Things to know for the week of March 22, Red Wing City Council

Every year the Red Wing City Council meets for a two-day workshop. The workshop is a time for the City Council, city committees and commissions and city departments to discuss what they hope to work on and accomplish throughout the year. 

The 2022 meeting was on Friday, Jan. 28, and Saturday, Jan. 29.

A theme that ran through much of the discussion was responding to and preparing for climate change and its impacts. 

The first topic discussed in the workshop was updates to the city’s stormwater plan. 

The public works department presented four projects that are included in the plan: rehabilitating the Plum Street tunnel, working on the Neal Street Ravine, finding ways to prevent downtown flooding, and addressing Cherry Street stormwater because the watershed’s water quality would benefit from the removal of a gravel road. 

The Neal Street Ravine project will address run off, which results in sediment accumulation in Hay Creek. This accumulation results in lower water quality. Hay Creek runs into the Mississippi River, thus impacting the river’s water quality. 

The Neal Street Ravine project is estimated to cost $850,000. Working to reduce downtown Red Wing’s flooding risk will be more expensive and time consuming. 

Public works employees explained that “100 year” weather events are becoming more common. The 2019 flood that covered much of downtown was considered to be a 500- to 700-year event. 

The problem is that extreme weather events are predicted to become more common as climate change continues and currently, Red Wing does not have the infrastructure needed for extreme events. 

Addressing future flooding will be a complicated and phased approach, which will be based on costs and benefits. The city hopes that much of this work will be grant driven. 

A second climate-related item discussed was the installation of electric vehicle charging stations. The city is considering installing a high-speed charging station on Old West Main Street and a level two charger – 12 to 80 miles of charge per hour – in the Studebaker Ramp. The city also plans to purchase its first electric vehicle, which will be used by the inspections department. 

More topics of discussion 

  • Public works and community development staff discussed code and policy updates. 

  • Members of the Arts and Culture Commission discussed a proposed percent-for-the-arts program. The staff report on the topic by City Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann explained, “This type of program designates that a percentage of all capital improvement project funds go toward the commission, purchase and maintenance of artworks –  usually at the site of the infrastructure project.” 

  • Community Engagement Facilitator Michelle Leise presented two potential new services for the city. The workshop agenda summarizes, “The ombudsman program would offer residents a resource when in a dispute with the city. The human rights resource line would provide an avenue for residents to report human rights concerns and get direction on resources for next steps. Both could begin in 2022 as pilot programs to be evaluated at the end of the year. Staff is seeking direction from the Council on options.”

  • The council and staff discussed the city’s fund balance policy and use of American Rescue Plan Act funds. City staff recommend using the ARPA funds to address city needs, such as funding the ambulance, information technology, the sewer and/or water funds. 

  • Housing continues to be a topic of conversation. The council created a list of priorities for the housing discussion. High priorities include: 

    • Bring housing partners together to identify highest housing priorities. 

    • Begin seeking a developer to create more affordable housing. 

    • Begin seeking a developer to create new supportive housing units. 

    • Partner on creating a tenant–landlord connection program. 

    • Help combat the stigma of affordable housing and NIMBY (“not in my back yard”). 

    • Help decrease discrimination in local housing systems. 

    • Help residents get better informed about housing education classes and rental assistance programs. 

    • Help close the language gap in housing information. 

    • Provide and promote a more robust housing assistance program for undocumented residents. 

    • Research pros and cons of using the Red Wing median income ($54,785), instead of Goodhue County’s median income ($66,800) when calculating TIF projects. 

(1) comment

Robert Crouse

Red Wing needs to concentrate on lowering property taxes that are forcing merchants out of business.

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