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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. 

Aug 03

July 31, 2020

Posted on August 3, 2020 at 10:14 AM by Chad Bergo

COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK: July 31st, 2020

 

Meetings and Announcements:  

•The next City Council meeting will be held next Monday, August 10th.

There will be a Special Council Meeting Friday, August 14th at 4:00 pm to canvass the primary election results

 

Here are the updates from various departments below. 

Updates from Staff and Council:

PARKS AND RECREATION

July Geo Explorer’s Challenge

The July Geo Explorer’s Challenge finished up on Sunday July 26 and we had over 100 people hunting to find 8 or more of our 20 geocaches to secure their “parks and rec swag bag” or challenge medals. The average number of caches found per team was 13 and many teams succeeded in finding all 20! We had a number of great “challenge in action photos” submitted which we posted on our website. Overall we received excellent feedback from the participants with many loving the exploration of Maplewood’s parks and open spaces.

Feedback:

•We had a great time doing this challenge! It was so fun to find new parks and the caches! We found a total of 9. Thanks again and we look forward to the August  challenge!

•Thanks for all your hard work on this.  First time geocaching and we had fun.

•This was my first experience of Geocache. My friend asked me if I wanted to do this challenge with her. It was fun, and I saw so many parks that I had no idea were in the area. The second day we found all. It was going so well that we just kept going and we found ten that day. Thank you for offering this activity.

•My friend and I had a great time this week looking for caches.  I was surprised to see so many small parks, especially a couple that you could never drive by but you would have to know where they are.  At one park we met a former Maplewood employee who gave us a history of the park we were in and the story of the annexation of the southern part of Maplewood.  I’ve lived here for 44 years and learned a lot this week! I hope more residents get out and give this a try.

•I really enjoyed the challenge. Thinking about joining the August one. I'll have to go back to these parks and walk more of the trails.

              

 

Conservation Corps at Fish Creek

On Monday, July 27, we hosted a Conservation Corps crew at Fish Creek Preserve. The crew removed invasive species and cleared vegetation around young oak trees planted by the University of Minnesota to study the effects of climate change on bur oaks. Funding for the Conservation Corps crew was provided by Mississippi Park Connection. The crew completes natural resources projects throughout the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and will return to Fish Creek again this fall to help with invasive species removal.

 

PUBLIC WORKS

Pavement Maintenance Work

As part of this year’s street reconstruction project we include fog sealing for the Manton Street/Ryan Avenue neighborhood (north of Frost Avenue), the Barclay Street/Skillman neighborhood (south of County Road B), and Kohlman Lane neighborhood (north of Keller Parkway).  These streets were all reconstructed as part of past City CIP projects.  A fog seal is a light application of asphalt emulsion to aged pavement surfaces.  This is done to restore flexibility to the pavement and prolong the life of the road.

 

Prior to this work being done our Public Works crews went through these neighborhoods this week to crack seal the roads ahead of the fog sealing.  Crack sealing is done to help keep water and debris out of the asphalt cracks to reduce further damage to the pavement and prolong the life of the road.  A special thanks to all the Public Works staff involved in crack sealing and coordinating these activities so we can maximize the benefits of the two pavement maintenance activities.

 

Schaller Area Pavement Rehabilitation Update

The Schaller Area Pavement Rehabilitation project is making great progress.  All damaged curb and gutter has been removed and replaced and all storm sewer repairs have been completed.  The project is broken up into three phases.  Northwest Asphalt, the prime contractor, has completed paving the base layer of pavement for Phase 1 and Phase 2 area streets.  Next week pavement reclamation (grinding of existing pavement) will begin for Phase 3 area streets.  It is anticipated the base layer of pavement for Phase 3 will be paved the following week.  The contractor will then begin boulevard and driveway restoration.  It is estimated that the final layer of pavement will be completed near the end of August / early September.

