

Each week I send out an FYI Update to City Council and staff on the latest happenings within the City of Maplewood.  I would like to share this information with the residents of Maplewood, as well. 

Follow my blog if you would like to be kept up to date on the behind the scenes happenings within the City. 

Mar 27

March 20, 2023

Posted on March 27, 2023 at 9:31 AM by Chad Bergo

COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK:  March 20, 2023 

Meetings and Announcements:  
The next regular City Council Meeting will be on Monday, March 27th. There will be a brief workshop on the 27th to conduct interviews for a Planning Commission opening. There are two candidates and one opening. We will start the workshop at 6:30 pm. 

Please note- As mentioned in a previous Friday FYI, we were notified by the MN Environmental Quality Board (EQB) that a citizen petition request had been received for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) related to the Reuter-Walton project at 1136/1160 Frost Avenue.  The item will be coming to the Council for consideration at the March 27th meeting.  The petition material is over 700 pages and as we have done from time to time when documents are quite large, we don’t print all the info out for each Councilmember’s binder (it won’t fit) but instead have them available electronically (on the city website) and have hard copies available in the Council Chambers as well as in the Council office.  We’ll also have a third copy available for public viewing.  However, if any of the Council would like a printed copy, please let us know and we will make sure to get you one.  (The majority of the petition material is made up of the Phase I and Phase II Environmental Reports that were completed as a part of the sites initial development work and land use application considerations). 

I will be setting up one on one meetings with Council members beginning the week of April 3rd. We will be facing some challenging budget issues for next year and want to discuss this with you. If you have a preferred time or day of the week that works best, could you please let me know.  Expect to hear from me or Lois on getting this meeting scheduled. Thanks

ADMINISTRATION
Purple Line - Well, we certainly had a big surprise with the presentation from Commissioner Reinhart at the Purple Line Meeting last night.  I want to let you know how fortunate I feel to work with a City Council that takes community engagement so seriously. The Purple Line process was messy and at times difficult and very different, but you powered through it and in the end made a profound impact on the future of the Purple Line. There will be new work to do and I think our relationships with key partners will be enhanced because of this past engagement process. Thank you all for being such great community leaders. It is my joy and honor to work with you.

PURPLE LINE ADVISORY COMMITTEE UPDATE- From Amanda Duerr written for the St. Paul Chamber Newsletter

For the past couple months, I have been serving on the Purple Line Advisory Committee that was established by the City of Maplewood to seek community input on the project. Our last meeting was scheduled for March 22, where Advisory Committee members were to share their recommendations for the City Council.

In a pleasant surprise, Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt read and shared a letter from the County, announcing its intent to pursue additional engagement, route analyses, and collaboration with the City of Maplewood and other stakeholders. As part of this effort, the County and the Met Council will focus on the re-evaluation of White Bear Avenue as an alternative route for the Purple Line.

The Maplewood City Council was very pleased with this news, and as an Advisory Committee member, I was as well. Transit is important to employees and employers, but so are community amenities like parks and trails.

Mayor Abrams and the City Council should be commended for their efforts to engage the public in this important conversation!

Amanda Duerr

PARKS AND NATURAL RESOURCES
2022-2023 Deer Management Results
Deer management activities for 2022-2023 have wrapped up. Here are the results of our deer removal efforts:

Bow Hunts:

•   Priory Preserve - 4 Deer removed

•   Spoon Lake – 9 deer removed

South Ramsey County sharp shooting, in partnership with USDA Wildlife Services had 20 deer removed. Ramsey County just completed a spring helicopter deer survey and the south Maplewood herd is now within population goals.

PUBLIC WORKS
Equipment Purchasing Update
Supply chain issues continue to find new ways to impact our day to day operations.  In the past when we would purchase a new vehicle we would get two quotes.  One quote would be for the purchase of the vehicle chassis and other quote would be for the vehicle body/equipment buildout.  In 2022, manufactures of vehicle chassis would not take any new orders due to supply chain issues.  This prevented us from being able to move forward with ordering several new vehicles.

At the next council meeting, staff will be bringing forward several proposed equipment purchases for Council’s consideration.  This year we have been told that we are able to order chassis, but the deliver time could be 1 to 1.5 years out.  This long lead time for a chassis makes it very difficult to get a quote for vehicle body/equipment buildout as inflation and supply chain issues could drastically change the cost of the buildout by the time the chassis is delivered.   

To help control purchasing costs and equipment funding levels, staff is proposing to change how we order our equipment.  The plan is to purchase chassis and then later get quotes for the buildout once the City receives the chassis.  This will allow the City to secure a spot in line for the chassis purchase.  After the chassis is delivered, staff will then be able to receive an accurate buildout quote, review available funding, and bring the vehicle body/equipment buildout to council for approval.

