Approximately 50 residents got involved in their city government at Maplewood’s first ever town hall meeting Tuesday night in the council chambers. It was organized to bring out residents’ concerns on topics such as traffic and parking, housing, public safety and parks.
Acting city manager, Anthony Traxler, started the meeting by reviewing some highlights.
- Former city manager, Marty Corcoran, retired in Sept. after 36 years with the city. A new one is expected to be hired in three to six months.
- Two new police officers have been hired, and Kathy Condon-Boettcher has replaced longtime director Terry Donnelly as the library head.
- A new street sweeper and a fire department pumper truck and are coming.
- The city’s tenth park opened this year — the skate park, next to the pool.
- People want to live here. Eight new homes, including renovations and new construction have been built or are planned.
- An apartment building at 7178 Manchester has been renovated and is at 100% occupancy.
- The aquatic center is adding a splash pad.
- A citywide traffic study, and citizen and business surveys are planned.
Traxler said several times that this year’s budget is tight. He said later in the meeting it’s partly because of three reasons: 1) The last significant increase in sales tax revenue was in 2011-2012. The current 2019 sales tax collections are less than they were as long ago as 2012. He said online sales are to blame. 2) The annual telephone gross receipts taxes since 2011 are down 52%, or $298,994. The loss of land line phones is the reason. 3) The collection of traffic fines since 2011 is down 75%, or $748,595. He said people just aren’t paying their fines.
These three items account for a loss of about $1 million in a $9 million budget.
He also said 75% of the budget goes to staff salaries, and of course the city doesn’t want to lay anyone off. He also said some items needed by the fire and police departments are very expensive: $185,000 for a self-contained breathing apparatus, $70,000 for cardiac monitors and $100,000 for portable mobile radios, for example.
Later in the meeting the residents were asked to go to different parts of the room and put their questions and suggestions on sticky notes on boards with the topics: Traffic and Parking, Public Safety, Housing, Parks and Recreation, Senior Advisory Board, and Other Questions and Concerns. The council members reviewed the responses later in the meeting. The city plans to post these comments on its website.
Mayor Barry Greenberg said the Senior Advisory Board is looking for volunteers, saying it’s hard to age in place in Maplewood in the older houses, many that don’t have first floor bathrooms. Also there are no assisted living facilities.
After the town hall the council held a regular meeting where council members took the first votes to approve placing a stop sign on southbound Sutton Boulevard at the Marietta Avenue intersection. A resident and more than one council member spoke of recent accidents or near-accidents at the corner. The final vote is planned for the next meeting.
The final vote was taken to approve a bill to add a 72-hour parking restriction on the Marietta parking lot. After the meeting Traxler said the reason for the bill is to give the city a way to keep vehicles (possibly broken down) from being parked there for months.
— Charlie Hinderliter (@cmhinderliter) January 29, 2020