May 4 Board Meeting Highlights

The nearness of the May 14 DFL endorsing convention made its presence known as the majority five commissioners were unusually subdued and courteous of their minority members. There was also the not unexpected political grandstanding.

The meeting started at 4:30pm with a closed-to-the-public session of the entire board to discuss pending workers’ compensation litigation. The open meeting was scheduled to begin at 5:00pm. The closed doors to the board room were opened to the public at 5:02pm and before the public could get in and seated, Commissioner Bob Fine began the Planning Committee meeting.

5:02pm – Planning Committee

Action Item 4.1 — “That the board approve conceptual plans for the I35W bridge over Minnehaha Creek, and AUTHORIZE STAFF TO APPROVE DETAILS [emphasis added] and issue construction permits…”

What was supposed to be a brief 5-minute presentation by the consulting company working with MnDot on the Crosstown Commons project turned out to be a much longer presentation, followed by a long question and discussion period. Although this was a Park Board meeting, the amount of information about this project was revealing for anyone interested in the future of 35W through Minneapolis.

The Crosstown Commons Reconstruction project (MnDot info here)– ostensibly designed to solve the congestion problem in that area — is much, MUCH larger in scope and meaning than that title or purpose indicates. It involves reconstructing I-35W from 66th Street in Richfield to 42nd Street in Minneapolis, and 62 (Crosstown) from Penn Avenue on the west side to Portland Avenue on the east side, both in Minneapolis and Richfield.

For those who have any interest in the 35W “Excess”/Access Project at Lake Street, or who care about paving more of Minneapolis under concrete, note the following: 35W will be expanded from 6-lanes south of 46th Street and 8-lanes north of 46th Street to 10-lanes from the Crosstown to 42nd Street. The 35W “Excess”/Access Project involves construction from just north of 42nd Street to 94. In particular, it expands the number of lanes from 8 to 10 from 28th Street north. Some might notice only a small gap remaining between these two projects to drop additional lanes on to get 10-lanes from the Crosstown to 94.

Back to immediate Park Board interests in this project: It will have primarily 3 effects on Park Board property.

1. The 35W bridge over Minnehaha Creek, the parkway, bike and foot paths will be torn down and reconstructed to carry the additional lanes of traffic.

2. Storm sewer drainage on 35W from about 57th Street to the Creek will drain directly to Diamond Lake. There is already an existing storm drain in this location. It will be reconstructed, and have 2 grit chambers added. MnDoT may also alter the drain delta in the lake.

3. Minor reconstruction of a path in Martin Luther King Park to meet the new elevation of the altered 42nd Street (southeast corner of park).

Although MnDot talked in terms of working cooperatively with the Park Board, it also seemed obvious that legally they could and would do whatever they ultimately decided they needed to do to complete the project.

The bridge over Minnehaha Creek got the most discussion, regarding lighting beneath the bridge, sound walls on the bridge, the affects of the slightly larger gap between the northbound and southbound lanes (more noise? more snowplow spray?), aesthetics, railing between bike path and creek, etc.

If you have an opinion, let your Park Commissioners know because they did not rubber stamp this and let the staff just go off and cooperate with MnDot. Instead, staff and MnDot will actually come back for a “final FINAL” approval. There are still details to be worked out; getting your concerns to the Park Board (commissioners and staff) now would be advisable.

During the discussion, a couple of comments struck me as interesting:

* Regarding the need for a railing between the bike path and creek, Director of Planning Judd Rietkerk said it was his recommendation that the railing be there for safety — apparently to keep cyclists from crashing down into the creek and suing the Park Board.

* Regarding all the possible concerns that neighbors of the bridge might have, and were expressed by other commissioners, Bob Fine felt it necessary to put down all other concerns and “tell us how it was” — that neighbors really only had 2 concerns: (1) noise, and said the noise wall on the bridge really wouldn’t help [when did Fine become an expert on noise?] and (2) light. Despite most commissioners playing nice, Fine just doesn’t seem to stop insulting people and acting like he knows best for all of us. Of all the commissioners on the Park Board, Bob Fine is the one who most needs to be soundly kicked out of office in the election this fall.

