Major projects include public safety facility
The Minnetonka City Council, at its June 12 meeting, adopted a capital improvement plan for 2018-2022 which, among other priorities, includes a new public safety building and bike trails, a total of $149.4 million in funding during the next five years.
According to the staff report, the plan prioritizes projects that contribute to public health and safety, maintain or improve existing systems and expand public services.
The plan is re-evaluated annually; last year’s budget was $114.4 million. City Manager Geralyn Barone said of the $149.4 million budget for this year, 30 percent is allocated to street projects, 26 percent to utilities, 23 percent to buildings, 11 percent to equipment, and 10 percent to parks and recreation.
Property taxes are expected to fund 42 percent of the plan, with user fees, such as utility charges, covering another 30 percent. However; funding is also expected to include the sale of general obligation bonds, minimizing an increase to property tax levies.
Barone said the bulk of the $35 million increase from last year’s plan, and the unusually large amount allocated for buildings, is due to plans for an updated police and fire department building. The current fire station was built in 1975, while the police facility was built in 1989.
“We know that those facilities are aging, there’s a lot that has changed since they were built,” Barone said.
She added that city staff members determined three central goals in updating the facilities: improving safety and response times, accommodating growth and a changing workforce and protecting investment in equipment.
Council discussion of the public safety facility has taken place over the course of several meetings, beginning in September 2016 with a comprehensive study.
Resident Annette Bertelsen addressed the council in support of the public safety facility.
“I think it’s well worth every penny … I hope we get something that nobody else has; something unique. I think it could be a stronger recruitment tool if we add some innovative features to it,” Bertelsen said. “A lot of us residents are really excited about the project and support it.”
Barone agreed, explaining that the design aspects and other details of the facility would be discussed in a continuing upcoming process.
“We want to live within the means of our budget, but we don’t just want to be a cookie-cutter public safety facility,” she said. “There’s more to come in that process.”
The council’s approval of the proposed public safety facility represents phase one of the process, analysis and concept development. The next steps include project authorization and bond funding, anticipated in 2018-19.
Construction is expected to begin in 2019, to be completed in 2020.
Also at the June 12 meeting, the council approved a contract for design services with architect Wold Engineers, which also providing consulting during earlier stages of the public facility project.
The plan also sets aside funding for infrastructure improvements at City Hall; while the public areas of the building had previously been upgraded, Barone said the behind-the-scenes offices could use work.
“The area where our employees work has not be updated for many years. Some of the furniture is 35 years old and it’s time we do some refurbishment of those areas,” Barone said.
Other major projects in the plan include significant roadwork in the Ridgedale and Opus areas, as well as preservation work on the city’s current infrastructure.
Of the parks and recreation segment, more than $6 million has been allocated for the addition of 4.7 miles of additional trails in Minnetonka, including connections to existing trail systems.
“One thing we heard loud and clear in our Imagine Minnetonka engagement process over the last year is that people are very interested in connections with trails, not just recreational, but also multi-modal transportation. There’s a real public safety element to this piece,” Barone said.
The proposed 2018 budget included $130,000 for construction of mountain bike trails in the city, prompted in part by community advocacy from the Minnesota Off Road Cyclists, in collaboration with students from the Minnetonka High School VANTAGE program.
Other recreational amenities in the budget include pickleball courts as well as improvements to Bennet Park.
Barone added that while the adoption of the plan allocates funding for various city projects, action items will continue to be brought before the council throughout the process.
“It’s a multi-year project, there are going to be multiple opportunities for public input,” she said.
In other business, the council reviewed a concept plan for Newport Midwest, a 246-unit proposed housing development at 10400, 10500 and 10550 Bren Road E., which would include a mix of market-rate and affordable housing.
A similar proposal had been presented to the council and planning commission earlier this year, but has been revised based on feedback from staff and council members to include a more contemporary design.
“It has a modular, modern look – very edgy for Minnetonka,” said City Planner Loren Gordon.
Additional amenities to the project include a dog run, rooftop garden and internal common area for residents.
Council members agreed that the current proposal was an improvement from the initial design, and would help fulfill a significant need for affordable housing in Minnetonka.
“I’d like to commend the applicant for the work they did. They took a lot of what the council had to say,” said Councilmember Tim Bergstadt. “We are desperately short on affordable housing. I’m uncomfortable having all affordable housing so I think that mix of market rate and affordable is a real good fit.”
Councilmember Brad Wiersum added that the council should be proactive in directing the developer to design a project that would set a good example for future development in the area.
“It’s appropriate for the area. … Presuming that light rail is there, by being first I think it does set a tone for what we’re going to do in those next parcels,” Wiersum said.
A formal application for the development has not yet been submitted.
Community Development Julie Wischnack said the next stages of the process would be to review a more detailed proposal for design aspects of the development.