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Whistleblower recently wrote about a garage in north Minneapolis that has been a thorn in the side of neighbors for years. Over time the structure went from barely passable to almost pass-throughable - thanks to a hole in the side.
Neighbors tried to talk with those living at 2901 Dupont Av. N. about the problem and made repeated calls to the city. The city, for its part, sent out inspectors and issued citations and fines. Most citations went unaddressed and fines went unpaid, though the homeowner did correct some violations by cutting tall grass and picking up trash.
But the garage was never repaired, even after a car smashed into it a couple years ago and a thief earlier this year used a truck to yank a motorcycle through a hole in a side wall, sending studs and siding flying. Short of imminent hazards, the city said it can't repair or tear down privately-owned structures without owners' permission.
Officials recently obtained permission to tear down the parts of the garage that hadn't yet succumbed to gravity or vandalism, and by 8:15 a.m. Tuesday, a contractor had wiped all record of the structure off the face of the block. It's unclear whether hazmat suits were required for removal of the knee-high debris festering inside.
"We’re very excited," neighbor Mary Rice said about the end results. "The first thing I did was I went across the street and told Pastor Dale [at St. Olaf Lutheran Church] and he thought that was great. ... Then I just sent a little blurb to [council member] Diane Hofstede saying 'Garage is down, hallelujah.'"
If you missed this week's Whistleblower, here it is. To add to the conversation, go to the original article here.
Whitney Forrest's wake-up call can be heard around the block.
As early as 7 a.m., she says, she's jolted awake by the blast of the seven-jet dryer at the Edina Car Wash one house away from her own. With employees routinely leaving the doors open during car washes, the roar of dryers isn't muted. She also thinks that soap is misting into her yard, covering plants in a white film and making it smell like a "tropical air freshener."
Now she's taking her concerns to the city, pleading for the business to just shut the car wash doors, or build a taller fence or sound wall. The city so far hasn't found any violations of noise limits, but the company acknowledges that it can't operate silently.
"It's a big balancing act with many different concerns," said Steve Caspers, vice president of Murphy Automotive, which owns the car wash at 54th Street and France Avenue South. "We do what we can to be good neighbors."
Caspers said doors need to be open for ventilation in warmer months as employees work inside the car wash. Building a higher fence, like they did at another Edina car wash, costs about $20,000. Even that didn't eliminate the noise, Caspers said.
"It does generate noise and it's a business that's been there for years," he said. "I liken it to moving next to the airport and saying, 'The planes are noisy.'"
But Forrest said the car wash could do more. Forrest, 29, moved into the home at the edge of Edina after her parents bought it in fall 2010. The car wash is one house away, separated by a wooden fence. She soon found out she couldn't lounge out on deck chairs in her back yard without the periodic blast of the car wash dryers.
"It's hard to carry on a conversation after a while," she said. "It's just car after car."
Pat Moran, who lives two houses away from the car wash, is also bothered by the dryer noise.
"You can't sit in your back yard and enjoy your back yard ever," said Moran, who's lived there for seven years. "All they have to do is close their doors for heaven's sake. It just doesn't seem fair we have to put up with it."
Caspers said the car wash has received about three complaints in its 11 years. He said he's never heard complaints about soap mist. "It's some distance. ... I don't know how we'd determine if that's true," he said.
Two other neighbors said they're aware of the dryer noise and complaints but aren't bothered by it.
City spokeswoman Jennifer Bennerotte said the city's health division received a few complaints about Edina Car Wash's late-night gas deliveries in 2007 and 2010, but no violations were found. A noise complaint this month by Forrest's roommate led to an investigation last Thursday by city staff, who determined the decibels were acceptable.
But in Forrest's complaints to the city, she contends the car wash violates city code because it was approved as an accessory car wash, and that can't have a conveyor belt or more than one car inside. Edina Community Development Director Cary Teague said that's not the case and that the City Council approved a plan in 2001 for Edina Car Wash to have up to three cars in the car wash. City documents from the 2001 meeting don't explicitly state that Edina Car Wash is an accessory car wash, but implies it when stating accessory car washes' parking requirements.
