The December Council meeting for Marine on St. Croix began with expression of appreciation for the many years of service and deep commitment to the community shown by outgoing mayor, Glen Mills and council member Bill Miller.
Among those congratulating Mills for his 22 years of service as mayor was Washington County Commissioner Fran Miron, himself a former mayor. “This community has had strong leadership for a long time. I’m glad to see the signs recognizing that,” Miron said, noting the hand-written signs of appreciation along Judd Street.
Miron continued: “You have been one of the better functioning communities around. There is integrity here among this council. Your leadership, mayor, has brought this about. There is respect for one another in differences of opinion. You don’t always see that in some communities. It’s that difference of opinion and discussion that makes good decisions possible. I applaud you for creating the atmosphere to allow that.”
He presented both Mills and Miller with a Commissioner’s Service Award.
Citizen of the Year: William Miller
Bill Miller was nominated for Citizen of the Year in acknowledgement for his work not only on the City Council but also with the fire department, the school, road projects, and his assistance with the General Store in time of emergency. Council member Charlie Anderson said Miller had inspired him to join the Council and has been an excellent mentor.
Finances, Fees and Licenses
• The 2021 Levy was approved at $942,299.10, which is a .29% reduction from 2020.
• Reserve fund, after removing funds to pay for planned village center revitalization costs, is $68,500.
• The quarterly compost fee of $4 no longer covers the actual costs. It was increased to $6 per quarter.
• One short-term rental application was approved for the Schoolhouse Apartments.
• Cigarette license was approved for the General Store.
• Liquor license approved for the Brookside.
Commissioner Miron reported that CARES Act funding through the county provided $6 mil in assistance countywide, helping five businesses from Marine and nine in Scandia. $14,000 in assistance was provided to the Marine Area Community School. He reported that a new business assistance program in an upcoming state bill would make an additional $4.7 million available to Washington County businesses.
Miron said the county was able to waive penalties for late payment of property taxes because of its strong reserves, which allowed it to make tax payments on time to municipalities and schools. The county is experiencing challenges with service delivery due to COVID but improved technology has paid off. Miron invited people experiencing problems to contact his office.
The County Commissioners meeting Dec. 15 will review the 2021 budget. No tax levy increase is being proposed. Miron said that a growing tax base and no tax increases would lead to an estimated tax reduction for businesses. He noted that nearly all-residential properties in Marine would see a county tax reduction, with a median reduction of 9%. Countywide, more than 80% of homeowners are likely to see a tax reduction.
Miron reported that in the most recent election, 60% of voters chose to vote early. More than 90% of registered voters cast a ballot, with Marine’s voting participation near the top in the county.
Gerry Mrosla, planning commission chair, reported that Ed Sanderson, Ron Brenner, and Scott Spisak’s terms on the planning commission ended. Council approved Sanderson and Brenner for 1-year terms. Spisak did not seek an additional term and was thanked by the Council for his years of service, particularly on the community school project.
Mrosla nominated Tim Casey for a 3-year term. Anderson asked that the Council reconsider its process for nominations. While expressing support for the candidate, he wanted the Council to post the position so others would know they could apply. The Council approved Casey.
The Council approved the wireless communications consulting contract with KPCG to provide the planning commission with assistance in drafting a wireless communications ordinance. Mrosla reported that the commission had completed their initial draft of zoning ordinance revisions.
Public Safety Report
Council approved continuing medical education agreement between Regions Hospital and the Marine on St. Croix public safety department. The Council received a letter from state Emergency Communications Board, Department of Public Safety regarding the rollout of a wireless broadband platform to enhance response times for fire and rescue. Marine is one of 23 locations identified by the board as having no or limited wireless coverage, which impacts public safety.
Anderson reported on the timeline for the cell tower project. The planning commission intends to have a proposed wireless communications ordinance completed by its February meeting, after which there will be a public hearing before it moves to the Council. An RFP process will require 3-4 months, which means late summer or early fall before any cell tower project could break ground.
Home Septic Inspections
City public works staff will be available to do home sump inspections for all homes on the 201 city septic system. The city newsletter and website will have sign-up information.
Marine Village School
The Marine Village School board will be hosting an open online meeting 10 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 19, to talk about the school building. A link to attend the meeting will be added to the school’s website: marinevillageschool.org and the city website.
Marine Library Report
The redesigns of both the library’s physical space and its website are nearing completion. The library board plans to show off the improvements in a zoom celebration Jan. 21 to celebrating the library’s 9th “birthday.” Dr. Michael Osterholm and financial adviser Ross Levin will be the guests on River Radio’s last program for the year Dec. 19.
Mill Stream Association Disbands
The Millstream Association has disbanded and donated its remaining funds to the city for purposes of continuing the work of wetland sustainability. The Council recognized Win Miller, Linda Tibbets and Jim Shaver for their work on millstream restoration and said it would continue the Mill Stream Day celebration.
Urban Forest Committee
Committee chair Peter Foster reported that the committee is completing its Tree City USA recertification. Plans for upcoming work include a dead tree inventory and review of the area between Burris Park and Highway 95 for buckthorn removal and tree planting.
The GreenStep Cities committee has received one cost estimate for installation of an EV charger in the amount of $4,753. More estimates are being sought and they should have a completed report next month. The Dark Sky committee had spoken on River Radio and had added a page to the City website on the benefits of a dark night sky to plants, pollinators, birds and people.
Invoices for Dressel Contracting were approved for payment, with Council members commending the company for its outstanding work on the Village Center road project. Ryan Goodman reported that no roadwork was planned in the Marine area for 2021. He noted that a draft Washington County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan was now posted on the county website for public comment: www.Co.washington.mn.us/bikepedplan.
Jason Crotty, Marine Public Works lead, will begin working 20 hours a week as of Jan. 1, 2021.
Mayor Mills concluded his last council meeting quoting the catchphrase of WWII journalist Edward R. Murrow, wishing those in attendance “Good night and good luck.”