Council discusses closures, inspectors

By Lorrie Ham
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The Spring Park City Council heard a report from Scott Qualle of MNSPECT, which serves as the city’s building official, at the council’s April 3 meeting. Qualle was on hand to explain the basis of the state building code and answer questions for the council.

The Minnesota State Legislature sets a state-wide standard for a building code, Qualle explained. Cities are required to comply with the code as written, which simplifies the permitting process for contractors working within different communities across the state.

Permits are required by code for any building or construction projects, while maintenance type projects generally do not, said Qualle. One exception is the installation of new windows, doors, siding and roofs, which do need permits because of code requirements that must be met.

Qualle said that permit fees in the City of Spring Park are generally low – lower than the neighboring communities.

“You’ll probably be looking at changes to the fee schedule during the year,” he said.

Changes to the MNSPECT service contract, now 10 years underway, may also have to be considered, he added.

In order to offset an anticipated shortfall of certified building inspectors in the coming years, Qualle said he’d like to develop an apprenticeship program.

“Nearly 50 percent of all currently certified inspectors will retire within the next few years,” he said.

MNSPECT currently has nine inspectors serving 17 communities in the metro area, including Spring Park.

Mayor Jerry Rockvam thanked Qualle for the informative presentation.

In another matter, the council discussed the impact that the Metropolitan Council’s closure of the Cooks Bay Bridge and Wilshire Boulevard in the City of Mound will have in the city of Spring Park. The closure, which will be in effect at least through the end of this year, forces all residents of the Island Park portion of Mound, as well as the Minnetrista and Shorewood residents living on the adjacent islands, to use Interlachen Road, the only accessible roadway to connect to Shoreline Boulevard in Spring Park.

“The traffic light will be a concern,” said Mayor Rockvam. “I hope they make significant changes to the timing of the light.”

City Administrator Dan Tolsma said he has been in contact with the City of Mound and will keep the council updated. As far as the traffic light, Tolsma said the staff will keep an eye on the traffic situation, but that the signal’s timing would be a county decision.

In another administrative matter, Tolsma asked the council for dates for a goal-setting session.  The last meeting for that purpose was in the fall of 2015. Tolsma suggested a separate meeting, possibly on April 24. The council was somewhat divided on the need for the meeting. Mayor Rockvam said he’d like to limit the number of meetings and asked what the agenda would be.

Tolsma explained that it would provide an opportunity for councilmembers to bring up concerns and some ideas for the future of the city.
“The meeting would focus on the future more than regular monthly activities,” he said.

Rockvam then suggested replacing the council’s regular monthly work session with the goal setting session, suggesting that two meetings wouldn’t be necessary. The council’s regular work session is scheduled one hour prior to the second regular meeting of the month.

“I completely disagree,” said Councilmember Megan Pavot, who felt a separate meeting was important. “I wouldn’t want to be rushed if we were in the middle of a discussion,” added Councilmember Pamela Horton.

Councilmember Catherine Palen asked for a consensus. She said she had a list of items to bring to the table and favored a separate meeting. Pavot said she was “excited about it” and looking forward to what everyone had to say. By consensus, the council set a goal-setting session for April 24 at 6 p.m.
In other business, the council appointed Bruce Homan to the city’s planning commission to fill a vacancy for a term that is set to expire in 2018. Homan was selected from three candidates who applied for the opening.