The February Marine City Council meeting began last week with recognition and celebration of the contribution of City Administrator Lynette Peterson for completing more than 20 years of service with grace and aplomb, vigor, honesty and good humor.
The Washington County library system is providing guidance to the Marine library board on ways the library can safely open for expanded service.
On Feb. 18, 7-8 p.m., the Library, in association with the Marine Folk School, will be hosting “Bugs for Beginners: What you want to know about COVID-19 and other viruses.” Guest speaker and Marine resident, Terry Mistalski, works with companies focused on controlling and eliminating foodborne pathogens and health care associated infections. He’ll simplify COVID-19 and help separate fact from myth.
Planning Commission Report
Planning commission chair Gerry Mrosla reported the wireless ordinance subcommittee has received the templates for 4G and 5G from the consultant, on schedule, and are reviewing the working document.
The planning commission has had Informal discussion about the recruitment process for planning commissioners as a result of last month’s conversation. Mrosla reported that handpicking commissioners with talent and chemistry has worked well but that the commission has placed ads in the Country Messenger in the past and that has also worked. There will be four vacancies on the commission by the end of 2021 and Mrosla said those vacancies should probably be posted.
Mrosla has heard concerns from residents that they were unsure if their comments were received and considered. He assured residents that their comments are read and can be submitted through the city website.
Parks and Rec Report
Peter Foster, chair of the Forest Committee, reported that the committee had ordered 100 tamarack seedlings for planting in the community gravel bed. Half will be available to the community; a quarter will be used for restoration planning in 2021; the remainder in 2022. Then committee will order 509 white pine seedlings for distribution in the 2021 Arbor Day celebration.
A restoration project is being planned in the area between Burris Park and Highway 95, from the north edge of the park south to Judd St. The committee is reviewing Minnesota Department of Transportation resources to assist with a buckthorn removal project using community volunteers.
As the expansion of the cemetery has been discussed, it was observed that Marine has not increased the price of its cemetery plots for quite a while and that the cost of a burial plot for a resident is very low ($400 in Marine, compared to $600-$2,350 in nearby cemeteries). Lynette Peterson reported that the city makes no money on the plot and burial service and a lot of time it loses money.
2020 began with 102 available cemetery plots, 37 were sold that year, about 1/3 of those to non-residents (who pay $1,200 in Marine, compared to $700-$2,350 in nearby cemeteries). Given the pressing need for cemetery expansion, the Council will discuss increasing the charge for plot and burial costs at its March meeting, with additional funds going toward the expansion. Residents were encouraged to contact the City Clerk or Mayor with their thoughts.
Council member Gwen Rodin reported on holiday planning for 2021, which is complicated by the seriously reduced budget, safety issues related to downtown road construction, and the unknowns of Covid-19. There will not be fireworks for the fourth of July. There may be a parade for Memorial Day or the fourth of July. A May Day festival is being considered, as is Marine Mills Day and a repeat of last year’s Soiree.
New council member Wendy Ward asked the Council to consider broadening the definition and responsibilities of the Economic Development Agency (EDA) in order to pursue a broader mission. Marine’s Economic Development Agency “was established for the central purpose of purchasing Marine Elementary School.” She said that while this purpose is still valid and made sense, the traditional role of an EDA is to collaborate with downtown/business stakeholders to create funding mechanisms and implement incentives to further the economic vitality of a town.
Council member Lon Pardun explained that efforts had been made in the past to engage area businesses, with limited success. He pointed out that area businesses can and have in the past accessed help from the Washington County EDA. Mayor Nyenhuis said the EDA was worth further conversation and Ward will continue to research. There are two open positions on the EDA as a result of the change in Council membership.
Discussion of Land Acknowledgement
Mayor Nyenhuis introduced a new item for business brought forward by Ward – a land acknowledgement – by saying this would be a general consensus conversation with more conversation going forward.
Ward said she was putting forward the idea to gauge interest. She explained that a land acknowledgement is “a public statement given by a body – a profit, nonprofit or civic body – to recognize traditional lands held by Indigenous people that we are working and living upon. It recognizes that people today are living and working on the traditional lands of Indigenous people.
“It is a tool to remind people about a place, people and history. It also has the ability to set a course, to be a first step in how an institution may move forward with respect, inclusion and due equity…. it may also be the springboard for work we pursue regarding ways we tell history and be a guidepost for cultural heritage, land use and sustainability initiatives.”
Roden said she believed the most appropriate place for such a statement would be in the community Comp Plan, which wouldn’t be reviewed again for a few years. Ward said such statements are usually used to start public meetings.
Council member Charlie Anderson said he was not opposed to such a statement and that he understood this as a relatively new tradition that started in Canada. He said some in the Native community see it as a meaningful first step, but others see it as condescending and an empty gesture.
“I think that if we are going to do this, it needs to be a springboard. I am interested to see what that would look like,” he said. “Philosophically I’m not a fan of a brand of wokeism – and I do see this as part of that - that reduces power dynamics to the oppressed and the oppressor and assigns worth based on that. I’m not saying that’s what you are trying to do. I’m not saying that’s what land acknowledgements are all about. But I do think that that needs to be considered as we move forward.
“The wording of this needs to be more than a condescension, which I am sure it will be. But it needs to be part of a broader acknowledgement of native peoples and Indigenous peoples in this valley. If it’s a springboard for that and we can do it in a responsible way, in a way that does not reduce power dynamics or identity politics but instead brings our community together and embraces communities across generations, then I’m all for it. I think it’s a worthy conversation, given my caveats.”
Pardun also said it was a worthy conversation to have but he would like to understand, in future conversations, what it would be a springboard to. The mayor, likewise, welcomed further conversation, looking for opportunities for it to be impactful.
The now defunct Millstream Association donated its remaining funds of $8,365 for continuation of its work to protect and enhance the waterway and shoreline-adjoining waterway of the millstream. The Council voted to accept the funds. Anderson proposed that the funds could also be used for related native plantings, water course work, and projects on the land surrounding the mill stream to ensure it remained clean and beautiful for future generations. Linda Tibbetts, Jim Shaver and Winn Miller were thanked for their many years of work on behalf of the millstream.
The Annual Board of Review meeting is scheduled for 9-10 a.m., Tuesday, April 6. Residents may come and review their property valuation. Roden and Ward have received certification to serve on the Board.
Water and Sewer
Public works staff reported that their inspection of resident sump pumps has gone well, with most residents complying with the request for inspection and no significant problems found. They will contact resident snowbirds with inspection requests in the spring
Marine EMS staff has received their second Covid-19 vaccine. The Fire Department accepted a donation of $25,000 from the city of Marine, raised by the Relief Association through fundraising and individual donations. The funds are placed in the dedicated account, slated to be used to purchase a new fire truck.