Forrest's mother, Arlene Forrest, is on the Edina Planning Commission and said she would contact Teague to try to do something about the car wash noise.
Of Murphy Automotive's four locations, only one other -- Edina's Grandview Tire and Auto -- has had noise complaints. There, noise from tools and dryers spurred complaints several years ago, Caspers said, so the company installed a 20-foot fence. He said the company hasn't discussed doing the same at France Avenue, where a couple hundred cars can pass through the car wash each day.
"It would be our hope and desire to accommodate the neighborhood," he said. "But we feel like we've done as much as we can do."
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On Tuesday, Minnesota Commercial Railway issued a statement responding to comments from Minneapolis City Council member Gary Schiff in Sunday's Whistleblower column. Below is their statement in full.
Grade Crossing infrastructure improvements and repairs until recent budget cutbacks was largely funded by the federal government , and state and local governments, recognizing that as is the case with 35th Avenue, it’s the vehicular traffic on the road that causes the wear and tear on the grade crossings – not the rail traffic. Budget cutbacks from all these sources have occurred in recent years. The Minnesota Regional Railroad Association and the rail industry along with many Minnesota governmental authorities have been working with the Minnesota Legislature this session to restore sources of funding.
In the case of 35th Avenue, additional road traffic has occurred due to a nearby Hiawatha Light Rail line station plus upgrades and additional added capacity of Hiawatha Avenue (a state roadway), which both were completed a few years ago.
The local councilman’s suggestion that railroads and its customers pay for the crossing is misplaced. Railroads and their customers, where appropriate, have always contributed to grade grossing repairs and upgrades, but because it’s the road traffic which causes wear and tear in almost all cases, governmental authorities also have historically funded these projects. This is particularly appropriate here, where increased road traffic due to Hiawatha Avenue improvements and the Hiawatha Light Rail traffic have caused road traffic increases. Railroad traffic in the area has remained relatively constant.
Contrary to the article, there is no “finger pointing”, all parties involved not only immediately (within 24 hours) participated in repairs to the crossing, but, are actively engaged in working for a longer term solution. The local councilman infers that he has been working to get this crossing upgraded for many years. However, his press conference a few weeks ago plus emails he triggered to our company was the very first time we had been advised of this issue. Normally, such matters are handled by local government representatives internally with the appropriate departments within government, who then approach us to develop a plan. That was not done in this case. In the past several years, and this year as well, our company has and is participating in crossing upgrades not only in Minneapolis, but, also with several other cities we serve in the Metro area – all having been handled in the manner described above.The repairs which were completed by all parties on an emergency are the best that can be done at present and more than adequate. The councilman seems to think that cement grade crossings are an “off the shelf” item that can be installed in a few days. They are not. These are specially fabricated panels made by specialty manufacturers that first require engineering design and drawings, and then have to be formed in panels with special type hardened cement, and then shipped.(The volumn, weight and speed of vehicular traffic must all be factored in the design for a proper fit) . The lead time for the manufacturing is oftentimes several months or more, as the manufacturers have order backlogs. In the case of 35th Street, with seven tracks, the design is more complicated than a normal one or two track crossing as all these panels have to be designed and fabricated to fit within the existing crossing and track structure. And, in terms of installation, the old crossings and substructure have to be torn out completely and replaced to allow the proper and firm securement of the panels to withstand the constant beating caused by vehicular traffic. And, while a one or two track crossing can oftentimes be completed in a couple of days, this seven track crossing will take much longer, requiring that 35th Street be shut down for perhaps up to two weeks. That’s not as easy as it sounds, as Minnesota DOT will have to approve, arrange detours of traffic in the area to and from Hiawatha Avenue (as it’s a State road artery) and perhaps reprogram traffic control lights in the area while this is being done.Finally, all this has to be scheduled and arranged to be done within the warm weather climates of the area during the road construction season and also has to be scheduled to avoid disruptions of rail service to the customers in the area – to avoid shutdowns of the businesses and layoffs of employees.
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