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Pushing The Buttons One Last Time 12/16/14

The Council meeting on Monday (December 15, 2014) was my last as a Council Member.  Before I recap the meeting, there are a few things I want to say.

First, it was an honor to serve the people of Jordan. 

Second thank you to all who supported me during my four years on the Council.  Without that support I would have been lost.

And finally, thanks to those of you who came to the meeting Monday night, to see me off.  I think most people have no idea how comforting it is to see friendly faces in the audience.  Again, thank you.

Now, about the meeting
Acting Mayor Velishek opened the meeting.  There were no public comments.

The City Administrator informed us that it looks like we will have 30 new home building permits for 2014.  This is a nice jump from previous years.  I hope everyone understands this means Jordan is changing. 

Council Member Will asked staff to provide information about which departments and accounts were under budget.  Near as I could tell, the core of his concern was that we have just approved a new, expanded budget, and Mr. Will wondered if maybe there were a few places where we could have cut because the departments didn’t need as much as they were budgeted.

Nice thought.  In practice department heads spend every nickel of their budgets, lest their budgets be reduced in the next year.  Maybe the Council should build in some incentives to save money?

Two items for the Mehh Button.  The Council approved a lot combination in Bridle Creek.  Two lots were merged into one for Mike Franklin.  And Minger Construction got a CUP for diesel fuel holding tanks on their property along 190th Street.  It seems odd to me that this issue didn’t come up during the building permit process, but the CUP conformed to all applicable codes, so it passed.  The vote was 7:0.

In The Hole
Council Members receive a weekly update from the City Administrator. 
The update is generally informative, but unfortunately a lot of the information never finds its’ way to the public.  One such case is information about the Jordan Aggregates issue.  Though we had been informed third hand about a major development, there was nothing on this week’s agenda regarding the issue.  

I hit the red button.  Hard.

Here, in blue is the text of the City Engineer’s update item.  

My comments are added in black.  Points I think deserve highlighting are underlined.

Jordan Aggregates

Since the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was deemed adequate, Hentges has been completing their application over the past few months for an Interim Use Permit (IUP) to operate their gravel pit and asphalt plant off of Valley View Drive in Sand Creek Township. For new Council members, this proposed project is referred to as the “Jordan Aggregates Development” because S.M. Hentges’ subsidiary established to run the pit is named Jordan Aggregates. Hentges submitted an IUP application a few months back but it was not considered “complete” by the County Staff. Last week Hentges submitted the remaining required information to meet the County’s standard submittal requirements for an IUP in terms of content. County Staff is now reviewing the content of these items to see if it is acceptable. The submittal date of a “complete” application is significant because it triggers a 60-day review period within which the County must act on the proposal. Kate Sedlacek mentioned that she anticipates Hentges allowing an additional 60 day period (120 day review total) given the complexity of the issues. At this time, the County Staff estimates the following schedule:

-  Feburary, 2015: County Planning Commission review of and action on application

-  March, 2015: County Board review of and action on application

But what if Hentges DOESN’T allow an extra 60 days?

During the FEIS review, the hot button issue from the County’s perspective centered around potential groundwater issues and what was considered an adequate groundwater monitoring and mitigation plan (referred to as M&M plan from here on). The Council may recall the first EIS, which included Hentges’ version of an M&M plan, was deemed inadequate. Then the County had Barr Engineering prepare what it considered an adequate M&M plan which was then included in the FEIS which the County Board considered adequate. The completed IUP application submitted by Hentges last week did not contain a M&M plan at all because the County’s boiler plate application does not require one. This is not to say a M&M plan will not be required, the County Staff can (“can” does not mean “must”) propose additional requirements above and beyond the boiler plate application document and it is highly likely one will be required. Kate mentioned however that Hentges has indicated they still plan to proceed based on their own M&M plan – this means the conflict over whose plan to use rages on. When speaking to Kate, I noted that was the highly contentious issue in the last phase and seems to be continuing. Her response was that attorneys from both sides remain highly involved and are leading conversations related to the project. From my observations and strictly as a matter of opinion, it seems any approval/disapproval is setting up to come as a result of legal action either by way of negotiation, arbitration, or litigation between the County and Hentges. I’m not exactly sure, nor do I believe anybody is sure, which of those paths it will take. A large sum of money has been expended by the developer on this project. If denial of the project were deemed inappropriate in some way, it would suggest the body denying the project may be responsible for some of those costs.

The County Planning Staff met with Hentges last week after the application was submitted. Again, attorneys from both sides were in attendance and were active during the meeting. I understand from Kate that the groundwater elements were not discussed, but other items such as how they were going to keep count of trucks, review of dirt trucked in/out, etc were the focus.  (So the City Engineer thinks  it likely lawyers will work out a compromise, and the compromise will involve either the County sharing costs Hentges incurred, or the gravel pit proceeding in some fashion.  In my opinion, the fact that lawyers on both sides of this issue are already discussing truck counts, and dirt trucked in and out indicates to me that a compromise process is already in place, and Jordan is not a part of that process.)

Hentges also suggested they may hold a public open house to discuss the project. The County will inform me when this scheduled and where it will be located.

