Greenfield votes 4-1 for water study grant, with provisions

The Greenfield City Council discussed application and participation in Watershed Restoration Assessment Protection Projects  – that would assess major watershed basins and work toward creating a baseline of watershed and wetland conditions – at length at its Oct. 1 meeting.

At the council’s Sept. 17 meeting, Crow River Organization of Water Coordinator Diane Sander explained the basics of the grant, funded by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. The funds would be used to study the city’s water quality and develop a best management practices implementation plan.

The cost to the city would be about $2,000 to continue the process and go forward on the grant application.

Councilor Chuck Alcon revisited the reservations he had expressed at the previous meeting, which included concerns about the kind of information the research would provide and whether it had value to the city at this point in the process.

“It’s time to stop modeling,” he said in reference to specific points of the proposal, “and time to install flow meters to gauge what’s going into the watershed, moving toward a retention pond.”

Alcon also expressed concern about how much of the affected watershed was private property, something that limited the council’s options in moving forward in restoration.

Alcon’s objections to the project were noted by the remaining council members and recognized as having merit.

Councilor Tom Cook, who has been the council’s watershed liaison and representative for the last few years, and who initially brought the grant proposal to the council, told Alcon that he agreed with many of his points and his sentiment. He cited his own frustration about the process but emphasized that there was a process and that this was part of it. He stated that he felt that there would be informational benefit to the city to satisfy its financial contribution.

Councilor Mark Holten added that working cooperatively with entities involved in water improvement could better position the city for grant opportunities when needed.

Water quality improvement is a long-term and costly challenge many communities are tackling.

Councilor Mike Erickson expressed his opinion about the grant and process.

“We’re the trigger to a little tiny study that’s already been set. Whether that study’s going to lead to anything relevant, or not, it doesn’t matter. This is bureaucracy.”

Mayor Brad Johnson said he would be supportive of moving forward with the application if the parameters of the study were widened to include monitoring or measures that would result in relevant data.

Cook advised that he had already begun a conversation along those lines with the appropriate parties.

He added, “We have an opportunity to participate in the watershed-wide TMDL sub-watershed assessment of Dance Hall Creek at a very good price, and we’ll put as much pressure on Hennepin County Environmental Services to get the kind of analysis we want as we possibly can.”

Time requirements in regard to the grant required council action.

Cook motioned that the city make the application to participate in an $11,000 water improvement study with a maximum buy-in contribution of $2,000 by the city, and with continuous flow monitoring a provision of acceptance.

The motion passes, 4-1, Alcon in dissent.

In other news, the council approved an expenditure of $28,235 for playground equipment for Greenfield Central Park. Another first, and a great new amenity for area families, the purchasing of equipment fell under scrutiny last month and delayed installation to next spring. However, purchasing the equipment in 2014 offers the city a significant savings in sales tax, approximately $1,500. The playground equipment is being purchased with funds from the Park Dedication Fund and installation will be performed by city staff.

Also, the city recently got the legal go-ahead to abate an unsalvageable residence on the 6600 block of 71st Avenue North that had sustained a fire. This property has been a source of frustration to neighboring residents for two years, resulting in a petition asking that the city get involved and demolish it.

City staff has been monitoring the situation throughout the process, which became a legal, and lengthy, one.  The Hennepin County District Court has now mandated that the home be abated, and the city can take action.

City Administrator Kathryne McCullum told the council that the property owner and all lien holders had been notified of the situation and given sufficient opportunity to act accordingly, but remained unresponsive to the situation.

“We did the best we could,” McCullum said of staff’s efforts to engage the responsible parties in the cleanup. “Now it’s in our hands. It must be abated.”

The cost of abatement is estimated to be as high as $20,000. The final cost will be certified to the tax roll and either paid by the current property owner or at the time of sale.

The council unanimously approved moving forward on the abatement.

And, in his mayor’s report, Johnson relayed four major points of a discussion he, Erickson and McCullum covered with Hanover’s mayor and city clerk: Greenfield’s contract with the Hanover Fire Department, billing changes for fire service with call numbers factored in, the creation of a fire board that would include Greenfield representation, and fire inspections. Johnson said the suggestions were well received and he expected to be able to report back soon with responses.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Greenfield City Council is Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. at 6390 Town Hall Drive.