Forest Lake joins GreenSteps Cities program

Street work, legal services also on City Council agenda

Clint Riese
News Editor

Forest Lake this month became the 68th city to join the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program. The City Council on June 9 voted to authorize the city’s participation in the free, continuous improvement program.

Managed by a public-private partnership, GreenStep Cities is designed to help cities achieve sustainability and quality-of-life goals by implementing best practices relating to buildings and lighting, transportation, land use, environmental management and economic and community development.

Participation in the voluntary program provides access to free expertise from a consultant and student interns, thousands of reports from GreenStep cities, and a framework for 170 actions relating to 28 best practices. 

Cost savings, energy use reduction and civic innovation are primary goals of the program.

The council voted 4-1 to adopt the GreenStep Cities resolution.

“This allows us to further access some free help if we want it,” Councilwoman Susan Young said. “If we don’t, we don’t have to go there, but it does give us some ways to benchmark ourselves on (whether we are) being cost-effective, are we doing the things in our budgets and our plans that will save us money, save us resources in the future.”

Young volunteered for data entry legwork required to get the city up to speed in the program.

She and City Administrator Aaron Parrish said any requirements for businesses or citizens stemming from GreenStep would need separate council approval.

Speaking during the council meeting’s open forum, local business owner John Freed said he foresees voluntary action items becoming mandatory and costing money.

“I read through most of the information that was in the packet for tonight, and it’s pretty frightening, in my opinion. Although the beginning seems to state that the program is voluntary and has no downside, the details strongly suggest otherwise. … It’s way too easy for that stuff to find its way into ordinances.”

Councilman Mike Freer opposed the resolution, and program, on a fundamental level.

“This is another government intervention into our lives that we just do not need,” he said.

The Minnesota GreenStep Cities website is MnGreenStep.org.

Favorable bid

Following the city engineer’s advice to skip doing a Minnesota State Aid street project in 2013 paid off for the City Council in the form of a low bid on a large MSA project for this summer. 

Ryan Goodman last year suggested rolling two years’ worth of work into one large project to attract favorable bids. The move proved wise, as the council on June 9 accepted a bid of $1.02 million from Hardrives Inc. Goodman had estimated the project would cost $1.25 million.

“We actually had all seven contractors in the room sitting around waiting (at bid opening),” Goodman said. “Normally they don’t sit around.”

The cost savings will roll over for future state-aid street projects.

“It was a very scary thing for the council to not do road improvements one year to build a better, more cost-effective project,” Young said. “You were right: This has been a very successful way of doing this.”

The road project involves sections of 19th Street Southwest, Harrow Avenue, Ingersoll Avenue, Imperial Avenue, July Avenue, North Shore Trail, 235th Street, Jamaica Avenue and 230th Street.

Legal services

With the seats of three council members and the mayor up for election this fall, the council table could look different in 2015. One seat guaranteed to switch is that of the city attorney, as Dave Hebert announced he will resign his post at the end of the year.

The council approved a request for proposals for civil legal services. Young, Freer and city staff members will review proposals and bring a recommendation to the council in August. 

Meanwhile, the council extended for three years the current prosecution services agreement with Mike Welch, Hebert’s partner at Hebert & Welch P.A. Welch will continue to provide prosecution services for misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors at a rate of $110 an hour. 

“(The Police Department) really has enjoyed the work that Mike has done and feels he has brought good resolution to the cases that come before him,” Parrish said.

Other business

In other business, the council:

– Granted permits and waived fees for the American Legion Post 225 to put on its 90th annual Fourth of July celebration from Wednesday, July 2, to Sunday, July 6.

– Approved a 25-year maintenance agreement relating to stormwater management improvements on and near the Target store property on Southwest 12th Street. A rain garden, tree trench and filtration pond retrofit are planned in order to improve the quality of water that drains into Comfort Lake.

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