City wants escape clause in Levee pact with Corps; council asks staff to modify beekeeping ordinance

The Stillwater City Council agreed Tuesday to move forward with the Army Corps of Engineers on the riverfront levee project pending the inclusion of an escape clause.

On a 3-2 vote, with councilmen Doug Menikheim and Michael Polehna dissenting, the panel agreed to go forward with the Army Corps pending with an escape clause included in the project cooperation agreement by Aug. 1, 2013, allowing the city to get out of project the Army Corps hasn’t started work by then.

“The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior,” Menikheim said, “We’ve been down this road longer than I’ve been on the council and I think we’re really going out on a limb here.”

Polehna agreed with Menikheim, adding that he didn’t trust the Army Corps.

City Attorney Dave Magnuson said that although the Army Corps usually doesn’t allow escape clause provisions to their agreements, would have to include an escape clause for the levee project to move forward with the city.

Although some council members expressed concern about the trustworthiness of the Army Corps, money was a big factor in the council’s decision.

“It really comes down to the $525,000 the city would have to pony up,” said Mayor Ken Harycki. “That’s a half-a-year of street projects we could get done.”

If the city moves forward with the Army Corps on the levee work, they will save $525,000 although a larger cost could be incurred when it came to removing the contaminated soil under the parking lots due to stricter Army Corps guidelines. The worst-case scenario estimate for soil contamination removal if the city did the project is $300,000, but that cost is unknown until work starts on the project.

“Working with the Corps and the MPCA, the Corps will be a lot more stricter on what they want removed, versus if we just dealt with the project,” said City Engineer Shawn Sanders said. “So that cost could drive it higher than if we did it on our own.”

The Army Corps would pay $1.4 million to complete the project. The city’s cost would be 25 percent of the project with grants covering half of that cost.

The council will vote on the agreement — if the escape clause is included by the Army Corps — at the Sept. 18 council meeting.

“It’s just too much money to turn down,” said Councilman Jim Roush.

Other topics discussed at Tuesday’s meeting included:

A second reading of the proposed beekeeping ordinance. Community Development Director Bill Turnblad will rework the current ordinance to include the stipulations:

  • Notifications sent to those living within 150 feet of the property of the proposed beehive.
  • Those objecting to a beehive would get 10 days to appeal a decision on a hive request and they would not be charged the $50 that usually accompanies a special use permit appeal.

The council will hear any hive request complaint. If there are no complaints, the permit will be automatically approved. The third reading of the ordinance and vote will take place Sept. 18.