 

Xcel Gas Main Replacement Project Update

The Xcel Gas Main Replacement project on County Road B between Rice Street and White Bear Avenue is making great process.  Xcel’s contractor has removed 95% of the old pipe and has installed 80% of the new gas main.  Installation of the remaining pipe should be done by the end of August.  The number of crews will then be minimized.  During this time, about 4-6 weeks, the contractor will be testing and fine tuning the regulators.  This work will take place at the regulator locations (Rice St., Edgerton, Hazelwood, and English) and should be finished around the middle of October.

 

Restoration work has started with paving on the west side and will continue off and on through August.  Final restoration of yards and boulevards will continue through the fall with a small restoration crew.   It is anticipated that final touch-up restoration work will take place in 2021, but this depends on how well the grass grows this fall.

 

These are the reports for this week.  As always, please call if I can address any questions or concerns. I hope that you have a great weekend. Thank you.

 

Jul 24

July 24th, 2020

Posted on July 24, 2020 at 4:56 PM by Chad Bergo

COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK: July 24th, 2020

 

Meetings and Announcements:  

• The next City Council meeting will be held next Monday, July 27th.

• There will be a Special Council Meeting Friday, August 14th at 4:00 pm to canvass the primary election results

• Here are the updates from various departments below.

 

Updates from Staff and Council:

 

ADMINISTRATION

Mask Requirements:

Earlier this week Governor Walz issued Executive Order 20-81 mandating the use of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. https://www.leg.state.mn.us/archive/execorders/20-81.pdf

 

“Beginning on Friday, July 24, 2020 at 11:59 p.m., Minnesotans must wear a face covering in indoor businesses and indoor public settings, as described in this order and the related industry guidance, available at the Stay Safe Minnesota website (https://staysafe.mn.gov), as well as any other guidance referenced in this order. Workers must also wear face coverings outdoors when it is not possible to maintain social distancing. When leaving home, Minnesotans are strongly encouraged to have a face covering with them at all times to be prepared to comply with the requirements of this Executive Order.”

 

Residents using in-person services have been using masks already and the city provides one to people who don’t have one. City staff have been using masks at work when interacting with the public already, so we do not expect many changes.

 

Mask Distribution:

The State of Minnesota has made 4 million masks available to local businesses statewide. The St Paul Area Chamber of Commerce is the lead agency for Ramsey County and  Maplewood Mall has agreed to serve as a host site. https://www.fox9.com/news/statewide-effort-to-distribute-4-million-masks-to-minnesota-businesses-before-mandate-takes-effect

 

Beginning Monday, July 27th at 9:00 am, local businesses can pick up boxes of disposable masks for their customers and staff. Chief Lukin has served as the point person coordinating distribution. Joe Sheeran has handled communications. Both have done an excellent job. You will see more on social media later today.

 

Mask distribution will take place at the SE Corner of the Maplewood Mall – between the old Sears and JC Penney. There are 1,920 boxes available for area businesses.

 

Volunteer Opportunity:

There are opportunities for Council to volunteer to hand out masks, or make deliveries, if you’re interested please contact me or Chief Lukin.

 

HyVee

The city continues to get feedback on the proposed liquor ordinance amendment.  There was a new story in an older Pioneer Press article on the role that grocery stores can play in the retail sector. Sharing for context: https://www.twincities.com/2018/12/09/hy-vees-bringing-more-than-groceries-to-the-east-metro-its-rescuing-downtrodden-retail-sites/

 

PARKS AND RECREATION

3M Volunteers at Gladstone Savanna

On 7/23, seven volunteers from 3M joined Natural Resources Coordinator Emily Dunlap and Naturalist Ann Hutchinson to remove spotted knapweed at Gladstone Savanna. Spotted knapweed is an invasive species that can produce thousands of seeds per plant and threatens to outcompete native plants. By removing spotted knapweed before it goes to seed, the volunteers prevented it from spreading further. Masks were worn for the duration of the event, social distancing was practiced, and tools were sanitized before and after use. Thanks to the volunteers for all their hard work!

