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City Manager Blog

Each week I send out an FYI Update to City Council and staff on the latest happenings within the City of Maplewood.  I would like to share this information with the residents of Maplewood, as well. 

Follow my blog if you would like to be kept up to date on the behind the scenes happenings within the City. 

Jan 23

January 20, 2023

Posted on January 23, 2023 at 9:12 AM by Chad Bergo

 COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK:  January 20th, 2023

Meetings and Announcements:  
The next regular City Council Meeting will be on Monday, January 23rd. We will have commission interviews for the Environmental and Natural Resource opening at a workshop pre-council meeting. There are two opening and six applicants. We will interview the candidates at the 6 pm Workshop. At the end of the Council meeting we will have a closed session to give updates on the Labor Contracts.

At our February 27th  City Council meeting, I will not be present. Mike Darrow will be Acting City Manager. We are planning to give you an update on the TIF Plans and Development Agreements for the Reuter Walton and Enclave Projects. Ehlers and CD Director Parr will be presenting this information.

ADMINISTRATION
Purple Line Engagement Process Update
I am working to get volunteers for the Advisory Committee. I am making progress but finding some of those I have contacted, especially the business community are hesitant to commit to 5 meetings. I have indicated that we would certainly welcome their participation at the 3rd meeting where we will be talking with businesses. Below is the schedule for the meetings. They will all be held in the City Council Chambers, except for meeting 4 with the general public and residents.  Meetings will take place from 6- 8 pm.  In addition to the scheduled meetings staff has included transportation questions in the community survey and will be posting on social media to invite residents to participate in this process.

  • Meeting #1, February 1st.  Guest presenters will be staff from the Met Council
  • Meeting #2  February 15th. Guest presenters will be the No Purple Line Association
  • Meeting #3  February 22nd.  Guest will be members of the business community
  • Meeting #4  February 28th(note this is a Tuesday night) and will be open to the public and residents on zoom.
  • Meeting #5  March 8th This will be to conduct final overview, review transit options and develop recommendations. 

News from the League of Minnesota Cities
Public Safety Duty Disabilities Remain a Top League Priority- see that attached article on the impacts of PTSD Claims and their work to try and provide better care for public safety personnel.
By Anne Finn

Public safety employees face situations in the line of duty that put them at risk for mental injuries. In recent years, Minnesota has seen troubling trends around public safety duty disabilities related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Fortunately, according to experts, the risk of a mental injury can be lowered by implementing preventive measures, such as robust wellness programs, normalizing conversations about mental health, and providing access to tools like peer support. Medical experts, including the Mayo Clinic, agree most people diagnosed with PTSD can be successfully treated if they receive timely and appropriate professional help.

Safety officer City officials and public safety leaders, with help from the League of Minnesota Cities, have been working to implement mental injury prevention measures. The League has launched the PTSD and Mental Health Toolkit and has partnered with several organizations to promote awareness about the importance of implementing public safety mental wellness strategies.

The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) established the Peer Support Advisory Board and sponsored a Department of Public Safety (DPS)-approved peer support training course that meets the new DPS 30-hour requirement for anyone wanting to become a public safety peer-to-peer counselor in Minnesota.

The League believes there is a role for the state in implementing policies and funding to increase mental injury prevention and treatment initiatives so first responders will stay healthy and on the job, and those that become injured can recover from mental injuries and return to work.

Despite the best efforts of such stakeholders as the League, the Association of Minnesota Counties, the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, and the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association, a bipartisan bill to help address troubling trends around public safety duty disabilities related to PTSD did not become law in 2022. As a result, the human and financial tolls of these trends have continued, and the high rate of duty disability retirements is contributing to the destabilization of the Public Employees Retirement Association Police and Fire (PERA-P&F) Plan.

Troubling trends in PERA
According to the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), the number of public safety duty disability claims began to consistently climb in 2019. Following are the number of applications PERA has received in recent years:

  • 2019: 118 applications.
  • 2020: 241 applications.
  • 2021: 307 applications.
  • 2022: 257 applications.

More than 80% of the applications are related to PTSD. While the perception may be that claims are coming only from the state’s largest cities, 39% of the claims are from outside Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The bulk (95%) of the applications are from law-enforcement employees, although law enforcement makes up only 80% of the PERA-P&F Plan, with firefighters making up 20%. Fewer than 1% of applications are denied by PERA, which must follow eligibility criteria set by state law.

Charts showing data for PERA-P&F plan duty disability applications. When an employee becomes eligible for a PERA-P&F duty disability, the employee also becomes eligible for continued health insurance under Minnesota Statutes, sections 299A.465. The statute, known as the Public Safety Officer Benefit (PSOB), provides that the employer at the time of injury is responsible for the continued payment of the employer’s contribution for coverage of the officer or firefighter — and in some cases, the employee’s dependents — until the employee reaches age 65.

