COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK: May 1, 2020
Meetings and Announcements:
The next City Council meeting will be held on Monday, May 11th.
There are updates from various departments below.
Updates from Staff and Council:
Notice of Election Filing
The notice of filing for city offices is running in the Pioneer Press today Friday, May 1st and will appear in the May issue of Maplewood Living. The two-week filing period runs Tues, May 19th to Tues, June 2nd. Because Maplewood City Hall is not yet open to the public, drop-in visits are not yet available. Rather, this year there are different filing options being provided due to social distancing guidelines as well as an option to file at Ramsey County Elections on Plato Blvd W. The forms and specifics are available at maplewoodmn.gov/filing. The filing fee is $5.
The three offices are:
Mayor Special Election (2-year term);
Councilmember (4-year term) – 2 seats;
Councilmember Special Election (2-year term) – 1 seat
Due to COVID-19 and following Ramsey County’s lead, these are the four filing options:
1. Mail: Your affidavit of candidacy must be notarized by an authorized notary. Mail to Maplewood Elections – 1830 County Road B East – Maplewood, MN 55109
2. Drop Box: Your affidavit of candidacy must be notarized by an authorized notary. Drop box location is outside Maplewood city hall – 1830 County Road B East
3. Scheduled Appointment: Schedule a 15-20 minute appointment with filing staff following social distancing guidelines and recommendations.
a. Maplewood Elections: Please call 651-249-2000 to schedule your appointment with the City of Maplewood; or
b. Ramsey County Elections: Please call 651-266-2171 to schedule your appointment with Ramsey County. Address: 90 Plato Blvd. W. – Saint Paul
4. Drop-in visit with Ramsey County: One candidate will be queued to file at a time per social distancing guidelines. People may need to wait in a building services queue until staff is available.
Legislative Updates – Tobacco 21
The House Ways and Means Committee passed HF 331 - Edelson, a bill that would raise the legal age to purchase tobacco in MN to 21. The bill will make MN in compliance with federal law and includes changes to penalties for selling tobacco or other regulated products to those under 21.
Legislative Updates – COVID-19
SF 4486 (Sen. Rosen) passed the Senate this week, on a vote of 42-25. The bill creates an account for federal COVID-19 funds, from which the Legislature would appropriate funding from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund.
Legislative Updates – Elections
The House State Government Finance Committee heard HF 1603 (Dehn), the elections omnibus bill. A separate elections bill was heard in Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday morning.
Xcel Energy is offering programs during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Dear government and chamber leaders:
I hope the return of warm weather, songbirds and greenery are buoying your spirits on the first day of May. This week I have some good news to share, as well as some good-to-know news.
Customer Savings: late last week we made two filings to the MN Public Utilities Commission which will benefit Xcel Energy customers. The first is a Fuel Cost Adjustment – taking advantage of lower than expected fuel costs, we are proposing a $25 million dollar credit to electricity customers. These credits will process automatically, just in time for the high energy usage months when air conditioners are running. The second request would provide help for commercial customers who have seen significant reduction in their energy usage due to the pandemic. This program is for mid-size businesses as they restart production. Businesses can reach out to their account manager, or contact our Business Programs and Rebates center at www.xcelenergy.com or 855.839.8862 to see if they qualify.
Entering Homes: sometimes a job requires us to enter a home, so we have developed processes to protect our employees and customers. It starts every day, as employees self-screen before coming to work. They are instructed to remain home, with pay, if they feel unwell. In the field, employees will follow precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. This means employees will wear standard safety glasses and non-surgical cloth mask face coverings. When they arrive, they will ask if anyone in the home is sick, and if the answer is yes, they may decline to enter the home. For everyone’s safety, we will remind customers that face masks do not change the need for social distancing. Unfortunately, employees will not shake hands at the conclusion of the visit, but we expect our customers will understand that these changes are in place to help keep everyone safe.
Feel free to reach out with questions and concerns, Jake.
Xcel Energy | Responsible By Nature
Manager, Community Relations and Economic Development
New Senior Living Building – 1818 & 1832 Gervais Court
Augusta Development has submitted land use applications requesting approval to build a new 119-unit senior housing structure at 1818 and 1832 Gervais Court. This project would result in the demolition of the existing Saints North Roller Rink and an adjacent office building. The project requires a comprehensive plan amendment, planned unit development, lot combination and design review. The project was reviewed by the Community Design Review Board and Planning Commission on April 21, 2020 and both groups recommended approval. This project will be before the City Council on May 11, 2020.
New Elementary School – 2410 Holloway Avenue
ISD 622 has submitted land use applications requesting approval to build a new elementary school on the existing site of Maplewood Middle School at 2410 Holloway Avenue East. After the new school is constructed, the middle school will then be demolished. The new building will house approximately 800 Pre-K through 5th grade students, and will also include Special Education programming. A conditional use permit and design review are required. The project is scheduled to go before the Community Design Review Board and Planning Commission on May 19, 2020 with the City Council to follow in June.
