COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK: May 8th, 2020
Meetings and Announcements:
The next City Council meeting will be held on Monday, May 11th at 7 pm. Please note that you will be receiving an updated staff report on the Bond Sale this afternoon. It is additional information to add to your packet for Monday night. We will have presentations and residents that may wish to speak on agenda items. We are getting better at presentations on these zoom meetings. I still hope that we will get back to having live meetings someday soon.
Updates from Staff and Council:
Sales Tax Exemption
The city’s legislative proposal seeking a Sales Tax Exemption for the First Station is included in the latest version of the House Omnibus Tax Bill. This is good news for the City of Maplewood and we’ll be monitoring closely. This exemption lowers the overall cost the project. For more information please check out the bill here:
The bill also includes provisions for COVID-19 response and the League of Minnesota Cities, Metro Cities, and Municipal Legislative Commission have all written in support of the House Omnibus Tax Bill
New Rental Licensing Specialist
Sam Drewry joined the community development team on Monday as the new Neighborhood Preservation Specialist for Rental Licensing. Sam is looking forward to the challenge of getting this program up and running. She has a passion to help ensure our city’s renters have access to safe, high quality rental housing.
Sam joins us from Cottage Grove, where she ran their rental license program and oversaw code enforcement issues. She worked in a similar role for the City of Mounds View prior to that. A Stillwater resident, Sam grew up in Hugo and graduated from Winona State. She has three dogs, two cats, and enjoys the outdoors, going on hikes and gardening. We look forward to working with her and rolling out the rental housing program after more than two years of planning.
In addition to the Birthday Patrols that are happening daily, as time allows, Public Safety Staff held an appreciation event for staff at St. Johns Hospital on 5/7/2020 during shift change both in the morning and afternoon. Chief Mondor has been working with hospital administration and it was decided that we would partner on two different dates and the second date is next week. The staff at the hospital was very grateful for the recognition and public safety staff were joined by some hospital administrators and supervisors who thanked those working “on the front lines” of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event also attracted some positive comments on social media (see photo attached).
Police Flooring Project
Over the last week the Police Department completed its epoxy flooring project and the results were great. The timing worked well with police staff being out of the building due to social distancing and their spending most of the time in their vehicles. Attached are some before and after pictures, where you can see areas that had different colored concrete, patching or where tile had been removed in the “before” pictures are have now been treated with a durable and professional finish. Another benefit is ease of cleanup and reduced slip resistance. Since furniture had to be removed for the project we also did some limited painting and wall repair and furniture maintenance. We appreciate the assistance of building maintenance, I.T., and Finance as the planning and implementation of this project has taken about a year and worked well.
Public Safety continues to follow recommended guidelines and is going through PPE at anticipated rates. The Police department is happy to report that of the two Officers who were infected with COVID-19 one has made a complete recovery and returned to work while the other one is recovering and working from home.
Dennis-McClelland Area Improvements – On-Street Parking Discussion
During the public hearing, a number of residents within the project area voiced opposition to the proposed restriction of parking to one side of each project street, as guided by the City’s Living Street’s Policy. At that time, staff was directed to further investigate the need for restricting parking to one-side in this neighborhood.
Since that meeting, staff have visited the neighborhood a number of times, at various times of the day, and during different days of the week (including weekends). During the majority of those visits, there were less than 10 vehicles parked on the street throughout the neighborhood. Staff did note, however, a couple of instances in which a concentration of vehicles were parked along neighborhood streets, closest to Upper Afton Road and Carver Elementary. This concentration was occurring during pick-up and drop-off times for the school.
Staff also consulted with the Fire Department to discuss the proposed street width as it pertains to the on-street parking discussion. In the worst-case scenario of having vehicles parked on both sides of the 29-foot wide street, utilizing a typical 8-foot wide parking space; 13-feet would be available for emergency vehicle access. The Fire Department noted that this width is adequate, although tight, for fire truck access. For reference, a standard fire truck is 10-feet in width.
After considering the input from the Fire Department and the unique nature of this neighborhood being in close proximity to Carver Elementary; staff is recommending that on-street parking remain on both sides of the street at this time. Staff further recommends that the parking situation in the neighborhood be monitored in the future and parking restrictions be reconsidered if issues should arise.
MnDot I-94 East Metro Interchange Public Engagement
MnDOT is studying the I-94 East Metro Interchange. The interchange connects I-94 to I-494 and I-694 in Woodbury and Oakdale. They are looking for community feedback on the proposed project. The following link is to the project information webpage:
The online engagement runs through May 17 and MnDot is looking to have the public share their voices as MnDot develops the long-term vision for the interchange.
Gladstone Phase 3 – Project Update
The finishing touches are being placed within the Gladstone Phase 3 project area this spring, which included improvements along Frost Avenue between English Street and White Bear Avenue. The most prominent feature of this project was the narrowing of Frost Avenue from over 50-feet wide to 26-feet in width, providing more greenspace along the corridor and reducing stormwater runoff. That additional space also allowed for the placement of a sidewalk along the north side of Frost Avenue, and multi-use trail on the south-side, improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. Significant improvements were also made within Wakefield Park, including the installation of two large infiltration basins, a sidewalk connecting the Frost Avenue sidewalk system to the Wakefield Park building, a walking bridge over an infiltration basin, and stepping stone paths through the basin to allow residents to interact with the water quality feature.
The contractor recently installed the pavement markings along Frost Avenue, finished shaping up the infiltration basins, and placed trees and shrubs throughout the project area. In the coming weeks, final grading, the installation of seed and sod, and final project cleanup will be wrapping up. Staff is excited to note that this marks the completion of the Frost Avenue Corridor Improvements in Maplewood.
PARK AND RECREATION
Plans for the Tree Sale pickup on May 16th and 18th are moving forward! On Monday, postcards with pickup details and a map showing traffic flow were mailed out to residents who ordered trees. We are collaborating with Tree Trust to send out a follow up email a few days before the sale to further outline contactless pickup procedures. See attached photo-Pickup steps will include:
1. Check in with Tree Trust staff
2. Pull into Public Works garage and drive forward to the sign for the tree(s) they ordered
3. Stay in the car, keep windows closed, and open their trunk/hatch
4. Staff load the tree(s) in their car
5. Pull to the end of the garage and staff load a bag of mulch
6. There will be a designated spot in the yard for cars to stop and tie down their tree
Morel Mushroom Webinar
Seventy-two people attended the Morel Mushroom Webinar on Thursday, May 7. Nature Center staff co-hosted the event with Ron Spinosa, a mushroom expert and former president of the Minnesota Mycology Society. Morel mushrooms, a highly sought after edible mushroom, are the state mushroom of Minnesota. Found only in the spring from late April to mid- May, they are eagerly collected by mushroom hunters. They are covered with pits and ridges, completely hollow inside and are relatively easy to identify and fun to find. People were very pleased with the program! Kudos to Karen Wachal for her technical help, and Ron Spinosa for his informative presentation. See attached photos. I have to say I was a bit envious of their mushrooms!
In the news:
In case you didn’t know yet: https://www.twincities.com/2020/05/07/ramsey-county-fair-canceled-in-july-due-to-coronavirus/ Ramsey County Fair has been cancelled for this year.
This is the news for this week. I hope you enjoy this spring/chilly weekend and happy Mother’s Day for the mom’s reading this. As always, please call if I can address any questions or concerns. Melinda