It’s not the life she or her parents or siblings would have wanted for him, but thanks to Stillwater Residence, Louise Jones said, her brother has a safe, friendly place to call home.
Her brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 22, before drugs were developed to help people with the disease. He has been living at the Olive Street group home since 1990.
Addressing city officials during the open forum portion of the June 4 council meeting, Jones responded to concerns aired by neighbors during the May 22 meeting “so the general public who follow the council meetings can hear another side to the story.”
“It’s uncomfortable to be around people who exhibit behaviors that are not the norm. I’m ashamed to admit that for many years I rarely visited him for that reason although I live only five minutes away. But for the last 16 years I have visited him weekly, sometimes more often,” she said.
“It’s a safe place and in my experience quite different from the one described at your last meeting. The staff are wonderful, caring people who watch out for everyone and who work to make it a safe space.”
Jones said the facility has a fire escape, stores all medications under double lock, prohibits alcohol and has 24-hour security cameras. “For the record, the two women currently living there share a bedroom and a bathroom which is right next to the office on the first floor. 28 men share bedrooms and bathrooms on the second and third floors and on the other side of the first floor,” she told the Council.
She urged the councilmembers to visit the residence, saying she hasn’t witnessed the volatile situation the neighbors say they’ve experienced. “Do I love where my brother lives? No, but it’s his home, and if there are issues I wish they could be discussed without hyperbole.”
In other business, the Council was briefed on the riverbank stabilization project slated for next year. Karen Keenan, planning engineer with AMI Consulting, said the $3.3 million project will stabilize eroded slopes and create 1,200 feet of pedestrian trail from Lowell Park to the Bergstein Shoddy Mill area in Bridgeview Park, including three overlooks. Engineers will hold a design open house in the fall and a construction open house this winter. Construction should be completed by December 2020; work near St. Croix Boat and Packet and the Dock Cafe will take place in the winter to avoid the busy summer months.
Councilmember Dave Junker asked if anything can be done to alleviate confusion in the area of the boats, especially with boat patrons and workers, bikers, trail users and pedestrians all trying to pass through a congested area. Keenan pledged to work with the city toward a solution, adding that the change of pavement may help contain pedestrian traffic.
Meanwhile, officials are sharpening their focus on property-related nuisances. City Attorney Kori Land reviewed existing ordinances and suggested changes aimed at broadening the definition of a public nuisance, establishing reasonable compliance deadlines and strengthening enforcement options. Some violations involving public safety may be abated immediately and assessed to the property owner, while other issues may be best resolved through the administrative citation process. No notice would be required prior to city action for the second offense within 12 months, city license violations, or those regarding parking, animals, noise, fire code or emergency situations. Work on the language will continue; the ordinance revisions will come before the Council at a later date.
The Council also authorized submittal of a request for State funding in 2020 for restoration of the Bergstein buildings, a project that will cost around $1,600,000. A preliminary architectural analysis suggesting possible uses for the historic buildings was completed in 2015; a business plan will be drafted this year. City Administrator Tom McCarty said capital funding requests that have regional public impact and a 50% funding match stand a better chance of receiving funding through the State's bonding process.
While the Council plans to look for funding for development of the Aiple property in the future, he said asking now for funds for that site would be premature because an architectural analysis and design has not yet been done for the property.
The Council also:
• urged residents to lock their cars, even if they’re inside a garage, after a number of break-ins and car thefts, including entry into occupied homes through garage doors;
• formally approved an event contract for Lumberjack Days 2019;
• and presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Community Thread for coordinating volunteer sandbagging efforts during the flood. Nearly 375 volunteers spent over 1,300 hours filling sandbags and building the dike to protect against the flood of 2019.