New Convenience Store and Grocery Store – 2501 White Bea Avenue
Slate Asset Management – owner of the Maple Ridge Shopping Center, 2501 White Bear Avenue – has submitted land use applications requesting approval to build a new 4,200-convenience store and make changes to the access points along White Bear Avenue and Gervais Avenue. The convenience store, if approved, would be owned and operated by a new grocer that would occupy the former Rainbow Foods site. The existing access to White Bear Avenue is proposed to move approximately 80 feet south to align with a drive on the east side of White Bear Avenue. The new access is proposed to be signalized. The convenience store requires a planned unit development and design review. No City Council approval is required for a grocery store to locate on this site. The project is scheduled to go before the Community Design Review Board and Planning Commission on May 19, 2020 with the City Council to follow in June.
Potential Multi-Family Building – Vacant Land near County Road C and Maplewood Drive
Staff continues to work with a developer on a potential multi-family building which would be built on vacant land north of the Town and Country Manufactured Home Park. This vacant land is guided by the comprehensive plan as medium density residential and would allow 70-75 units of housing. The developer who has already purchased this land outright is looking to submit for land use review later this summer.
Financial Implications of Covid-19
We continue to evaluate and modify revenue projections as events unfold. This is necessary in order to determine actions that the City may need to take to balance the budget. Our current revenue model for 2020 projects slightly more than $1M in revenue shortfalls in the following categories:
To put this into perspective, this would be significantly more than the largest shortfall in the last dozen years. In 2010, the General Fund revenue shortfall was $670,412, or 3.6% of total revenues. All other years in that period reflect either a positive variance or a shortfall of less than 2%. The projected shortfall for 2020 is 4.5% of total budgeted revenues. In addition, this projection does not reflect the receipt of any COVID-related grant proceeds, which we are almost certain to see. For now, we feel comfortable that this projection is conservative.
To date the City has taken certain steps to mitigate this shortfall, and we continue to pursue other cost-savings opportunities without compromising essential City services. Cost savings are expected in the categories below:
The largest savings is expected to be in position vacancies. These are positions that are currently open in the organization and are being held open until the COVID crisis or the budget shortfall is resolved.
These projections imply that there would be a deficit of $63,800 at the end of the year. However, this does not reflect that building permits and plan check fees are expected to be above budget. Plan check fees are already $100K more than budget for the entire year, due to the school projects. It also does not reflect any COVID-related grant revenue that the City may be eligible for.
The City did budget for a $450K surplus in 2020, to shore up fund balance. At this point, we expect to maintain that surplus. However, the situation is constantly evolving and we need to be prepared for a recession lasting deep into 2021. Several cost-saving options are being implemented right now, including an early retirement incentive program. We will continue to monitor progress on the budget performance throughout the year and make recommendations for action where necessary.
Crossing Safety Policy Implementation
Attached is an updated draft of the crossing policy implementation plan. One major update was under proactive evaluations. This structure gives more recognition to the fact that with limited resources there is a need to distinguish between these priorities and the city's ability to evaluate a number of crossings per year.
Battle Creek PFAS Update
This week MPCA and MDH held an update meeting regarding the presence of PFAS chemicals in the water and foam in Battle Creek. The samples collected showed that the foam had elevated levels of PFAS. The surface water samples had much lower levels of PFAS.
MDH has evaluated the information on PFAS-containing foam on surface water and concluded it does not pose a risk to human health if skin contact with the foam is minor and infrequent. MDH generally recommends “when in doubt, stay out”, and more specifically recommends:
· People and pets should avoid contact with foam on surface waters in this area.
· Wash skin that has come into contact with PFAS-containing foam with soap and water.
Drinking water has not been impacted for all homes which are supplied drinking water from SPRWS. MPCA and MDH are able test private wells for PFAS at no cost for property owners. The attached letter is being sent out to residents along Battle Creek. The letter contains information about the findings, safety, and how to request testing of private wells.
The meeting this week covered the above information, but the work is continuing on identifying the source of the PFAS chemicals. At this time the PFAS chemicals have not been linked to the 3M drinking water settlement and the money for the study and testing is not tied to the 3M drinking water settlement.
Xcel Energy Gas Main Replacement Project Update
Xcel Energy is beginning work on the second phase of their gas main replacement project. The second phase runs along County Road B from Prosperity Road to Rice Street. The following is a short summary of the work that is taking place of the next several weeks (exact timing is weather and project dependent):
· Week of April 27 to May 1
o Mobilization started for jack bore equipment for boring a line along Highway.
o Small crews are preparing to down the gas near the Edgerton Street intersection.
· Week of May 4 to May 8
o Small crews will be working at the Edgerton Street and the Prosperity Street intersections.
o Traffic control and erosion control installation.
o Crews preparing to begin removal and replacement of gas main.
