COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK: April 17th, 2020
Meetings and Announcements:
The next City Council meeting will be held on Monday, April 27th. Staff is working to make sure the public hearing aspect of our meetings can be properly accommodated at the Planning Commission and City Council meetings. We will be touching base with you next week to make sure we are properly prepared for the Council meeting on the 27th.
There are updates from various departments below.
Updates from Staff and Council:
For those who are interested in hearing how other cities are responding to COVID-19, the League of Minnesota Cities has a series of podcasts with leaders from other communities. Check it out here: https://www.lmc.org/news-publications/publications/podcast/ City staff continues to reach out to our partners at a regional level to ensure we’re consistent in our approach and have established document and resource sharing.
New options with Liquor Licenses
Lawmakers, in trying to help restaurants with liquor licenses weather the pandemic, may allow them to sell some alcoholic beverages with takeout.
On Thursday the Senate voted to approve a bill SF4489 which would allow businesses to sell up to one bottle of wine and a six-pack of beer, cider or hard seltzer in their original, unopened packaging. The beer and wine could only be picked up, not delivered.
The House Commerce Committee held an informational hearing also on Thursday regarding this bill and the House may act on it Friday. This legislation will continued to be monitored.
If passed, Gov Walz has expressed support. If the legislation is passed and no action is taken by the council, the sales would be allowed in Maplewood. As the licensing authority, city councils can prohibit such sales in their city. Please let me know if you would like council to consider prohibiting this type of sale.
Saints North Redevelopment
The planning commission and community design review board will be meeting next Tuesday, April 21st via video and teleconference. Both of the boards will be reviewing the redevelopment of the Saints North property at 1818 and 832 Gervias Court into a 119-unit senior living facility.
City staff has prepared a video presentation of the project which has been posted to the city’s website and on the city’s YouTube channel. (https://maplewoodmn.gov/2019/1818-1832-Gervais-Court ) The video is a new tool to better connect and communicate with the surrounding neighborhood. The video will also be sent to all commissioners and board members in advance of the meeting. Although the notification area for the Saints North project is relatively small, we plan to use similar videos for upcoming development projects.
St. Paul Regional Water
St. Paul Regional Water Services has begun marketing the sale of land that they own at their Maplewood facility. The two properties include the 13-acre Rice Street gardens site at Roselawn Ave and Rice Street, and a 39-acre parcel south of County Rd behind the Skillman Ave neighborhood. City staff has received a number of inquiries into the properties and is providing potential developers with information on the city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan and Rice Larpenteur Vision Plan to guide any potential redevelopment of these parcels.
Public Works Updates
Public Works staff continue to provide essential services for the residents of Maplewood during the Covid-19 pandemic. Street crews anticipate that by early next week staff will have completed the first round of spring street sweeping of the City’s 135 miles of roads. Additionally, crews have been out pothole patching city roadways. I have received more comments for residents this week who are thankful for work the crews are doing. Next week, if temperatures are warm enough, Public Works staff will be paving the entrance to City Hall parking lot. Crews also plan to restripe the parking lots at City Hall and the 1902 building prior to them being opened back up to the public.
Sanitary Sewer crews are in the process of annual inspection and cleaning of the City’s sewer mains. This week Park Maintenance crews have been out repairing park amenities such as benches and picnic tables. Additionally, Park Maintenance crews have been out doing spring trail repairs. A big thank you to our Fleet Maintenance staff for keeping the fleet running and allowing City staff to continue to deliver these services to our residents.
Parks and Recreation staff have done a great job of finding innovated ways of delivering services to our residents. This has included online programs such as youth dance classes, youth karate classes, adult dance classes, and Tai Chi classes. Staff continues to work with communications to produce videos highlighting our parks and amenities that residents have access to. Additionally, they are also exploring ways to deliver new virtual events that encourage “community” online such as the Treasure Hunt that will be held on June 13 for National Get Outdoors Day.
Next week is going to be an exciting week for the Engineering Division as all three proposed CIP street project have their bid openings. The bid openings will be held on Monday, Thursday, and Friday of next week. The projects have a good number of plan holders and potential prime contractors. We are hopeful that this results in some good bid results for the City.
Building Maintenance staff are working on a solution to provide glass separation at public counters in the DMV, Public Works, Community Development, and Parks and Recreation areas. A big thank you to our maintenance staff for their hard work on keeping the facilities clean and sanitized during this pandemic time.
