It’s normally a time for routine business and even light-hearted banter between staff and elected officials. But at the Jan. 23 Stillwater City Council meeting, the staff reports took a somber turn.
“The opioid issue - epidemic - crisis is here,” Police Chief John Gannaway told councilmembers.
“In the end of November, beginning of December, in the span of two weekends we had four opioid overdoses. One was a fatality involving carfentanyl the first weekend. The next weekend we had three, and those involved fentanyl. Without lifesaving measures by our staff and Fire Department staff, two of them would have been fatalities.”
In the past, there have been very infrequent overdoses, Gannaway said, but to see this number of overdoses in such a short time is unprecedented. He said older teenagers and young adults are taking drugs like Percocet that they think is an opioid, but that have been cut with fentanyl, a heavy drug used to tranquilize elephants and big game. “They’re fatal or near fatal every single time,” Gannaway said.
“The fentanyls are so serious that they put all the first responders at risk. We had to send staff home with Narcan (a nasal spray that counteracts the life-threatening effects of drug exposure) in case they felt light headed. You have to treat the home as a hazardous site and it has to be professionally cleaned.”
Gannaway said education and the public’s help are needed to combat the crisis. Unused prescription drugs may be dropped off at the Stillwater Law Enforcement Center or other Washington County locations in Forest Lake, Cottage Grove, Woodbury and Hugo.
“Know what your young adults and your teenagers are doing. Use prescription drug drop-off sites,” he urged. “One family had to arrange a funeral over the holidays. We prefer not to see this again.”
Also on January 22, the Council granted an appeal to the Crosby Hotel for an amendment to the building’s design permit for the installation of four balconies on the hotel’s Main Street façade. The city’s Heritage Preservation Commission had denied the request on the basis that full depth balconies extending beyond the front face of a structure was not consistent with Downtown Design Review District Guidelines. Though they commended the HPC on its diligence, councilmembers said the current “Juliet” style balconies, which the developer installed as a stopgap in order to obtain occupancy, make the building look unfinished and “cheesy.” Councilmember Dave Junker cast the lone no vote, emphasizing the HPC’s goal of maintaining consistency along Main Street by denying the protruding balconies.
In other business on January 22, the Council discussed provisions of a developer’s agreement governing the pending sale of Curve Crest Villas, a 90-unit housing development at Orleans Street and Washington Avenue. When it was constructed in 2001 by developer Tim Nolde, the development utilized tax increment financing under an agreement with the city. Among other provisions, the agreement stipulated that upon the sale of the complex, a portion of the proceeds of the sale be remitted to the city, and also that a percentage of the units remain as “affordable housing.”
Nolde said 72 of the 90 units meet low and moderate income housing requirements. He said the prospective buyer intents to maintain the affordable housing aspect of the development. Attorneys and the city's bond counsel and auditor are reviewing the proposed sale to determine what amount of proceeds is due the city to meet the terms of the original development agreement. The council will revisit the issue at the February 5 meeting.
The Council also:
approved a beekeeping permit for Jeffrey Abbott, 1212 First Street South;
approved an agreement with Sporting St. Croix Soccer Club that grants the club priority use of the fieldhouse at the St. Croix Recreation Center in exchange for a contribution of $300,000 toward the $5 million improvement project involving replacement of the dome structure and turf. Rec Center Manager Doug Brady said this is the third time the club has helped fund facility improvements;
agreed to the replacement of eight downtown light poles by Xcel Energy at a total cost of $18,000. According to Public Works Director Shawn Sanders, the poles - which were installed around 1991 - had deteriorated from salt and other factors. Recognizing that additional poles may need replacement in the near future, the Council may look at other light pole style options. Sanders said he had a meeting scheduled with Xcel representatives to discuss lighting. The shorter decorative pedestrian lights, installed in 1999, are fiberglass and therefore not subject to the same type of corrosion, Sanders said.