Robin Brooksbank came before the Marine on St. Croix Council last week to ask to extend the lease for use of the Marine elementary school building by the Marine Mills Folk School. The lease had expired at the end of 2020. The school has not been operating in the building since March 2020, but it is tentatively planning for inperson classes to begin outdoors this summer and indoors by fall (although this had not yet been announced).
Council member Charlie Anderson pointed out that there had been no revenue sharing in place at the time of the first lease, as the school was just getting off the ground. Council members did not propose to change that given the challenges the school has faced with COVID. Council members will meet with Brooksbank to negotiate the new lease.
Brooksbank also asked for permission to install a temporary awning, anchored to the building, over the patio area on the northwest corner of the school to protect students taking outside classes. She also asked for permission to return the banner to the front of the school building. The Council was favorable.
“Dinosaur Day” Obstacle Courses
Robyn Dochterman, St. Croix Chocolate Company, asked the Council for permission to block off the municipal parking lot on Parker Street so the Chocolate Company can host a Dinosaur Day obstacle course 11 a.m.-1 p.m., March 27. Participants are invited to dress in dinosaur costumes to run the short course.
Anderson asked Dochterman to provide a quick public safety report describing how she would block off the road, a sketch of the proposed obstacle course, and a copy of her company’s certificate of liability insurance. He thanked her for embracing “off the wall thinking” to create a unique and fun event for the community.
Gerry Mrosla, Planning commission chair, reported the commission had heard a request for a conditional use permit to allow an above-garage accessory dwelling unit for a new home being built on Rosabelle.
Marine is part of a mutual aid agreement with other fire departments in Washington County, which makes equipment, personnel and resources available during emergency situations and for training activities. This year the contract was written to include fire departments in St. Croix County, Wisconsin, which would allow fire departments in nearby Wisconsin communities, such as Osceola, to respond to emergencies when needed and requested. Council approved the new mutual aid contract.
The Council also accepted a $25,000 donation secured from a direct community appeal letter for the Marine Fire Relief Association.
Roadwork, Signage and Planting in Downtown
Council member Lon Pardun reported the road improvement project should begin again in late April, if the weather permits, and that the construction company would be sending the same crew that worked on the project in 2020.
Council member Wendy Ward said she had seen a handwritten cardboard sign atop or by a garbage can directing people to the St. Croix Chocolate Company. She asked if it was part of the road construction plan to help business owners with directional signage during and after construction. Pardun said there was no plant to provide signage to specific businesses but that there would be a sign along Highway 95 saying businesses are open in Marine.
He said there had been discussions in the past about signage for Marine businesses in the green space and a design had been created, but nothing was in the works. Ward said there was a need for temporary signage until the construction ends because the roadways will be obstructed. “We want to assist our businesses through this construction stage,” she said, but not using trash cans.
This led to continuation of the discussion of placement of the Brookside restaurant dumpsters, which, along with the porta-potties, are highly visible to visitors entering the town. The Council will discuss location and potential privacy fencing options at its next meeting.
Pardun said the Watershed District would be starting its planting projects this year, planting trees in the ravine just north of the town along Hwy 95, as well as taking trees down along the trail to the river behind the General Store. These areas, and others, will be planted and mulched this year.
Citizens asked whether there were plans for 3rd Street, which is now in poor condition in the area directly behind the businesses. Citizens were told to direct their concerns to town hall.
Forest Committee and residents join together for
landscape improvements along 95
Anderson asked for a resolution for Marine to enter into a MnDOT Community Landscaping Partnership Program agreement in order to access funds for buckthorn removal and reforestation of an area on the east side of Highway 95. MnDOT reimburses communities for specific materials and provides technical assistance. It is not a grant program; funds are paid from the city but are reimbursed within a few weeks. The resolution was approved.
After last month’s discussion of raising prices for cemetery plots at the city-owned Oakland Cemetery, the mayor reported a “run on plots.” The new rate was approved, and the price list can be found on the city website. Anderson specifically called out the cost for a child’s plot saying: “We’ve come to a point where what we have is equitable and compassionate.”
What should be the scope of Marine’s EDA?
Ward said she would like the Council to entertain the idea of broadening the definition of authority for its Economic Development Authority (EDA), which currently covers only the school. She would also like to see the EDA include not only Council members, but also business owners and possibly downtown residents.
Roden asked what the benefit would be of inclusion and expansion. Ward said it would allow direct stakeholders to have a voice in building the direction of the downtown. Although Marine’s EDA was formed to be a fiscal vehicle for the school, that is not the typical function of an EDA, which usually focuses on the well-being and revitalization of a business district.
Ward gave as examples of work that an EDA can do: look for grants, act as a fiscal agent for grants, incentivize businesses, help to market the town, work with other jurisdictions to do cross-marketing. “How can we get our downtown stronger,” she asked. She would like to see this discussed in an upcoming meeting.
In the Zoom comments, resident Scott Spisak wrote that: “The EDA was formed as a vehicle to acquire the school so that it could receive state lease aid. That mission is unfulfilled at this time. It seems imprudent to expand the focus and mission until that issue is resolved.”
Roden brought forward a request from the Dark Sky team of the Marine GreenStep committee to use the school playground on the evening of Sept. 22 to host a free night sky viewing event with special guest, Mike Lynch, WCCO meteorologist and amateur astronomer.
Council member discussion veered afield of the request and ended with a statement by Pardun that the committee had not answered questions of the Council from a meeting in June 2020 and had not scheduled a Council-committee workshop that the committee had suggested at the time. No action was taken to approve the event.
Peter Foster, committee chair, will be asking the mayor for an Arbor Day proclamation. The committee will be distributing 50 white pine seedlings to residents as part of its Arbor Day observance April 30. This year’s gravel bed trees are tamarack.
Canadian Pacific Rail discontinues line used by Osceola Train
Ward reported that she had learned that the Canadian Pacific Railway will be discontinuing freight on the rail line that is used by the Osceola and St. Croix Valley Railway, a heritage train operated by the MN Transportation Museum. It’s unclear what will be happening with the train.