The meeting started late because there was a closed committee of the whole meeting (about pending litigation) that ran over it’s alloted time. The Operations and Environment Committee was called to order at 5:20. It consisted of a report from the Minneapolis Tree Advisory Committee Chair Peggy Booth (other members were present in the audience). Ms Booth stressed that our urban forest trees are not “niceties” but rather necessities that reduce storm water runoff, lower air conditioning bills, shelter us from chilling winter winds and increase property values and the resulting tax base. The committee had 6 recommendations…
1) FUND sufficiently the removal of all marked public diseased elm trees within 20 days ( per cost estimate the forestry budget would need to be increased by $2.6 million annually)
2) ENFORCE the presently existing system to assure removal of all trees marked for Dutch Elm disease on private property within 60 days ( state statute already on the books)
3) SEIZE the “teachable moment” created by the current highly visible tragedy to inform City staff members, residents and property owners on the multitude of economic and environmental values of the Minneapolis trees and the actions they need to take to protect our Minneapolis Urban Forest investments from harm. ( Get the Media going on this.)
4) ASSURE allocation of resources needed to sustain adequate pruning cycles on public trees necessary for health and safety reasons, i.e., every two years for young trees and every four years for all other public trees. (This would be done during winter by the same foresters taking down diseased trees in the summer and would be part of the $2.6 million.)
5) INVEST needed capital in the next generation of City trees to retain the public tree population of the Minneapolis Urban Forest essential to maintain Minneapolis property values and other economic benefits. (Again part of the $2.6 million.)
6) FACILITATE cooperative approaches to link interested property owners with the providers who are available to properly treat elms with systemic fungicides to prevent infection by Dutch elm disease. (Yes, vaccinate your trees, cost and service providers could be linked via the MPRB website or something of the sort)
Commissioner Dziedzic wonders about the 20 day rule and enforcing it on private property (the statute is there, it hasn’t been enforced) He also asks if there are enough private contractors and if not are city contracting rules too stringent (yes there is a shortage of licensed contractors) LIZ SAYS…I hope there are some rules, a chainsaw does not a forester make.
Commissioner Hauser wants to know if the $2.6 million catches us up or if it is a continuing expense?
General Manager for Operations Mike Schmidt says that $2.6 million is what is needed additionally in 2005 to hire more foresters and buy more equipment and get them trained and ready to go in 2006. Then there would be the wages and equipment maintenance yearly which would of course increase annually with inflation. (So no it is not a one time expense.)
Commissioner Erwin suggests a plan where a citizen could pay for 50% and the MPRB 50% and get more trees planted faster.
GM Schmidt replies that in 2005 the $500,000 in the forestry budget is for stump grinding only and the trees being planted are with the dollars from the Mayor and City Council (1000-1200 trees will be planted) and that is if they can find enough grinding contractors.
Commissioner Berry- Graves thanks the committee and suggests moving on the 20 day removal enforcement before the March emergence of the beetles.
Commissioner Hauser asks about private tree planting ( you need a MPRB permit for an approved tree type from the forestry department, it will then be owned by the MPRB who will assume responsibility for its maintenance, on the boulevards only)
Commissioner Young thanks the committee for their time and is looking forward to their next report after they have presented to the Mayor and the City Council
She also would like any comments from the public regarding this issue…
Administration and Finance Committee
7.1 to approve a contract with OSIRIS for computer lab support
Bill Roddy of OSIRIS gave a brief presentation as to the amount of software/ hardware/staff support hours and youth employment hours they had provided and would again be providing.
7.2 Approve Lease transfer for the Nicollet Island Inn
( the MPRB owns the land only, the buildings and operations are separate)
A Mr. Abdo presented his plan for assuming the current lease for the Nicollet Island Inn Property and turning it into the #1 romantic inn in the country.
He personally and his company would assume the lease “as is” from Craig Christenson. He has a great staff in place and high hopes for the restaurant
Both Commissioners Berry-Graves and Dziedzic asked if it would be turned into condo’s and Counsel Rice said that they can not be with the current lease.
