St. Boni council hits pause on proposed park and ride

By Lorrie Ham

A proposed park and ride lot in St. Boni is on hold after the city council voted down an amended maintenance agreement for the project at the July 17 council meeting.
The project requires a three-way agreement between MnDOT, the Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority (HCRRA) and the city. The city had already voted in favor of the project, which would allow the construction of a park and pool lot with 25 spaces near the intersection of Bell Street and Kennedy Memorial Drive. MnDOT had approached the HCRRA about putting the lot on HCRRA owned land. The 20-year agreement calls for the city to be responsible for maintenance of the lot.
The sticking point for the council was a stipulation which calls for the city to be responsible to remove the park and ride lot and restore the property to its previous use if the HCRRA determines that the facility should be removed. The council had sent the agreement back to both parties to have that portion of the agreement revised. While some of the language had been clarified, the agreement still calls for the city to be solely responsible for the cost and expense of removing the facility – no matter which party calls for the closure of the lot.
“I won’t vote for this,” said Councilmember Joe Arwood. “I am still skeptical of the language and uncomfortable with that request.”
“I would agree that it would be a poor decision on the part of the city to sign this agreement as is,” said Acting Mayor Shawn Ruotsinoja.
The council consensus had been that the location of the lot would be a benefit for the city, providing additional parking for the trail, city hall and the community center. While council members were still in favor of the lot, they voted unanimously against signing the agreement.
“I’d like to see the language changed so we can still make this happen,” said Councilmember Terrill Anderson.
The other council members agreed and directed staff to send letters to both the HCRRA and MnDOT outlining their reasons for voting against the agreement, but stressing that they would still like to see the park and ride project in their city.
In another matter, the council voted to table the new community center bids until consulting with the city attorney. The three bids had been reviewed at a July 16 quarterly workshop meeting and council members had some concerns about the specs.
“There are some issues with what was presented in the specs,” said Ruotsinoja. “We need to determine whether or not the specs really portray what we want for this project.”
The specs weren’t specific enough, added Councilmember Bob Smestad.
“We need to get back to what we really want to have done,” said Ruotsinoja. “Assuming that we can reject these bids, we can go out and bid again.”
The council also engaged in a lengthy discussion on a request from the City of Greenwood to sign a new resolution in support of long-term viability of the Lake Minnetonka Communications Commission (LMCC).
The resolution, which was not endorsed by the LMCC executive board, came about as a way of providing some middle ground for cities to stay with the LMCC by the city administrators and the LMCC reps from Victoria, Minnetrista and Greenwood.
Orono and Medina have already taken action to leave the LMCC and negotiate their own cable contracts.
“The LMCC business model is antiquated and needs to change,” said Arwood. In representing a group of cities, the LMCC has removed the onus for Mediacom to provide a better product and better service by eliminating the air of competition, he added.
Mediacom subscribers in the LMCC represented cities pay a $4.42 per month franchise fee, which goes to the LMCC. While it hasn’t been stated, Arwood suggested that fees would have to go up to cover the $120,000 shortfall that will be caused by cities pulling out of the LMCC.
No action was taken on the matter, but the council consensus was that an on-going conversation was needed to formulate an idea of what the city wants to do.