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Rochester 5th Ward Information

In an attempt to close the gap between city government and its citizens, especially those I represent in Rochester's Fifth Ward, I will try to provide timely updates on issues and concerns that are under consideration for council action as well as any specific concerns you bring to my attention.

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Location: Rochester, Minnesota, United States

IBM retiree after 32 years, positions in service, marketing, product development, business and product strategy. Many community volunteer boards and committees including Diversity Council, IMAA, Sesquicentennial, RNeighbors (formerly Rochester Neighborhood Resource Center). Elected to City Council in 2002. Represent 5th Ward. Member Environmental Commission, ROCOG (Rochester Olmsted Council of Governments), State Emergency Radio Board, Co-Chair Kiwanis/Wells Fargo Hockey Festival, State Emergency Radio Board

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What's This City Coming To?

Next Wednesday, February 20, the council will discuss an option to have visible security in the form of police officers at all City Council Meetings. This was brought about because of the killing of council members and police in Kirkwood, Missouri a week or so ago. Whenever I find it hard to decide on something it’s either I don’t have enough information or, even with information, it’s a matter that I wonder should be brought up in the first place. So I’m asking you for your thoughts.

I’m not flippant about my life, the life of the other council members, or anyone in the audience, but I’m having a tough time asking to use police resources just because this happened elsewhere. Unfortunately, in an open, free society these things can and do happen. As Police Chief Peterson said about having restricted access or metal detectors at all entrances, (paraphrasing) - “Restricted access to Government is no access to Government”. Should we then have someone follow me to my car in the parking lot, as I go home, when I go out in public, at Grandma’s Kitchen? Don’t think so. At this time I’m thinking that we should leave things as they are unless we have reason to request otherwise (and we did that once last year.)

Then there’s the shooting in DeKalb that still doesn’t make any sense to anyone.

Should we carry? Are you kidding? I need both hands to talk.

So, what do you think?

Send me your thoughts -- bobnow@charter.net .



Saturday, January 05, 2008

Back Again in '08

'08 will be GREAT!

Well so far so good. Got the Kiwanis Wells Fargo Hockey Festival behind me, behaved myself on New Year's eve, got back on my treadmill (well, twice this week), and besides having a sewer backup before Christmas in the Northern Hills area, things are looking good.

We've also grown to over 100,000 population on New year's day. With the annexation of the Marvale addition over 1000 residents joined our ranks to push our population to over 100,000 according to our Director of Planning, Phil Wheeler -- and Phil is not known to be wrong in these matters.

The PB had a very good article on January 2 and in it there were references to "City of the First Class".
Since then I'd had several people ask me about this and just what does it mean. We've always said and known that we're a first class city so what's this about?

We're still trying to figure it out. See, its a Minnesota State designation and there are many statutes buried in State Statutes that apply to a "City of the First Class" but they're interspersed in the books. There's no one source for us to go to as the last city to become a City of the First Class was Duluth and that was in 1935!

We've got until about 2011 or 2012 before we'll see any effect or need to take any action but in a proactive move we commissioned a work effort last summer under the guidance of the Charter Commission and our City Attorney's Office to find these statutes so we could get a heads up on what faces us.

It was a tremendous piece of work and you can see the results on our home page. Go on line to http://www.rochestermn.gov/departments/administration/projects/firstclass/firstclasscity.asp

The Excel worksheet "Master Table of Statutes" can be downloaded. The statutes are identified and broken down even to the department level. We even have those statutes identified that affect the County and School District -- why not as long as our researcher was in there.

If you see something interesting then click on the link and you will go on line to the actual full statute in the State's books. Pretty neat!

Anyway, I thought you might be interested in what happens behind the scenes.

If anything interesting happens I'll be in touch otherwise Joan and I are off to a much belated visit with kids and grandkids in Florida. We plan to leave on Jan 14 and return on the 29th. I'll be checking e-mail from time to time but don't plan on being compulsive about the matter. Hope you understand.



Monday, September 10, 2007

New Ordinance Highlights Booklet

Sometime ago I mentioned that I was working on a new, improved, updated Rochester City Ordinance Highlights booklet which is intended to help you better understand the "rules" especially in regards to your relationship with your neighbors and vice versa. It's a selection of the key ordinances that may cause neighbor-to-neighbor problems, in a shortened form, with reference to the "official" ordinance as well as a phone numbest of the appropriate city department to call for more information or action.

We also tried to include references to useful city resources that many do mot know about.

This was a collaborative effort between the RNeighbors Board (of which I'm a member), citizen supporters, and the City and we thanks them all.