This is the news for the week.  See you on Monday at the Council Workshop and Meeting. I will be out of town next Thursday and Friday to visit my Grandson and family in Washington. Mike Darrow will be Acting City Manager in my absence.

Melinda

Mar 13

March 6, 2023

Posted on March 13, 2023 at 8:04 AM by Chad Bergo

COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK:  March 6, 2023

Meetings and Announcements:  
The next regular City Council Meeting will be on Monday, March13th. There is not a workshop on the 13th.

ADMINISTRATION
Purple Line
Our next Purple Line meeting will be March 22nd, 2023.  I will be collecting responses from the Met Council, NRLC, City staff and Ramsey County staff. Responses are due back to me by March 17th. I will also send all other emails and web page posts as well.

It is suggested that the Council ask the Advisory Committee to come prepared to discuss their perspectives and frame up a recommendation to the Met Council on the Purple Line Project. After hearing from the Advisory Committee the Council may discuss the information received from all interested parties. Audience participation is not on the agenda. After all discussion it is recommended that the Council thank the Advisory Committee for their work. Council is not able to take action on this until an upcoming Council meeting. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Ramsey County Job Fair
The City of Maplewood was front and center at the Ramsey County Job Fair earlier this week.  Beyond meeting with job seekers about the many benefits of working for our city, we rolled out our streamlined process for recruiting.  Job seekers were asked to sign up for periodic e-blasts about upcoming jobs.  Our new database of potential employees will allow us to be a step ahead for recruiting.  Additionally, the City is offering free interview prep for job seekers interested in learning how to get an edge-up in the job seeking process. 

DEI Training for Board and Commissioners
Gaining Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) tools to empower commissioners and board members

Folks came in expecting a 90-minute power point, others were concerned about the content. Those who participated in the City’s DEI training for board members and commissioners left excited and felt better prepared to help make the city a more welcoming inclusive place. The session included a demographic overview of those we serve then shifted into how their works can support our non-majority community members. Big thanks to Shawn Sorrell who led the discussion, our liaisons who coordinated scheduling, and the people who attended… And of course the fire department for hosting. We stole some of your paper plates.   

Community survey results expected early April
Through the past six weeks, the city’s survey partner sent about 2200 surveys to a random, scientific sampling of residents, hopping to get a return of about 400. The survey portal officially closed Tuesday, March 7th. They are still inputting paper results and will analyze the numbers through the end of March. We expect to have preliminary data early April. We could likely schedule a council/manager workshop to present the results in May.

PUBLIC WORKS
Radatz and Southlawn Sidewalk Preliminary Survey Results
Following the Public Hearing for the Woodlynn-Southlawn Area Street Improvements, City Project 22-17, a survey was sent out to property owners on Radatz Avenue and Southlawn Drive.  The survey asked the following two questions:

  • As a part of the improvement project, would you like a sidewalk installed on Radatz Avenue from White Bear Avenue to Southlawn Drive?   
  • As a part of the improvement project, would you like a sidewalk installed on Southlawn Drive from Beam Avenue to the cul-de-sac (Mesabi Avenue)?                        

The survey is currently still open throughout the weekend.  On Monday staff will close the survey, compile the data, and provide an update at the City Council meeting.  This is an update on results that we have received as of Friday, March 10, 2023. 

The following is a summary of voting based on all Responses (Includes Radatz and Southlawn Responses):

Number of Survey Responses (Includes Radatz and Southlawn Properties)

 

Total Number of Properties on Radatz (32) and Southlawn (24) = 56
Total Number of Responses = 11 (19.6%)
Total Number of Responses on Radatz = 9 (28.1%)
Total Number of Responses on Southlawn = 2 (8.3%)

In Favor of a Sidewalk on Radatz (Includes Radatz and Southlawn Properties)
Total Number of “Yes” Responses = 8 (72.7%)
Total Number of “No” Responses = 3 (27.3%)

In Favor of Sidewalk on Southlawn (Includes Radatz and Southlawn Properties)
Total Number of “Yes” Responses = 6 (54.6%)
Total Number of “No” Responses = 5 (45.4%) 

The following is a summary of voting based on only Responses from Radatz properties:
In Favor of a Sidewalk on Radatz
Total Number of “Yes” Responses = 6 (66.7%)
Total Number of “No” Responses = 3 (33.3%)

In Favor of Sidewalk on Southlawn
Total Number of “Yes” Responses = 6 (66.7%)
Total Number of “No” Responses = 3 (33.3%)

The following is a summary of voting based on only responses from Southlawn properties:
In Favor of a Sidewalk on Radatz
Total Number of “Yes” Responses = 2 (100.0%)
Total Number of “No” Responses = 0 (0.0%)

In Favor of Sidewalk on Southlawn
Total Number of “Yes” Responses = 0 (0.0%)
Total Number of “No” Responses = 2 (100.0%) 

PARKS AND NATURAL RESOURCES

Spring Clean Up  Announcement
April 22, 2023  8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Aldrich Arena Parking Lot (1850 White Bear Avenue)

There were 367 vehicles at last year’s Spring Clean Up, disposing of 32.25 tons of trash, recycling 139 mattresses, 194 electronics, 141 appliances, and more.  Republic Services, the City’s contracted residential trash hauler, also collects bulky items curbside year-round for an additional fee.  The drop off and curbside bulky item collection are part of the City’s solid waste program in place to help residents dispose or recycle large bulky items.  These programs help reduce trash and litter, illegal dumping, ensures items are processed correctly, and reduces resident’s financial burden of managing unneeded bulky items. 

