Category Archives: Twin Cities

West St. Paul City Council Recap: April 8, 2019

It was a pretty light city council meeting this week, so we’ve got a short recap.

  • Pedestrian safety: Ken Paulman recently wrote about a missed opportunity to improve pedestrian safety at Smith and Dodd, and he shared those findings with the council. It’s an interesting read and can introduce you to the term “sneckdown.”
  • Road repair: Another resident expressed frustration over cracks appearing in Charlton after it was just recently resurfaced. That’s actually expected because the road wasn’t fully reconstructed, it just received a mill and overlay—a bandaid solution that can stretch the life of the road another 10 to 12 years before a full reconstruction is needed. Why isn’t public works doing full reconstructions? Cost. If you want perfectly smooth roads, you have to pay for them. Given the current tax increases in West St. Paul, it seems like we’re doing the best we can with what we have.
  • New restaurant: Hamburgeusas El Gordo is coming to West St. Paul at 1731 S. Robert Street (the old Rib Shack location). They hope to open this spring, though no exact date is known yet.
  • Food drive: Final totals aren’t available, but the food drive has been a tremendous success—and definitely a community effort. Neighbors Inc. serves more than 500 families every month, so thank you to the many volunteers and donors who made this happen.
  • Continued debate: The Open Council Work Session (OCWS) opened a debate on the Inflow/Infiltration (I/I) ordinance changes that didn’t past last meeting. Rather than debating the specific changes, the council mostly discussed the need for an I/I ordinance at all. It’s a convoluted debate with lots of questions and few clear answers. And this discussion didn’t resolve any of them, so look for this to be an ongoing conversation.

Fine Forgiveness Week at Dakota County Library: April 6-13, 2019

Library fines may seem like a minor annoyance, but when those fines add up you can be blocked from using the library.  The blocking threshold is $25 for adults and $10 for kids. That can lock people out of vital resources. And the people with the greatest difficulty paying fines are the ones most in need of the library’s free resources.

23,000 people are currently blocked in the Dakota County Library system. 

That’s a lot of people shut out of books, resources, and internet access.

Thankfully there’s a solution. For the week of April 6-13, 2019, Dakota County Libraries are hosting Fine Forgiveness Week. Simply use your library account online or in-person during the week and your fines will be waived.  Continue reading Fine Forgiveness Week at Dakota County Library: April 6-13, 2019

Council Member Lisa Eng-Sarne’s Last Roller Derby Bout

Recently appointed West St. Paul city council member Lisa Eng-Sarne hangs up her roller-skates after 11 years of playing in the Minnesota RollerGirls roller derby league.

Known on the track as “Diamond Rough,” Eng-Sarne’s last game will be Saturday, March 30.  Grab some tickets and check this one out.

If you’ve never seen roller derby before, it’s pretty epic. The rules… well, I still can’t explain them, but basically two teams muscle their way around a flat track while trying to slow the other team down. Points are earned, elbows fly—it’s all pretty wild. Continue reading Council Member Lisa Eng-Sarne’s Last Roller Derby Bout

West St. Paul City Council Recap: March 25, 2019

Last night’s West St. Paul city council meeting was mostly routine business and well-deserved city boosting. But it also included a seemingly benign change that turned contentious. It resulted in the first non-unanimous votes in Mayor Dave Napier’s new tenure.

City Boosting

  • The food drive in support of Neighbors Inc. continues, and all indications are that West St. Paul is crushing neighboring South St. Paul. You can get details about where and how to donate at WSPFoodDrive.com.
  • Mayor Napier and Council member Lisa Eng-Sarne were among the many volunteers who joined the effort to fill sandbags in South St. Paul as the Mississippi River rises.
  • The West St. Paul Days organizers gave an update about this year’s events, which are coming in May, including a combined City Hall open house and festival at Harmon Park.
  • Mayor Napier honored former council member and city manager Tom Hoban, who passed away recently with a proclamation for his long list of service to the city.
  • A report on the city’s shared volunteer program highlighted that it’s saved the city $78,000. The program also boasts 470 volunteers in West St. Paul.

