The Board of Supervisors meeting for May Township, held on Thursday, May 7, was an exercise in uncertainty. With thousands of Minnesotans out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are concerns that the township will not receive its full portion of county property taxes. First quarter property taxes are due May 15 so it won’t be known for several weeks if the township budget will be negatively impacted.
Two dogs residing at 14890 Ostrum Trail were responsible for the deaths of a neighbor’s chickens. A dog-at-large charge had been brought against the owner previously. Due to the killing of a domestic animal (chickens) while off their owners’ property, the dogs have now been designated as “dangerous dogs.”
The township lawyer pointed out that May Township is unusual in that its ordinance states that dangerous dogs cannot be kept in the township at all. The dogs have already been impounded for 10 days and the owners paid to get their dogs back, but if the ordinance is enforced the dogs need to be moved from the township. The township is waiting to hear if Washington County is going to take action.
The neighbor stated that she has had to install a fence to protect her property and she wanted to know how to get reimbursed for her losses. She was advised that she has a right to compensation. She can send a letter to her neighbor or take her case to small claims court.
Potentially Dangerous Dog: A second complaint involved a dog-at-large attacking a smaller dog being walked on a leash, resulting in significant injuries. The owners of the dog, which resides at 11271-148th Street, were sent a letter by the county informing them that the dog had been designated a “potentially dangerous dog.” The next step is for the township to ensure owners are informed of and meeting the conditions for continued ownership, which includes proper enclosure and microchipping.
Down-and-Out Dogs: New township resident Annette Friedheim applied for an interim use permit for a private kennel at 16740 Norell Ave. Town code allows for three dogs on a property, anything more is allowed as a private kennel or a small business kennel. Friedheim owns four dogs.
She provides “foster care” service for dogs awaiting adoption through Midwest Animal Rescue. Friedheim explained as a result of COVID-19, animal welfare is changing. Shelters are closing and more animals are being moved into foster homes. These are not technically her dogs and they are only in her care for a few weeks to a few months before they find a new home. She does not sell dogs and people will not be coming to her home to pick up a dog.
Animal foster care could be described as “boarding service,” which is only allowed with a small business kennel. Township code requires that a small business kennel have 10 acres of land and Friedheim only owns five acres. The cost for small business kennel is also significantly higher.
The supervisors expressed sympathy for the goals of animal fostering but acknowledged the need to control the number of dogs in a neighborhood and the burden to administering an interim use permit. They cited the frequency of dog noise complaints the township already receives.
The supervisors asked the town lawyer for a recommendation on how to streamline the permitting process to allow for this use while specifying a maximum number of dogs, confinement requirements, site plans and space requirements, and protections to minimize neighborhood impacts. If problems arose, then a higher level of permitting would be needed.
Negligent Dog Owners: Walking at the town park is less than pleasant because of dog waste. Signage will be installed at the upper level of the park reminding owners to pick up after their dogs.
Financing of road, stormwater, sewer projects
The supervisors reviewed the budget and could not find $120,000 to pay the township share of the $360,000 Panorama stormwater project. Furthermore, supervisors were concerned that, because of COVID shutdowns, impacted residents might not be able to come up with their share of the $120,000 that would be assessed on their properties.
Mike Isensee, from the Big Carnelian-Marine Watershed District, said that the MPCA has zero interest Clean Water Partnership loans to help local units of government with restoration and water protection projects. The township would be eligible for things like grates, sewers and piping. The loan does not have to be paid back for three years.
But it is possible that this state funding source could change as a result of the economic downturn.
Isensee was asked if the Watershed portion of the project was secure – would they be able to go forward? He said the Watershed board hasn’t talked about the 2021 budget yet but their decision on future projects would need to be made in July so they could move forward with state and federal grant applications. Their actions would be informed by what the township decides to do, particularly what it does with the road project.
The supervisors recently completed a township road tour to determine the most affordable option for dealing with bad road conditions. Of particular concern were 122nd St., Paris Avenue and Ostland. The township office has received many complaints about them. Concerns about cost may mean patching or chip and seal for another year rather than the more expensive work that needs to be done.
The 2020 budget for the sewer system is $3,000 less than 2019. The system is aging and the price of operation – and replacement – is going up. The board voted to increase the amount of money going into the replacement fund.
Resident Laurie Allmann asked for board support in nominating a portion of Norell Avenue N, between County Rd. 4 and County Rd. 7, for designation as a Natural Preservation Route by the county board. There are three types of designation depending on traffic levels. Routes are selected for scenic, environmental, pastoral or historic characteristics. Allmann would like to put together a proposal and she offered to gather information.
The board supported her idea but advised that she immediately loop Washington County Commissioner Fran Miron in on the project. The town administrator will work with Allmann on getting required information.
Conversation continued on solutions to the zoning code violation at 13003-177th Street. The owner continues to try to secure the additional property he needs to meet code requirements for the number and size of structures that can be on a property. No progress has been made but the owner has proposed to buy his neighbor’s home and property when it goes up for sale. He asked if a written agreement for first-option-to-buy would show he is acting in good faith to resolve the problem. The board said it would.
Country Financial agent Christy Sauro presented a review of the township’s insurance coverage for scheduled properties and their values. Mobile property (vehicles and equipment) is now covered on a blanket basis up to $250,000 per unit (previously $100,000). The township does not have equipment breakdown insurance. The town administrator pointed out that a lot of equipment – including the road grader and both snow plows – had needed repair this year. The board asked the agent for a cost estimate on adding this coverage.
150th Street cell tower generator
AT&T has requested zoning approval to put a backup diesel generator in a shed within the fenced cell tower compound on 150th Street and St. Croix Trail. The generator will make noise when in use. The requested sound study measured the noise level at 65.4 decibels 25 feet away from the building. The next closest house is 100 feet away. The sound will have dissipated below 65 decibels before it reaches that location. The application will be handled administratively.
• Valley Green received a contract to handle city mowing.
• Snow plow damage to gravel road at 176th Street and an area cul du sac will be repaired by the snowplow company.