County planning staff is planning to reach out to City Staff soon.  (Define “soon”.  Planning and events are ALREADY proceeding.) about involvement in additional meetings and to discuss the Interim Use Permit requirements. I referenced the City’s past letters (2/19/14 comment letter to the County is attached) where we noted some items that the City thought should be closely reviewed/considered during the IUP process. I suggested the County have some thoughts on these specifically. I anticipate them contacting us next week.  City Staff has not seen the IUP application so cannot comment further on its content at this time. (The City, and concerned citizens were not informed that the IUP, which is a public document, had been submitted.  Why?  I suggested this Council should instruct staff to find out why, and hold out for a damn good answer.  I had a very brief discussion with Cy Wolf Sunday, and he doesn’t sound too pleased either.)

I will be in attendance at Monday’s meeting if the Council has any questions or wishes to discuss. Because there is no action necessarily required of the City at this time, there is not a formal agenda item established but one could be added if desired by the Council. (Inaction is what got us in the hole we’re trying to get out of.)

The Council instructed staff to find ways to keep gravel trucks off Jordan streets.  I admit I was pretty hot under the collar on this issue.  We should have taken positive steps months ago.  Instead, we took a wait and see attitude, and now we are facing a situation we are ill-prepared to address.

One Council Member asked if there was some way we could ask our County Board Representative (Joe Wagner) if we could be informed of events relating to the Jordan Aggregates proposal.

What?  Whoa!  ASK!?  We’ve been asking for two years.  In that time we’ve been left out, or we’ve received information on CDs that were so badly damaged that they were unreadable.  The time for asking is passed.  Now the Council needs to demand.  And Mr. Wagner needs to stand up for his constituents.

The Public Works report was a mixed bag.  The actual report is always informative, but requires no action.

We also had  an agenda item for a first reading of a code limiting the type of water softeners homeowners could install.  Ultimately the proposed code was tabled, and staff was asked to look at ways of reducing softener salt use by educating homeowners in appropriate softener settings.  The motion to table passed 7:0.

During the discuss for the water softener code item, the Public Works Manager told us that Sodium is the only item on the list of 23 compounds that didn’t meet MPCA proposed standards.  Our test results showed 359 milligrams per liter.  The proposed standard is 250 mg/L.

Chloride, the other component of water softener salt, is listed at 529 mg/L.  I suspect we will be hearing about this in the future.

These details were not in the original write up for the agenda item.  Nor was there any information about how much impact the proposed code would have on Sodium in the waste water stream. 

Just to be clear, the code was intended to reduce Sodium in waste water – not as a means of treating potable water.

I asked staff to tell the Council about a situation in which a homeowner has been asking the City to help him force removal of a garage on an adjacent property.  Also, no one quite knows where the property line is, an whether the garage was built with or without a building permit. The neighboring garage is so close to the lot line that the homeowner can’t rebuild his collapsing retaining wall.  The issue is complicated by the fact that the neighboring property is in foreclosure.  Ultimately this is a private matter between two property owners.  The Council agreed by consensus that no further action was needed from the City.

Slippery Slope
We had an agenda item regarding sending a letter to the Governor asking for help to resolve issues associated with the slope behind the old Jordan Brewery building.  That item passed, 7:0.

We had an agenda item regarding the fee structure for the new Community Ed Recreation Center.  The rate schedule is reasonable.  Not mentioned was the fact that every household in the City of Jordan will pay a surcharge of about $25.85 per year – regardless of whether the household uses the facility.

Council Member Will asked if there were any revenue sharing plans afoot.  The answer was something to the effect that revenue sharing had not been discussed.  Mr. Will said it looked to him like everything in the agreements was about money flowing from the City, and he wanted to see something given to the City if the Recreation Center proved to be as successful as the School District projected.

I hit the red button on this one.  It passed, 6:1.

The Mayor presented plaques of appreciation to Council Member Thill and yours truly.  The other Council Members had nice things to say about us, and those comments are duly noted and appreciated.

In lieu of an olive branch, Mr. Thill presented me a bottle of stuffed olives.  I like olives.

And that pretty much covers the meeting.  We’ll see where things go from here.

A Note From the Police Chief
Please Remember To Drive Safe This Holiday Season and To Buckle Up

This morning an event occurred in our City which I believe should be used as a reminder to our community to always drive safely, to always buckle up, and to always ensure children are properly secured in car seats.  The event I'm referring to was a two vehicle accident which occurred on Aberdeen Avenue at Prospect Point in our City, a 90 degree angle collision which is commonly 

referred 

to as a "T-Bone collision".  As you can see from the attached photo of the vehicles involved,

significant force from the impact turned one vehicle over onto its roof.  Accidents of this nature nearly always result in significant injury to those involved. 

As Officers from our department and I arrived on scene we learned there were no significant injuries sustained to either drivers who were also the mothers of young children securely and property secured in car seats in each vehicle.  As I met with one of the mothers and her young child it dawned upon me that however significantly frightening and emotionally taxing it must be to have been involved in this incident that both mother's and their children would still be able to peacefully, and in good health, enjoy the upcoming Holiday Season with their families.  Without the mothers having worn their seat belts or without properly securing their children in car seats, they may not have had that chance

Please remember to drive safe this Holiday Season, wear your seat belts, and always properly secure your children in car seats!

Brett Empey - Chief of Police

My Response
Amen to that, Chief.

The Quote:
"Life is one big transition."

          Willie Stargell

Next City Council Meeting, January 5, 2015.  Meh.

Videos are now on the Video Page

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I welcome public comment on this topic. Anyone willing to give his or her name is welcome to respond here. Thom.Boncher@gmail.com  No anonymous responses will be posted.  No obscene language will be permitted.  Threats, personal attacks, and spam will not be posted.  My house, my rules.  But if you have something to say, and if you are willing to put your name on it, I won’t refuse to let you be heard. 
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