 

PUBLIC SAFETY

Police Officer Interviews:

The Police Department completed the first round of police officer interviews with two interview panels interviewing 48 candidates over a three day period.  Seventeen candidates will now move on to a Chief's interview with Public Safety Director Nadeau this coming week.  This hiring process is being conducted to hire officers to fill the positions of two long term officers who have taken the opportunity to be part of the early retirement program offered by the City.

 

 

PUBLIC WORKS

TH 120 Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) Study

This week the second TAC meeting for the TH120 PEL study was held.  At this meeting we reviewed an update and initial insights provided from community engagement.  The goal was to gather input from the public on lifestyle and habits, use of the corridor and transportation modes, know problem areas, and unmet needs.

 

The engagement process started with an online survey which 1,328 respondents participated.  From this survey pool a small group diverse group were invited to continue the discussion.  37 residents participated in the Qualitative Bulletin Board Discussion.  This process allowed participants to respond to additional questions.  After responding they were allowed to see how others respond to the same questions.  Then participants were able to have a discussion about the answer by posting comments.

 

One of the big highlights was they noted the need to define what we intend the road to be or look like (i.e. a 4-Lane road to move traffic quickly or a 2 lane road with sidewalks to provide connections to the community) before we can really move forward with a project.  This engagement has also helped identify some key issues, groups, and gaps that need to be filled. 

 

This engagement process is one of the changes to engagement being made due to the impact on public gatherings by the Covid-19 virus.  The project team is in the process of updating their Public Involvement Plan to adapt to engagement during the current pandemic.

 

Spot Paving on Case and Ferndale

This week Public Works crews have been performing spot paving on Case Avenue and Ferndale Street (between Stillwater and Harvester).  This work is done on areas where regular patching is no longer effective and they are still a number of years out from a CIP project.  As you can see it provides residents relief from the pavement conditions and reduce staff time having to revisit the same are multiple times each year.  The crews really like these type of projects as they make a big difference for the residents.

 

These are the reports for this week. City Manager Coleman returns next week. Stay tuned for more information. As always, please call if I can address any questions or concerns. Thank you.

 

Mike

Jul 20

July 17th, 2020

Posted on July 20, 2020 at 11:10 AM by Chad Bergo

COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK: July 17th, 2020

Meetings and Announcements:  

  • The next City Council meeting will be held next Monday, July 27th.
  • There will be a Special Council Meeting Friday, August 14th at 4:00 pm to canvass the primary election results

Here are the updates from various departments below.

 

Updates from Staff and Council:

 

ADMINISTRATION

Maplewood News – Homeless Encampment:

https://www.startribune.com/east-metro-cities-struggle-to-manage-homelessness-amid-pandemic/571796752/

 

A sample of the story here:

“Maplewood officials dismantled a homeless camp last week in a city park they said was showing signs of eroding sanitary and safety conditions — including a nearby drowning and a machete attack.  The city is one of several east metro jurisdictions struggling to manage growing homeless camps this summer under Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency executive order, which requires them to accommodate people displaced when camps are removed during the COVID-19 crisis.  Conditions at dozens of homeless encampments in Minneapolis city parks have prompted impassioned public debate this week. But St. Paul officials said they too are monitoring 84 homeless campsites with an estimated 270 residents, a tenfold increase from last summer.

 

“We are at levels now we have never experienced in St. Paul before,” said Ricardo Cervantes, St. Paul’s director of safety and inspections, saying they counted about 28 people at encampments during last year’s peak. Maplewood officials said they initially tried to maintain safety and order at the camp in Legacy Park, near a Ramsey County Library branch and the Maplewood Mall. They provided food, portable toilets and a hand-washing station. Police made regular welfare checks, and nonprofit case managers visited the camp.  But conditions deteriorated, they said. There were 27 police calls to the site, culminating in a drowning death and the machete attack during a turf dispute among camp dwellers.

