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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. 

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Apr 08

April 3, 2020

Posted on April 8, 2020 at 11:22 AM by Chad Bergo

COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK: April 3rd, 2020


Meetings and Announcements:   

  • The next City Council meeting and workshop will be held on Monday, April 13th. We are looking at technology solutions that work best for conducting our meetings. See updates from Mychal Fowlds in his IT section.
  • There are updates from various departments below. 

Updates from Staff and Council:

ADMINISTRATION

Administration continues to monitor changes to state and federal law and the impacts on employees. The League of Minnesota Cities continues to be a great source of information and we work with our peers communities to help implement.

Two significant federal laws are now in place:

 

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES):

The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (H.R. 748) — or the ‘‘CARES Act” —is the single largest economic stimulus package in U.S. history. Intended to help prevent an economic meltdown during the COVID-19 emergency, it was passed by the Senate on March 25 and by the House on March 27.

 

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA): 

The new federal law, which applies to cities and other employers, expands the Family and Medical Leave Act and provides emergency paid sick leave.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed on March 18. Two divisions of the Act — one temporarily expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and another providing emergency paid sick leave — are of critical importance to Minnesota cities.

 

Both of these provisions apply to local governments and their employees. Each provision of the law goes into effect sometime on or before April 2 and will sunset on Dec. 31, as the law is meant to specifically address concerns around COVID-19.

https://www.lmc.org/news-publications/news/all/families-first-coronavirus-response-act/ 

 

STATE LEGISLATURE

In addition, the state legislature is taking action and staff continues to monitor changes:

https://www.lmc.org/news-publications/news/all/second-covid-19-response-bill/

http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/scripts/billsum.pl?fname=HF4531&session=91&session_number=0&year=2020

 

We continue to maintain strong relationships with partners in the region to ensure our approach is consistent with peer communities.

 

 

FINANCE 

Budget Impacts of Covid-19

We continue to monitor the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the City’s 2020 Budget.  We have developed a “best case and worst case” scenario and will continue to refresh those models as new information becomes available.  Shown below is a high-level summary of the analysis:

image001

 

Best Case Scenario Assumptions:

  • Property taxes will be collected at a slightly lower than normal rate of 99% in the first year;
  • All other revenue sources come in on budget;
  • Expenditures will come in at 97.6% of budget, the same as 2019;
  • No disaster aid is reflected.

 

Worst Case Scenario Assumptions: 

  • Property taxes collections will be at 95% for the first year, lower than recession era collection rates;
  • All other revenues will come in at 90% of budget, including intergovernmental revenue;
  • Interest earnings will be 50% of budget;
  • Expenditures will end the year at 99% of budget, higher than normal;
  • No disaster aid is reflected.

 

Key Points:

  • The General Fund ended the year 2019 with a $1.3M surplus; approximately $250K is a paper gain due to the investment portfolio performance;
  • The City intentionally budgeted for a $450K surplus in 2020 to shore up fund balance for contingencies and future growth in the budget;
  • The policy requirement for the General Fund reserve is 41.67% of expenditures, or 5 months of expenditures.  The best case scenario results in a fund balance of 50.22% at the end of 2020.  The worst case scenario results in a fund balance of 43.37% at the end of 2020.  It will most likely be somewhere in-between. 
  • Keep in mind that property taxes are 77.6% of the total General Fund revenues.  This revenue sources is pretty inelastic, but is subject to reductions granted by the court for value petitions.

On a final note, the City is well-positioned to weather this crisis; however, we continue to be especially prudent stewards of taxpayer funds at this time.

 

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT 

Ponds at Battle Creek 

Staff has been discussing a community engagement plan with Ramsey County for the Ponds at Battle Creek. We originally planned to update the council on the Ponds at the April 13th council workshop. In addition to the city’s cancellation of the workshop meeting, Ramsey County is requesting to postpone the council update as the county leadership is focusing on essential services and pandemic planning. We will continue to work with county staff on the engagement plan and will bring the item to a future city council meeting. 

