Zephyr abatement moves forward; armory-related ordinances pass

Gazette Photo by David Fabio Minnesota Zephyr train owner David Paradeau was given a two-week extension to make arrangement to have the engine of the defunct dinner train moved from its downtown Stillwater resting place. If Paradeau cannot get the engine moved, the city will have it done and assess the cost to Paradeau's property.
Gazette Photo by David Fabio

After giving Minnesota Zephyr train owner David Paradeau a two-week extension and what a Stillwater city official called another in a series of many broken promises, the Stillwater City Council voted Tuesday to go forward with an abatement order against Paradeau and move the engine back to Paradeau’s  property.

“At the last council meeting, subject to my approval if there was a performance bond, insurance and a guaranteed time that the train could be moved we would grant him the 35-day extension he has asked for,” said City Administrator Larry Hansen.

Hansen added that to Paradeau’s credit, K&K Recycling Co. called Hansen Dec. 5 and spoke with Hansen and City Attorney Magnuson about what the city needed. But Hansen said he hadn’t heard from the company until Tuesday morning when company officials said they couldn’t meet the city’s needs.

Meanwhile, Hansen said C&J Railroad has called him and said that they could make arrangements to buy it. When another company called the city and claimed they had an exclusive brokerage agreement to sell the engine, Hansen asked the council for direction.

Mayor Ken Harycki said it was a matter of leverage, the city’s likely need to build a levee for the spring floods in the current Zephyr staging area, adding that the city was likely in the strongest position going forward.

“If we agree to C&J Railroad, we lose our leverage to move the train off our property, and residents just want to get this gone. If the sale goes through, we lose our leverage to get paid, so we would have leverage right now and no leverage after he sells it,” Harycki said.

“It is a safety issue,” Hansen said. “People are breaking into the train and city planning has informed me that when they go on the train it wiggles, which is why we issued the abatement order in the first place.”

Ward 4 Councilman Mike Polehna said it was time to move forward with the abatement, adding that the city had given Paradeau enough time to deal with the situation.

“We’ve been patient enough,” added Ward 1 Councilman Doug Menikheim. “Let’s move it back onto the tracks and put the responsibility for the train back on Mr. Paradeau’s back where it belongs.”

The council voted unanimously for the abatement. It will cost the city an estimated $12,000 thta will be assessed to Paradeau’s property taxes. He will have to pay off the money over time.

The council also passed two ordinances and a title transfer that allows the National Guard Armory and central fire station projects to move forward.

In two unanimous votes, the city approved designating the 18.9-acre site of the future armory to the RB zone and allow firehouses and armories to be built in the RB zones.

The land title transfer to the National Guard passed 4-1, with Ward 2 Councilwoman Micky Cook dissenting.

“I noticed there was a member of the National Guard in the audience tonight and I just want you to know that with all due respect, though I support our efforts to centrally locate our fire house, I cannot support transferring the title to the armory,” Cook said before the vote. “I believe that the expenses incurred with this project are not in the best interest of the city. It is a tough decision and it is absolutely no reflection on my profound respect for the work of the National Guard but simply about the issue of large expenditures in difficult times and I thank you for understanding.”

After the title transfer ordinance was passed, the Guard Col. Bruce Jensen gave a project update.

“We’ve completed most of the designs and I know that there is some consternation and concern with the fiscal cliff. But this project is still on track and moving forward,” Jensen said. “The title transfer was one of the key pieces we need to move forward and I believe that the armory will be something that Stillwater will be proud of. Thank you very much for your work and cooperation.”

The council also:

  • Heard a presentation from Doug Brady about the Lily Lake Ice Arena retro-fitting project. The project began March 5 and finished in October. Brady said due to hard work by the ice arena staff and donations from area businesses, the project’s overall $520,000 cost was about $200,000 less than what it would have cost if the city had chosen other consultants.
  •  City Engineer Shawn Sanders said beginning Thursday morning, remaining snow in downtown Stillwater would be removed over the next two nights and snow ordinances would be enforced.
  • Declared December 2012 “Sara Damon Month” in honor of a Stillwater Junior High School teacher who has brought geography to life for the students of the district, facilitated fundraising of six wells in South Sudan and acknowledged her efforts in bringing representatives of South Sudan’s lost boys to speak to the community.
  • Had Girl Scout Troop 53680 lead the Pledge of Allegiance and sing a two Christmas carols: “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”