Sorry but... this was one of the longer meetings I've seen in many years serving on and watching the council, so grab some coffee, tea, or beverage of your choice...
Item D (EDA appointments)
I'm not going to go into much detail on this, but it was clear to me there was something going on with personalities between the EDA and one or more members on the council rather than the actual topic.
Our EDA currently has 5 members (2 council, 3 business members) and has wanted to expand their membership to 7 for years. Many EDAs have 7 members and state statute allows it. The EDA stated goal for this was to get more opinions on the commission. They have had applicants to fill the extra 2 slots for a while. A few months back they asked the council to approve the 2 members and the council said no because they wanted the EDA to clarify their mission. The EDA has since clarified their mission and there was still push back with what I thought were lack-luster reasons. While I would have preferred a better candidate for one of the slots (someone from a larger company), I believe the council needs to give these commissions more latitude in how they do their task.
A vote was called to approve the 2 candidates and it passed 4-1.
Item I (Water treatment presentation)
This was, once again, a project that started out at a very palatable number when presented and turned into a gorilla when the real number was presented.
When we approved the design for a treatment facility for the central water system we were given the estimate of $4 million. A few months later, the tallied up cost is $7.5 million. I'd like to say I was shocked and dismayed, but the reality is I was simply dismayed. The reasons given were costs have gone up. Well, I'm pretty sure that should have been known back when we were given the estimate but... I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.
There was a generator in there for $0.5 million (that's one expensive generator) which is simply a backup if power goes out for a few days. We all agreed that seemed silly, and if power is out for that long there's going to be bigger issues than water treatment. So now we're down to $7 million.
Earlier this year, we received a grant ("free money") from the federal government of $4 million for this project. That leaves the city on the hook for $3 million. While we have planned for this expense and it's in the water fund, it still irks me how this stuff predictably happens to double in price.
So, for now things are going forward. Even if everything was given a green light, it would still likely be well into next year that it went online.
Hopefully this at least puts a stake in doing this with the old village, so we can look at much cheaper solutions.
Item J (Lee development)
This residential development has been in the works now for years (though unbeknownst to the council). It's a continuation of the development to the west of it on 117th. This brought to light what I call the notorious X road plan in the current comprehensive plan. The plan is (was) to connect Dayton Parkway to the north end of Fernbrook and the south end of Zanzibar with the south end of Fernbrook. Hence the X. Why anybody thought this was a good idea is beyond me, but it makes for a lot of wasted space for every development that comes near it (unless you want all those roads and houses to be 45 degrees off).
My contention has always been that the parkway should go straight north to Zanzibar.
When we first received this development concept plan, I noticed the SE corner of the X right in the middle of it and questioned why. One of the council (and staff) said that we shouldn't question it since it was decided by a previous council. Silly me! Well, I questioned it and the council decided to have a joint session with the planning commission.
At that meeting our consultant (SRF) tried to convince us that traffic counts were the reason. but those were muddied by Hennepin County numbers that varied significantly from SRF numbers and many of us questioned a lot of the assumptions that factored into those numbers.
In the end, at least 2 of the planning commission members and 3 council members were of the opinion that the parkway should go straight north to Zanzibar.
Unfortunately it didn't end there.
Staff (our previous planning director) believed that we should be funding changes to county roads (since the county is tighter with their funding). This has come up a few times. This council was asked to pay $7 million for the intersection upgrade at the Parkway and 81. We made it clear that was a non-starter. Now the push is for the city to take over Fernbrook and re-route it to the west of its current location, at a cost of $11 million, a loss of 22 acres of development, and still a partial 2 legs of an X (and corresponding funky out lots to go with it).
This has bypass has NO benefit to the traffic on Fernbrook (it may actually increase it) until post 2050 when the north end of the bypass connects to the old Fernbrook. And all of this assumes the county never does anything with their road.
The bottom line for this development is they are planning green space where this bypass is. I believe we will finally have a decision to this bypass in a few weeks.
Item K (Apartment plan)
This was a concept plan and a much better plan than was put forth last time for this property.
The property is on the north side of Territorial road just east of 81.
The planning commission looked at this and had a number of comments. The primary issue is that they would be responsible to upgrade the intersection of Territorial and 81. The extent of the upgrade is yet to be determined, but that intersection (turning left onto 81) is a mess. The current plan is to significantly improve the sight lines and improve the approach to 81.
Another item came up here that I'd like to comment on. Another council member asked if a 4 story apartment would drive the need for a ladder fire truck ($2 million). My response was no. Our fire chief and a council member that's on the fire department said yes. When the chief was asked, he said that it's "required" due to that apartment, the warehouses we're putting in, and the houses we're building.
I very thoroughly read the (very expensive) BKV fire department study we funded 3 years ago (more on that later), they were very aware of the warehouses we're putting in and the house styles we're building. They concluded that we would not be needing a ladder truck for the 20 years they projected.
Items (L, M, and N)
These were basically discussions around the development agreements we needed to finalize with a few of the commercial development by Dayton Parkway. I have spoke to our new temp administrator in the past regarding these development agreements (given the issues we've had with them) and I think he's doing a good job at improving how they're presented to the council (and residents) during the meetings.
Item O (Updated Fire Study)
Less than 3 years ago the city spent $50,000 on a study to tells us what was needed to upgrade fire stations 1 and 2 and what we should start looking at with regards to a final configuration of stations when the city was built out. That last part resulted in what anybody looking at a map would conclude; we'll need a station somewhere around 117th and one on north diamond (assuming we reduce to 2 stations, which will be tough since that's just not how government likes to do things).
Many on the council are very familiar with the study, and a few of us know the study was focused on what should happen, not how to pay for it or the current financial environment we're in.
Staff wants to update this study (likely another $50,000) because they believe there were bad assumptions made (population and call volume) on it. The "bad" assumption on population was a 4% difference.
Here's the basics. All of us know we'll need a 3rd station in the SW in the next 5 or so years. The fire department wants it now. 2 of the current council candidates want it now.
Here is what they are ignoring... If you run the numbers on a $15-20 million cost at 5% and assuming 1000 more houses then we have today, it'll add $450 PER YEAR to a median priced home. However, if we wait 5 or so years when we start to see the commercial taxes come in, it'll be significantly cheaper. By the way, the original target for that fire station in our long term plan was 2028. Staff decided to pull that in 2 years ago without asking the council (that problem has since been fixed).
Item Q (Quarterly Report)
Not much here. It's a status update on the various funds.
Item Q (Budget)
A small bit of bad news (though overall very good news).
The last time we discussed the budget staff believed there was $600k in the temp fund that wasn't already allocated. With that in mind it looked like we'd be able to bring the overall tax levy increase down to 2%.
This update was to notify us that there was only $200k in there. So at this point the increase will be 3.8%. This is likely what we'll approve for the preliminary levy. After that it can't increase.
The good news is... the previous council averaged 15% tax increase each of the 4 years between 2018 to 2021. For the 2022 and 2023 taxes we've averaged 5.5%.
Item R and Closed Meeting
Both of these items ended up being a closed session. Item R involves an administrative appeal of a PERA (Public Employees Retirement Association) decision regarding a previous employee and the latter was a discussion on litigation stemming from a couple years back. Once that case is resolved I suspect I'll have a LOT to say about it.
As always feel very free to contact me regarding anything!