 

Rental Housing Program

The city is the final stages of hiring a Neighborhood Preservation Specialist to lead the implementation of the city’s rental licensing program. The finalist for the position has extensive experience in administering a rental licensing program and is expected to start in Maplewood at the beginning of May. The community development rental housing work team continues to meet on a weekly basis to develop the licensing program so it is able to be launched this summer.

 

IT

Technology Setup for Next Council Meeting

Our next City Council meeting is fast approaching.  The purpose of this FYI item is to make sure that we are all on the same page regarding the expectations for the next meeting.  The feedback we received at the end of the last meeting was that calling in via the phone went well and that having Councilmembers on screen via video is not preferred.  That being said we are planning on setting up the next meeting as follows:

 

  1. Councilmembers will dial in to meeting audio just as they did last meeting
  2. NEW:  Councilmembers would also join the Zoom meeting via their preferred device (iPad).  Doing so, will allow you to view any remote presentations given by staff.
  3. NEW:  Staff presenting will also join using their computer/iPad and the host will allow them to share their screen at the appropriate time to present their item
  4. NEW:  Communications will capture Zoom meeting for live broadcast on Ch. 16 and online
  5. Meeting will be recorded via Zoom and existing video system for replay

 

If you have any comments, suggestions or questions please sent them to Mychal and Melinda.

 

Zoom in the News

You may have noticed that Zoom has been in the headlines quite a bit over the past week regarding the security of their program.  This will happen when your daily users go from 10 million in December to over 200 million in March.  Zoom bombing has become a thing and involves uninvited guests taking control of your live event.  In most cases this is due to the Host of the meeting not implementing some of the protections that Zoom has built in such as requiring a password, using random meeting ID’s, etc.  Rest assured that we will be using these protections in upcoming meetings.  The articles also note some vulnerabilities in the application but according to Zoom these were fixed in a patch they pushed out this past Wednesday.  That new, patched version was pushed out to all of our clients this morning.  We will continue to keep an eye on any security developments for this application, as we do all others.  Please contact Mychal with any questions.

  

PARKS AND RECREATION

Lawns to Legumes Grant

The City of Maplewood received a $39,440 Lawns to Legumes grant to create a Pollinator Demonstration Neighborhood, encouraging residents to support native bees and butterflies with native plants and showcasing pollinator friendly practices. The grant is one of 13 awarded statewide by the Board of Water and Soil Resources, in response to plummeting populations of native pollinators. The Pollinators by the Yard-Maplewood Demonstration Neighborhood grant will:

1. Install 15 native plant demonstration gardens in a chosen neighborhood.

2. Present 16 classes/workshops focusing on pollinators, native plants, design, and maintenance; including 4 online "how -to" videos for both Maplewood citizens and the general public.

3. Provide consults and inspections for the 15 pollinator gardens.

4. Include 31 pollinator surveys before and after each pollinator planting is installed.

The grant agreement will be submitted to council on April 13 for approval. This program will help achieve goals set by the city's Pollinator Resolution approved by the council in 2016; and is supported also by a generous match by the Ramsey Washington Metro Watershed District. The Watershed District agreed to support the program with help through their Native Landscaping Stewardship Program, educational and volunteer help.  Kudos to the grant team of Carole Gernes, Oakley Biesanz, Emily Dunlap, and Sage Passi for their efforts!

This has been a busy week of collaboration among Parks and Recreation staff to come up with new and interesting ways to program and educate the public. Staff have risen to the challenge and are learning a lot in the process. Some of the highlights include:

 

  • Nature Center staff have been working with Communications to produce a "Meet the Animals" video series https://bit.ly/2xNT2sk

In addition, the Native Plants do Double Duty and Nesting and Overwintering Habitat for Bees programs will be produced as Webinars.

 

  • Our Natural Resources Coordinator worked with Communications to create the first in a series of videos highlighting Maplewood’s Preserves. bit.ly/PrioryPreserve

 

  • The Recreation staff have been working with program instructors to offer online classes for youth dance, ballroom dance and karate. They are also putting together video content for social media about a variety of activities like sports, fitness and arts and crafts.bit.ly/RecessRace  

 

Much time has also been spent communicating with the public about cancellations, closings, reschedules and refunds due to COVID-19.

