By Lorrie Ham
Due to failed negotiations, a plan for a proposed park and ride lot to be located near the intersection of Bell Street and Kennedy Memorial Drive in St. Boni has been abandoned.
The St. Bonifacius City Council voted down the latest proposed agreement at its Aug. 7 meeting.
Although the three-way agreement between MnDOT, the Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority (HCRRA) and the city had been amended to delete the 20-year operational requirement, the agreement still called for the city to be solely responsible to remove the lot and restore the property to its previous use if HCRRA determined that the facility should be removed for another use.
The council had been supportive of the project, noting 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. At the council’s July 17 meeting, staff was directed to send letters to both MnDOT and the HCRRA asking for the provision regarding the city’s responsibility to remove the lot at its expense to be removed from the agreement, yet stressing the city’s willingness to negotiate.
MnDOT agreed to remove the clause requiring the city to repay site improvements if any party were to require the facility to be closed. But the HCRRA would not remove its requirement that the city be responsible for the cost of removing the facility.
“How many times have they asked for a lot to be removed?” asked Councilmember Terrill Anderson.
“There’s a reason they put the clause in the agreement,” said Councilmember Shawn Ruotsinoja. “I’m sure it’s happened.”
“It feels like we’re being set up,” said Mayor Rick Weible, who didn’t like being put on the hook for being responsible for the removal of the facility. Citing neighbors’ opposition to the project as well, he added, “Although this project looked good at the beginning, I think we need to walk away.”
MnDOT had originally approached the HCRRA about putting the lot on HCRRA owned land. The city received a letter from MnDOT in early August saying that the funds for the project would be reallocated, due to unresolved differences in the necessary agreement to build and maintain the site, unless the council parties involved could agree by Aug. 9.
A motion to approve the three-way agreement failed on a 0-5 vote.
In a related matter, the council voted to disband the newly formed landscaping committee for the park and ride lot as it is no longer needed.
In other business, the council unanimously rejected all three bids for the community center remodeling project, which involves converting the former public works garage adjacent to city hall to a community center.
New carpeting and flooring in city hall, along with patching and repairs of the front of city hall to match the new construction and an outdoor water fountain were added to the project prior to the request for bids. The bids, which ranged from $239,800 to $319,634, were “considerably outside of our internal budget requirements,” according to Mayor Weible.
Since the council’s budget process is underway for next year, the project will be reevaluated to make sure that the specs meet the council’s intentions for the site. Weible said he’d like to enlist some community talent to take on pieces of the project – like installing flooring, painting and carpentry work – to make it more cost effective.
“That’s the direction I’d like to see it go,” Weible added.
The council also tabled 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.
Although the council consensus was not in favor of the resolution, council members agreed that something needs to be done.
“I would be in favor of exiting the LMCC altogether,” said Councilmember Joe Arwood. “But that’s a long term discussion.”
Anderson felt that the LMCC provides a valuable service, but that it needs to be revamped. Weible thought that the cities in the joint powers agreement should get together and find some common ground.
“The more united the cities are with the direction that we want, the more responsive the LMCC is going to be with changes,” agreed Arwood.
Council members will do some individual research to share at an upcoming meeting to determine what the best option will be for the city’s residents.