Council reluctantly OKs trail cost sharing accord

OAK PARK HEIGHTS — The Oak Park Heights City Council somewhat reluctantly agreed Tuesday to share the cost of constructing a trail between Osgood and Oxboro avenues as part of a Washington County project rebuilding roads around the Government Center.

The council agreed to have the city pay $20,700, or 75 percent, of the trail construction cost. The trail is part of a $2.5 million project to rebuild streets around county facility.

But several council members wondered why the city was being asked to pay for a trail that does not connect to other current city trails and benefits Government Center employees.

“The thing that strikes me is, it’s a trail to nowhere,” said Councilman Mike Runk.

City Administrator Eric Johnson said the trail cost was not anticipated, but added that county officials say the proposal is consistent, but “better” than current trail construction policies “which normally seeks 100 percent local cost share.

Johnson reminded the council in a memo that city officials hope to extend the proposed trail south on Osgood Avenue.

Johnson said if the council supported the trail cost-sharing agreement, city staff recommends the city not be responsible for trail maintenance; acceptance does not set any precedent; the county completes and conveys all easements for city utilities to the city as determined by the city engineer, and that city and county staffs discuss and resolve at their discretion the merits of the one percent administrative fees.
Councilman Mark Swenson said if the city wants a trail at that location, constructing as part of the county’s project appears the best option.

“If you’re going to do it, do it now while everything is torn up,” he said.
Johnson added that although the proposed Government Center trail does not connect with other city trails, that can be done at a later date.

“Sometimes in trail construction, you don’t get all you want. You get what you can,” he said. “You try to build trails when you can. You get them in when and where you can.”

In other business, the council:

l Learned the city had a clean audit of its 2012 finances. Auditor David Mol said no problems were found and the city is in compliance with state laws.

“We had no disagreements wtih management regarding the audit,” Mol told the council. “It was a good result for 2012.

l Approved two separate park improvement requests from the Park Commission — one to contruct a modest-sized structure at the Moelter playground and the other to install sets of swing sets at Brekke Park and fitness equipment in Swager Park.

Johnson said the Park Commission wants to spend up to $30,000 from the Xcel contribution for Moelter to install a 12-foot by 12-foot covered picnic shelter at the park. That Xcel fund as a balance of more than $580,000.

Johnson said the proposed Moelter shelter would be similar in scale to the Brekke Park facility and be generically designed to work with future developments.
Johnson also notes that St. Croix Valley Baseball representative Chuck LeRoux presented the Park Commission with a proposal that LeRoux’s organization install and maintain a baseball field at Moelter. Although the SCVB idea is in the early stages, a shelter would compliment future use, Johnson adds.

At Brekke Park, the Park Commission recommends installing a pair of swing sets, one near the small playground in the park’s west side and the other on the east side of the park to replace the current swing set too far from the park shelter and other apparatus.

The Park Commission also recommends installing fitness equipment in Swager Park as part of a city trail training circuit. The commission suggests installing two or three items now and adding more equipment in the future.

Johnson said both projects would cost about $12,000 each. He added that the biggest cost are wood chips used around the bases of the equipment. He added that the city was unsuccessful in getting a $15,000 Playful Cities grant for the Swagar Park project.

Both projects would be paid for out of the city’s budgeted project funds, park and trail improvement budget, which has a balance of about $133,000.