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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. 

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Oct 21

October 18th, 2019

Posted on October 21, 2019 at 10:26 AM by Chad Bergo

COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK:  October 18th, 2019

 

Meetings and Announcements:   

 

The next City Council meeting and workshop will be held on October 28th .    The workshop will begin at 5:30. We will have two Commission interviews for openings on the Park and ENR Commissions and bring back T-21 for follow up clarification and direction. The Council meeting will begin at 7 pm.

Maplewood Business Council meetings (MBC) and the St. Paul Chamber Business Education Series schedule of events is listed below:

·       November - Maplewood Business Engagement Breakfast. Staff is working on holding a networking event in late afternoon. We hope to have plans nailed down next week.

·       December 10 at 3-4:30 p.m. - Business Education Series – 8 Metrics to Success (Roseville)

·       Council/HEDC Development Tour- Saturday, November 16th at 8:30 am to 1:30 pm. Details to come soon.

·       Strategic Planning Meeting- City Council and HEDC scheduled for November 25th at 4 pm to 7 pm. This will be held in the Council Chambers.

Updates from Staff and Council:

 

ADMINISTRATION

 

Potential Sales Tax Options

Assistant City Manager Mike Sable has put together information regarding Maplewood Sales tax options. There are three key pieces:

 

  1. The Local Option Sales Tax
  2. The Change to the Process (i.e. Regional Significance or “clear regional benefit”)
  3. Construction Materials Sales Tax Exemption

 

Under the change in the law, if the Council pursues a Local Option Sales Tax it seems likely that the earliest we could institute a sales tax would be January 2023 – unless the council set a special election for the referendum.

 

Council Resolution in support - Determined by City Council       

Council Resolution submitted to Tax Committee - January 31, 2020 (deadline)

Legislative Approval - May 2020

Referendum post-legislative approval - November 2022 (unless a special election is called)

Institute sales tax - January 1, 2023

 

For an exemption to the Construction Materials Sales Tax, there are no additional requirements, save for the changes to procurement methods.  As a general rule, the legislature caps the amount to be refunded and sets a timeline of five (5) years to complete. Please see attached information from LMC. 

Staff has sample legislative language for both if/when the time comes to consider. Let us know if you would like copies of potential language. Staff will add this to calendar to schedule for Council action after defining preferred scope of legislation.

 

The League of Minnesota Cities remains the key source for legislative tracking and review of bills impacting cities in the state of Minnesota. Below is a summary of the issues/impacts.   There are three (3) main area of focus:

1.     Local Option Sales Tax to fund capital projects/capital investments

2.     Changes to Local Sales Tax Approval Process

3.     General construction sales tax exemption for capital projects

Local Option Sales Taxes - https://www.lmc.org/page/1/LocalSalesTaxes.jsp?ssl=true

 

Currently, nearly 30 cities across the state impose a local sales tax. Twenty-two Minnesota cities held referendums in November 2018 seeking voter approval for new or modified local sales taxes to fund various capital projects. Of those, voters in 16 cities approved the request.

 

Under the old law, Minnesota Statutes, section 297A.99, the next step for those cities was to seek legislative approval through special legislation. Last session, sixteen (16) cities sought legislative approval for a local sales tax. Those cities receiving voter approval last November were:

·       Avon (transportation improvement projects)

·       Blue Earth (Sewer Plant, Streets, and Recreation amenities)

·       Cambridge (Library, streets, outdoor park)

·       Detroit Lakes (police department facility)

·       Elk River (rec/park/trail improvements, lake dredging)

·       Glenwood (roads, parks/trails/city hall-police station)

·       International Falls (transportation/public infrastructure)

·       Perham (Perham-area community center)

·       Rogers (trail & pedestrian facilities, aquatic facility)

·       Sauk Center (highway reconstruction & infrastructure)

·       Scanlon (streets and utilities)

·       Two Harbors (infrastructure)

·       Virginia (Recreation & Convention complex improvements)

·       West St. Paul (pavement management plan)

·       Willmar (community center, rec center, parks & storm water)

·       Worthington (recreational/quality of life improvements)

 

Changes to Local Sales Tax Approval Process - https://www.lmc.org/page/1/fonl-localsalestax.jsp?ssl=true

 

A new law, 2019 First Special Session, Chapter 6, modified the process cities and other local units of government must follow to impose future general local sales taxes. Effective July 1, 2019, the new process requires local governments to secure legislative authorization for a general sales tax prior to conducting a local referendum.

The new process also requires cities to provide additional detailed information on the proposed uses of the local sales tax revenue and information on the “regional significance” of the projects to be funded. Steps of the new process:

1.     Adopt a resolution. The city council must first adopt a resolution proposing the tax. The resolution must include the proposed tax rate, documentation of the “regional significance” of each project to be funded, the amount to be raised with the tax, and the estimated length of time the tax will be needed.

2.     Submit resolution to state tax committees. The city is required to submit the adopted resolution and documentation on regional significance to the chairs and ranking minority members of the House and Senate Taxes committees by Jan. 31 of the year that it is seeking the special law.

