An attempt by Woodbury city staffers to promote a remodel of the City Council chambers at more than double the original projected cost has been rebuffed.
Between the initial budget in December and the figures presented late last month, the cost for the project soared from $325,000 to $673,000. Most council members said they doubted the cost was worth it, and the consensus was to have staffers try again.
“This is not that big of a space,” said Council Member Amy Scoggins. “We could build a nice house somewhere for that kind of money, and hold our meetings there.”
It’s the type of public rebuke that city leaders seek to avoid. “I think we learned something from this process. We can do better and we will,” Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens said.
The chambers have had no significant work done since 1990 and the idea was to overhaul everything and add overflow seating, Parks Director Bob Klatt said. Staffers sought to redo the dais on which council members sit, bringing staff members up to the same level as elected officials.
“Quite honestly not a lot of thought was put into that budget,” Klatt said. “There was no preliminary design.”
City: Ex-U tennis player must rip out court
A onetime University of Minnesota varsity tennis player has been ordered to rip out the sport court he installed in his backyard alongside a golf course in Woodbury.
A parade of family and neighbors appealed for mercy during a recent meeting of the Woodbury City Council. They got some sympathy, but no reversal of the staff’s decision.
“In my time serving in office, this is the most difficult decision I’ve had to make,” Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens said.
The tennis court installed by Tim George and his wife, Laura, encroached upon an easement held by the city and didn’t follow required setbacks, city officials said.
“We take complete responsibility for our failure to know” the rules, Tim George said, but “tearing out this court and relocating it is incredibly wasteful.”
Klayton Eckles, public works director, said: “The city doesn’t get massive easements that we don’t need.”
DeLaittre named to head Great River initiative
Mary deLaittre, who has worked on several west metro park projects, has been hired by the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department to oversee the Great River Passage Initiative, which seeks to find ways to make the Mississippi River in St. Paul more natural, urban and connected to the city.
“The Mississippi River is St. Paul’s greatest environmental and economic asset,” said Mike Hahm, Parks and Recreation director, “and I have full confidence that [deLaittre] will be a great leader to continue the work to make the river more accessible for all the city’s residents.”
The Great River Passage Initiative team is working to develop proposed projects, such as the downtown River Balcony and the Environmental Learning Center at the Watergate Marina.
DeLaittre has experience with several complex civic projects, including RiverFirst — the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s revitalization of 5.5 miles of the Mississippi — and Lake Effect Park and the Lake Effect Conservancy in Wayzata.
“The opportunity to help define the central role of this great river is something I am very passionate about, and I am happy to be a part of the team,” deLaittre said.
Recycling center donations mount
The primary reason for the Washington County Environmental Center, Lowell Johnson said, is to divert hazardous waste from polluting the environment.
Johnson, who oversees the county’s Public Health and Environment division, told the County Board at a recent budget presentation that resident drop-offs at the center continue to increase. Last fall, commissioners authorized additional hours at the center to meet the demand.
In seven years, the Environmental Center has processed more than 9 million pounds of hazardous waste and 11 million pounds of waste electronics.
Design begins for Hwy. 36/Hadley crossing
A busy Hwy. 36 intersection that has seen more severe crashes than normal is headed for a major reconstruction.
The Washington County Board recently approved an $865,305 contract with Short Elliot Hendrickson Inc., to do preliminary design work for a new interchange where Hadley Avenue crosses Hwy. 36 in Oakdale.
Construction is scheduled to begin in 2019 to convert the current traffic signal-controlled intersection into an overpass with ramps. Traffic is expected to increase 50 percent in the next 15 years, said county design engineer Frank Ticknor.