The Public Safety Team continues to take a number of precautions intended to protect themselves and the public from the spread of COVID-19. With the elevated levels of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) being used, we project having enough PPE for at least another 60 days with more supplies on order and expected to arrive. A second member of the Public Safety team has now tested positive for COVID-19. Both of the First Responders are recovering at home and still able to work, so they are being assigned work to do at home.
On 4/16/2020 Public Safety held there 2nd Annual “Battle of the Badges Blood Drive” benefiting the American Red Cross. The blood drive is usually held at the Gladstone Fire Station, but due to the Pandemic and concerns about social distancing and infection, this year it was held at the Maplewood Mall. The event “Sold out” and approximately 80 people donated blood this year. As has been well publicized, effects of the pandemic and the Governors Stay at Home order have decreased blood supplies so we were happy to play a part in this worthwhile endeavor. Thanks to Chief Lukin for coordinating again this year and to Maplewood Mall for volunteering the use of the space. Following is Chief Lukin’s report on the event:
The Battle OF the Badges blood drive was head yesterday at the Maplewood Mall. We had a great turnout with 73 who gave blood that is much needed by Red Cross. This is the third year of the Battle of the Badges blood drive with our largest turn out of donors. Each year we give a sticker out to each donor for them to place for their favorite public safety team Police or Fire. For the third year in a roll row the fire department has won the battel with 33 likes for fire and 30 for the police and 6 that like both. I want to say specials thanks to the Maplewood Mall Manager Paula Mueller and her staff for allowing us to uses the Mall and for helping set up. Without the Malls support in allowing us to uses the mall we would have had to cancel the blood drive. I also want to thank our Red Cross account manager Pamela Christopherson for all her help in getting the blood drive going. Thanks to police CSO Ben Geiselhart for all of his hard work and promoting of the police department for their sticker.
Crime statistics for year to date continue to show about a 15% decrease, mostly due to the stay at home order. Luckily, Maplewood has not seen the increase in domestics and assaults that have been seen in some cities, although we are seeing some increases in theft from automobiles (Crime Statistics attached).
The Public Safety Department has been pleasantly surprised at how popular and well received the “Birthday Patrol” has been in our community. Police and Fire, when not assigned other calls for service, have been going by the homes of our communities youth on their birthdays for a special recognition of their birthdays when they cannot have a party with family and friends like they have in the past. It turns out even our public safety staff seems to be enjoying this time to support our communities kids during this difficult time. Some enterprising staff have even figured out how to play the “Happy Birthday” song on the emergency vehicle public address speaker while driving by. More visits are scheduled through the end of the month.
PARK AND RECREATION
Parks and Open Space COVID-19 Updates
Staff made the decision to close playgrounds on March 23 due to social distancing concerns and the inability to safely sanitize the equipment as needed. For these same reasons, portable toilets have not been added to the parks at this time. We have been working closely with Public Safety to monitor what is happening in the parks and as a result, have closed the basketball courts due to a request from Police(there have been many calls of large group gatherings here). Maplewood’s parks, trails and open spaces are still open to the public as well as our tennis courts. We continue to access situations as they arise and are handling them on a cases by case basis.
What Park Wednesday
In addition to the activity and educational videos that we post every week online, staff have created the “What Park Wednesday” challenge on Facebook. Each Wednesday, we post pictures and clues and the public has until the following morning to make their best guess. This week’s winner won bragging rights and a $10 credit towards a future recreation program. It’s a fun way to engage the community and let them know about all the great parks that Maplewood has to offer.
Nature Program Webinars
Nature Center staff were excited to present the program “Native Plants do Double Duty: Rain-gardens and Pollinators” as their first webinar last Thursday. Attendees were very appreciative of the program being available online and Brenda Goeltl had this to say: “I really want to thank you guys for adapting and continuing with this class. I was so looking forward to this. You did not disappoint!”
The next class will be presented through Zoom meetings this Saturday at 1 pm: “Nesting and Overwintering Habitat for Bees”. Information will include how to provide optimum habitat for Minnesota’s gentle wild bees- including leaving plant stems, leaves and bare ground as nest sites and resisting the urge to “tidy” the garden until after May 1. The class has 50 people registered.
The spring Tree Sale is still on! Staff have come up with a revised plan for contactless pickup, and we are working with Tree Trust to implement these changes. Residents who ordered trees will be informed of the new pick up procedures via mail. Pickup dates are Saturday, May 16th and Monday, May 18th.
As you can see, staff has been busy keeping up with services and programs as we normally would. I will have more information for you next week on the status of Park and Rec and other special events for this summer. We are tracking what other communities are doing and will prepare a report for you on this. Enjoy the nice weather tomorrow and the soon to come more normal spring weather next week.