Referendum postponed

Well, this is an interesting development.  Early Monday morning, I emailed this to Joel Walinski and Mary Rossing:

I have been receiving an increasing amount of feedback on the upcoming referendum and the projects themselves expressing concern about the timing of the projects in light of both LGA cuts plus questions about whether the project is sufficiently well-developed to educate the public and have a successful referendum in the short time frame available.

I cannot support the projects until I can be assured

  • the Council (not the steering committee, design committee or architects) can hold the line on budget and has considered costs in the context of disappearing LGA
  • the Woodley site is available at a reasonable purchase price
  • the possible partners – rural fire, colleges, Dundas – have been brought to the table in any substantial and collegial way.
  • Lifecycle costs have been projected
  • Energy efficiency and other sustainability issues have been addressed.

I do not want to have a failed referendum, but rather would like the Council to consider taking additional time to more carefully address the issues above. In light of Joel’s decision to move on, the City is faced with additional challenges including asking staff to devote more time to finding an interim administrator in addition to managing the on-going fiscal decision-making. I would like to be able to throw my whole-hearted support behind the projects to ensure a large and lasting success for Northfield. I believe we need more time to do this. I would like to stress that I am not advocating for “doing nothing” but a slower pace with room for input from our partners and the public.

I would like to request that the Council consider a motion to postpone the referendum on the police/fire projects. As is the case with this week’s packet with councilor-initiated items, I will be happy to write the introductory paragraph for this item.

As it turns out, I didn’t need to start torching whatever political capital I may have (and with the Mayor and Administrator, I’d say I probably had negative political capital to begin with).

At our regular Tuesday meeting, we had another update on the police/fire facilities (follow other coerage: News, Locally Grown and don’t forget you can watch meetings streamed live or archived on KYMN – here’s a link to the police/fire update item).   Joel Walinski gave an update on discussions with MNDoT about the Woodley site and the dominoes are not falling as hoped/anticipated.  MNDoT is looking at a new site in Dundas for their truck station currently located at Woodley and TH3.  However, environmental assessments for the Dundas site won’t be complete until after the November referendum date, so Joel Walinski recommended delaying the referendum.

The other real update was the recommendation of the “Jasnoch 2” site at Honeylocust and Jefferson Road for the policte station.

Mayor Rossing asked for motions on the following

  1. Affirming the Woodley site as the preferred site for fire: 6-1 vote to affirm (Councilor Jon Denison against)
  2. Postponing the referendum: 7-0 to postpone
  3. Directing KKE architects to proceed with design for the Jasnoch2 site: 2-5 not to proceed (Mayor Rossing and Councilor Kris Vohs voted to proceed)

The third action followed a lengthy discussion about putting a combined facility on the Woodley site which KKE will explore and report upon at our August 3 meeting.  Community members are still suggesting reusing the current facility for police, but that option has not quite crept back onto the table.

So we can breathe a small sigh of relief as the pace of these projects and the referendum has slowed slightly and now is the time for citizens with concerns about cost creep, library planning and other such issues to contact Councilmembers.

5 Replies to “Referendum postponed”

  1. Thanks for this post, Betsey – if fills in info lacking in other reports. (I admit, I haven’t watched the KYMN archived version of the meeting.)

    Perhaps you heard my larger sign of relief from out here in the East. It is interesting that the council has plunged on ahead with exploring another option. How much serious work was done by KKE on the current site? Can the council be certain that there are too many problems to pursue renovating it for the PD and scaling down the firehall design for the Woodley site?

  2. Betsey,

    It is good to hear that the Council is using more caution. I still have some concern that the Council may feel as if they have to “educate the public” and provide for a “successful referendum”. The goal should be to provide for adequate fire and police facilities in light of the limited economic conditions.

    I think much of the public is wondering why we can’t have a new fire barn and let the police use the current facility (or vice versa). If a referendum fails, we will have police and fire in the same building for some time to come. I’m not in favor of that. However, if it is that or $12 million, I know which one I will pick. And, I will be “educating the public” about how the Council hasn’t explored all of the options.

  3. Hey Betsey –

    The guitar player in the New Moon Trio tipped me off about the illustration to this post. Who’s playing the violin while Rome burns? Or perhaps I should ask “Can I toast marshmallows on that burning pile of Safety Center Studies?”

Leave a Reply to David Ludescher Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.