Trail turmoil prompts reaction, meeting request

The Baldwin Township board talked at length during its May 19 meeting about its disappointment in communication with the city of Princeton regarding a paved trail along Rum River Drive South that is supposed to connect with township road 313th Avenue.
The supervisors agreed they are excited about the project and think it would be a shame to either waste the grant dollars, which expire June 30, or stop the trail short of the connection. They said they should have known more about the trail sooner and agreed to send a letter reiterating their concerns and asking for a meeting with both engineers and other personnel.
Town Board Chairman Jay Swanson said he didn’t think the township’s concerns were being heard or taken seriously.
“I really think we need to have a meeting with the city of Princeton,” he said.
The letter, addressed to Princeton’s consulting engineer Mike Nielson of WSB & Associates, outlines a handful of main points of things Baldwin is seeking:
–A damage contract with the city, not the contractor.
–Bollards, a gate or some kind of barrier at the trail head, in addition to signage, to prevent motorized-vehicle access. Swanson said people already drive on the unpaved trail, and though Princeton claims the Department of Natural Resources won’t allow bollards, he’s seen them on other trails in the state.
–Information about how law enforcement along the trail will be handled because constituents have expressed concern about increased crime and vandalism along the trail. The city’s letter said Princeton Police would patrol it, but several seemed to think the duty would fall to the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office.
–To recoup between $500 and $1,000 in township engineering fees spent on the project.
–To hold a meeting among the engineers and key people from both Princeton and Baldwin
Swanson recommended sending copies of the letter to multiple people in Princeton: City Administrator Mark Karnowski, Community Development Director Jolene Foss, Mayor Paul Whitcomb, all the City Council members, and the Rum River Recreation and Resources (4R) board.
The city’s trail contractor attended a May 4 township meeting to seek a permit in the road right of way, and then Baldwin sent a memo May 6 to the city asking it to address the township’s concerns. The city said at a May 14 meeting that if need be, it would end the trail 20 feet before the township’s right of way. A May 15 city letter answered the township’s handful of concerns and said it would be “unfortunate to stop the trail connection short of 313th due to these requests.”
Baldwin’s letter to the city engineer says in part, “connecting to a neighboring jurisdiction’s road for any kind of project takes more discussion than an ad-hoc set of plans and a contractor asking for a permit.” The letter says drainage calculations should be provided and that a discussion is needed.
It says, “Let’s be perfectly clear that any construction progress would not be held up by Baldwin’s requirements but Princeton’s utter lack of respect for their surrounding communities through lack of communication.” The letter says Baldwin Township is exercising due diligence.
Supervisor Brad Schumacher repeatedly observed during the meeting that at the heart of the dispute is a $200 culvert that the town’s engineer says is needed and the city’s engineer says is not needed.

Negotiation starts
Princeton Community Development Director Jolene Foss and Princeton Chamber Executive Director Karen Michels, who both started their jobs in the fall, attended the meeting to introduce themselves. They said they’re visiting meetings and working to serve all areas in their professional roles.
Michels speculated that the letter might work to elevate tension rather than subdue it, and she suggested allowing Foss to take the township’s concerns back to the city and set up a meeting. Foss repeatedly asked what the group could do to resolve the issues that night, but Swanson insisted that a meeting and discussion are needed.
The conversation revealed that the $180,000 in grant funding came through in 2013, and engineered plans for the trail have existed since at least fall of 2014. While the township board remembers some discussion from a year or so ago that a trail might happen, the supervisors agreed they knew nothing else and saw no plans until the contractor came for a permit.
Township engineer Jon Bogart said he’s seen only contour maps, which show high points called a 4:1 slope that necessitate a 15-inch culvert by standard policy. Bogart said it is needed to keep correct drainage in the area, and supervisors want drainage to be right, especially since the adjacent property is viable for commercial development.
Foss asked if Baldwin is involved in any other trail-development projects and explained there is a long-range goal to create trail access from the Twin Cities to Duluth. She wondered if Baldwin would have a connection or had talked about it, and Swanson said no, the township has no plans for a trail.
Based on the members’ letter and discussion, Baldwin officials seem excited about the trail and think it will be a benefit for both communities. The supervisors said it’s possible to work out differences before the June 30 deadline and would ask for a a meeting May 26, 27 or 28. A special meeting agenda indicates that the township board will meet with city officials May 28.

The Baldwin Township Board took other action at its May 19 meeting:
—Listened to maintenance manager Terry Carlile give the roads report and say that crews had been patching with cold-pack material and had opened the asphalt plant on May 7 but hadn’t had a chance to do any hot-asphalt patching yet. He said Baldwin had issued a warning to a driver of an 18-wheeled truck about parking on township roads, since big trucks are not allowed to park on them at any time.
—Agreed to keep the 5-ton load limit along 120th Street and 283rd Avenue to preserve the life of the aging roadways.
—Acknowledged during a report a possible amendment Sherburne County might make to its stormwater management law that would view natural materials such as leaves, grass clippings and sand as pollution if left on a roadway or in a ditch.
—Discussed a drainage project in the 10-year-old Highlands subdivision, where wetlands have encroached upon a driveway and the homeowner has been asking the township to correct it. Town research revealed that it is allowed to do a culvert but not drainage tiles as originally thought, so the board asked the engineer to check with the homeowner about that proposed solution before the town spends the $3,500 to do the project.