August 19, 2019 Work Session Minutes

AUGUST 19, 2019 – 6:00 PM

CALL TO ORDER - The work session was called to order by Mayor Rockvam at 6:00 p.m.

Council Members Present: Jerome P. Rockvam, Mayor; Pamela Horton; Gary Hughes; Catherine Kane Palen; and Megan Pavot

Staff Present: Dan Tolsma, City Administrator; Brian Hare, City Engineer; Mary Tietjen, City Attorney; and Theresa Schyma, City Clerk


City Engineer Hare presented a summary of the feasibility study including:
• Project Area History
• Fire Apparatus Access Road restriction, NFPA/IFC Non-compliance and Risk
• Aging Sanitary/Water and Risk
• Proposed Improvements and Cost

Ben Foster, Mound Fire Department, spoke about the fire department’s vehicle inventory and what vehicles are able to access West Arm Road West in an emergency. He detailed challenges and issues with the current configuration of the road in regards to emergency vehicles. He discussed the non-compliance issues with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and International Fire Code (IFC). He stated that current law does apply to existing structures but it not a mandated requirement based on age of structure; however, any alterations to current buildings or the addition of new buildings would trigger non-compliance.

Mayor Rockvam asked if removing center pillar of the bridge would help current access issues.

Mr. Foster responded yes.

Council Member Hughes stated that the Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority (HCRRA) had an issue in the past with the City’s request to remove the center pillar since it is their property.

City Administrator Tolsma responded that since that time it seems the Three Rivers Park District (TRPD) has said that all permissions would need to go through their office in regards to that bridge. However, in recent discussions with the TRPD they did seem open to looking at options for modifying or even possibly replacing it with another bridge they currently have in stock.

Council Member Pavot stated that removing the center pillar would give additional width for vehicles but it would not give additional height to vehicles which is another issue as well.

Mayor Rockvam stated that as long as the City uses salt to address any snow and ice buildup then height isn’t an issue. He added that he would like to see the center pillar removed but has heard from some residents who do not want to see it removed since they view the pillar as a traffic calming measure.

City Engineer Hare also discussed the scenario of getting some land from HCRRA to widen the road which is similar to what occurred on West Arm Road East.

City Engineer Hare asked Mr. Foster about the low clearance issue.

Mr. Foster responded that low clearance is an issue but the fire department vehicles have never truly been unable to get to a house during a past emergency.

City Engineer Hare added that increasing the width of the road is beneficial to allow other emergency vehicles to access at one time.

Council Member Hughes added that residents who are located at the end of the road also have no other way out if there are emergency vehicles blocking the road.

Council Member Pavot asked Mr. Foster for clarification on if the City would be in violation of the NFPA/IFC if a new home is built or a current home is improved on West Arm Road West.

Mr. Foster responded yes, but stated there is also some gray area, because if one building on the road is altered then the road needs to meet all current standards; it does kind of change for everybody on the road because the road will no longer be in compliance.

City Attorney Tietjen asked Mr. Foster if the NFPA considered the extent of an alteration or remodel and if minor repairs would trigger the NFPA.

Mr. Foster responded that the State Fire Code doesn’t address those specifics but he believes that anything requiring a building permit could potentially trigger non-compliance.

Mayor Rockvam asked if the City would be liable for a future incident if the City chooses not to do anything regarding the access issues on West Arm Road West if it shows the City is in violation of the NFPA. He further asked if insurance would cover the City in that scenario.

City Attorney Tietjen responded that if it is an existing road before the requirements went into place then strictly speaking the City would not have a legal obligation to bring it into compliance right now. However, there is always a slightly higher risk to the City when the City is aware of problems but has chosen not to resolve them. The City does have a fair amount of discretion in setting priorities and budgets but you can open the door to issues when there are known risks. As far as how insurance would cover that type of incident, that is really a question for the City’s insurance carrier.

Council Member Pavot stated she believes that this is something the City should be ahead of since it is borderline unsafe and because major remodels or new structures are going to trigger the NFPA; the housing stock on West Arm Road West is aging so it is safe to assume that some of those homes will be remodeled or rebuilt in the near future.

City Administrator Tolsma also discussed another option of creating an access for public safety/emergency vehicles only that is not striped or signed for through travel. He discussed potential administrative issues when residents request the road be opened for housing, building, or landscaping projects.

Council Member Pavot asked how that road would differ from a regular road and what the benefits would be.

City Engineer Hare responded that it would be more cost prohibitive.

Mayor Rockvam stated that another issue for creating that type of access road is that the land necessary does not belong to the City. That land has been with the same family for over 50 years and they have opposed this type of request before.

City Administrator Tolsma responded that there would need to be discussions with property owners but it is important to discuss all options in order to get the Council on board with their preferred option so that the project can move forward.

Council Member Hughes asked about the most recent documentation for removing the center pillar of the bridge.

City Engineer Hare responded that the last documentation was from 2006. He added that since it has been quite some time since that documentation that the City would need to have a structural engineer look at it and go from there.

Mayor Rockvam stated that the City needs to approach the TRPD to see if it is a possibility and go from there.

Mr. Foster stated that it would probably be most beneficial for emergency vehicle access to remove the center pillar. He added that the City needs to figure out some way to make the road more accessible to emergency vehicles; if there is not an access road then the City needs to have a very strict plowing schedule to ensure snow and ice cannot buildup under the bridge since it creates a low clearance issue for emergency vehicles in the winter. He also asked about compliant turnarounds.

City Engineer Hare responded that a modified hammerhead turnaround could be a possibility with land acquisition but a cul-de-sac or a full hammerhead turnaround is not really an option.

City Engineer Hare detailed the history and age of infrastructure including sanitary sewer, storm sewer, and water mains, asset management plan results/priority list, consequences of failures, and trenchless technology.

Mayor Rockvam asked about cost of the project especially if the City decided to complete only the water and sewer work.

City Engineer Hare responded that the figure of $300,000 wouldn’t include creating an access road or restoration of the damaged road that is beyond its age cycle.

Mayor Rockvam stated that the residents are not in favor of this project but if the NFPA states that you can’t remodel or add new homes until you are compliant then that is a key piece of information that needs to be considered.

Mayor Rockvam stated the best option is to get land on the south side of the road from HCRRA.

City Engineer Hare responded that HCRRA has said they are going to look at cost and we are currently waiting on a response from their ROW representative.

City Engineer Hare stated there is a cost benefit to doing this project all at once but there is also a benefit to parsing out the project for less hardship on residents.

Council Member Pavot said that the City needs to comply with the standard now and be proactive. She wants the City to consider the options and get this right the first time.

Council Members Horton and Kane Palen agree with Council Member Pavot.

The City Council consensus was to continue this discussion at a future work session.


3. ADJOURN – The work session was adjourned by unanimous consent at 7:03 p.m.

Date Approved: September 16, 2019

Dan Tolsma, City Administrator

Theresa Schyma, City Clerk