The Marine on St. Croix Council on Oct. 8 commended Fire Chief Dan Malmgren, Deputy Fire Chief Andy Lapos, and all of the members of the Marine on St. Croix Fire and Rescue squad for their hard work, professionalism and compassion in the wake of a fatal crash at Olinda and County 4 that killed two people.
Council members reminded people of the impact seeing such a tragedy can have on front-line volunteers and said mental health services are available.
The Fire Chief asked for approval to buy a smoke extractor (washer) using grant money received from the state. The grant covers 90% of the $2,000 cost; the city approved paying the remaining 10%.
Two times council and committee members responded to public misconceptions by clarifying their responsibilities and decisions.
• Planning Commission chair Gerry Mrosla said it is not the work of the Planning Commission to look at sites for the cell tower or service providers. It is reviewing and revising the wireless telecommunications ordinance.
• Council member Charlie Anderson went on record saying no decision has been made to add a pavilion in Burris Park. It is only an informal community conversation.
Library Radio Program
Reaches New Heights
Library board chair, Jim Maher, reported that River Radio, the library’s public affairs online “radio” program, continues to attract high-profile guests. It hosted Governor Tim Walz on Oct. 10. It will host an election night program, starting at 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.
The library’s documentary film night program was cancelled this year due to COVID, but its candidate forums have been well attended, attracting 241 viewers to the Scandia candidate forum and 160 viewers to the Marine candidate forum. The library redesign project is almost complete. A drop slot has been added to the interior library door.
The Cost of Free Money –
Council member Bill Miller said the city leveraged $80,000 in city funding to receive more than $300,000 in grant money for stormwater infrastructure, but he reminded the Council that there is an ongoing cost to this “free” money in the form of a maintenance agreement. Unlike rain garden grants funded by the county, which come with a 10-year maintenance commitment from the homeowner, the municipal maintenance agreement is for 25 years. (The Watershed provides the first 2 years of service.) The Council approved the agreement and asked the Urban Forest Committee to consider taking on the task of finding volunteer assistance.
Urban Forest committee chair Peter Foster reported on the successful planting of 14 bird-friendly trees. Council member Miller said going forward the Council would like to see gravel bed trees planted either on city property or on private property, but not on the city right of way. Anderson asked the committee to contact the State Forest Nursery to determine the cost of obtaining white pine saplings that might be part of a tree giveaway. It was his understanding that they could be obtained very cheaply.
“Keep Marine on the Map
EV Charging Proposal
The Marine GreenStep Cities EV team reported on two month’s work investigating the feasibility of installing an EV charger in Marine. They presented a map showing a lack of public EV charging along Highway 95 north of Stillwater, and explained why the distance between Marine and Minneapolis and western suburbs posed a range anxiety problem that could hamper access to the area for EV drivers, particularly in winter.
Electric vehicles are a small percentage of vehicles on the road currently, but the State of Minnesota has a goal of 20% EVs by 2030. When surveyed, 20% of drivers said their next vehicle will be electric so adding infrastructure prepares the community for an EV future.
The greatest value of adding an EV charger would be to support the vitality of the business community. It takes 2-4 hours to recharge a car at a Level 2 charger, during which time the occupants are exploring nearby shops and amenities. While most Level 2 chargers provide electricity free to the driver, underwritten by local Chambers of Commerce or businesses, research has found that businesses generate 131 times more revenue than the minimal cost of electricity (about $1-$1.50/hr).
While the EV team felt a DC Level 3 Fast Charger would be the ideal technology for a small community located near a highway, the cost of that infrastructure is significant. The team believed that a non-networked, Level 2 charger would be sufficient and affordable.
The EV team reviewed seven possible locations and recommended a parking spot at the north end of Judd Street for its good street lighting, visibility from the highway, and low risk for ICEing (being co-opted by an internal combustion engine vehicle). Council members agreed and asked the EV team to talk to Xcel about the cost of bringing electricity to that site.
Highway 95 is not on the high-priority corridor for which state funding is available for EV installations. The EV team suggested that a Level 2 charger could be funded by a joint community-business-municipality partnership. Council member Anderson expressed unwillingness to ask the business community to commit any funding but was otherwise in favor of the proposal. Other Council members also expressed support but asked the EV team to further investigate operating and maintenance costs.
Holidays and Recreation
Council member Anderson asked for approval to host a movie night at Burris Park, with the assistance of Paul Creager and his crew from the square lake film festival. No date has been set yet for a family-friendly movie screening that would start around 7 p.m. and end about 8:30 p.m. The Council approved the request for no more than $1,000 from the event fund.
A homeowner came to the Council seeking approval for a fence. Her home is for sale and a buyer has made a purchase offer contingent upon the ability to install a fence. The Council said they could not work with a person who did not own the property, nor could they approve a fence without seeing plans. However, given the seller’s immediate need to respond to the prospective buyer, the Council said it was generally supportive of a fence at that location and would work with the new owners.
Milo Horak of Landmark Surveying presented two property line matters. A large property along Rosebelle is being subdivided, but earlier buildings on the property were not in alignment with platte lines. The sellers requested lot line adjustments, none of which would create substandard lots or violate zoning code. The request was approved.
The second property line problem, not uncommon in Marine, related to “accepted” property lines versus actual platted property lines. Several homes along the south side of Broadway had official property lines 10 feet from where homeowners had generally accepted their lot lines to be. Horak suggested the Council create a boundary commission that would hire a surveyor, survey the lots, and then propose a solution where all property owners get an equitable share. If homeowners did not agree they could take it to court (which could run $10-$15K in attorney’s fees.)
CARES Act Funding
The Council voted to approve the installation by Young & Sons of an air conditioner in the upstairs of the Town Hall (cost $5,285) and a split heat pump to heat the council chamber and clerk’s office on the first floor ($4,709). The building upgrades are funded from CARES Act funds.
Council member Lon Pardun continues to explore the idea of allowing local families to use the Marine school building for “learning pods” if area schools decide to switch to fully remote learning. The city is moving forward with installing ionization units in classroom HVAC units so the building is ready for use. So far only two families have expressed interest but the building could accommodate eight multi-family groups (pods).