Greetings! Here's city-related news for residents of Ward 1 and beyond.
Minnetonka Boulevard water main breaks: Most people in our community are aware by now of two water main breaks that occurred in May and June on the west side of the city, near Minnetonka Boulevard and Texas Avenue. The first break, in particular, caused considerable damage as water flowed into the nearby sanitary sewer system and emerged in the basements of 56 homes on Minnetonka Boulevard as well as Quebec, Rhode Island, and Sumter Avenues. Twelve days later, another break caused more than 20 homes to experience additional flooding, although on a smaller scale. Understandably, these breaks have been traumatizing for residents, some of whom had more than two feet of dirty water in their basements.
City Council held an emergency meeting on May 25 and spent most of our regularly scheduled June 6 meeting listening to residents, then discussing and deciding on the city’s response. You can watch recordings of these meetings here. Council ultimately settled on a reimbursement package that will provide up to $120,000 per homeowner for eligible expenses and will be funded in part by the city’s insurance provider, the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, as well as American Rescue Plan Act funds. Details on the reimbursement program and other information on the water main breaks can be found here.
Water infrastructure is at a critical juncture across the U.S., with a water main break somewhere in the country every two minutes and an estimated six billion gallons of treated water lost each day due to an aging and underfunded system (SLP lost 1.1 million gallons on May 21). Cities are taking on an increasingly larger financial burden as the federal government spends proportionately less on water infrastructure than in previous decades. SLP's engineering staff have been directing the replacement of water mains throughout the city for years, and it’s expensive work. With replacement costs currently at $2M-$4M per mile, not including pavement restoration, and 160 total miles of water main, fully replacing our aging system will take hundreds of millions of dollars and stretch out over many years. And while a sewer backup caused by a water main break is an unusual event in SLP, it conceivably could happen again. City staff are currently preparing a detailed plan to mitigate damage from future water main breaks and will share their proposed plan with council and the community at our regularly scheduled meeting on June 20. You can attend the meeting in person at City Hall or watch it here.
One difficult fact I and others learned during this process is that the typical homeowners’ insurance policy does not provide good coverage for sewer backups, no matter the cause. People who have paid their premiums for decades were shocked to learn this type of damage wasn’t covered by their policy when in many cases, for a nominal additional cost, it could have been. My advice now is to check your policy. I also learned about sanitary backflow prevention devices which it seems every home should have. Here’s information from the City of Edina’s website that provides some good background on this relatively simple preventive device.
These past few weeks have been challenging for many residents in our community as well as staff and council. I’m proud of the way we were able to support residents and approve a generous reimbursement package that will likely cover most if not all homeowners’ costs. We have important work to do now to reduce the likelihood this will happen again, anywhere in the city. Stay tuned.
School district levy & referendum: It’s a frustrating reality that education is perennially underfunded across our state and nation, including in St. Louis Park, where decision makers at all levels face constant pressure to serve all students without enough resources. We have the opportunity to support students and teachers and strengthen our community by approving a Technology Levy & Bond Referendum this summer. The $135M building bond referendum includes much-needed upgrades to our 68-year-old high school building; security, playground, and track & field improvements; and deferred maintenance projects across the district. The $3.5M capital project levy for technology will ensure we have the right tools and personnel to optimize student learning for the next decade. This transformational investment in our students and educators will cost the owner of a median value home in SLP about $19/month. I encourage you to vote yes on both referendum questions and ask your friends & neighbors to do the same, for our children and to keep our beloved community strong. Election Day is August 9 with early voting starting June 24. Here’s info on when and where you can vote.
Yard waste collection update: Severe staffing shortages are forcing the city’s yard waste contractor, Waste Management, to reduce pickups to every other week until further notice, with credit applied to utility bills at the end of each month during every-other-week collection. I’ve heard from residents frustrated with the unpredictable nature of pickup this spring; reducing the frequency of pickups is expected to mitigate that. Around our house, we’re reimagining yard waste as habitat, mulch, and compost – and it's working pretty well! For folks interested in alternatives to bagging up vegetative matter, here’s an article on leaving the leaves and here’s one on lawn clippings.
Related: SLP seasonal employee shortage: Like so many communities, SLP is experiencing a severe shortage of applicants for seasonal park maintenance jobs. If you or someone you know is interested in working for the city for up to 40 hours/week through October performing maintenance, equipment operation, custodial, landscaping, and other duties in our city parks, gardens, landscaped areas, nature center, and other areas, please apply! Here’s info.
Three new businesses: Hour Rose Salon has opened in the former Bohn Welding building in Historic Walker Lake; a Nautical Bowls franchise will open soon in The West End; and family-owned Bliss Acai plans to open next month in the Shoppes at Knollwood. Check them out, support local businesses!
More business news: Do you have a new business idea of your own, or want to expand an existing business? Get free advice from a professional at SLP City Hall on Tuesdays between 10am-12pm. Walk-in or make an appointment by emailing here.
Affordable housing waitlist: St. Louis Park’s largest multifamily public housing unit, Hamilton House, will open a waitlist for 1BR apartments tomorrow, June 13, at 10 am and close the following Monday. If you or someone you know is income-eligible and looking for affordable housing, here’s information on how to apply.
Common-sense gun laws: I and several council colleagues recently signed an open letter to Congress from the League of Minnesota Cities demanding stronger federal laws that protect kids, adults, and communities from gun violence. Already this year, nearly 20,000 people have died from gun violence in the U.S., and firearms are now the leading cause of death among children in our country, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control. Homicide, suicide, mass shootings, and accidental death from firearms devastate families and communities all across the nation, every day, especially communities of color who experience disproportionate levels of gun violence. Numerous polls show the majority of Americans support common-sense gun laws, yet conservative lawmakers refuse to support these measures. I don’t usually get political in these monthly updates, but I’m furious and I know many, many others are too. I encourage everyone to take action on this issue; here’s one organization with information on how to take action and here’s another.
Here’s a select list of upcoming events in SLP:
Thai Sunday Market, TODAY, June 12, 11am-7pm, Wat Promwachirayan, 2500 Hwy 100 S. This popular event in the Birchwood neighborhood draws hundreds of people to socialize with and support our temple neighbors. Food, music, dance, and cultural items for sale. Menu & info here. Next markets are June 26 & July 10.
First Annual Senior Resource Fair, Tuesday, June 14, 1-4 pm, Lenox Community Center Gym, 6715 Minnetonka Blvd. Find a wealth of information and resources from transportation and safety to health and housing. For older adults, seniors, caregivers, their family and friends. Info here.
St. Louis Park Parktacular, June 16-19, Wolfe Park and the Recreation Outdoor Center (ROC). Five days of free and affordable fun for everyone including concerts, parade, expo, Kidtacular, Ecotacular and Juneteenth Celebration. Plan your visit here!
Juneteenth Celebration, Sunday, June 19, 12-4 pm, the ROC. Shopping, food, music and a keynote speech by Imani Jackson, executive chef and owner of Chopped and Served. Info here.
Birchwood Neighborhood garage sale, Saturday, June 25. Stop by the Birchwood Park shelter, 2700 Zarthan Ave. S., between 9-11am for a donut, coffee & map of locations. There’s still time to get your own sale added; email here today!
STEP Renovation Celebration, Thursday, July 7, 3-4 pm, St. Louis Park Emergency Program, 6811 W. Lake St. Commemorate the beginning phase of a new and expanded STEP as they start renovation on the interior of their newly acquired building. Info and RSVP here.
Thanks for reading and please stay in touch!
I send out a monthly summary of city-related news to Ward 1 residents and interested others, posted here. If you’d like to receive it via email, let me know here.