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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. 

Jun 28

June 26, 2020

Posted on June 28, 2020 at 8:21 PM by Chad Bergo

COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK: June 26th, 2020


Meetings and Announcements:   

  • The next City Council meeting will be held next Monday, July 12th.  Here are the updates from various departments below. We received really great news regarding Governor Walz release of CARES Act funds. Ellie has provided a summary of the funding rules. 

Updates from Staff and Council:

ADMINISTRATION/FINANCE/CITY CLERK 

CARES Act Funding

Governor Walz recently released $841M in federal CARES Act Funding to help local governments cover the costs of expenses related to Covid-19.  The City of Maplewood has already applied for the funding, which should be released in early July.  The City of Maplewood qualifies for up to $3,067,102 in CARES aid, but must certify eligible expenditures to keep the aid. The funds cannot be used for revenue replacement, but can be used to cover costs incurred in responding to the Coronavirus public health emergency.  The guidance says that “funding can be used to meet payroll expenses for public safety, public health, health care, human services, and similar employees whose services are substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the Covid-19 public health emergency.”  Eligible costs can be recovered if they were incurred between March 1, 2020 and December 1, 2020.  For jurisdictions outside of Hennepin and Ramsey Counties, unencumbered aid must be sent to the home county after November 15th.  However, in Ramsey County remaining funds must be sent to Regions Hospital or another major hospital in the County after November 15th.    


AB Voting

Absentee Voting for the Primary began Friday June 26 at 8am and will continue through Monday, August 10. All three Maplewood offices are on the Primary ballot. Sample ballots are available on our elections page.

 

Ramsey County has initiated a Vote by Mail campaign to encourage voters to request an absentee ballot to vote by mail. This is being promoted to provide a safe voting environment and to reduce in-person activity both during absentee voting and on Election Day. All Ramsey County voters were mailed a flyer (attached) this week, I received mine on Wednesday. To promote the health of mail absentee voters, a recent court decree has removed the requirement of a registered mail absentee voter to have a witness sign their envelope for the August Primary.

Maplewood residents can still vote in-person at city hall during the absentee period. As city hall doors are locked, staff will be diligent to assist Maplewood voters who come to city hall. As we can only enforce voter eligibility requirements, we will encourage but not require voters to use hand sanitizer, face masks and a single-use pen.


PUBLIC WORKS

 

Public Works Crew Updates

Our street and storm crews have finished a number of yearly activities including the repainting of ½ of all painted messages on City streets and the annual inspection of sump catch basins.  Sump catch basins help collect sediment and help keep it from entering our streams and wetlands.  Based on these inspection crews have started work on the annual removal of collected sediment from the sump catch basins. 

This week we have brought in a screener to screen all of the street sweeping we collected this spring.  The screening and disposal of the sweepings are done according to MPCA requirements. The screener has a conveyor on each end of the tumbler, "dirty" sweepings come out one end and "clean" the other. Once we have completed the screening, which usually about 15 hours of screener machine time, the dirty sweeping are hauled to SKB Landfill - Licensed Industrial Waste landfill. We then haul the clean sweeping to a fill site. The reason we rent a screener and screen instead of just hauling it all to SKB is to reduce the cost of disposal. SKB cost $63 per yard and the screened clean sweeping cost $2.50 per yard.

Each year our sewer crews clean and jet 1/3 of all City sanitary sewer lines.  Crews are making great progress and anticipate completing this work in about 3 weeks.  We maintain a list of known areas that need to be cleaned each year and our crews will begin working on them next.  

Park maintenance work continues with our crews cutting grass and doing spring maintenance work on ball fields.  This week crews have also responded to a number of maintenance requests from residents that were received and entered into our asset management system.

All of the above work is able to be completed thanks to our mechanics and the hard work they do keeping our equipment and vehicles maintained in good working order.

Congratulations to Tamara Hays

Congratulations to Tamara Hays, park maintenance staff, on the completion of the American Public Works Association (APWA) Public Works Certificate Program.  This program is designed to further participants understanding of:

  • Organization and functions of public works and public works professionals.
  • Technical functions undertaken by public works professionals, with emphasis on roadway design, construction, and maintenance.
  • Advanced concepts in public works operations and maintenance.
  • Effective creation and delivery of workplace and technical documents.

