The inside story on Minnetrista local issues: This blog is to inform citizens and give them a perspective on matters of importance in Minnetrista, MN. Opinions posted here are my own and do not reflect official positions of any public body or official.
As part of River Valley Church’s continued response to Covid-19, they’ve partnered with Boxes of Hope (BOH). BOH is a national campaign to bring hope to the doorsteps of those facing illness, quarantine, job loss, isolation, and fear.
They’ve received 2 semi trucks of emergency relief supplies from Convoy of Hope and have been collecting donations from their attendees over the last two weeks. All of these
donations will be assembled into boxes that they want to get in the hands of those in need, beginning next Saturday May 16th. A standard box will include staple food items, snacks, and hygiene/cleaning items. A baby box will include those items plus baby food, wipes, and diapers.
The city of Minnetrista’s contract for recycling (not including organics) is due to increase 41% in a few months and then go up another 4% each year after that for the term of the 5 year contract. A suggestion to do an RFP (request for proposal) in order to encourage the city’s current contractor, Waste Management, to be competitive was met with no support.
The reasons given in opposition to competition were: 1) It would take staff time to issue an RFP; 2) Residents might be upset if they had to swap out containers with a new company or change pickup schedules; 3) A nearby city did an RFP and ended up keeping their original contractor (Question: how much more would they have paid if they hadn’t done the RFP?); and 4) The savings resulting from an RFP might not amount to much.
Minnetrista residents are going to see an increase in their recycling charges regardless of whether or not Minnetrista implements organics recycling because of pressure from Hennepin County that will ultimately result in withholding 50% of state subsidies to cities (subsidies previously used to offset regular recycling costs) that don’t offer an official organics recycling program. It’s not enough to just let people decide if they want to recycle organics on their own without an “official” city program. Many haulers already offer organics recycling if people wish to request it. I’m aware of one that even offers free organics recycling in St. Boni. The organics recycling discussion will continue as we try to understand exactly what criteria must be met in order to hang on to state subsidies, or if we just let them go.
Some of the challenges for Minnetrista are the large number of rural households as well as households in more densely populated developments within the city. The costs for haulers to service densely populated areas is a lower cost “per household” than to service the sparsely populated rural areas. It’s difficult to find other cities with which to compare apples-to-apples costs. Another factor affecting costs these days is also the reality that recycled goods don’t fetch what they used to on the market.
Competition is the best way to keep prices down, and if our current recycle contractor is competitive in the RFP process we may not have to switch companies, containers, schedules, etc. It would, however, require a few hours of staff time and a majority of council members’ support which it doesn’t seem to have. www.ShannonBruceForMayor.com
If you want to adopt a policy in Minnetrista that creates future city liabilities and know there won’t be money available for those future liabilities what do you do? You do what Mayor Whalen suggested Monday night and that is, when the money runs out you just change the policy and declare the city won’t be responsible anymore.
We are talking about the city’s tree fund that has a current balance of over $416,000, dollars contributed by developers that took out more trees than allowed and had to pay into the fund. That money has been sitting idle, not being used (Minnetrista has no shortage of trees) and the balance continues to grow, but once the city is developed the deposits to that fund will stop.
Knowing this tree fund has been sitting unused for years I’ve suggested we should look at using part of it for road maintenance since that seems to be the most challenging aspect of our finances and is the primary reason given each year for increasing the tax levy. There are other “special” funds with balances of hundreds of thousands of dollars that have been sitting relatively idle for years as well (see highlighted chart).
Interestingly, after these many years, staff recently decided it was time to discuss establishing a “tree replacement policy” to use these funds to replace trees planted in right-of-way areas on private property.
I have no issues with replacing diseased trees along rights-of-ways because our housing development HOAs and other property owners do not cause tree disease. That is a legitimate use of these funds to beautify our boulevards. But private property owners (or HOAs) are responsible for the care and maintenance of all trees and landscaping on private property, not the city. If the city assumes liability for replacing trees caused by neglect or any cause other than disease it is taking on more liability than it should, in my humble opinion.
