BY LINDA HERKENHOFF
The May 15 Greenfield City Council meeting was lengthy and covered a number of topics including police protection, possible funding options for the new Greenfield Park, the city’s comp plan and debt repayment options.
Lieutenant Todd Nelson of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Patrol Unit was on hand to answer questions about the protection the city contracts for, and receives. Concerns presented to the council about vandalism at a prior meeting prompted the invitation.
The city, which does not have a police department, contracts for three hours of service a day with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. For about four years, and until a year ago, the former city hall and offices located on Town Hall Drive served as a sort of substation for the department, A couple of years into the arrangement, the city lowered its contract hours from four to three, the fewest the department will contract for. During the time the building was used with regularity by the department, the police presence in the city was logged in at 11-plus hours a day. The average number of hours the department spends in the city now is just under 7.
Nelson listened to concerns about evening vandalism with wait times (45 minutes according to one resident, and on more than one occasion) and he agreed it seemed to be long. He told the council that during part of the evening available patrol units for the outlying areas of the county, like Greenfield, become less readily available, but that a call will generate a visit by the first available patrol.
Other residents voiced concerns over how far a unit may have to travel to attend a call in Greenfield since they are dispatched throughout the county.
Nelson said the department was implementing some changes, expected to be up and running by late fall, that are intended to improve response times and availability during the most demanding hours.
Councilor Mike Erickson proposed that the city consider negotiating additional coverage from local departments like Corcoran or West Hennepin to expand the hours of coverage and deter offenders with a stronger police presence. He cited coverage of neighboring communities that had more coverage than Greenfield, ranging greatly in cost and hours.
A discussion ensued regarding options and the need for additional information. No action was taken on this matter.
In the last year, the city has taken its first steps in creating a city park out of the land it owns at Town Hall Drive and County Rd. 50.
Recently, a Park Advisory was named and spent several months designing a phased development draft proposal it presented to the council. Some trees have been planted and there has been discussion over completing a parking area and possibly installing an unpaved trail.
A hurdle in moving ahead has been financing park improvements. The park dedication fund is not equipped at this time to cover a significant portion of what’s been proposed, and the continued slump in development is keeping it meager.
Councilor Brad Johnson proposed that the council consider making a loan to the park fund in order to make some headway, tackling some initial improvements that would bring residents to the park. When park dedication funds come in, he said, the loan could be repaid.
In the discussion following Johnson’s suggestion, Councilor Mike Erickson said that he thought the city could accomplish more by buying back a portion of the property for a future city hall. Since the land was purchased with park dedication funds, a municipal building cannot be constructed on it otherwise. Erickson told the council that the previous council purchased the land with the intent of constructing a city hall in the future. That option has been met with opposition by the Park Advisory.
Councilor Tom Cook further suggested that the council consider going a step further and consider reconfiguring the five corner intersection in front of the land, binging the two city properties (across Town Hall Drive from each other) together and expanding options for the placement of a new city building.
Mayor Jerry Hertaus suggested that there might be costs associated to the latter that could hinder it fiscally.
The council did not take action. Staff will research the costs of moving utility poles and other potential variables.
In other news, Greenfield resident Chuck Alcon gave the council a breakdown of the city’s tax revenue by category and percentage, and expressed his concerns over restrictions the Metropolitan Council has integrated into the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan in regard to density.
He implored the council to press the Met Council on behalf of increased density by showing up in force to district and committee meetings, and using every opportunity to bring them out to Greenfield to observe the obstacles the city faces with limited density.
The council agreed that it needed to step things up in order to get its message across and reopen the discussion in regard to density.
A visit by the city’s financial advisor, Steve Mattson, came with good news.
The city is in a position to refinance the bonds used to buy, and potentially remodel, the city hall and public works building on Commerce Circle. By refinancing with general obligation funds, the city could get its current interest rate cut by over half at 1.9%.
This could result in a savings of $238,000 over the life of repayment. Also, since part of the original 1.3 million dollar debt included remodeling dollars that were never used, over $400,000 could be used to buy it down faster, cutting six years off the repayment date. And, an additional year could be cut off by keeping the annual levied amount for repayment (approximately $90,000) at the same level. The current dept repayment date is 2025.
The council will further discuss the options before taking action.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Greenfield City Council is Tuesday, June 5, at 7 p.m. at 6390 Town Hall Dr.