Printed hard copies will be available at the City Clerk's office at City Hall, the Rochester Public Library, on the information table outside the Council Chambers before every City Council meeting, and at the RNeighbors office (call 529-4150). You may find these useful to distribute to new neighbors or to discuss at Neighborhood Association meetings and the like.

You may contact me for more detail or if you'd like me to attend a neighborhood gathering to talk about this.

Oh, electronic copies and access may be had either from the Rochester City home page http://Rochestermn.gov or the RNeighbors web site http://RNeighbors.org .

Bob Nowicki

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Spending Tax $$$ Wisely – Community Service Officers

The Post Bulletin had an article last Monday, August 13, 2007 about a proposal Police Chief Peterson was going to make (and did) to the city council regarding a civilian response team that would respond to non-emergency calls. The idea is to free certified police officers from these non-emergency calls to make better use of their time and skills for the more serious crime prevention, traffic enforcement, and the more serious calls that require a fully trained police enforcement officer.

I think this makes a lot of sense. So much sense that you have to wonder why we hadn’t done this before. It’s relatively new here in the US but is a plan that the chief studied and has taken the best parts of from a plan in place in London. (This is called research.)

Of course the article and the proposal has raised a lot of questions. Good questions from the council as well as some of you. We don’t yet have a job description but it’s coming. Ditto for more detail. But the gist of the plan is that with the every growing population there have been a rising number of calls for service which impact our ability to respond to the more serious calls so why don’t we hire and train staff to handle these calls and let the fully trained officers respond to the calls that require their training?.

The growing number of calls are fortunately not of the serious crime nature but they impact the PD’s ability to respond to the serious calls or to do important crime prevention activities like show lots of visibility in potential crime areas, businesses etc … be around more on the street for traffic enforcement … respond even faster to emergency calls.

The CSO’s would be trained to respond to time consuming report writing calls after a break in, vandalism, and so on. They would be the ones to take pictures, fill out accident reports or record a crime scene. You don’t need a badge and a gun to do these things. They’d wear distinctive uniforms and be highly visible. They could do great PR kind of things on the downtown area like give directions, keep the peace in Peace Plaza or the new 1st Street Mall. They would have radios and be in contact with the regular police officer in case of need.

We haven’t adopted it yet but are considering it for next year’s budget. Having 4 full time and 12 part time officer for less that $900,000 is a lot smarter, I think, than hiring 16 additional officers for $1.5 million --- and then using them for these same mundane tasks..

You’ll see more as we develop the plan in the paper, on the city’s home page, from me, and from the PD so stay tuned.

Bob Nowicki

Monday, July 02, 2007

Ward Update - July 1

I'm back from attending the League of Minnesota Cities Conference for elected officials in Duluth. Went to a bunch of sessions and hope some of the things I learned will stick. It was a very good conference. Ardell was elected and sworn it as 2nd Vice President so in two years he'll be the big kahuna (opps. Sorry Mr. Hazama.) Sandra Means, Marcia Marcoux, the Mayor and I attended as well as Donna Bussell, the mayor's assistant, Park Director, Ron Bastian and others from the Rochester Convention and Visitor's Bureau. They were there to not only see what they could learn but to represent Rochester as we will be the host for the conference next year. Rah-Rah-Rochester!

PRESCRIBED BURN AT SILVER LAKE: As you visit Silver Lake no doubt you will notice the work going on in preparation for the vegetation seeding and transplanting. A prescribed burn of some of the shoreline areas will be conducted sometime in July so if you see smoke from the area stay away if you are sensitive to smoke or remain indoors until it passes. (and you might want to hold off on calling the Fire Department) It's anticipated that the area to be burned will be small due to the type of vegetation present and preparation required. Burns will take part in small sections at a time and timing will be dependent on weather and wind conditions. Burns will take place on weekdays between 7am and 7pm. Of course, the contractor is experienced in conducting these burns and will coordinate and obtain the necessary burn permits from the Fire Department.

WARD VISIT WITH THE MAYOR?: The Mayor and I have discussed holding some kind of town hall meetings in wards on a regular basis. I know the Mayor always follows the open door policy and takes calls, visits, and is out and about in his normal course of the day. I try to do the same as do other council members.

We were wondering, however, if having the Mayor and council member host an open meeting session somewhere would be of benefit to you. If so, when and where? Right now you know that I'm at Grandma's Kitchen every Friday from 7 to 8:30 (or as long as there's someone there to talk to). The Mayor thinks that perhaps we should start off there to see what kind of response we get. What do you think?