4.1 passes with Commissioner Annie Young’s amendment that MnDot and staff come back to the commissioners with a final plan.

5:45pm

Action Item 4.2 — “That the board request the City’s public works department conduct a traffic study to determine the impact to traffic on Dean Parkway as a result of the Ackerberg housing proposal.”

The outlet of this large proposed housing development will be a narrow driveway just north of 2928 Dean Parkway onto the Parkway.

Commissioner Carol Kummer requests adding language to motion to indicate that the development respect the Shoreland Overlay District ordinance.

4.2 passes.

5:53pm

Action Items 4.3 and 4.4 are related to the same effort — accepting some tax forfeited land from the county for use as community gardens in Community Gardens Program. Neighborhood gardening groups which garden in the Shingle Creek and Bancroft gardens will have some financial responsibilities, e.g. $1-1.5 million in liability insurance, in order to keep these as gardens under the Park Board’s ownership.

4.3 and 4.4 pass.

6:00pm
No Open Time speakers.
* Study / Report Items
1. St. Anthony Parkway Master Plan (scheduled for 10 minutes), Tim Brown, Parks Engineer
A similar effort to the Victory Memorial Parkway project, using federal TEA-21 grant money and matching money (much of it from Met Council) to rebuild the bike paths as “regional transit” facilities. Lots of maps and slides presented. This project will include adding 4 more blocks to bring the parkway all the way to Stinson Parkway. Plan is to put bike path and walking path on north side in this stretch.

President Jon Olson congratulates Commissioner Walt Dziedzic on delivering once again for the Northeast.

6:23pm

2. Cirque Du Soleil (scheduled for 10 minutes), Judd Rietkerk, Planning Director
Cirque Du Soleil has been talking to staff since last year about using the Parade Stadium field as a location for their performances. The proposal is Cirque will lease the field from August 22 to October 28, 2005 and pay the Park Board $50,000 for that use. The Park Board will do some initial site preparation, and then Cirque will spend another $225,000 on doing site preparation, such as adding gates, removing ball field lights, etc. Rietkerk says this is an advantage for the Park Board, because of plans for installing an artificial turf field at this location, and would have to do construction preparation work like removing sprinklers and fences anyway. He says this will save some money because Cirque will do some of that work. When Cirque leaves town, they will do nothing further to the site. It will be left in whatever state it is in — unusable for recreation.

All parking will be handled on site using the existing lots to the east and west of the field, except for perhaps a few performances where larger crowds might result in some overflow parking, which the Park Board is trying to work with Dunwoody to accommodate across Dunwoody Blvd in their parking lot there. The plan is to close the Vineland entrances to all of those lots during Cirque performances, and have all traffic enter/exit from Dunwoody. Note that Cirque Du Soliel gets ALL of the parking revenue thus generated, until it exceeds $225,000, after which they share it with the Park Board.

A typical Cirque performance expects 350 to 375 cars, and there is parking on site for 500. Cirque’s performance tent seats about 2500 people.

Once again, President Jon Olson describes the project in much more detail than the staff presents, and clearly knows much more about it than the minority commissioners. It appears there is an inner circle of staff and commissioners that Olson is in which excludes minority commissioners from getting details about projects until they are done deals.

Speaking of which — this was a study/report item, which usually means no action is requested of the commissioners. But this item suddenly becomes urgent in needing to move ahead and now a motion is needed.

Commissioner John Erwin moves that the staff goes ahead, but wants them to negotiate a kids nights at Cirque because most Minneapolis kids will never be able to afford to see such a performance.