Engineering and Public Works Administration Update

Construction of the City’s three street improvement projects are well underway.  Engineering staff has been busy with inspection, construction staking, working with residents, and coordinating with our contractors.  A big milestone was reached on the County Road B and Arcade Street project this week with Xcel completing their gas main replacement work within the project area.  Their work was done ahead of schedule which will really help us met our project’s completion goal.  This has been a great partnership and a good example of agencies working together to provide the best service to our residents.  A big thank you to everyone who helped make this a success.

Since the middle of March the Engineer and Administration staff have done a great job of adapting and finding ways to continue to provide residents with great service.  Despite the pandemic and all the challenges it has brought we have reviewed and issued 80 Public Works permits, worked with residents on 258 requests/issues, and have continued to provide engineering comments on all development reviews.  Additionally, staff has completed the final touches on the 2019 Annual MS4 permit report.  Another thank you for all the people across multiple departments that help with this effort.

John DuCharme has worked hard to help two property owner resolve chronic drainage issues that caused flooding concerns during spring melts and heavy rains.  With the help of our Public Works maintenance staff we are planning to complete one project in house and coordinate with a contractor on the other.  Thanks John for keeping the ball moving on these two items.

News from the week:

https://www.twincities.com/2020/06/19/carjacking-spree-continues-3-more-in-maplewood-followed-by-3-robberies-in-st-paul/  Reference:  Sgt. Michael Nye

https://www.startribune.com/longtime-maplewood-nature-center-may-close-for-good/571392342/  Reference:  Mayor Marylee Abrams

https://www.startribune.com/readers-write-police-reform-supreme-court-maplewood-nature-center-closing-covid-19/571354602/  - FYI – opinion article regarding the Nature Center

https://www.twincities.com/2020/06/23/maplewood-is-closing-its-nature-center-hopes-community-partners-will-step-forward-to-pay-for-programming/  Reference:  Joe Sheeran

https://www.startribune.com/walz-to-release-841-million-in-covid-19-aid-to-local-goverments/571489812/ Governor releases aid to cities and counties.

This is the reports for this week. The 4th of July is fast approaching. Fire-works likely, celebration at Hazelwood Park is not.  Stay safe.

As always, please call if I can address any questions or concerns. Melinda

Jun 22

June 22, 2020

Posted on June 22, 2020 at 9:53 AM by Chad Bergo

COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK: June 22th, 2020


Meetings and Announcements:   

 

·         The next City Council meeting will be held next Monday, June 22nd.  Here are the updates from various departments below. Mayor Abrams will be leading a discussion on how to engage our residents and partners on the recreation and Nature Center programming.

 

Updates from Staff and Council:

 

ADMINISTRATION/FINANCE/CITY CLERK

 

Legislative Special Session            

The Minnesota Legislature is in Special Session tackling issues of COVID-19 spending, Public Safety Reform, and Bonding Bill. The session is scheduled to end today (Friday) with or without an agreement. The Corona Virus Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides relief to state and local governments as was passed by Congress on March 27, 2020. See news stories here:

 

https://www.startribune.com/841m-in-federal-covid-19-aid-for-cities-counties-tied-up-at-state-capitol/571356492/

 

https://www.twincities.com/2020/06/18/minnesota-democrats-press-for-sweeping-policing-changes-gop-says-its-pushing-ideas-both-sides-can-support/

 

Sales Tax Exemption – Fire Station

The city’s proposal for a sales tax exemption on construction materials for the new fire station has not been approved. There was hope that a Tax Bill would be finished by today; but it may not happen. The City of Maplewood will pursue the exemption at future Special Sessions (if called by the Governor) or in the 2021 Legislative Session.

 

Front Counter Call Volume

Call volumes for city services and DMV continue to increase. We’ve seen a nearly 400% increase in call volume since April. The demand for services continues and the online appointments for Driver’s Licenses are now booked full through July 22nd. 

 

Flags at Half-staff

Governor Tim Walz has directed all flags at state and federal buildings in Minnesota to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Friday, June 19, 2020. He has directed flags to fly at half-staff on the 19th of every month through 2020 to remember, mourn, and honor lives lost due to COVID-19.