3.     Get legislative authorization. The city must secure the passage of a special law authorizing the enactment of the local sales tax. The city would typically work with its local legislators to introduce special legislation.

4.     Adopt a resolution. After approval, the city must adopt a resolution accepting the new law. The city must also file the resolution and a local approval certificate with the Office of the Secretary of State before the next legislative biennium begins.

5.     Hold a referendum. The city must conduct a referendum during a general election within two years of receiving legislative authority for the local sales tax. The referendum must include separate questions for each project, and only the ballot questions approved by voters may be funded by the sales tax.

6.     Pass an ordinance. The city council must pass an ordinance imposing the tax. It must also notify the commissioner of Revenue at least 90 days before the first day of the calendar quarter that the tax will be imposed.

Spending restrictions

The statute continues to restrict the expenditure of funds for the promotion of the passage of a local sales tax referendum. Cities may spend money to:

1.     Give residents the information that is contained in the local sales tax resolution, including information on specific projects and costs of those projects.

2.     Conduct public forums on the sales tax and projects to be funded, provided that proponents and opponents are given equal time to express their opinions.

3.     Provide facts on the proposed projects and the impact of the proposed tax on consumers.

4.     Conduct the required referendum.

Construction Sales Tax Exemption for Capital Projects - https://www.lmc.org/page/1/ConstructionExemption.jsp?ssl=true

 

The cities of Inver Grove Heights and Minnetonka sought a sales tax exemption through a refund process for construction materials used for two specific public facilities when the materials are purchased by a contractor.

The first provided a refund of sales taxes paid on construction materials for a new Inver Grove Heights fire station that includes a public safety training facility. According to the Department of Revenue analysis, the exemption will reduce the cost of the $8.7 million facility—$4.3 million of which is assumed to be taxable materials—by an estimated $300,000.

The second provided a refund of the sales taxes paid on construction materials for a Minnetonka public safety facility. The Department of Revenue analysis estimates the exemption will reduce the cost of the $25 million facility—$12.5 million of which is assumed to be taxable materials—by an estimated $850,000.

Background on the issue

Under current law, for cities, counties, townships and school districts to receive the benefit of the sales tax exemption for building, construction, or reconstruction materials, supplies, and equipment used in public buildings and public infrastructure projects, they must follow a very cumbersome set of rules that require local units of government to:

1.     Separately bid labor and materials.

2.     Designate the contractor as a legal purchasing agent on behalf of the local unit of government.

3.     Assume the liability for damages caused by defective materials or delivery delays.

4.     Since the current required process adds considerable risk and potential cost to the contracting process, many cities, counties, and townships choose not to pursue the sales tax exemption at all. Similarly, some school districts—which have never been subject to sales tax on their purchases, but have been subject to these rules for decades—have opted to pay the sales tax on construction materials.

5.     According to an analysis prepared last session on a bill that would provide a refund to all local units of government, the Department of Revenue estimated that paying the sales tax will increase the cost of local government projects by an estimated $18.3 million in FY 2019 and $18.9 million in FY 2020.

 

 

Nepali Market Opening- Mayor Abrams, Councilmember Neblett and staff, Ellen Paulseth, Jeff Thomson and Mike Sable attended the Grand Opening of the Nepali Market. They all agreed that the food was delicious and encourage us to shop and support this new business at Rice and Larpenteur. 

  

Changes to staffing with the Heritage Preservation Commission

I talked with Council about this earlier this year when Ginny Gaynor retired from the City as I had concerns about being able to provide staff report to the HPC. Ginny was the staff liaison to the HPC. Following her departure, staff had to evaluate the work load of the HPC and the time commitment of staff to support their work. After two conversations with Chair Peter Boulay and a review of work load with Parks and other staff, I  have re-structured how we approach our support to the HPC.  The primary reasons for these changes are the need to focus on Open Space maintenance and programming and also to add support to the Nature Center operations. In addition, the HPC operates quite differently than the other commissions and their work load is much different. Frankly, we do not have staff that has Historic Preservation in their wheelhouse of skills or knowledge.

Chair Boulay has accepted these changes but I wanted you to be aware of them. If you have concerns or questions, please let me know. If I don’t hear from you, I am going to assume you are supportive of these changes.

We started this review when Ms. Gaynor left and have developed the following new structure: The HPC will continue to meet monthly (unless they want to meet less often), we will not cable cast the meetings, staff will provide administrative support by distributing the agenda to members and provide action-oriented minutes. When the HPC needs professional help on specific projects, staff will either provide the support, if we can, or contribute up to $10,000,000. per year to the HPC to assist with a project.  I would work with Chair Boulay to bring this to City Council for authorization on financial contributions. In addition, the HPC will report to the City Council on an annual basis as do the other boards.

