Bayport council approves new boarding dock

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The Bayport City Council approved the construction of a new boarding dock at its Fourth Avenue North boat launch Monday night.

The item floated into the city council meeting after the council was briefed on the project during a special city council workshop earlier that day. The workshop gave council members the opportunity to discuss possible short- and long-term city projects, including a downtown improvement project, dog park, lighting initiative and the boarding dock. The boarding dock was the only item from the workshop to move on to the city council meeting for approval, said City Administrator Mitch Berg.

The boarding dock idea came about last year after staff was asked to research the cost of a new Fourth Avenue North boat launch boarding dock. The Riverfront Advisory Commission asked the city to explore ways to improve access to the river.

From there staff met with representatives of the local state prison to discuss the cost and feasibility of using the prison’s labor division to build the dock. While staff discussed using prison labor as an option to build the dock, the city engineer recommended a minimum 6-foot-by-90-foot boarding dock to accommodate the river’s changing height.

"The boarding dock will enhance the experience," Berg said. "Basically you have to jump into the water to get it out of your boat and then there’s no place to tie it up when unloading."

The city council authorized up to $20,000 for the entire project. Staff estimates the system will cost approximately $17,644 for the entire project, including supplies and labor. Annual costs associated with the boarding dock are estimated at $790, which includes labor, vehicle, maintenance and insurance.

Berg said the project should be complete in time for the spring boat launch.

Council wants more research on workshop items

The boarding dock was the only item from the workshop to gain approval from the city council during its regular meeting following the workshop that night, but the remaining items will undergo additional research from staff for later discussion with the city council.

Staff would research the feasibility of downtown improvements, an off-leash dog park and a dark sky initiative in the city.

According to Berg’s report, both past and current elected officials have shown a desire to beautify the Bayport business district. However, the city has not been able to implement the project due to restrictions set by the state Department of Transportation along Minnesota 95 as well as a lack of funding from the city.

The city also recently surveyed the business community to gauge any interest in participating in a low-interest loan program that would help with exterior and interior improvements to business buildings, but the city only received interest from one business out of 46 surveyed.

Since there is limited grant funds available and a lack of interest from local businesses, city staff has been instructed to further explore alternative ideas to beautify downtown. The city will also develop another business survey to solicit additional interest in the project and gain feedback.

Also up for additional research is the possibility of creating an off-leash dog park. The city has received requests from a resident and Friends of Stillwater Area Dog Parks, Inc. to consider pursuing an off-leash dog park in the city. Both the resident and dog park group offered to contribute time and money to help establish and maintain a dog park.

Berg noted in his report to the city council that the Park Advisory Committee and city council previously considered a dog park about five years ago when the city was developing a master park plan. The idea was abandoned because of a lack of interest, funding and maintenance concerns. Some residents also gave feedback that Barker’s Alps Park already provided ample area for dog activity.

Staff estimates that installation would cost approximately $5,000 to $10,000. The city council requested more research from staff as well as additional public input.

Finally during its workshop, the city council also discussed a "dark sky" ordinance, which would require all lighting in the city to be retrofitted with low lighting. The idea came after a resident requested the city reduce the amount of light pollution within the city.

The "dark sky" initiative was also put on hold until further study into cost and feasibility.

The city council meets next at 6 p.m. on March 5. This meeting is open to the public.