“Thousands of Minnesotans have lost dear friends and close family members in the fight against COVID-19,” said Governor Walz. “Each life taken has been a heartbreaking tragedy for our state. In these challenging times, we must work together to slow the spread of this pandemic.”

Individuals, businesses, and other organizations are also encouraged to join in lowering their flags to honor Minnesotans who have lost their lives to COVID-19 and their families.

 

 

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

 

Rental Licensing Update

Community Development continues to move forward with implementing the rental licensing program.  The rental application, inspection checklist, background check form and initial letter to property owners have all been drafted. Staff is currently in the process of updating the city’s website with the latest rental licensing information, forms, and resources.  The initial letter to multi-family apartment owners will be mailed out July 6th, and grant property owners approximately 30 days to submit their rental application, payment, and required paperwork.  The deadline for submittal will be August 3rd.

Due to precautions related to COVID-19, the city will initially perform inspections of exterior, common areas, and unoccupied units to protect everyone’s health and safety.  Occupied unit inspections will take place once it has been determined it is appropriate and safe to do so for both city staff and tenants. Because of the potential financial hardship some property owners may be facing due to COVID 19, staff has implemented a policy to allow payment plans if necessary.  In addition, rental license fees may be assessed to properties due to non-payment. City staff remains resilient and flexible throughout the implementation process and will continue to strive to create a program that meets the goals the council has identified and ensures the health and safety of the community.

    

PARK AND RECREATION

National Get Outdoors Day Treasure Hunt

Last Saturday was a perfect day for our National Get Outdoors Day Treasure Hunt! The “Golden Frisbee” could have been hidden in any of Maplewood’s Parks and Open Spaces. The first set of clues were posted at 8am and it turned out that a second set of clues was not needed. Congrats to the Schwartz family(Kyle, Christy, Cedar, and Micah Schwartz) on your awesome treasure hunting skills! The Golden Frisbee was hidden in Gladstone Savanna by the well site behind one of the new interpretive signs.

 

 

This is the news for this week. I hope you enjoy the weekend and Happy Father’s day to the Father’s reading this email.  As always, please call if I can address any questions or concerns. Melinda

Jun 08

June 5, 2020

Posted on June 8, 2020 at 9:02 AM by Chad Bergo

COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK: June 5th, 2020

Meetings and Announcements:   

The next City Council meeting will be held next Monday, June 8th.  Here are the updates from various departments below. 

 

Updates from Staff and Council:

ADMINISTRATION/FINANCE/CITY CLERK

 

Election Update

The filing and withdrawal periods have ended for city offices. We had much interest in all three offices and all three offices will be on the Primary ballot. This will result in the top four vote-getters for councilmember to be on the General ballot and the two top vote-getters in each of the Special Election races (Mayor and 2yr councilmember) to be on the General ballot.

 

Here is a list of those who filed for office:

 

Mayor: Marylee Abrams

              Margaret Behrens

              Bob Cardinal

 

Councilmember (4yr):    Anand Balar

Rebecca Cave

Garrett Krueger

                                           Sylvia Neblett

                                           Nikki Villavicencio

 

Councilmember (2yr):    Tyler Hamilton

                                           Bill Knutson

                                           Diana Longrie

                                           David Singleton

 

Absentee voting will begin June 26 for the Primary. In conjunction with the Secretary of State and Ramsey County, we are encouraging voters to use the existing no-excuse absentee voting allowed Minnesota voters and to apply for their ballot to vote AB by mail.

Deputy Registrar

The Front Desk / Customer Service counter continues see huge increases in customer contact by phone. Staff have seen a fourfold increase in phone calls since early April. Staff have been taking appointments for DMV and Passport services. The scheduling software is helping residents find a time that works for them.

 

The US State Department is gradually returning to work processing Passport Applications. However, there are no definitive dates for when they will resume to full operations. That means Passport processing may take several months and there’s no way to know when applications will be complete.

 

 

Maplewood Receives Distinguished Budget Award for 2020 Budget

 

The Government Finance Officers Association GFOA) announced on June 4, 2020 that the City of Maplewood, Minnesota, has been awarded GFOA's Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for its 2020 budget.