When the PSOB law was enacted, the state was fully reimbursing employers for the cost of complying with the continued health insurance mandate. In the early 2000s, the Legislature stopped fully funding the reimbursement account and passed an amendment to the statute that said employers would only be reimbursed on a prorated basis. As of the end of fiscal year 2021, the state was only reimbursing $1.367 million of the $10.691 million requested by employers.

This is the news for the week.  As always, please call with any questions or concerns about the above content or the Council packet.

Melinda

 

Jan 17

January 13, 2023

Posted on January 17, 2023 at 9:37 AM by Chad Bergo

COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK:  January 13th, 2023

Meetings and Announcements:  

The next regular City Council Meeting will be on Monday, January 23rd. We will have commission interviews for the Environmental and Natural Resource opening at a workshop pre-council meeting. There is one opening and nine applicants. Watch your Council packet next week for start time for workshop.

ADMINISTRATION
Sound mitigation at Wakefield Community Building
Lois, Audra and I met with an interior designer today at Wakefield and developed a plan that we believe will be attractive and hopefully completely mitigate the sound issues we are experiencing. The designer prepared several options for our consideration and we are starting with adding acoustical baffles and tiles on the walls and up near the lighting. We believe this will greatly improve the sound quality and if we need to add a few more tiles or others items, they can be added in the future. I think you will be pleased to see the results as it adds some visual interest but doesn’t detract from the vaulted ceiling and windows. We are waiting for final cost estimates before we start on the project.

Labor Contract Negotiations 
Mike and I have reached tentative agreements on four contracts and hope to bring them to you at the first meeting in February. With the Implementation of the new Compensation Plan, things have taken a bit longer but for the most part we have 3 year contracts so that is a big plus for everyone. 

PUBLIC WORKS
MCC Emergency Generator Replacement
Replacement of the emergency generator for the MCC was approved in 2022.  However, do to material shortages and supply chain issues the delivery timeline ended up being over a year out.  We currently are expecting deliver to take place near the end of March or early April.

As part of the project the existing transfer switch and electrical panel need to be upgraded.  We recently received the new transfer switch and are moving forward with its installation.  Installation of the new transfer switch requires power to be shut off once to hook up temporary power and again the following day to move it back to the new transfer switch. 

Staff has worked with Robert Blick, District Building Engineer for the YMCA, and our electrical contractor, Muska, to coordinate this work to take place at 4:00 a.m. next Wednesday and Thursday.  The time was chosen to minimize the impact on the YMCA’s daily operations and avoid their 5:00 a.m. opening time.  Each shut down is expected to last less than 30 minutes.  Additional updates will be provide once we receive the new emergency generator.

PARKS AND NATURAL RESOURCES
AmeriCorps ClimateCorps Forestry Member
The Parks and Natural Resources Department applied for and was approved to receive a January – July term AmeriCorps ClimateCorps Forestry member to assist with forestry initiatives for the City of Maplewood.

Our member, Dani LeMire, will assist with tree inventories, inspections, events, tree sale, plantings, education and outreach. Her first day with the city is Tuesday, January 17. Dani will be working with our department at the Maplewood Nature Center. Stop by and say hello or look for her at our next tree event!

Deer Management Activities Planned for Southeast Ramsey County
Maplewood, Saint Paul and Ramsey County are partnering on deer management south of I-94 this winter, pursuant to the 2022 Ramsey County Deer Management Program. In this area, which includes Carver Preserve, the current deer population exceeds the amount of sustainable deer habitat, which may result in an unhealthy, stressed herd. This area falls within the MN DNR’s Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance Zone. Overpopulation of deer also results in damage to ornamental and garden plants, high rates of deer/vehicle collisions, and damage or excessive browsing to native trees, shrubs and plants.

During the winter of 2022/2023 deer management activities will be accomplished in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Wildlife Services division. All deer removed in this program will be donated to predetermined underserved residents of Ramsey County in coordination with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Wakefield Skating Loop - A note from Mike Martin(Assistant CD Director) on his family experience at Wakefield’s new skating loop.

Meant to share this earlier this week, I brought my kids to the new Wakefield path last weekend. They skated 50 laps - that was their goal - and loved it.  I struck up conversation with a few other park users and they all unprompted stated they thought it was cool the city tried something new.  Just wanted to share. Thanks! 

This is the news for the week. I look forward to the year ahead and the great work we will do together. As always, please call with any questions or concerns.

Melinda 

Dec 12

December 9, 2022

Posted on December 12, 2022 at 7:46 AM by Chad Bergo

COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK:  December 9, 2022

Meetings and Announcements:  

The next regular City Council Meeting will be on Monday, December 12th. We will hold a public hearing on and then approve the 2023 Budget. In addition, the Reuter Walton Project is asking for several approvals.

