May Board Chair Bill Voedisch reported that the end of year tax receipts amounted to $365,333, a significant drop from the approximately $421,000 received in July. He also said that nonpayment of 201 (sewer) assessments had “skyrocketed.”
“The ability of citizens to pay assessments and taxes is being squeezed,” he said, during last week’s monthly meeting, attributing it to the effects of COVID.
At a November special board meeting, the Supervisors reviewed expenditure of CARES Act funding amounting to $17,191 for purchase of PPE and cleaning services relating to the election, technology for virtual meetings, and an upgrade to the town’s website to improve communications capabilities. The remaining $53,031 will be returned to Washington County.
The kennel ordinance was once again before the Board, this time in response to complaints that the escrow amount required for a private kennel permit, set at $600, was prohibitive. The Supervisors determined that in most cases $200 would cover staff time and if additional time were required, the kennel owner would be billed. They voted to reduce the escrow to $200.
The planning commission suggested two changes to the chicken ordinance: 1) the size of the chicken coop must allow for 2.5 square feet per chicken and 2) the requirement for a permit be removed. Having and enforcing an ordinance was deemed adequate. Both of these changes were approved.
Supervisor John Adams reported that the MPCA has still not processed the township’s wastewater treatment permit application, so it continues to operate, with MPCA approval, under an expired permit. (The backlog of permit processing has been exacerbated by COVID.)
Highway 3/Norell Project
Adams reported concern that the CSAH 3/Norell Avenue project is “moving too fast.” He said that the various bike lane widths of 2’, 3’ and 4’ under consideration would require a significant widening of the road. Adams requested that the Board approve a statement that:
“The May Township Board of Supervisors supports the CSAH 3/Norell Avenue improvement project with the condition that 1) the road, including its shoulders, will remain the same width as it is today, and 2) the length of the road sloughing into the wetland be widened only as required to effect repairs. This minimal approach is in keeping with the Township’s Comprehensive Plan 2040, which strongly supports the maintenance of the rural character of the township.”
Voedisch had not seen the proposed statement before and did not want to vote without more information. The models he has seen called for a 2’ bike lane. He said that a 3’ bike lane is the smallest size mentioned in rural preservation regulations at the federal level. When he had asked the planners about getting a 3’ bike lane, they said no, but their goal was to do something for bicyclists.
He pointed out that the community survey had identified two areas of concern: a) that the character of the road not change, and 2) that safety for bicyclists be improved. “If the Board says the road can’t be widened, then we’re ignoring those who said bicycle safety is an issue.”
Adams pointed out that in addition to the 11’ roadway lane, and a bike lane on either side, there would also need to be an additional 1-1/2 foot of gravel to back up the asphalt. He wanted the statement to be a “stake in the ground” against widening.
Washington County Commissioner Fran Miron reminded the Supervisors that the design process is in its earliest states. The county hasn’t finished its surveys and no designs were ready to be presented. He said that in some options the overall width didn’t change but the lanes were narrowed to allow for additional room on the shoulder. He assured the Board that nothing would be built without their support.
Miron said that the county would be asking for a Board resolution in the summer of 2021, after a public engagement process. “By making a decision now, the town board is circumventing that opportunity for the public. The town board can do that, but the public was supposed to have a chance to look at (the designs) in the spring.”
Adams agreed to put off the vote until the January board meeting.
A complaint was raised about overflow parking at the DNR boat launch on the west side of Big Carnelian Lake. A resident reported that vehicles with trailers park along the edge of Highway 11 (Otchipwe Ave.), often partially within the traffic lane, both inside and outside the No Parking zone, and that people are walking on the roadway, creating unsafe conditions.
There are No Parking signs posted 750 feet in each direction from the boat launch. A request was made that signage be extended from Stonebridge Trail to Square Lake Trail, a total of 3.2 miles, and all along Ozark Trail.
Traffic engineer Joe Gustafson said that while signs could be posted, within reason, if the township passed a resolution, the effect would be to shift the parking problem onto other township roads. If people parked further away, pedestrian activity would worsen. He had talked to the DNR, which said that the public has a right to use the lake and the boat launch, regardless of the availability of parking spaces.
A question was raised about whether the current No Parking restrictions were being enforced, and the ability to enforce them given the level of patrolling in the area. The Board decided to call a neighborhood meeting to discuss options with the community.
Other Road Concerns
Voedisch and the city engineer completed a road tour to confirm road improvement projects scheduled for 2021. Originally, roadwork was expected to cost $45,000 but project changes will now add up to $37,868. Work will be done on Johnson’s Rd, Quail Avenue (loop), 121st Street, Paul Crt, Northbrook Avenue, and 124th/Lockridge/126th.
Voedisch inspected a cul-de-sac on Kirby Street that had been brought to the Board’s attention because of difficulty with plowing. The cul-de-sac is 120’ wide, rather than the standard 90’ and in the center is a deep depression with a flagpole. Before any action is considered, Voedisch will talk to the owner.
The Board approved the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District’s request to reduce the number of Wastershed board members from 7 to 5. The Board asked Mike Isensee from the Watershed District about the problem of Twin Lake, which was 1/5 of its current size in 1987. The water level has caused the loss of hay fields and pastures and is now threatening nearby buildings. Isensee said the Watershed District has met with the landowners before and there are few solutions, but he agreed to another meeting.
The Scandia Fire Department contract, which had been signed earlier in the year for a 5-year contract, had been sent back to the township, having been changed to a 3-year contract. The Board approved renewal for three years.