Republic Services covers the Spring Clean Up at no cost to the City as part of the residential trash and yard waste contract.  Maplewood subcontracts with several other haulers for bulky items that can be recycled or require special processing such as electronics, appliances, mattresses, bikes, small engines, and used clothes.  New this year, the Police Department will be collecting unneeded and expired medicine in lieu of the City’s drop off site that closed in February.

It takes a team of employees, contractors, and volunteers to hold the Spring Clean Up.  Volunteers are needed for vehicle check ins, internal traffic management and directions, food shelf donation collections, and more. Please contact Shann Finwall, Environmental Planner, at shann.finwall@maplewoodmn.gov if interested in volunteering in this year’s event.    

Winter Photo Contest
To kick off 2023 we held our Winter Photo Contest during the month of January where the community took pictures of nature and submitted them online for a chance to win a prize provided by the Friends of Maplewood Nature. The winner was Lou Kotz, who took 2nd in our July 2022 photo contest, with “Blue skies smiling at me” (attached). We will be hosting another photo contest in the summer and look forward to seeing those great pictures. 

Gnome Challenge - 2023
The Friends of Maplewood Nature coordinated their 2nd annual Gnome Hunt this February. Participants hunted around the Nature Center grounds and trail looking to catch a glimpse and, for some, take a picture of a number of pinecone gnomes. The gnome spotting made for a fun outing for families and led to a number of fun pictures (attached) and great feedback (below).

  • We loved this!  This was the most enjoyable walk I have ever taken with my daughters.  They were too busy finding gnomes to complain about being bored or tired.  So fun!  We are hoping to do it again this weekend.   Thank you! Heidi Zempel
  • Our little Gnome Peter asked if we could go for a walk early in the morning with his Grandpa & Grandma in Maplewood Nature Center.  We headed out and he decided that hide & go seek was what we were going to do on the trails.  Peter, hide and we looked and looked and finally found him.  When, we looked closer, we told him we were not the only things that we playing hide and seek. Be very very quiet as a deer had heard him and woke from its slumber!  What is a deer's favorite place to get ice cream?   Deery Queen. Thanks for the fun walk!   Dawn Keller
  • We had a very nice walk and a very fun time finding gnomes!   Thank you,  Jon Drieling
  • This was a fun activity with the kids. Thank you!   Mai Chee Liamkeo
  • This was our second year. So fun!  Karrie Blees
  • There are so many cute gnomes it was hard to choose a favorite one.  BerLanda Cardona Siltman
  • Thanks for a fun hunt!  Tara Gardell

This is the news for the week.  Have a great weekend. See you Monday at the City Council meeting.

Feb 27

FEBRUARY 20, 2023

Posted on February 27, 2023 at 8:56 AM by Chad Bergo

COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK:  FEBRUARY 20, 2023

Meetings and Announcements:   

·       The next regular City Council Meeting will be on Monday, February 27th.  Our Council Workshop will begin at 6:15 with a presentation on Fire/EMS staffing plan updates.   

ADMINISTRATION

Purple Line - Our next Purple Line meeting will be February 28, 2023.  The tentative agenda for the 28th includes:      

1.       Welcome 

2.       Presentation from No Rush Line Coalition

3.       Presentation from St. John's Hospital and other businesses

4.       Questions from City Council and Advisory Committee

 

Public Works 

 2023 Improvement Project Public Hearings 

The City will be holding Public Hearings for the Myrtle-Sterling Area Improvements and the Woodlynn-Southlawn Area Improvements at next Monday’s Council Meeting. Leading up to these hearings, staff have been communicating with area residents in a number of ways to ensure they understand the proposed improvements and have had a multiple opportunities to have their questions answered. This included multiple mailings, a project survey, two neighborhood meetings, and a new online tool called InputID. The InputID tool can be viewed by clicking on the following links. 

Myrtle-Sterling InputID 

Woodlynn-Southlawn InputID 

Feedback received on the Myrtle-Sterling project mainly focused on concerns with drainage and the slope of Myrtle Street at Holloway Avenue along with questions about assessments. Overall residents seemed to be supportive of the improvements.