 

The award represents a significant achievement by a government entity. It reflects the commitment of the governing body and staff to meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting. In order to receive the budget award, the government entity has to satisfy nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation. These guidelines are designed to assess how well an entity's budget serves as:

 

  • a policy document
  • a financial plan
  • an operations guide
  • a communications device

 

Budget documents must be rated "proficient" in all four categories, and in the fourteen mandatory criteria within those categories, to receive the award.  There are over 1,600 participants in the Budget Awards Program in the United States and Canada.

 

AA Bond Rating is Affirmed

On 5/29/2020, Maplewood staff participated in a bond rating call with S&P related to the 2020B Street Improvement Bonds being issued on June 8, 2020.  On Thursday, June 3, 2020, S&P affirmed the City’s AA bond rating, with a stable outlook, on the City’s existing General Obligation debt.  The rating reflects S&P’s opinion of the City’s:

 

  • Strong economy, with access to a broad and diverse MSA;
  • Very strong management, with strong financial policies and practices under our Financial Management Assessment (FMA) methodology;
  • Adequate budgetary performance, with operating surpluses in the general fund and at the total governmental fund level in fiscal 2018;
  • Very strong budgetary flexibility, with an available fund balance in fiscal 2018 of 43% of operating expenditures;
  • Very strong liquidity, with total government available cash at 112.6% of total governmental fund expenditures and 3.9x governmental debt service, and access to external liquidity we consider strong;
  • Weak debt and contingent liability position, with debt service carrying charges at 28.6% of expenditures and net direct debt that is 162.3% of total governmental fund revenue, but rapid amortization, with 77.8% of debt scheduled to be retired in 10 years; and
  • Strong institutional framework score.    

 

It should be noted that adequate budget performance, rather than strong budget performance, was a reflection of the a global cautionary measure that S&P is taking with all local government clients due to the Covid-19 crisis.  While Maplewood enjoyed strong budgetary performance in both 2018 and 2019, S&P is including this language due to concerns with how the pandemic will impact City budgets.  S&P informed us that in Maplewood’s case, it was truly a formality to notch down that component.  It should return to strong after the pandemic is over and the economy returns to normal.

 

The City’s debt position is still weak, but is improving every year.  We are still hoping to reach a score of adequate by the end of the 5-year CIP period. 

 

PUBLIC SAFETY

 

Public Safety Update

Public Safety Director Nadeau has kept the City Council informed of major events that occurred over the past week.  Both Police and Fire had additional staffing Thursday Through Saturday night, but Thursday was by far the busiest night for both departments.  In addition to Maplewood Calls the Fire Department sent Firefighters and apparatus to St. Paul to assist on fighting arson fires related to the civil unrest and disorder that the city was experiencing.  At the request of their medical direction they also helped to supply the MN National Guard with needed medications by delivering them to Holman field when requested to do so (they were repaid in kind later).

 

As a recap, there were a number of attempts by organized groups to burglarize businesses starting on Thursday afternoon and continuing through Sunday.  Most of the large groups were disrupted by Police and fled to other locations, typically outside of the city.  The following is a list of businesses that were damaged or burglarized, those highlighted were targeted multiple times.

 

Burglary/Criminal Damage to property

Case #

Date/Time

Location

Store Name

Arrests?

 Damage

Burglary

MAPTL20013836

05/28/2020 14:46:00

1729 BEAM AVE E

Burlington

no

glass doors broken out

None reported

MAPTL20013859

05/28/2020 18:11:32

1698 WHITE BEAR AVE N

T-Mobile

no

no report, no case comments

MAPTL20013861

05/28/2020 18:23:00

1700 RICE ST N

Walgreens

yes

front glass doors broken, suspect fled

None reported

MAPTL20013870

05/28/2020 19:21:00

2303 WHITE BEAR AVE N

Sprint

no

glass doors broken out

Yes

MAPTL20013874

05/28/2020 19:46:00

1706 WHITE BEAR AVE N

T-Mobile

no

all windows broken

Yes

MAPTL20013888

05/28/2020 21:17:00

1835 Larpenteur

Party Time Liquor

yes

broken window, also burglarized 6/1

Yes, on 6/1

MAPTL20013896

05/28/2020 22:03:00

2729 STILLWATER RD E

Holiday Gas Station [2729]

