Arnellia’s gets 10-day closure
The St. Paul City Council, on Mar. 1, smacked Arnellia’s with a $500 fine and a 10-day liquor license suspension, because the bar/restaurant failed to provide St. Paul Police videotapes promptly. The suspension stems from an assault outside of the club at 1182 W. University Ave. after a Nov. 4, 2016 “smack fest.”
Arnellia’s will be closed Mar. 22-31.
A “smack fest” is a contest in which women hit one another in the face. The assault occurred in Arnellia’s parking lot, after a contest, between contestants. The contest, and criminal charges last year as a result of the assault, dismayed club neighbors.
Council President Russ Stark, whose Fourth Ward includes Arnellia’s, said the business is considered an institution. It has operated since the 1990s. “But this smack fest stuff has got to stop,” he said.
James Allen told the City Council he is overseeing Arnellia’s now and that things will change for the better.
Stark expressed concern that after very few problems in recent years, Arnellia’s has had a spate of issues, including three license violations in 18 months. Most recently Arnellia’s ran afoul of city licensing officials for selling liquor to an underage person.
There was also a homicide outside of Arnellia’s in 2015.
Arnellia’s has 18 operating conditions required by the city, including one to have ten video cameras in place. A condition on Arnellia’s liquor license is to have video monitoring and to keep tapes for 30 days in case police need to see them. The business is to turn over requested tapes to police in 48 hours but was unable to do so after the post-smack fest assault.
A third license violation would typically bring a $2,000 fine and a 10-day license suspension, but negotiations with city licensing staff reduced the fine. The negotiations also averted a hearing before an administrative law judge.
Recycling program continues improvement
More than one month in, St. Paul’s new residential recycling program is seeing improvements in tonnage recycled and in service delivery. St. Paul City Council members, irked at so many missed pickups and complaints, want contractor Eureka Recycling to do better. That was the message during a February program update.
“Fix it. Get it done. We hired you to do a service. Live up to the contract,” said Ward Three Council Member Chris Tolbert. He said if performance doesn’t improve, the city needs to look at its legal options under the contract with Eureka.
Tolbert accused Eureka of a lack of planning for the change. “It doesn’t seem like you have enough staff or time to get this done.”
Entire stretches of streets and alleys were missed during the first weeks of collection throughout the city, including in area neighborhoods. A few homeowners reported they still haven’t had recycling collection for a month. Ellen Biales, administrative programs manager for the St. Paul Department of Public Works, and Eureka Co-President Kate Davenport said that some problems were expected during the switch from bins to wheeled, lidded recycling carts. But Biales admitted that the problems were greater than anticipated.
Biales said one bright spot is that more people are recycling and that more items are being recycled. Between Jan. 16 and Feb. 6, Eureka processed 1,291 tons of recyclable material. That is a 19 percent increase over what was collected during the same period last year.
“The transition went well for the vast majority of residents,” Biales said. The largest change in residential recycling in city history, the move to carts affects more than 117,000 households. The city is hearing from residents who haven’t recycled in the past, who are now using the carts.
“However, we know the transition has not gone well for everyone,” Biales added.
Several issues have contributed to the problem. One is not having accurate information on homes and where recycling is to be picked up. A home may show up in a database as having an alley, but a retaining wall may make the alley inaccessible, for example. The city merged multiple data lists to create the cart delivery and pickup routes, but data had to be created for alleys.
Delays in delivering some carts, a high volume of recycling in the early stage of the program, impassable icy and snow-covered alleys and errors in cart placement have also been blamed.
Ward One Council Member Dai Thao questioned why truck drivers were able to get out of the trucks and tag carts for being in the wrong location or other errors, yet not empty the carts. He called that a “waste of time” and said it only created more animosity among residents. Davenport said many carts were emptied manually, but that others were in snowbanks or places where it was unsafe to collect from.
Transit tax changes eyed
Ramsey County is positioning itself for future changes in transit funding. The County Board Feb. 21 set a public hearing for 9am, Tues., Mar. 14 on a possible tax for future transportation projects.
The tax, which could be up to one-half cent, would replace the one-quarter cent tax currently imposed by the Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB), which is being dissolved this month.
CTIB was a joint powers board established in 2008. One key goal has been to promote transit as a way of promoting economic development and stability. All five counties have imposed the one-quarter cent sales tax to invest in and advance regional transit projects. Those include Green Line and Southwest light rail lines.
State law allows the five counties to impose their own transportation taxes if some conditions are met. One is to hold a public hearing on a single county tax. A second is to have a capital improvement plan. The county already has a capital budget plan in place, with budgets outlined for regional rail, parks and recreation, and other needs.
Revenue generated by a sales tax can be utilized for specific transportation projects, as defined in statute as transportation improvements, transit improvements, transit operations and safe routes to schools.
The tax would have to be approved and certified by Mar. 30 to meet a July start-up date.
Pelham bike project
Another piece of the Pelham Blvd. bike improvements has rolled into place. The St. Paul City Council Feb. 22 approved an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) that allows bicycle and pedestrian improvements to be striped onto the street bridge over Interstate 94.
The council and MnDOT have agreed on what is called a “limited use permit” for city use for the bike and pedestrian accommodations on Pelham, in the I-94 right-of-way. The crossing is a small part of the citywide Grand Round system of bicycle and pedestrian connections. Pelham is one of the few remaining area pieces of the Grand Round system to be completed.
City Department of Public Works staff met with neighbors earlier this year to review plans for Pelham, which will go to the City Council later this year for approval.
The Pelham plans are also under review by Union Park District Council and its Transportation Committee.
The agreement between the city and the state allows the city to construct and use bike and pedestrian trails across the bridge, and for the city to maintain the trails. The bridge currently has a narrow sidewalk.