Feedback received on the Woodlynn-Southlawn project focused mainly on two streets; Woodlynn and Radatz Avenues. Residents along Woodlynn Avenue noted that speeding, lack of on-street parking, gaps in the sidewalk network, street lighting, and pedestrian crossing safety were of concern. Staff took an in-depth look at Woodlynn Avenue during the design, keeping this feedback in mind. The 2040 Comprehensive plan calls out the miss sidewalk segments along Woodlynn Avenue and Ariel Street as priority segments. The proposed roadway configuration, reduces the road width from the current 4-driving lanes to 2-driving lanes with parking areas in select locations along with filling in missing sidewalk segments.  The proposed design better fits with current and future traffic demands, makes the corridor feel more constricted (which tends to reduce speeds), shortens the distance for pedestrians to cross the roadway, reduces impervious surfaces, and fills in the missing sidewalk segments called out in the 2040 Comprehensive plan.

Feedback received on Radatz Avenue focused on the condition of the pavement, speeding, cut-through traffic, and sidewalks. Overall there were a few residents that noted speeding concerns on Radatz Avenue. A request for a sidewalk along Radatz Avenue has come from one resident that is very passionate about his request. Staff took an in-depth look at Radatz Avenue and consulted with our guiding documents such as the 2040 Comprehensive plan and Living Street’s policy. We factored in items such as current traffic volumes, the area roadway and sidewalk networks, and resident feedback in designing the proposed roadway layout. The proposed layout reduces the roadway width from the current 30-31 foot width to 28-feet wide. This allows for one driving lane in each direction, parking on one side of the roadway, and space for on-street pedestrians and bicyclists. Beyond the typical width reduction guided by our Living Street’s policy, staff are proposing curb ‘bump-outs’ in a couple of locations along the street to further constrict the roadway, creating a tighter feeling to further promote slower vehicle speeds. 

When considering a sidewalk, our guiding documents do not call for one along Radatz Avenue. The 2040 Comprehensive plan does not call for sidewalks along this section of Radatz Avenue or Southlawn Drive between Beam Avenue and Radatz Avenue. Our Living Street’s policy does provide an option for sidewalks in residential neighborhoods, but these are typically placed along higher volume neighborhood collector type streets, with side-streets feeding in to them. The most recent traffic count recorded along Radatz was roughly 600 vehicles per day.  While there is likely cut-through traffic, the volume is well within a typical residential street volume of up to a 1,000 vehicles per day. Additionally, Radatz Avenue is not a neighborhood collector Street. 

Staff is not proposing to include a sidewalk along Radatz Avenue and Southlawn Drive at this time. Staff does recommend that gaps in the sidewalk network along Beam Avenue, as called out in the city’s 2040 Comprehensive plan, to be filled in during future improvements along that corridor to complete the larger sidewalk network in the area. Many good conversations have occurred with the resident requesting a sidewalk along Radatz. They were informed of the City’s reasoning behind not proposing a sidewalk along Radatz and that strong resident support would be needed to install one, as our guiding documents, traffic volumes, and the area roadway and sidewalk network do not support one. This resident said they would try to rally support from his neighbors and present it at Monday’s meeting.  

While staff is not recommending a sidewalk along Radatz Avenue and Southlawn Drive, one could be designed for these roads.  This does come with increased construction costs and the need to acquire easements over the commercial property on Southlawn Drive.  If a decision is made to include sidewalks as part of the project scope, staff would recommend doing a neighborhood survey during the design process to ensure that the majority of residents are in favor of a sidewalk as there will be significant boulevard impacts.                  

Fire 
Assistance to Firefighters Grant:
Fire department staff were notified on Wednesday 2/22/2023 that the department was selected to receive a $43,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  This grant will allow the fire department to install a new Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) compressor and fill station at the South Fire Station.  Firefighters wear SCBA at fire and rescue incidents where they need clean breathable air, these air tanks are worn like a back pack.  After each incident in which an SCBA is worn, firefighters have to refill the SCBA bottle with air to ensure that it is ready for future calls.  The SCBA compressor and fill station allows us to fill those bottles with clean air.

Previously, the department did not have this capability at the South Station.  This grant ensures that both fire stations now have modern technology to safely fill air bottles and the mobile air truck.  

Parks and Natural Resources  
4H Program Partnership Update

On Monday February 21st, the Nature Center was host to another schools out nature class, “Nature Crafts” conducted by Ramsey County 4H. Registration was full and the kids had a great time exploring outside for items to use on their nature lanterns and used the rooms indoors for teaching and building! 

The next session on March 10 is a DIY bird feeder!

They have been a great partner to work with and we are excited to continue to grow the relationship.

Ramsey County 4H Facebook Post:

https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=564124049082366&set=a.545170560977715

 

Special thanks to our Public Works and Parks and Natural Resources crews for their excellent snow removal work this week!