The March 12 Marine City Council meeting began with the topic on so many people’s minds right now – the coronavirus.
The meeting started with a report from the Marine Library Association on their decision to cancel family game night the following evening. No decision has been made yet on whether to cancel the native wildflower talk, scheduled for March 26, or the May 3 fundraising event for which the library’s application for a one-day liquor license was approved at the meeting.
Library Association board chair, Jim Maher, said that the board is watching what other libraries are doing in the area and around the country as it considers whether to scale back library hours or close. “With so many things cancelling, this is a prime time for people to get books and read, so I hate to do that [close the library] but we also want to be cognizant of our volunteers working there.” Watch the library website for details.
Later in the meeting, Council member Charlie Anderson reported the fire chief is in daily contact with both Washington County and state emergency operations center to stay informed on the coronavirus situation. Marine emergency services has emergency protocols, though they'ree not being shared until needed. Marine residents are encouraged to sign up for the city’s e-newsletter in order to receive emergency updates.
At this time the decision to close public spaces, like the library and the folk school, is up to the operators of those spaces. Pastor Joel, from Christ Church Lutheran, has said the church will take a lead role in helping people who are shut in or trying to isolate themselves. The church is seeking volunteers and will accept donations of food or supplies for shut-ins.
Opportunities Open Up
It’s been at least 30 years since residents in the City of Marine had an opportunity to connect to the city’s sewer system. But infrastructure improvements have resulted in the possibility of adding as many as 45 new connections to the system.
Council member Lon Pardun said the city is in the process of figuring out an order for selecting the next hookups. Although people had been told years ago if they didn’t sign up at that time they would never be able to do so, Pardun said it doesn’t make sense to have people who live along the existing sewer line not get connected if they wish to do so.
There will still be additional capacity. Residents can see the result of a septic/wastewater study on the city’s website.
Solar Project Gets a Green Light
A resident's request for variance to install solar panels on their property in the river district was approved. Because their property falls within the zone of the Scenic Riverway Act, it required special consideration. It was determined by the Planning Commission that the installation was past the setback rules and would not be visible from the river.
Assistant clerk Suzanne Lindgren told the Council that the commission was “craving more guidance” for review of solar projects. There was a question as to whether the installation constituted an accessory building. Council member Roden said it was determined not to be one because it’s not a building, the ground beneath it has access to precipitation, and it’s not an impervious surface. There were requirements for planting under it. When asked about height considerations, Roden reported that at 13’, it was lower than the buildings around it.
The downtown road reconstruction project may be delayed. MnDOT will be doing a historical review, and then the Minnesota Historical Society will begin its review. It’s unknown how long these reviews will take. The work may also be impacted by any future coronavirus quarantines.
Council member Pardun reported that he expects the bidding process to begin in late May or June but it’s unknown if the road work can get scheduled for this year. Some part of the project may be done this year and some next year.
Short Term Rental
A public hearing on the proposed short-term rental ordinance is scheduled for April 28, 7:30 pm at the Planning Commission Meeting. Some Council and Planning Commission members will meet with the city attorney on March 23 to discuss the ordinance.
Cell Tower Research Wrapping Up
Council member Charlie Anderson reported that the committee working on the cell tower project expects to arrive at a recommendation no later than July. All the information has been gathered, site surveys completed as well as viewsheds. He reiterated that the plan is for a 180’ tower that can accommodate multiple carriers so no additional tower will be needed. There will be no lighting but there would be a raptor platform. They are now consulting with a lawyer on any variance or code changes that might be required.
Public Safety Report Welcomes New Firefighter
The council approved the addition of a new volunteer firefighter, Scott Peers, pending completion of a background check and probationary period. [I couldn’t confirm the spelling of this name. The City Clerk may be able to confirm on Monday but she wasn’t in on Friday.]
The Council approved the workplan and budget of the Forest Advisory Committee, which includes plans for a Saturday, April 25, Arbor Day celebration and tree planting. Committee chair Peter Foster reported that the day will begin at the Marine Folk School with a 9 am planting of bareroot trees in the community gravel bed. At 11 am, visitors are invited to join committee members in the village center to place ribbons around ash trees to show people which trees are vulnerable to loss from emerald ash borer. There will also be children’s storytelling at the gazebo. From noon to 2 pm, visitors can stop at the gazebo to pick up information about bird-friendly trees and to enter a drawing for a bird-feeder. Olivia Nienaber will be on hand to talk about her tree-planting project.
The Marine GreenStep Cities committee met last week with Kristin Mroz-Risse from the Environmental Quality Board to learn more about how to move toward Step 4 status. The committee asked for a meeting with Council members to review proposed future GreenStep actions and to identify metrics for its next step. The committee also asked for permission to hold future meetings online using a platform like Zoom. The Council approved the request, noting that a link to the meeting should be provided on the city website.
Marine Village Charter School Moves Forward
Winn Miller, one of the planners for a new village charter school, brought forward a letter of intent to enter into a lease agreement with the City of Marine for use of the school building at a future date. The school’s application for a charter will be submitted to the MN Department of Education next week and they expect approval in April.
Marine Spiffs Up Its Image with New Website and Logo
A final logo design has been chosen and will soon be gracing the homepage of a new Marine website. Council member Anderson invited community members to submit high-resolution photos of the town and the river for inclusion on the website.
Holiday Committee Seeking
Dorothy Deetz, longtime and much-appreciated volunteer with the Marine Holiday committee that has run the successful 4th of July celebration for many years, is stepping down. Several other volunteers have also ended their many years of service. The Council is inviting new volunteers to help with preparations and clean-up on the 3rd and 4th of July. Contact the town hall to volunteer.
County Commissioner Provides Update on Improvements and Seeks Feedback on Sales Tax Increase
County Commission Fran Miron reported on completed plans for improvements to Square Lake Park, Pine Point Park and Big Marine Reserve, including parking improvements, restrooms, signage, and wayfinding. He is working with the community on plans to for roadway upgrades on County 3/Norrell between County 4 and 7.
He invited residents to review the One Water-One Watershed plan which outlines biennium spending commitments of $1.2 million from the Soil and Water Conservation District for counties along the lower St. Croix watershed. Learn more at https://www.lsc1w1p.org/.
Miron invited residents to provide comment on a proposal ¼ cent sales tax to be dedicated to roads and bridges, which would take the place of bonding. He pointed out that a $20 million bond actually costs taxpayers $25 million over the period of the bond, so a small sales tax actually saves taxpayers money. It’s anticipated that the sales tax option, which has been used in other counties, could generate about $10 million a year. Email Miron with comments: email@example.com. The comment period ends March 24.