Commissioner Vivian Mason supports Erwin, and says that not enough notice to neighborhoods (residents, institutions like the Walker, and businesses) was done [in fact, none]; that they learned about it through the newspaper and then contact her [its Mason’s district], often irately. She asks if staff has yet contacted the neighborhood, and the answer is no. She asks if there are costs for dismantling bleachers and fences, and who pays them. The answer is that the Park Board will be paying for that.

The motion passes.

Part 2 of 2
6:57pm — Planning Adjourned.

Administration and Finance Committee called to order by Marie Hauser.
* Action Items
– Change Order: 7.1 — approve additional $500,000 for tree and stump removal for new total of $2,050,000.00.
– NRP: 7.2, 7.3, 7.4 — approve NRP funding agreements with Fulton for (7.1) Youth Start Program at Pershing Park $5,800, (7.2) four square facility at Pershing Park $2,000, and (7.3) purchase youth program equipment for Pershing Park $2,500.00.
– Agreement: 7.5 — approve coop funding with Mn. Historical Society and St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board for $31,000.

All items are quickly moved and passed with no discussion, except Comr. Young comments on past difficulties of working with MHS.

6:59pm — Admin & Finance Adjourned.

Pres. Olson calls Regular Meeting back to order.

* Agenda Approval
Comr. Dziedzic wants to add about 4 things, but under the “new rules” of not amending the agenda, Olson says they need to go through the Admin & Finance Committee at the next meeting first.

* Reports of Officers
– Superintendent Jon Gurban briefly mentions Earth Day and Community Gardens. He then moves to answering questions that comr. Mason asked a month or more ago. (1) Park police will move into the newly renovated offices on the first floor of the HQ building in late summer, maybe August. (2) In mid May, the new district managers will begin moving into their offices. The Minnehaha District will move into the second floor of the Longfellow House. They will install a T1 telephone line for Internet connectivity [about $600 – $800 / month] back to HQ. The Lakes District will move near the end of May into the Southside Service Center. The River District will remain in the HQ building. (3) In theory, no additional staff will be hired, but rather people from inside the organization will simply move into the district jobs. Despite Gurban’s initial tone of voice and mannerisms of giving Mason a comeuppance for asking for this information, he actually manages to get over it and ultimately give the first comprehensive and clear report he’s ever given to the board in 16 months. [Too bad that all reports from the officers are not always like this and voluntarily given. Such reports by staff to elected boards in other organizations often are.]

– GM Don Siggelkow reports that the Minneapolis Queen excursion boat has arrived.
– GM Michael Schmidt reports on an RBI and Volunteer Appreciation Event

* Consent Business

– Items 2.1 through 2.5 are quickly moved and passed without discussion. [see agenda for details]

* Standing Committees

– Planning Committee: Items 4.1 through 4.4 are quickly moved and passed without discussion, with Mason opposing 4.4, Cirque Du Soliel’s lease terms.

– Admin & Finance Committee: Items 7.1 through 7.4 are quickly moved and passed. Mason asks why 7.1 and 7.2 are both change orders increasing existing contracts for $100,000 or more. Rietkerk says they were just adding back the original features to those projects.
7.5, a contract with Barr Engineering, passes without discussion and Mason abstains because a member of her family works for Barr. Dziedzic comments that Mason has no conflict of interest because her daughter is an adult not living with Mason. [I find that to be an interesting definition of ethical conflict of interest.]

7.6, the change order to increase stump removal for $500,000. Dziedzic complains about the contractor who did stump removal on Gross Golf Course damaging the fairways with there and that the Park Board should get some money back from them. It passes.

* Unfinished Business
8.1 Resolution to authorize acceptance of tax-forfeited land. Roll call vote: 8 for, none against (Berry Graves left meeting early).

* New Business
– Hosting the 2010 NRPA Congress. Young warns of the big effort this will take. There will be 8,000 to 10,000 people at the event.

* Petitions and Communications
[nothing of significance]

7:45pm ADJOURNED.