Adaptability was on display at the May 14 City Council meeting in Marine on St. Croix as council members, committees and the community shifted timelines, delivered services in a new way, and brainstormed ways to celebrate safely. 

The Marine Library 

Library chair Jim Maher reported that library service will begin on Saturday, May 22, for curbside pickup and possibly delivery for patrons who order books online or via email. The library is looking into remodeling the checkout area while the space is closed.  

The library’s popular summer youth camp was cancelled, but the reading incentive program will continue. With so many businesses struggling financially, the library decided to use its own funds to purchase prizes for youth reading achievement rather than ask for business donations. 

The library continues to sponsor River Radio, broadcast at 11 a.m. on Saturdays, and now in its eighth week. Program hosts Jim Maher and Gayle Knutson have interviewed some very distinguished guests. The May 16 program featured public health expert Dr. Michael Osterholm.   

Housing

The Mill Stream Cottages, a proposal to develop a dozen units of housing affordable for people earning $50,000 to $80,000, is off the table. It was no longer feasible once the price of the property increased. Community interest remains in creating residential housing affordable to the “missing middle” but another property would need to be found. 

The Short-Term Rental committee has completed its work and will bring forward its recommendations at the next Planning Commission meeting. A proposed ordinance will come to the Council at its June or July meeting. 

Historic Preservation Grant Funds Available

Resident Wendy Ward came to the Planning Commission with a proposal to offer historic preservation grants. The Old Shed Project will provide two grants in the amount of $900 each to Marine residents who want to do maintenance on historic outbuildings. The application process will be on the city website. The city is not providing any funding. 

Cell Tower Project

It was determined that the city’s current highly restrictive telecommunications ordinance became obsolete when federal guidelines changed in 1996. The current ordinance would not allow the cell tower that is being proposed, or any modern cell tower. “We looked at this before and kicked the can down the road. Now the road is here,” said council member Roden. 

The Council put ordinance review on the agenda of the planning commission. 

The cell tower committee continues its research, with two possible sites. The total height and distance between nodes may change and the recent merger of T-Mobile and Spring may impact the project. 

Public Safety

Council member Miller reported that fire calls have outnumbered medical calls since the stay-at-home order began. The fire department had received some federal funding for COVID-related expenses but fundraisers for the fire department are cancelled (the Art Fair) or will need to be reconsidered. 

The Council will be releasing COVID guidelines in line with the Governor’s new Stay Safe order. It will encourage social distancing, wearing of masks, and no gatherings of more than 10 people. 

The Council approved a 12- month interim ordinance that puts temporary restrictions on sex offenders moving into the Marine area until a permanent ordinance can be developed. The interim ordinances includes language restricting the residence of registered sex offenders to greater than 1,500 feet from a public park, school, playground, licensed daycare center, or church. The Council is working with the City Attorney to develop a final ordinance. 

Celebrations and Events

There will be no 4th of July fireworks but the Council discussed when or whether there might be fireworks later in 2020. The celebration committee discussed how a founders’ day event could be held while still doing social distancing. Sign-ups for the fall art fair, which benefits the fire department, were very low so the art fair committee recommended cancellation. Christ Lutheran Church is leading a proposal to hold a drive-by parade in front of the school to honor the graduating class of 2020. 

Public Works

The village center road project was delayed while archaeological excavations were done in the historic district. MnDOT completed its work and found nothing significant. The Historical Society still has to complete their work, but the Council felt it was reasonable to move ahead with asking for state aid. Work will not begin this summer as contractors are already booked but the Watershed District work may start in the fall. 

The Council voted to purchase used street sweeping equipment for $25,000. With a normal street sweeping budget of $4,000 a year, this purchase will save money over time while keeping trash out of the river. 

High Speed River Traffic 

Resident John Goodfellow reported a significant increase in high-speed boat traffic on the St. Croix. Council member Miller said he had talked to the sheriff and the commander of the water patrol who said they had stopped boats but had not been giving citations. In their opinion, the increase in non-compliance with speed rules was lack of awareness by people who normally go north but now are staying closer to home. The Council will start a task force in June. People were encouraged to call the sheriff’s department to report speeding. 

Natural Resources

Use of the Mill Site Park has increased 80 percent in the last four months. The committee has contracted with Native Landscapes to remove invasive species, to maintain native landscape, and to protect iconic trees. Mike Tibbetts will be building two new benches at the scenic overlook. The committee would like to dedicate the benches to Jack Warren and Chuck Arneson for their work establishing the Mill Site Park. 

The Council approved a memorandum of agreement with Washington County to partner on weed control measures. There is no legal mandate or funding required, but the partnership could allow Marine to receive grant funds if the county receives funding.

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