COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK: July 17th, 2020
Meetings and Announcements:
- The next City Council meeting will be held next Monday, July 27th.
- There will be a Special Council Meeting Friday, August 14th at 4:00 pm to canvass the primary election results
Here are the updates from various departments below.
Updates from Staff and Council:
Maplewood News – Homeless Encampment:
A sample of the story here:
“Maplewood officials dismantled a homeless camp last week in a city park they said was showing signs of eroding sanitary and safety conditions — including a nearby drowning and a machete attack. The city is one of several east metro jurisdictions struggling to manage growing homeless camps this summer under Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency executive order, which requires them to accommodate people displaced when camps are removed during the COVID-19 crisis. Conditions at dozens of homeless encampments in Minneapolis city parks have prompted impassioned public debate this week. But St. Paul officials said they too are monitoring 84 homeless campsites with an estimated 270 residents, a tenfold increase from last summer.
“We are at levels now we have never experienced in St. Paul before,” said Ricardo Cervantes, St. Paul’s director of safety and inspections, saying they counted about 28 people at encampments during last year’s peak. Maplewood officials said they initially tried to maintain safety and order at the camp in Legacy Park, near a Ramsey County Library branch and the Maplewood Mall. They provided food, portable toilets and a hand-washing station. Police made regular welfare checks, and nonprofit case managers visited the camp. But conditions deteriorated, they said. There were 27 police calls to the site, culminating in a drowning death and the machete attack during a turf dispute among camp dwellers.
“We were trying to be as compassionate as we possibly could. It evolved into a dangerous situation for everyone,” said Mayor Marylee Abrams. The mayor called it a “heartbreaking situation for cities not equipped to deal with it. We don’t have a health and human services department. We don’t have social workers on staff. That is not in the city’s wheelhouse.” The city paid for hotel rooms for about a half dozen people displaced from the camp, many of whom will now be moving into a temporary St. Paul shelter being set up by Ramsey County. City crews cleared two dumpsters full of debris from the encampment, which had a population of about 15 at its peak.”
HyVee Liquor Ordinance Amendment
On July 8th, city staff sent a letter to the 13 off-sale liquor establishments in Maplewood informing them of the amendment to the liquor ordinance being requested by HyVee. This week we received calls from Big Discount Liquor across the street from the proposed HyVee and from 61 Liquors on Highway 61. Both owners have expressed concerns about the ordinance amendment and its impact on their operations and other small liquor store owners. We also received a call from an attorney representing one of the current grocery stores in Maplewood who indicated support for HyVee’s request. We have asked liquor store owners to submit comments by next week and we will include them in the packet when the council reviews the request at its July 27th meeting.
Multicultural Advisory Committee:
On 7/14/2020 the Maplewood Police Department hosted its first meeting of the newly formed Multi-Cultural Advisory committee at the Police Department. Ten of the 14 committee members attended, and masks and social distancing were utilized for COVID-19 concerns. The committee members were very engaged and represented a number of our communities underserved communities and provided great feedback during the meeting. After a brief overview of the Maplewood Police Department to include structure and initiatives, committee members introduced themselves and we had a great discussion about what the MAC was and the goals we wanted to accomplish. The main topic of the evening was the murder of George Floyd and how to move forward with Police building relationships with community in such a challenging environment in Minnesota and across the nation. The discussions were very candid and the group was both respectful and engaged. We look forward to the next meeting and work that we will be doing with the MAC to increase understanding and partnership with our diverse community.
MNDoT Construction Change – Century Avenue – NIGHT WORK BEGINNING TUESDAY, JULY 21st
MNDoT is currently doing an overlay project on Century Avenue (from 94 to the South to County Road E on the North).
On Tuesday, July 21st, MNDoT will move their construction from day to night because of concerns:
Significant back-ups (over 2 miles)
Unsafe conditions with drivers ignoring “flaggers” and/or State Patrol signage
Damage to new pavement
Overall frustration on all sides (drivers and construction crews)
Construction on 694/494 is also causing traffic to find alternate routes, thus making Century Ave busier than it otherwise would be
The shift to night work increases noise impacts to residents. MNDoT is not subject to our noise ordinance. However, they reached out to the city as a courtesy for input and to solicit our help in communication.
The project is 7 miles long and crews can complete 1.0 - 1.5 miles/day. Residents in the area will be notified via social media, posted signs, traditional media, and work crews. Crews are proposing a 7pm – 5am working hours.
Public Works Crew Updates
This week Ramsey County held a preconstruction meeting for this year’s maintenance projects. The first project is on McKnight Road and is scheduled to begin next week. It is broken into 2 areas as seen on the map below. The north area runs from 7th Avenue south to Stillwater Road. The south area runs from Burns Avenue south to Pond Avenue:
The second project is on Larpenteur Avenue and runs from Grotto Street (west of Rice Street) to I 35E (see map below). This project is estimated to being in August of this summer.
Both of these project include resurfacing, pedestrian improvements, and conversion from a 4 lane to 3 lane road. These projects are planned to be completed while maintain traffic flow.
These are the reports for this week. Reminder that Melinda is on vacation next week. Stay tuned for more information next week. As always, please call if I can address any questions or concerns. Thank you.