Continue reading West St. Paul City Council Recap: March 25, 2019

West St. Paul City Council Recap: March 11, 2019

A relatively quick and uneventful city council meeting tonight in West St. Paul. Here’s the recap:

Food Drive

The South St. Paul vs. West St. Paul food drive beef continues, but it’s all in support of Neighbors Inc. Mayor Dave Napier taunted South St. Paul, saying he just picked up some Henry Sibley Warriors jerseys, ready for the South St. Paul city council to wear when they lose. You can get all the details at WSPFoodDrive.com.

A food local businesses are offering special incentives for bringing in donations, such as a free day pass from the YMCA. You can find the listing on the WSPFoodDrive site.

Survey Results

A survey was conducted at the recent West St. Paul Neighborhood Meetings, along with participation online, and the results are now available (the report also includes results from 2017 and 2018).

One of the most interesting (and obvious) results of the survey is the proportion of people who took it online and their corresponding ages. While the 65 and over crowd was easily the largest age range in all three in-person meetings, three younger age brackets them in the online survey. The online responses even beat the in-person responses in sheer numbers (158 responses online, 147 in person).

Council member Lisa Eng-Sarne encouraged residents to keep contacting the city council, noting that it’s never to late to give input.

Passing of Tom Hoban

Mayor Napier noted the passing Tom Hoban, former West St. Paul city manager (1972-1985) and city council member (1962-1966; 1968). Napier noted that Hoban had been his mentor (“we always met at Perkins”) and taught him how to bring people together.

The funeral is on Thursday, March 14 at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church. Napier noted that the city would prepare a proclamation at a future council meeting.

New Firefighters

Four new firefighters were welcomed to the South Metro Fire Department. Mayor Napier also gave a heartfelt thanks to retiring Fire Chief Mike Pott, who has served with South Metro (which was the WSP Fire Department before that) for 36 years.

Act on Alzheimer’s Team

Claudia Egelhoff from Act on Alzheimer’s gave a presentation about their group’s effort to help address dementia in West St. Paul. The group started in 2017 when a citizen approached Mayor Jenny Halverson. The community has rallied in response, with participation from nearly every major organization in the city.

  • There’s a brochure making the case for why businesses should care: “70% of people with dementia live at home and shop in their own community.”
  • The group has accomplished a lot in two years—including raising $2,500 for the Alzheimer’s Association, training 200 community members in West St. Paul, and sending 300 info packets to local businesses.
  • Here’s a list of dementia resources.

Winter Storms Having a Spring Impact

We had record snowfall in February, and we’re starting to see the impacts:

  • Council member John Justen encouraged residents to shovel out any blocked storm drains to alleviate the flooding that’s bound to come this week with rising temperatures and—that’s right—rain.
  • Council member Dick Vitelli noted that the city is nearly out of salt and will be using a mixture of sand and salt from here on out. So if you see a lot of sand out on the roads, that’s why.

Livingston Street Improvements

The city council awarded a bid for the reconstruction of Livingstone Avenue from Mendota to Wentworth. The bid came in nearly $1 million $550,000 lower than the estimate, so that’s some good news.

Temporary No Parking

At a recent city council meeting a resident suggested during citizen comments that the city should allow for temporary no parking zones. They gave the example of moving and needing to park a moving truck in front of their house and wanting to save that parking spot. Having dumpster delivered is another common example—what do you do if cars are parked in front of your house and there’s no where to put the dumpster?

The city had an ordinance to allow for that dumpster, but nothing to ensure that cars weren’t parking there when it was delivered.

The idea also expanded to allow for temporary parking for special events in areas where parking isn’t permitted.