We created a PSA video to remind the public about safety in our parks, open spaces and on trails and enlisted the help of Public Safety to get the word out. bit.ly/PlaygroundPSA

PUBLIC WORKS

Electronic Bidding 

The City of Maplewood has three street improvement projects currently out for bid.  These projects are proposed to be constructed during the 2020 construction season.  Typically, bid openings are held at City Hall are open to contractors to attend and watch the bid opening.  Due to Covid-19 concerns staff has been working on finding a solution for conducting the bid opening. 

 

Jon Jarosch, Maplewood Assistant City Engineer, has found a great way to solve this issue.  The City currently utilizes an online company call QuestCDN for advertisement of projects and to provide contractors, who are interested in bidding projects, access to plans and specifications.  QuestCDN also has the capability to do online bid openings.  Thanks to Jon’s work all three projects have been setup to host online bid openings and thereby allowing the City to continue the bidding phase for these projects.

 

Thank You to Public Works Crews

The City has received several thank you messages for the work that our Public Works Crews are doing.  Through these ever changing times residents have been thankful for seeing familiar activities such as street sweeping and spring pothole patching.  Crews have been split into two teams that work on different shifts to lower the chance of everyone getting sick at the same time.  While this will slow the time it takes to complete some tasks they are still out helping to maintain the City’s infrastructure.  Thank you to all the crews for their continued hard work.

 

COMMUNICATIONS
Updates: The department continues updating the COVID-19 resources page, and has enhanced the look and layout for easier reading as this story develops.

https://maplewoodmn.gov/covid19

 

Congratulations Kevin Schmitz. He recently passed the FAA’s Drone operators test. He will spend the next several weeks training and studying how to most effectively operate the drone. He should be up and officially flying by the start of summer. 

                                                                         

PUBLIC SAFETY

Updates: Our public safety team continues to adjust to COVID-19 and continues to look for ways that we can serve our community while taking steps to ensure 1st responder safety.  Police and Fire Staff are engaged in cleaning and disinfecting, as well as adjusting practices to lessen the potential exposure to community members who may be contagious.  Police and Fire support staff are now primarily working remotely but have adapted to the work-at-home environment and continue to provide an excellent level of support.  Police are continuing to take calls by phone and take precautions with those we arrest or otherwise come into contact with.  Fire/EMS staff have made adjustments to how they respond as well, such as sending one Fire/EMS person into a residence to triage a patient instead of sending two responders in to be potentially infected.  Both Police and Fire and taking extra measures to clean and sanitize work areas as well as other precautions.  With some Police staff working at home, and some calls for service dropping, police have also started a variety of on-line training options to take advantage of the opportunity to train and stay productive. 

 

From Emergency Management:

Chief Lukin, representing Maplewood continues to perform daily check in’s with Ramsey County Emergence Management which is operating out of an Emergency Operations Center (EOC).  We have done the paperwork and are coordinating with the YMCA for daycare for Public Safety Staff, should the need arise during the pandemic.  Maplewood Public Safety, like other 1st Responders and Healthcare organizations  is running lower in our stockpiles of employee Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  We have a large order of PPE placed and currently have what is estimated at  about a 14 day supply, unless the pandemic accelerates in the coming days.

 

Staff and I continue to evaluate the best ways to deliver public services and keeping our employees as safe as possible. I am so grateful to be a part of such dedicated and creative Leadership team and supportive and progressive City Council. We will weather this storm and I believe come out better for it.

Be well and please feel free to check in anytime. Based on advice from EMS Director, Steve Lukin, Mike and I will be splitting our time in the office. This is a COVID preventative measure. I will be in the office Monday, Wednesday and Friday and Mike will be in on Tuesday and Thursdays. The off days, we will be working from home. You can always reach me by my cell phone for anything you may need. Stay well.  Melinda