no

doors broken

None reported

MAPTL20013898

05/28/2020 22:25:00

2720 STILLWATER RD E

Knowlans

no

Glass

MAPTL20013901

05/28/2020 22:38:00

2196 WHITE BEAR AVE N

CVS

no

glass doors broken out, pharmacy drop box broken

Yes

MAPTL20013915

05/28/2020 23:53:00

280 MCKNIGHT RD S

Holiday

no

broken window

None reported

MAPTL20013921

05/29/2020 0:57:00

2196 WHITE BEAR AVE N

CVS

yes

No new damage

Yes

MAPTL20013922

05/29/2020 1:07:09

2920 WHITE BEAR AVE N

Walgreens [2920]

no

glass broken on east side

None reported

MAPTL20013925

05/29/2020 1:51:00

280 MCKNIGHT RD S

Holiday

no

glass break alarm, previous damage still there

None reported

MAPTL20013931

05/29/2020 3:10:00

1804 NORTH SAINT PAUL RD E

O'Reilly

no

front main window broken

Yes

MAPTL20013932

05/29/2020 3:15:00

280 MCKNIGHT RD S

Holiday

no

call of people attempting to loot, crowd dispersed on arrival

MAPTL20013933

05/29/2020 3:35:00

1717 BEAM AVE E

Marshalls

yes

window broken

Yes

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAPTL20013943

05/29/2020 7:35:00

1800 EDGERTON ST N

Forest Lawn cemetery

no

entry through sliding window (no damage) burglary and truck stolen

MAPTL20014150

05/31/2020 1:19:00

2196 WHITE BEAR AVE N

CVS

yes

entry through prior damage

Yes

MAPTL20014162

05/31/2020 6:00:00

280 MCKNIGHT RD S

Holiday

no

entry through back door (pryed)

Yes

 

Public Safety staffing levels were increased in both Police and Fire, with many of our Public Safety staff having their schedules adjusted or being ordered to work on their days off.  Both Police and Fire Administrative Staff worked during peak hours and  at night as the situation developed.  Although some of the groups that Police dealt with were hostile, and at times has bats or clubs, there were no significant injuries to either public safety staff or citizens.

 

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

 

Temporary Outdoor Dining

Since the May 26th city council meeting, the city has notified all restaurants about the flexibility granted by the council for restaurants to operate temporary outdoor dining patios that are consistent with the governor’s executive order. So far, the city has received four applications for outdoor dining into expanded areas such as the parking lots, sidewalks and neighboring green spaces.  TGI Friday’s, Acapulco and McCarron’s Pub have all been approved and issued.  Denny’s on Century Avenue has provided an incomplete application.  Staff is working with them to complete the process but has allowed them to operate in the interim. We have also received inquiries from several other restaurants into how they can obtain a permit from the city.

 

 

PUBLIC WORKS

 

The 2020 street improvement projects are underway!

The contractor has mobilized into the Dennis-McClelland project area. Pavement removals have begun, along with utility work beginning this week. The contractor plans to work from east to west through the project area, starting with the replacement of the watermain system on Mayhill Road. This project will continue throughout the summer, wrapping up in November of the year.

 

The contractor for the Schaller Area Pavement Rehabilitation project began mobilizing into the project area this week. They have broken the project into 3 phases, the first of which encompasses the westerly project streets that access off of McKnight Road and Linwood Avenue. They plan to start with the minor storm sewer repairs and curb replacements. The pavement reclamation and installation of new pavement will follow shortly thereafter. This project will continue throughout the summer, being completed by the first week of September.

 

The contractor for the County Road B and Arcade Street Project mobilized into the project area the week of May 25th. The installation of erosion and traffic control devices has begun. Watermain replacement work began this week, starting on Arcade Street south of Roselawn Avenue and working north. This project is being performed in conjunction with Xcel Energy’s gas distribution line replacement project, which is fully underway on both County Road B and Arcade Street. The gas main work in the project area is anticipated to be completed by the end of June. The City’s reconstruction project will follow closely behind Xcel’s work, with the project wrapping up in October of this year.