Overall it’s good to see the city responding to citizen suggestions. Mayor Napier encouraged citizens to read over the new ordinance (plain English explanation and the actual ordinance) and give the council feedback. This was a first reading of the proposed ordinance. Next will be a second reading and a public hearing.

Celebrating 2 Women on the West St. Paul City Council

2019 saw some milestones in the West St. Paul city council. Townsquare TV took notice:

Women Of Ward 3

Meet two councilmembers who made history in West St. Paul.

Posted by Town Square Television on Thursday, February 21, 2019

Continue reading Celebrating 2 Women on the West St. Paul City Council

West St. Paul City Council Recap: Feb. 25, 2019

This week’s West St. Paul City Council meeting didn’t seem to have any major items on the agenda, but there were still several noteworthy items. So let’s do a quick recap of the Feb. 25, 2019 meeting.

Food Drive: South Side vs. West Side

In a bit of friendly competition, the West St. Paul city council has challenged the South St. Paul city council to see who can bring in more food and donations in support of the Neighbors Inc. food shelf. The losing city council will wear the hockey jersey of the winning city’s team at a meeting. So it’s South St. Paul High School Packers vs. Henry Sibley High School Warriors. You can find more details including a list of places to bring food or donations online.

It’s been reported that Neighbors Inc. has lost an $89,000 grant from United Way, so they could definitely use the extra support this year. Continue reading West St. Paul City Council Recap: Feb. 25, 2019

How Much Do Election Campaigns Cost in West St. Paul?

We had a competitive and heated election season in West St. Paul, Minn., in 2018. That hasn’t always been the case, but it also means an increase in costs.

Let’s take a look at the cash spent in recent elections in West St. Paul.

Most Expensive Election?

2018 at nearly $37,700 total. Only one race was uncontested and there was an extremely expensive primary in ward 3 where all four candidates spend over $2,000.

I only looked at data going back to 2008, but given inflation and the rising cost of campaigns, it’s likely the most expensive election season in West St. Paul history (I don’t quite have the data to verify it, but I’m pretty confident). Continue reading How Much Do Election Campaigns Cost in West St. Paul?

I Support Lisa Eng-Sarne for the Open West St. Paul City Council Seat

With the election of council member Dave Napier to mayor, West St. Paul will have an open city council seat. According to state law and city charter, the mayor and council can appoint a replacement to serve out the remainder of Napier’s term (ends in 2020).

West St. Paul is currently accepting applications for this position. The newly elected council and mayor will consider the applicants and vote for a new city council member. Unlike normal city business, the mayor gets a vote in this process and there is no veto.

Democracy Adjacent

These appointment situations are always a little odd because we the people don’t get to elect our representative. We have a voice in the process through our other elected representatives, but it kind of side-steps democracy. (As an example of this democracy side-step: Of the six elected representatives voting to pick my new representative, only two of them actually represent me; the other four were elected by the people of wards 1 and 2.)

It’s democracy adjacent. Continue reading I Support Lisa Eng-Sarne for the Open West St. Paul City Council Seat

Wentworth Avenue in West St. Paul Needs Trails on Both Sides

In 2019 Dakota County plans to rebuild a stretch of Wentworth Avenue in West St. Paul from Delaware to Humboldt. The project will add trails to Wentworth, including a trail on the entire north side of the corridor and the south side from Charlton to Livingston.

At the last city council meeting on Nov. 26, the public hearing consisted mostly of complaints from local residents about adding sewer hookups and the associated assessment costs. The council seemed willing to drop the sewer requirement from the project, though some council members wanted to debate the necessity of adding trails on both sides of Wentworth before approving the project.

Ultimately they voted to continue the matter to the next meeting on Dec. 10 (when they’ll also be readdressing the site plans for Garlough).

So given that there may be continued debate on the project and the public comment period is closed, let’s look at the rationale for including trail on both sides of Wentworth. Continue reading Wentworth Avenue in West St. Paul Needs Trails on Both Sides