During approval of Oct. 6th minutes Commissioner Mason suggests having a time limit for completing them as hey are 3 months behind.
Superintendent Gurban introduces 2 out of the 3 new District Managers and passes out the partial organization chart for the restructuring. The new District Managers are River District (North and NE) Jon Oyanagi (starting in a few days), Minnehaha District (South) Eileen Kilpatrick and Lakes District (SW) Paul Hokeness. There was discussion of their office space shuffling and that they would soon be working in their district area when space is arranged.
General Manager for Operations Mike Schmidt reported on ice conditions and about a plan to handle uncooperative weather in the future.
Commissioner Kummer passes on a question about ice at Lake of the Isles from a constituent and Commissioner Dziedzic passes on that as line #1 on the phone system he is getting all the ice complaints. He would also like to know if the staff are checking out the ice in Roseville and Edina.. the competition.
General Manager for Administration Don Siggelkow says the MPRB now has a contract to provide Snow-boarding instruction and rental at Wirth Park.. and all they need is snow. Commissioner Berry -Graves asks if the winter programs end in February and they do.
Commissioner Erwin asks about the Loppet and GM for Ops Schmidt says it is scheduled for Superbowl weekend, it will again end on Lake ST and that they are banking mostly on “Mother Nature” for the snow but have their contingency plans in order.
Director of Planning Judd Rietkerk states that they are in the midst of applying for a Save Americas Treasures Grant for the upgrades on Victory Parkway. I would be a $500,000 matching grant and that Council person Barb Johnson had already done some of the lead work in getting the area recognized as a treasure because of the WWI plaques and memorial etc…
The Board passes consent business for the redo of Jackson Square Park in the Holland Neighborhood.. $384,000 for benches tables and a temporary toilet enclosure with many alternate additions if funding becomes available. Commissioner Dziedzic asks twice if a meeting was scheduled with the neighborhood and Director Rietkerk says they will be.
( and my favorite) item 2.3 $52,000 for trash bags
Commissioner Young read an apology letter for any mix up that may have hurt anyone’s feelings regarding the Annual Meeting’s Commissioner Dinner. Traditionally held off-site, not held in 2004 and now on-site and creating confusion.
Commissioner Dziedzic seconds the apology and comments on the appetizers
Commissioner Mason reports on a meeting she and Commissioner Erwin had with the Skyway Senior Center which is in need of some support. She believes it would be a wonderful opportunity for the MPRB to partner with them by providing possibly on the MPRB website a place for them to post their activities and links to other senior programs and to possibly sponsor a senior dance and afternoon tea at the Nicollet Island Pavilion . She also mentions they would be interested in volunteering in the parks with gardening etc… the idea is also supported by Council person Goodman and former mayor Hofstede.
Commissioner Erwin wonder’s if the staff could work up some sort of proposal
Commissioner Young states that staff time costs something and that the idea should be brought to the rec committee
Petitions and Communications
Commissioner Dziedzic congratulates Commissioner Mason on the birth of her grandson. ( I saw pictures, he’s a cutie)
Asks about a staff retreat and mentions that the Coaches dinner should be citywide
Commissioner Kummer has a request from a 9 yr. old constituent for a hot drink machine at the Pearl Park rink.
Commissioner Young mentions a program about “Beyond the Gridlock” at the Humphrey Institute and wonders if they could present at the retreat in a shorter version
Commissioner Mason reports she attended the Bicycle Advisory Meeting and that she and Superintendent Gurban have a meeting about the plans to resurface the tennis courts at Kenwood Park.
Commissioner Dziedzic reports that the legislature is in session and a legislative agenda needs to be put together pronto.
Commissioner Young mentions the PUC meeting about the Center Point Energy cost increases coming on Wednesday the 13th
Commissioner Mason asks for the annual calendar.
Commissioner Erwin reports that it should be ready at the next meeting.
Adjourned at 6:55pm