There will be a closed session for the City Manager Annual Performance Review at 5:45.  At 6:30 pm we will host a reception in the lobby for out-going Council member Knutson in recognition of his service to the community.

ADMINSTRATION
From EXCEL Energy
The Holiday season is upon us and I hope your Thanksgiving was memorable.

At Xcel Energy, the spirit of giving shines bright. Whether it’s delivering reliable, affordable, safe, clean energy to homes and businesses or giving back to the places we live and work, making a difference is the heartbeat of the company. We are also committed to investing in organizations that advance equity and diversity in our communities. The company’s charitable arm, the Xcel Energy Foundation, donates millions of dollars each year to support needs unique to each of the communities we serve across our eight-state footprint. The Foundation’s focus area grant program, Energizing the Future, lays the groundwork for strong community impact, is aligned with our business priorities, and reinforces our continued commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The Foundation invested $4.4 million in 426 nonprofits across our eight-state service footprint in 2022. 

The Foundation strategically invests our giving within three focus areas:

• STEM Career Pathways expands STEM education opportunities and connects emerging and existing talent to STEM careers.

• Environmental Sustainability minimizes environmental impacts among vulnerable populations, and protects air, water and land.

• Community Vitality builds community strength and vibrancy by advancing economic prosperity and fostering cultural expression and inclusion.

You can find additional details in our  Energizing the Future brochure or on our Foundation page.

However you celebrate, I hope the season is bright.          

Kirstin Sersland
Xcel Energy | You. Us. Together.
Community Relations Manager, MN - SE Metro 

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
Welcome new Director Danette Parr
Danette Parr joins Maplewood to lead Community Development
“I knew Maplewood had a number of positive attributes, including its location, proactive redevelopment efforts and plenty of parks and open spaces.  However, it wasn’t until I started talking to employees when I realized it had a strong culture that prioritized professional development, a work-life balance and other qualities that make coming to work enjoyable.” Learn more about Danette Parr

Danette’s first Council meeting includes a very robust agenda: the Adoption of the 2023 Budget and CIP as well as the votes on the Reuter Walton Project in Gladstone. You will all have a chance to meet her on Monday night. I am thrilled to have her on the team as she brings many experiences from the communities she has worked in, most recently the City of Plymouth. Danette also has had training in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives which will add value and experience to our MORE team goals and objectives.  

PARKS AND NATURAL RESOURCES
New Skating Loop at Wakefield Park
Parks and Natural Resources is trying something new this year at Wakefield park. In addition to the normal skating rinks that we manage every year, the maintenance crew has been hard at work creating a skating loop that runs through the park. Stay tuned for updates as the project progresses! 

Conservation Corps Minnesota –2022 Work at Fish Creek Wraps Up
In January of 2022, Maplewood Parks and Natural Resources applied for and received assistance from the National Park Service and Mississippi Park Connection, obtaining use of their Conservation Corps Minnesota River Crew.  This crew works exclusively within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA). Because most of Fish Creek Preserve falls within the MNRRA boundaries, these crews have helped us with many of our goals at Fish Creek. 

Crews of 2 - 4 removed invasive parsnip, garlic mustard and Japanese hedge parsley in the spring, readied an oak study area for planting and removed invasive shrubs in the summer, then removed invasive black locust and hazardous ash this past week. We thank them for a job well done and look forward to partnering with them again in 2023.

PUBLIC WORKS
Highway 120 PEL Study Phase II
MnDot’s Phase II of the Highway 120 Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) study kicked off this week.  A PEL study is a collaborative and integrated approach to transportation decision-making that does the following:

  • Considers environmental, community, and economic goals early in the transportation planning process
  • Uses the information, analysis, and products developed during planning to inform the environmental review process.

This study is looking at that part of Highway 120 between I-94 and I-694.  The road condition is in need of repair and is scheduled to be a future project in a few years.  This study is taking a look at other issues in the corridor that could be improved as part of the future project.  Phase II work will take place throughout 2023 and includes public engagement.

For more information please see the link to MnDot’s project webpage:   https://www.dot.state.mn.us/metro/projects/hwy120study/index.html

Highway 36 Study
With the start of the New Year, MnDot will begin a study of Highway 36 from I-35W to English Street.  MnDot will be looking at this eight mile corridor to better understand the needs of people who travel along Hwy 36 or need to cross over Hwy 36.  This study will be looking at all modes of transportation to better understand the travel needs along this corridor.

For more information please see the link to MnDot’s project webpage:    https://www.dot.state.mn.us/metro/projects/hwy36maplewood-roseville/index.html

This is the news for the week. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns with any information here or with the upcoming Council meeting.
Enjoy the weekend.
Melinda