 

TH 120 Planning and Environmental Linkages Study

MnDOT has initiated a Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) study for Trunk Highway 120 between Interstate 94 and Interstate 694.  The goal of the PEL is to identify a vision of the TH 120 corridor which can be implemented over a period time through a number of projects.  This study will be evaluating numerous alternatives at a very high level.  The project does not identify a preferred alternative, but does develop a purpose, needs, and alternatives for the corridor.  This is different from a corridor study as it brings in environmental issues.

 

Throughout the winter of 2019 MnDot worked on the defining the reason for a PEL study.  The TAC committee will be working on defining the purpose and needs.  The following is the scope and schedule for the PEL study:

·         Existing conditions – Fall of 2020

·         Purpose and needs – Winter of 2021

·         Evaluation criteria – Winter of 2021

·         Alternative analysis methodology – Spring 2021

 

The TAC committee is made up of representatives from MnDOT, Oakdale, Federal Highway Administration, Maplewood, Washington County, Ramsey County, and North Saint Paul.  The project team is in the process of developing a public involvement plan that will be executed as part of the PEL study.

 

 

Gervais Avenue Emergency Storm Sewer Repair

The City was contacted by the property manager of 1600 Gervais on 5/22 regarding a sink hole in the parking lot and flooding between the building-loading docks. Crews pumped the storm sewer system down to relieve the flooding and investigate what was causing the flooding. The property manager stated that a sink hole formed about a month earlier. Not knowing it was the City’s storm sewer line the property manager hired a contractor to repair the sink hole. The contractor simply re-grouted rings and replaced collapsed asphalt. 

 

As part of our investigation, Public Works crews discovered that 115 feet of the corrugated metal storm sewer pipe had completely failed. Crews have pumped the storm system two more times since the 22nd. The storm sewer pipe was too deep for our equipment to repair safely.  Staff contacted two contractors for quotes to help fix the failed storm sewer.   Veit Company, Inc. has started the replacement work this Thursday morning. Veit Company, Inc. is our prime contractor on the Dennis-McClelland street project this year.  It appears the work may be completed in a day and half. Our crews are providing tree clearing, signage, bituminous and curb removal, dewatering, and will be doing the restoration work (turf, bit, and concrete) to help minimize the cost of this emergency repair.

      

PARK AND RECREATION

 

EXPLORE MAPLEWOOD CHALLENGES UPDATE

The first of our Explore Maplewood Summer Challenges kicked off on Monday June 1. We are excited for these new offerings and hope they will provide a sense of community and friendly competition for the participants while still allowing for safe activity and engagement. We have over 30 participating “teams” (individual and/or households) challenging themselves to complete 15 miles of activity from June 1 – June 21. In partnership with the Wellness Committee, participating  City employees will also satisfy the requirements of their trimester 2 wellness track. Registration for the July Geo Explorers Challenge is currently open and staff is pushing out a fun promo video on Thursday June 4 to show people how fun and easy it is to go geocaching!

July Geo Explorers Promo: https://vimeopro.com/maplewoodmn/virtual-library/video/425303752

 

 

In the news:

Here is the news from last weekend:  (All of the news just mentioned Maplewood in general.)

https://www.twincities.com/2020/05/29/twin-cities-suburbs-report-overnight-damage-amid-protest-for-george-floyd/ - Reports of Damage

 

https://www.twincities.com/2020/05/29/curfew-friday-saturday-minneapolis-st-paul-george-floyd-protests/

https://kstp.com/news/curfew-put-in-place-for-minneapolis-friday-8-pm-through-weekend/5744981/             -Lists Curfew

 

https://www.twincities.com/2020/05/29/update-six-target-stores-remain-closed-on-friday-some-walgreens-and-cvs-locations-also-closed/ - CVS Closures

 

https://kstp.com/news/fire-department-295-calls-for-service-126-fire-calls-in-st-paul-over-24-hours-may-29-2020/5745152/  - Lists Maplewood as assisting with St Paul FD

 

This is the news for this week. I hope you enjoy this beautiful weekend.  As always, please call if I can address any questions or concerns. Melinda