Stassen says there is much to consider before jumping in to downtown sidewalk replacement project

    A week after Crookston Mayor Wayne Melbye and Ward 1 Crookston City Council Member Jake Fee clashed at a Ways & Means Committee over some actions on behalf of Fee that the mayor said were unacceptable, the committee will meet again Monday evening to discuss the possible adoption of the League of Minnesota Cities’ ethics and values policy.

    Melbye said during last week’s back-and-forth with Fee that also included comments by other council members that he wanted the council to adopt the LMC’s policy and wanted it added to the June 18 committee meeting agenda.

    The LMC policy includes a code of conduct and statement of values. In the latter, nine different sections have value statements followed by how those statements are modeled “in practice.”

    Value statements, followed by numerous subsets, begin with things like, “I serve the public interest…”, “I fulfill the duties and responsibilities of holding public office…”, “I am ethical…”, “I am professional…”, “I am fiscally responsible…”, “I am conscientious…”, “I communicate effectively…”, “I am collaborative…”, and “I am forward thinking…”

    According to the LMC, the policy was put in place in October 2009 and revised in December 2017.
    
Downtown sidewalks

    The council originally scheduled Monday evening’s committee meeting to continue the discussion on potentially replacing the brick-paver sidewalks downtown with sidewalks that do not feature the pavers, which were installed in the early 1990s and have over the years been criticized by those who think they’re hard to clear snow from and are uneven and prone to needing repairs.

    The sidewalk discussion is still on the agenda.

    When council members discussed the potential project last month, it was determined that the cost would likely require a public vote first. With that likely reality, some council members wondered if they shouldn’t consider packing one or more other community projects into a ballot initiative.

    In a meeting memo to the council in advance of the June 18 discussion, City Administrator Shannon Stassen indicates that the council, specifically in relation to replacing the downtown sidewalks, needs to proceed with caution.

    “We have good reasons to pause before jumping right into a complete replacement of existing sidewalks,” Stassen states in the memo. Meeting Americans with Disabilities Act regulations in some specific areas would require a full re-engineering process, he explains. There are opportunities to partner with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to achieve ADA compliance, but Stassen said more in-depth evaluation is needed first.

    Stassen also says in the memo that the council should consult the recently updated Comprehensive Plan as well as the Downtown Master Plan before a “project of this magnitude” is considered.