· Week of May 11 to May 15
o Mainline crews start removal and replacement of gas main.
o Rice Street crossing work begins
o Work at English Street begins
The police department is having a scheduled floor epoxy covering project completed in about half of the police department. While the project was originally delayed due to COVID-19 related concerns it was decided that this is actually a great time to do the project since staff are not supposed to be in the building congregating and are primarily in their squad cars their entire shift. With having to move furniture to accommodate the flooring project we also took the opportunity to do wall repair and paint the lunchroom and report writing area that were in need of maintenance, and we look forward to the end the completion of the project next week. Despite some restrictions that have been placed on city staff due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the police department, building maintenance, and the I.T. department worked together well to complete necessary tasks.
National Night Out
It has been announced that National Night Out, which is typically scheduled for August, has been moved to October. Police and Fire staff are making necessary notifications and adjustments and are excited to share this special night with the community when it is safer for us to gather with neighbors and friends.
Arrest in Hit-and-Run
The Pioneer Press carried the story of the arrest made in the November hit-and-run incident. You can read more here:
The fire department has adapted to the impacts of COVID-19 by embracing technology to continue to advance current projects. In late March, the department turned to Zoom to conduct interviews for Request for Proposals (RFP) for the North Fire Station project. Staff have subsequently served on a panel to discuss best practices for conducting RFP and other processes virtually. This week, the fire department again utilized Zoom to conduct firefighter/paramedic interviews to fill a vacant position. While COVID-19 is an important issue that the department faces daily, they have adapted to ensure that the department remains positioned to address community and departmental needs moving forward.
Cloth mask coverings: As part of Governor Walz’s statewide initiative, the fire department delivered over 1,500 masks to 12 different facilities in the community including, nursing homes, senior buildings and other community and congregate care facilities. The team also delivered 50 children’s masks to the Ramsey County Family Service Center. The department is continuing to work with facilities in need and will be starting another mask drive in partnership with the Suburban Ramsey Family Collaborative in hopes to get additional masks for local school food distribution and social service agencies. This drive will kick off beginning May 1st and will last for two weeks.
PARK AND RECREATION
Parks and Recreation Programs and Events
With the changing programing and event landscape due to COVID-19 we have switched up our event offerings for this summer. The new Explore Maplewood Summer Challenges are designed for all ages and can be completed as an individual or household and designed to get people out in Maplewood’s parks and opens spaces in a safe and healthy way.
We have a June Fitness challenge and a July geocache challenge. Throughout the challenges we will encourage group sharing and updates for a sense of community and friendly completion (Attached are the event flyers).
Be sure to check out our new Online Activity and Resource Center where you can find these and other events, along with lists of other fun, engaging activities and learning resources all easily located in one area.
Parks and Recreation Staff Gardening
This week, Parks and Recreation and Nature Center staff started maintaining City gardens to fill in for the seasonal gardeners. On Wednesday and Thursday, staff cut back perennials and cleaned up the main gardens around City Hall, Public Works, and the Maplewood Community Center. Gardening projects on Tuesday were canceled due to rain. Next week, staff will finish cleaning up the smaller gardens on Campus and continue at Wakefield Community Center and other gardens around the City. Staff are gardening in small groups of 3 people or less to keep social distancing protocols. The current schedule is Tuesday-Thursday for 3 hours a day, weather pending.
Edgerton Community Gardens
The Edgerton Community Gardens open Friday, May 1st. Governor Walz’s Executive Stay-at-Home order recognized the importance of agriculture as an “essential service” and luckily, the garden plots at Edgerton are large enough, and spread out enough to allow people to more than adequately practice social distancing while gardening. The garden plots have all been rented, with a wait list. People are very enthusiastic to garden this year for both food supply, and as a safe way to spend time outdoors.
The following measures have been put in place to ensure the health and safety of all garden participants:
-Posted Social Distancing Signage at Garden, translated into Hmong, Spanish, Karen, Somali, and Oromo, and visual graphic.
-Created new ‘Guidelines for Community Gardeners During Covid-19.’
-Sent out ‘Guidelines for Gardeners During Covid-19’ to all gardeners via mail and email, and on the Edgerton Community Garden website. Includes 6 person maximum people in the garden, 6-foot social distancing, children must stay in their specific garden plot, and more.
-Created a 3 minute video about Community Garden Covid-19 Guidelines, thanks to the Communications Department
-Created a 7 minute New Gardener Orientation video tour of the garden thanks to the Communications Department to reduce social contact with the public for staff.
-Provided refunds for those who do not want to participate in the garden this year (extended deadline to end of May)
-Cancelled Open House Event
-Will remain flexible for timing for people delaying planting or weeding this year in case people are sick.
-No Satellite Bathroom facilities offered
That is the news from this week. Apologies for the length. Enjoy the beautiful weather. Please call to check in anytime.. Stay well. Mike
Assistant City Manager | HR Director
City of Maplewood
1830 East County Road B
Maplewood, MN 55109