Brown’s Creek Trail work on track

Work on the highly-anticipated Brown’s Creek Trail is scheduled to start as early as next spring, the Stillwater City Council learned Tuesday.

State Department of Natural Resources spokesman Kent Skaar said the DNR has completed the survey of the land and railroad track removal is almost finished from downtown Stillwater to County Road 5. Track removal is expected to be completed in the beginning of November, he added.

Skaar said the DNR is entering the trail planning stage, with plans particularly focused on bridges on the trail.

Skaar reported that the Minnesota 95 bridge is about 75 percent complete and is a matter of restoring and raising the current span. The bridge project includes railings above the steel girders and unlike other trail bridges, it will be a paved. The bridge work will be let in a two-stage bid in the spring.

“The trail bridge near Oak Glen Golf Course is up for bid, and we need to decide to bid that bridge as a larger package with the two other bridges or put it out on it’s own,” Skaar said.

Skaar said the Manning Avenue Bridge is less than 50 percent complete and the style of that span has not been determined. The trail will not open completely until this bridge is finished.

Skaar said the total cost of the project including the trail and bridges is around $3.1 million. Funds for the project include $1.7 million in bonds, $270,000 from the sale of the track and a substantial chunk of legislative funds in fiscal year 2013 or FY 2014 of $500,000. The project lacks another $700,000 that would possibly be funded by the city. There was talk at the council work meeting about possibly using downtown-area TIF funds, but Mayor Ken Harycki indicated that the city would try to get that funding from the government.

Once the $700,000 is found, Skaar said the trail would be well on its way.

“Once the planning process is complete, the DNR could be ready to go in the spring regardless of the bids,” he said. “Some of our construction schedule could extend in to ’14 but most of the work could be completed quickly in the spring.”

At the regular meeting later Tuesday night, the council denied a resident’s request to leave his temporary parking structure up throughout the winter.

Chuck Hoffman said he would use it to store his car during the winter due to pending surgery that would put him in recovery for four to six weeks and require him to use crutches. He expressed concern about dealing with ice in the winter on his car.

Hoffman said his home has a three-car garage, and he has three cars, although he uses the last garage stall for his tools and his dog kennel in the winter, which is why he installed the temporary structure.

Hoffman’s structure violates the city’s size ordinance and city officials want Hoffman to take the structure down.

Addressing concerns brought up by Ward 2 Councilwoman Micky Cook, Hoffman said he would give his word that the temporary structure would be removed in May as required by the city.

Cook said she was confused by why Hoffman couldn’t store his four-wheel drive car in one of his garage stalls and leave the other one he didn’t use outside. Ward 4 Councilman Jim Roush added that he thought Hoffman wanted to pick and choose the vehicles he used every day.

“My question with this is, is there really a hardship,” Roush said. “He had mentioned that he had all these neighbors and friends, could they help you take down the structure?”

“I understand the hardship aspect of it,” Ward 4 Councilman Mike Polehna added. “You saw me after my surgery I could barely get around here.”

Roush moved to deny the request, which passed on a 3-2 vote with Polehna and Ward 1 Councilman Doug Menikheim dissenting.

Also at the meeting, the council:

  • Voted  4-1 to approve an armory use agreement allowing the city to start the process of writing up a deed to transfer of the armory land to the National Guard. The agreement outlines public use of the facility, the joint operation agreement, and ensures that the land is transferable back to the city if needed later on.
  • Cook opposed the agreement, saying she was consistent with her other votes on the issue and felt there were too many unknowns involved with this agreement.
  • Tabled a public hearing on a family’s request for a variance to build a pool in the backyard of their home. City officials want to do more research on the request.
  • A resolution from an earlier meeting was re-written saying that parking fines will now be $15 and an additional $25 fee will be charged in addition to the $15 if the payment is ten days late.
  • Approved a request to find a replacement for an employee who has resigned from public works. Due to a hiring freeze council approval was needed.
  • Learned that Third Street is expected to reopen to traffic by week’s end.