 

“We were trying to be as compassionate as we possibly could. It evolved into a dangerous situation for everyone,” said Mayor Marylee Abrams. The mayor called it a “heartbreaking situation for cities not equipped to deal with it. We don’t have a health and human services department. We don’t have social workers on staff. That is not in the city’s wheelhouse.”  The city paid for hotel rooms for about a half dozen people displaced from the camp, many of whom will now be moving into a temporary St. Paul shelter being set up by Ramsey County. City crews cleared two dumpsters full of debris from the encampment, which had a population of about 15 at its peak.”

  

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

HyVee Liquor Ordinance Amendment

 

On July 8th, city staff sent a letter to the 13 off-sale liquor establishments in Maplewood informing them of the amendment to the liquor ordinance being requested by HyVee. This week we received calls from Big Discount Liquor across the street from the proposed HyVee and from 61 Liquors on Highway 61. Both owners have expressed concerns about the ordinance amendment and its impact on their operations and other small liquor store owners. We also received a call from an attorney representing one of the current grocery stores in Maplewood who indicated support for HyVee’s request. We have asked liquor store owners to submit comments by next week and we will include them in the packet when the council reviews the request at its July 27th meeting.

 

PUBLIC SAFETY

Multicultural Advisory Committee:

On  7/14/2020 the Maplewood Police Department hosted its first meeting of the newly formed Multi-Cultural Advisory committee at the Police Department.  Ten of the 14 committee members attended, and masks and social distancing were utilized for COVID-19 concerns.  The committee members were very engaged and represented a number of our communities underserved communities and provided great feedback during the meeting.  After a brief overview of the Maplewood Police Department to include structure and initiatives, committee members introduced themselves and we had a great discussion about what the MAC was and the goals we wanted to accomplish.  The main topic of the evening was the murder of George Floyd and how to move forward with Police building  relationships with community in such a challenging environment in Minnesota and across the nation.  The discussions were very candid and the group was both respectful and engaged.  We look forward to the next meeting and work that we will be doing with the MAC to increase understanding and partnership with our diverse community.

 

PUBLIC WORKS 

MNDoT Construction Change – Century Avenue – NIGHT WORK BEGINNING TUESDAY, JULY 21st

 

MNDoT is currently doing an overlay project on Century Avenue (from 94 to the South to County Road E on the North).

 

On Tuesday, July 21st, MNDoT will move their construction from day to night because of concerns:

 

Significant back-ups (over 2 miles)

Unsafe conditions with drivers ignoring “flaggers” and/or State Patrol signage

Damage to new pavement

Overall frustration on all sides (drivers and construction crews)

Construction on 694/494 is also causing traffic to find alternate routes, thus making Century Ave busier than it otherwise would be

 

The shift to night work increases noise impacts to residents. MNDoT is not subject to our noise ordinance. However, they reached out to the city  as a courtesy for input and to solicit our help in communication.

 

The project is 7 miles long and crews can complete 1.0 - 1.5 miles/day. Residents in the area will be notified via social media, posted signs, traditional media, and work crews. Crews are proposing a 7pm – 5am working hours.

 

Public Works Crew Updates

 

This week Ramsey County held a preconstruction meeting for this year’s maintenance projects.  The first project is on McKnight Road and is scheduled to begin next week.  It is broken into 2 areas as seen on the map below.  The north area runs from 7th Avenue south to Stillwater Road.  The south area runs from Burns Avenue south to Pond Avenue:

 

McKnight

The second project is on Larpenteur Avenue and runs from Grotto Street (west of Rice Street) to I 35E (see map below).  This project is estimated to being in August of this summer.

 

Larpenteur

Both of these project include resurfacing, pedestrian improvements, and conversion from a 4 lane to 3 lane road.  These projects are planned to be completed while maintain traffic flow.

 

These are the reports for this week. Reminder that Melinda is on vacation next week. Stay tuned for more information next week. As always, please call if I can address any questions or concerns. Thank you.

 

Mike