Road Salt Rage

Back in 2010, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency more than doubled the number of Minnesota waters that are listed as impaired for chloride. A vast majority of that chloride comes from road salt, which is now considered a water pollutant. The chloride from the road salt enters our surface waters and groundwater after snow melts and is harmful to fish, insects and plants. While progress has been made, the State of Minnesota feels that there is still much work to do in order to meet water quality standards and achieve a high level of road safety.

For this reason, the Eden Prairie Streets Division has adopted a few methods of snow removal that are helping to protecting the environment.

These methods include:

  1. Pre-wetting with road salt to help it stick to the roads and minimize runoff
  2. Performing anti-icing for a quicker recovery time to get to bare pavement
  3. Using mechanical removal with snow plows as opposed to dumping more road salt
  4. Plowing at the onset of a storm as opposed to after an event, which results in the need for less road salt to melt ice-packed roads.

It should also be stated that these are best practices for an overall snow removal program — not just methods to reduce salt usage.

For more information about the salt issue, check out this video produced by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

City Liquor (and Sunday Sales)

With the discussion of Sunday liquor sales in the news lately (which I will cover at the end of this post), I have had a few people ask what benefit the city derives from being in the liquor business.

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I responded to an email recently with that line of questioning with this response:

Thank for your inquiry on the City’s liquor operations.  We have completed a cost/benefit analysis and review of having City-owned liquor stores.  In 2003, we hired a firm to determine the market value of the operations if it were sold.  The analysis showed a fair market value of $2,550,000. The operations contribute approximately $1,000,000 annually to the City’s Capital Improvement Plan which funds projects such as the following:

  • Replacement of park play structures, maintenance of parks and parking lots;
  • Maintaining and adding city trails;
  • Purchasing new public works equipment including front end loaders, dump trucks, etc.; and
  • Replacement of public safety radios.

If these funds were not available, homeowners would pay approximately 3% more in taxes annually. It is our goal to be price competitive; the one challenge we sometimes face, depending on who we are compared to, is that vendors offer discounts based on volume – and although we are not a small operation – there are operations larger than us. 

The operation has financial benchmarks which we adhere to in order to demonstrate prudent management of pricing and operations.  We benchmark ourselves against other municipal liquor stores.  Unfortunately, we do not have access to private sector data to compare ourselves.  For example, the metro municipal average gross profit margin is 25.8% and for 2013 our gross profit margin was 26.9%.

I think this response summarizes our current thinking with the Eden Prairie city liquor operations pretty well.

Now back to Sunday sales. One opinion is that being open on Sundays will simply spread 6 days of business over 7 days.  Therefore, the cost of doing business on the 7th day exceeds the revenue gained from being open that extra day. A report from the Minnesota Department of Revenue estimates that retail sales would only increase 0.5 percent if Sunday purchases were allowed. However, another study says that by allowing Sunday sales, it is estimated that Minnesota sales volume would increase by 5 to 7 percent annually.  And another study even mentions double-digit growth. I guess we will not know the true effect unless or until Sunday sales actually occur.

Aside from the business operations perspective, there is the argument that this is about modern day convenience.  I completely understand that because I have stated that if legislation passes in Minnesota allowing Sunday sales, Eden Prairie Liquor plans on being open for business on Sundays.

2015 State of the City

The State of the City address has been an annual ritual sponsored by the Eden Prairie Chamber of Commerce that typically occurs soon after the first of the new year.    

For several years now, the Chamber President, the School District Superintendent and the City Manager have teamed up to present a joint State of the City address at the monthly Chamber member luncheon. This approach has provided a comprehensive look at the latest developments in the Eden Prairie community, as well as a look ahead to what is to come in the new year. 

This year’s event took place Tuesday, Jan. 13. During the City portion of the address, I played the following video that provides a brief overview of the City’s 2015 budget and its associated services:

The positive feedback that has been received from this event has led to taking the City portion of the address “on the road” and expands the opportunities for those who are interested in seeing it. Over the next month, I will be making presentations to various groups in the Eden Prairie community — including the Lions Club, the Rotary Club and the Eden Prairie Community Foundation. (Note: Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens will be a special guest co-presenter at the Lions meeting).

Another community presentation of the State of the City address that is open to everyone will take place Friday, Feb. 6 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Senior Center (8950 Eden Prairie Road). The presentation will provide an overview of completed and upcoming projects in Eden Prairie along with an overview of the initiatives that the City will focus on in 2015. 

The event is free to attend and open to the public, I hope to see you there!

Flash Mob

If you happened to be in the Cub Foods store in Eden Prairie around noon on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, I bet you were surprised when this happened!

 

This flash mob was instigated by our Senior Center Coordinator Sue Bohnsack. She partnered with Cub Foods to host the event. Along with three of our Community Center instructors, she choreographed the entire event that involved 90 adults and seniors. These folks danced to the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. I am told there was very little practice involved — maybe three short sessions at most.

This flash mob was a great way to show our community how fun and active our Community Center and Senior Center are in Eden Prairie. After the almost 4-minute “dance,” the participants handed out flyers to the Cub patrons explaining where they can go for more information about fun and active programs at edenprairie.org/seniorcenter, or to text “EP SENIOR” to 468311 for text message updates.

What’s Next for South West Light Rail

There was quite a bit of activity related to the South West Light Rail Transit project this year. Earlier this summer, the Southwest Project Office (SPO) of the Metropolitan Council completed the preliminary engineering phase of the project. This then culminated with the cities of Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Hopkins, St. Louis Park, Minneapolis and Hennepin County passing resolutions granting municipal consent for the project. Now that the municipal consent process has been completed, the SPO is moving forward into the final design stage of the project. 

SWT-Simple-Graphic

While the preliminary engineering phase of design focused mostly on light rail track alignment and station locations, the final design phase will concentrate on details such as station architecture, the incorporation of public art, streetscape and landscape elements, park and ride facilities, road configuration and bridge design. The final design will also address findings from the Final Environmental Impact Statement which considers impacts related to noise, vibration, wetlands, cultural resources and other environmental issues.

The SPO anticipates having the final design completed by the end of 2015. There will be a number of opportunities for the public to provide critical input throughout final design. There will also be a continuation of the Community Advisory, Business Advisory and Corridor Management Committees, which work to address issues that arise during design. 

Once final design is complete the Federal Transit Administration will need to authorize the project to move into the construction phase. This is done through an official Record of Decision. If granted, construction would begin in 2016 and continue through 2018. Light rail service would then begin in 2019 as an extension of the Green Line currently running between Minneapolis and St. Paul. When complete the extension of the Green Line will be a 16-mile route with 17 stations, five of which will be located in Eden Prairie. 

The total project budget is $1.65-billion, with 50 percent of the total cost provided by the Federal Transit Administration, and the remaining 50 percent coming from a combination of county and state funds. By 2030, the Green Line Extension is projected to reach 21 percent of the region’s jobs and will have 34,000 boardings per weekday.