When we come up with some kind of plan we'll publish a schedule in the paper, our city home page, probably talk about it on the radio and of course I'll let you all know in my Ward Updates.
Let me know what you think or let the Mayor know at abrede@ci.rochester.mn.us

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ward Update

TRANSITIONAL HOUSE (brought to your attention in my 4/10 update): The council approved city ordinance and land development manual changes which would lay out the conditions for a conditional use approval of a residence to house newly released prisoners who would be otherwise homeless into our community. The net is that a house or dwelling unit (apartment) cannot house more than 5, must be at least 1000 feet apart from one another, and if housing any type of sex offender must not be closer than 500 feet from a day care center or 1000 feet from a school, playground, or other child-oriented facility. A neighborhood informational meeting is mandatory (within a 500 foot radius) and city council approval is required. The Department of Corrections will oversee these requests and establishments. They are currently planning to only have 4 of these homes in Rochester. This is the big picture. Contact me if you have any further questions.

FIRST STREET PLAZA: We awarded the low bid for the First Street Plaza to Pember Construction for $2,872,156.69. Work will begin in June and mostly completed this fall. This was a re-bid as the first bid came in at $4.1 M which was almost $1 M over the preliminary engineering estimate. Staff, working with the design engineers, pared down the design requirements coming up with a figure closer to what we were prepared to fund.

SILVERLAKE BUFFER PROJECT: The project to provide a native plant buffer around Silver Lake had been formally approved at last night's council meeting. The purpose is to reduce fecal coliform bacteria from entering Silver Lake and the Zumbro River as a result of goose and other animal droppings on the shoreline. The buffer zone will begin from about 10 feet off the shoreline in the water to about 30 feet of shoreline. More information about the project and goose management can be found at http://www.rochestermn.gov/departments/administration/projects/geesemanagement.asp . Some interesting stuff in there. One of the most interesting is about Angel Wing, the condition we see sometimes at Silver Lake with some geese that are mistake as wounded. This came up when we first proposed no feeding of the geese and received flak for not helping the poor "wounded" critters. If you read the article you'll see that these geese are healthy, can fly (I'd been amazed the first time I saw this happen) and the condition is attributed to a nutritional condition due to TOO MUCH FOOD! How's that for a twist?

PEDDLER PERMITS: It's the time of year when door-to-door sales reps knock on your door again. Be advised that they must have a "Peddler's Permit", issued by the city clerk. Don't be afraid to ask to see it. A company ID will not do. If you have any doubt don't hesitate to report these people to the police. They may be going door to door to see who's home so they could come back again a bit later to break in and rob you.
The exceptions are political campaigners, religious evangelists (unless they are selling something), non-profit fundraising activities such as Youth Hockey, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, school fundraisers. If in doubt, call the police or the city clerk's office 328-2900.
I had a request to look into the hours that they could solicit. Staff is looking into what other cities are doing. We will have a discussion on this either at our June 4th Committee of the Whole meeting or the one after on June 11th.
What do you think are reasonable hours for solicitation? I'd like to know. Tell me what you think.



Friday, April 27, 2007

General Ward Update

LITTERBIT BETTER: Well, the Litterbit Better Cleanup campaign has certainly cleaned up a good chunk of the 5th Ward thanks to many dedicated volunteers. I hope that we will all do our bit to keep it clean.

RNeighborWoods Tree Planting: I'm getting ready to plant some trees on Elton Hills Drive tomorrow, Saturday. Doing it as a board member of RNeighbors, one of the initiators of RNeighborwoods, one of the first certified Citizen Foresters, council member interested in making the city more tree friendly and beautiful, and all around sucker for a good cause.

Perhaps in your travels along Elton Hills Dr.in the last couple of days you noticed the holes dug in the parkways with trees sitting waiting to be planted. These 100 trees are to replace the trees removed due to interference with the power lines and trimming causing structural decay over the years. We're going to start planting at 8:30 on Elton Hills Dr. with a rally at the Rochester Lutheran School and wrap up at the same place with a picnic for all the volunteers. Kids and adults are welcome. Bring gloves, a spade if you have one or just come over to supervise.

EMERALD ASH BORER: I just received a note from Jacob Ryg, our city Forester, regarding the possibility of importing the dreaded emerald ash borer into Minnesota with improperly processed Taylors Wood Products. Apparently the bark hadn't been removed from the logs and could harbor the ash borer which has been devastating trees in Michgan and moving towards us at an alarming rate.

I don't have any information about this product other than what is described in the memo but thought you should know about this just in cas you use the product. I have three very nice ash trees that I'd like to keep for as long as possible and sure that some of you do as well so if we can do something to prevent an even earlier arrival of this pest then let's do it.



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