The September 10 Marine City Council meeting kicked off with a report from the Marine Library Association on its slate of fall activities. In addition to a redesign of its website and interior space, River Radio and event programming begins this month.
River Radio will broadcast via ZOOM every other Saturday from 9-10 a.m., beginning Sept. 12. The library speaker series kicks off with Chief US District Judge John Tunheim on 7 p.m., Sept. 17. He will talk about the role of the U.S. Supreme Court and upcoming headline cases. See the library website for details on speakers and a link to ZOOM programs. The library will also be hosting online political candidate forums:
• Wed, Sept. 30 – Scandia candidates
• Tues, Oct. 6 – Marine council candidates
• Tues, Oct. 13 – Marine mayoral candidates
The council approved the library’s request for its annual $6,000 allocation from the Jordan Bequest fund, as well as an additional $15,000 for the website and interior redesign project. Remaining costs will be secured through fundraising.
As part of the city’s COVID response, additional porta-potties and hand sanitizer have been placed in the Village Center, Burris Park, and the school playground property. The city has been looking for portable hand sanitizing stations but these are hard to obtain.
The city continues to hold in-person public meetings, with remote access via Zoom. It has rewired the town hall for improved internet and is experimenting with different amplification systems.
Council member Bill Miller reported that 22 warning citations had been issued to people violating boating rules, but no tickets had been issued. He questioned why there was not stronger enforcement.
Miller reported a series of problems with off-road vehicles and pickup trucks with high-intensity lights driving on the trails in and around Jackson Meadow at night. For the safety of hikers and bikers, no motorized vehicle traffic is allowed on these trails. All city trails are public and under city jurisdiction. Any problems on the trails should be reported to the Washington County Sheriff’s department.
Miller noted that there has been a significant increase in dog feces being left on school property and in city center parks, some in baggies. Dog owners are advised that it is their responsibility to clean up after their pets and to dispose of feces at home, not in public spaces.
School Considered for Remote Student Use
In response to COVID, some Marine parents have organized “learning pods” – small groups of families whose children socialize and learn together. A few parents approached the council to ask about using the Marine school for small group distance learning.
Council member Lon Pardun explained that in the elementary school, each classroom has its own HVAC system and an ionization unit can be added to each one, which can deactivate 99.4% of viral pathogens in the air. The school building is wired for high-speed internet connection. There may be additional cost for cleaning.
The school could accommodate up to 87 people, according to MN Health Department guidelines. If learning pods are allowed, rooms would be in use only part of the school day. Each classroom would have a small number of students, with parents sharing supervisory duties. Families would bring their own equipment and beverages.
Pardun will continue to research the viability of learning pods, with the goal that local Marine families could use the school classrooms as early as October.
Road Projects Move Ahead
Dressel Contracting was the winning bidder for the city center road project, coming in $10,000 under budget with a bid of $1,213,161. A preconstruction meeting will take place this week to finalize workplans for fall 2020. Local businesses were assured they would receive a schedule for work, invited to weekly meetings with the contractor, and provided with a project manager contact.
Work begins Sept. 19 on the Marine ravine stabilization project. Cones will be placed on Highway 95 signaling a lane shift from north of Oak Street to north of the Stugas. Depending on the weather, the highway may be partially blocked for up to three weeks.
Tax Levy Determined
The council voted to set a maximum 2021 tax levy at $1,188,462, which is a 25% increase over 2020. The actual levy will be discussed at the Truth in Taxation meeting in December. The final tax levy amount may be lower, but cannot be higher than the approved maximum.
Resident Wendy Ward requested budget consideration for four proposals: access to an on-call town planner, a public bathroom, a master plan for trails and green spaces, and a conservation plan for cultural resources. Pardun said that her request was received after the August budget meeting. He did not want to set a precedent by accepting a late request, but said that Ward’s proposals should be discussed at a later time.
CARES Act Funding
Marine on St. Croix received approximately $53,000 in CARES Act funding, of which $2,800 has been spent, and more is earmarked. The council approved a bid from Mantyla Well Drilling, not to exceed $24,000, for a well to bring water to the public works building to allow employees to wash hands and do cleaning.
Trees and shrubs for Olivia Nienaber’s bird-friendly tree project were planted at Christ Lutheran Church and in the Marine Mill Park. Gravel-bed trees will be planted 9-11 a.m., Sept. 26 (rain date Oct. 3) in the cemetery, in Burris Park, and by the Settlers cabin. Remaining trees will be planted in the public right-of-way in front of private residences in Marine. The Council ask if citizens will be required to sign a liability waiver and an acknowledgement that they will be responsible for maintaining the trees planted on the right of way in front of their homes.
Emerald Ash Borer has now been identified at Square Lake Park. The Forest Advisory Committee presented the council with a plan for ash tree treatment and removal. Pardun said that the council had spoken with John Goodman several years ago about tree removal and questioned whether any trees, besides the Monfort ash, should be treated. The committee’s proposal will be reviewed and discussed at the October meeting.
GreenStep Explores Dark Sky and EV Charging
Members of the GreenStep natural resource team are beginning an educational campaign about light pollution and the benefits of protecting a dark night sky. They will be engaging the community, particularly families, in learning activities. Committee members are working on an informational brochure for new homeowners about septic systems, and another team is exploring location, technology and funding availability for installation of a level 2 EV charging station. The committee is also working to enroll the municipality in a statewide energy benchmarking program with the MN Dept of Commerce.
An “Enchanted Forest” of decorated trees will grace the Gazebo park in December. Billy McLaughlin will once again host concerts at the town hall, beginning with a show on Oct. 3, and then a series of Sunday concerts from Nov. 29 through Dec. 23. Because of COVID restrictions on occupancy, he requested a reduced fee for use of the space, which the council approved.
Spanish Club Will
Meet at Town Hall
Every Wednesday morning a group of Marine residents meet to practice conversational Spanish. The group requested that they be allowed to meet upstairs in the town hall during the winter months, without paying a fee. The Council approved the request, noting that the group does not charge a fee to participate.