The council work session discussion ended with staff being given direction to replace all dead trees in rights-of-way areas regardless of the cause. Votes are not taken at work sessions but had there been mine would have been a “No.” It was stated during our work session that we currently are not aware of any diseased trees at this time. I guess you never know when a tree pandemic will hit that requires using up the entire fund. Meanwhile residents are demanding better roads and being told their taxes will need to go up to get them.www.ShannonBruceForMayor.com
Something to understand is the Minnetrista city council would not be having this discussion but for a single property that has been an annoyance to those that live on Deer Creek Road or drive by it regularly. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem but it should put the problem in perspective.
During our work session April 6 I asked how many properties had been the subject of this kind of complaint and our Director of Public Safety answered
“very few” and that most of the issues with them had been resolved satisfactorily, with the exception of this one. When pressed about the number of properties and complaints I asked if it would be fair to say there have been approximately two properties that have been the subject of complaints in the rural areas, and the answer was affirmative, that it would be fair to say there had been approximately two.
Note that most housing developments are governed by their own homeowners associations’ rules regarding these matters. Rural areas, obviously, don’t have HOAs.
Modifying our current ordinance dealing with nuisance properties requires hiring an attorney (Minnetrista does not have its own staff attorney) and would likely cost Minnetrista taxpayers a tidy sum. My question is: If our current city code has been sufficient to resolve our issues with nuisance properties in the past and this is a relatively isolated instance (i.e., not a community-wide problem) should we be spending taxpayer dollars on it?
There is an abatement clause in our current nuisance ordinance that provides for the city to give notice to a property owner of its intention to abate (remove) the nuisance. My understanding is the city has not done that.
This matter was not resolved at the work session and staff was given direction to come back to the council with their ideas at a future work session.
The Minnetrista city council will be discussing nuisance properties at it’s work session Monday evening, April 6, 2020 at 5:30pm. Work sessions do not provide for public comment but the public may “attend” the teleconference (council is meeting online during the pandemic) by dialing into the meeting at the number below. Here is the April 6 Work Session meeting packet to see what is being discussed.
How are you different than our current mayor? That’s a question I’ve been asked frequently and I’d like to answer it here so when Minnetrista residents vote they can do so fully informed. First I’ll speak to who I am not, then to who I am and what my priorities will be.
Second, I am not the mayoral candidate that accepted illegal campaign contributions, one in excess of 10 times the legal limit. That was the current mayor. (Actually that was the reason for lying on the reports…so those illegal contributions wouldn’t be detected).
Fourth, I am not the candidate that was actively involved in an illegal political committee that “corrupted the political process” (judges’ words) in Minnetrista and was sanctioned for it. That was the current mayor.
Who I am is someone that believes the Mayor’s job is to represent Minnetrista residents and their interests above those of vendors, consultants, outside organizations or staff. As Mayor my priorities will be:
Restoring ethical, transparent leadership. We need a leader that respects our laws and isn’t afraid to call out conflicts of interest.
Eliminating wasteful spending & prioritizing basic services. We can’t do that if special interests are controlling Minnetrista.
Protecting residents’ private property rights. Liberty and property rights are a cornerstone of our Constitution.
Instilling a service oriented culture at city hall.
Minnetrista has been controlled for too long by a small group of very connected, powerful influences that put their interests above the taxpayers. It’s time to make a change. Volunteer or donate at www.ShannonBruceForMayor.com
Minnetrista Governance Blog just welcomed it’s 11,000th visitor this week along with reaching a milestone of 20,000 total blog post views. That came as somewhat of a surprise only having started the blog less than three years ago with no real goal in mind except to reach Minnetrista residents with relevant news and opinion on current events in Minnetrista.
Visitors have been referred by Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Nextdoor, Google, Bing, Yahoo, and many other news aggregation sites with stories picked up by the Star Tribune, Center of the American Experiment, The Pioneer-Laker, Lakeshore Weekly News and other local publications.
Thank you Minnetrista for showing your interest in local government, community and for spreading the news and insights you won’t find anywhere else.
Looking at the CDC maps of where the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases are located it’s apparent that high density housing is a contributing factor to the virus’ spread. Factor in the reliance on mass transit systems in these areas and it’s no surprise we see the numbers we do.
Minnetrista residents are fortunate to live in an area where social distancing is not only possible but even a normal part of life in the more rural areas. We don’t have hundreds of people touching our door knobs, pushing elevator buttons, or coughing in our stairways/elevators or vehicles as we travel where we need to go.
Give thanks for the wonderful neighbors and community organizations that have stepped up to help and for this very special place we call home. Minnetrista is a great place to live.