 

PUBLIC WORKS

Ramsey County 4 to 3 Lane Conversion Study

Ramsey County is conducting a study on the feasibility and potential benefits of 4 to 3 lane conversions.  The County has identified 23 road segments throughout the county that will be part of this study.  There are a variety of benefits that 3 lane roadways have over 4 lane roadways, and are often found to be feasibly to convert.  These benefits include safety, operational, multimodal possibilities, and quality of life benefits.  Some of the key safety benefits include crash reduction, pedestrian and bicyclist safety, reduction in speed, and improved sight distance.  Several cities, including Maplewood, have been asked to sit on a technical advisory committee (TAC) for this study.  The study is expected to be completed spring of 2020.  

 

Ramsey County No Parking Area Request

Ramsey County will sending a letter to residents on the south side of County Road D from Labore Road to County Road D Circle proposing to post this section of road as a no parking area. 

 

Currently the south side of County Road D does not have adequate space to park vehicles without them extending into the travel lane and does not meet State Aid Standards for on street parking areas.  This can create safety issues for drivers traveling on County Road D in either direction as they try to navigate around the parked vehicles and into oncoming lane of traffic.  The issue is further compounded in the winter when snow accumulates on the shoulder forcing the vehicles to park farther into the travel lanes.  The county will collect input for residents and reach back out to the city with the results.

 

Gold Line Environmental Assessment – Public Comments

The Environmental Assessment (EA) documents have been prepared for the Gold Line BRT project.  The EA documents the purpose and need of the project along with the anticipated social, economic, transportation and environmental impacts.  The EA is available for viewing on the Gold Line website: http://metrotransit.org/gold-line-environmental

 

The Gold Line project team is taking public comments on the EA until November 6, 2019.  Comments can be submitted via email to goldline@metrotransit.org, online comment form at the above website, or written comments can be directed to:

Gold Line Project Office

C/o Chelsa Johnson

121 7th Place East, Suite 102

Saint Paul, MN 55101

 

The following is a list of public events for the opportunity to engage with the Gold Line project team and comment on the EA document:

·       Open House 1: Tuesday, October 22, 2019 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the East Side Learning Hub at Harding High School, 1526 6th Street East, Saint Paul

·       Open House 2: Wednesday, October 23, 2019 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at the Landfall Community Center, 2 Fourth Avenue, Landfall

·       Office Hours: Monday, October 28, 2019 from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. at the Gold Line Project Office, 121 7th Place East, Suite 102, Saint Paul

 

Storm Sewer Line installed

Public Works crews installed a new storm sewer line this week to help reduce drainage issues from storm water that crosses the public right-of-way from the Remackel property to the Schiffler property. This new line (light blue line) connects to the exiting storm sewer line on English Street (dark blue line) and runs along the north side of the private driveway.  - A big thank you to our Public Works crews for their work to try and help improve the challenging issue between these properties.

 

 

PARKS AND RECREATION

 

City Wide Buckthorn Pick Up

The City-Wide Buckthorn Pick Up registration deadline is Thursday October 24.  Residents with more than a large truck full of buckthorn may register for pick up by our public works department during the week of October 28. Residents are reminded to remove buckthorn by cutting and then treating the stems with herbicide to prevent re-sprouting.

 

Higher Ground Academy Field Trips

Over a hundred 7th and 8th grade students from Higher Ground Academy (Somali and East Africa attendees) visited the Nature Center this week to learn about Prairie and Forest Ecosystems, process wildflower seeds and spread them.  For many, it was their first time hiking or walking in a natural environment.  Getting acclimated among the wet leaves, logs and trees was a bit of a challenge but the students really seemed to enjoy discovering moss, fungi, galls and viewing the colorful leaves and the wildlife around the pond. 

 

Deer Management

Metro Bowhunters Resource Base (MBRB) will be conducting archery hunts on the following dates in Maplewood:

Battle Creek Archery Hunt- Nov 4-6

Priory- Oct 25-27, Nov 15-17

Fish Creek (on Ramsey County land)- Oct 25-27, Nov 15-17

 

The Parks will be closed during the hunts, and the entrance to Afton Heights will be barricaded during the Battle Creek hunt. Signs have been posted at the Priory, and letter mailed to the adjacent neighbors. Ramsey County is responsible for notifications and posting signage for the Fish Creek and Battle Creek hunts.

 

COMMUNICATIONS

Pioneer Press now Maplewood’s paper of record

With Lillie News going out of business, the Council has designated the Pioneer Press as Maplewood’s official newspaper for hearing and meeting notices, publication of ordinances, legal notices and other statutorily mandated announcements. You can find the Pioneer Press online version at TwinCities.com.

 

NEWS FROM OUR PARTNERS

District 622 e-news for Wednesday, October 16, 2019

At a glance

·  Taste of District 622 and Annual Craft Fair to be held at Tartan on November 2

·  SPARC (Schools, Parents & Resources Connecting) meets November 4  

 

Visit the e-news webpage or open the attached PDF to read this week's District 622 e-news.

Thanks for reading this week’s FYI. Please call if you have any questions or concerns. Enjoy this fall (hopefully dry) weekend. Melinda