Maplewood upgrades environmental advisory group

With all the changes going on in the upper levels of Maplewood city staffing, it might be easy to forget the rest of the city government. But change is happening there, too. The Maplewood City Council has reformed the city's environmental committee into Environmental and Natural Resources Commission with five new members.

"The council felt that there was certainly enough projects within Maplewood (that) we wanted a fully recognized commission," said Mayor Diana Longrie.

According to Council Member Will Rossbach, the old committee members were chosen, approved and issued terms by the City Council. However, when the new commission was created, the old committee was disbanded, regardless of the end dates of members' terms.

Committee members were invited to apply for seats on the commission along with other residents who had an interest in serving. Three committee members did so: Committee Chair Dale Trippler, Vice Chair James Beardsley and member Carol Mason Sherrill. They were joined by seven newcomers, all competing for the seven commission seats.

According to Rossbach and Longrie, the council members interviewed each candidate, then voted for their favorites. After the votes were tallied, Beardsley and Sherrill both made it to the commission. Trippler, however, had not.

"Trippler not being selected was certainly interesting," said Rossbach, who said he felt that some of those who were selected had much less experience. As an example, he mentioned Margaret Behrens, who said in her application that she had "experience in environmental issues." According to Rossbach, Behrens' experience came from independent studying she did relating to a lawsuit. In the mid-1990s, Behrens and her neighbors sued Ramsey County, Maplewood and KSTP to remove a compost site from their neighborhood, and were eventually successful.

"I found it surprising that she was one of the ones selected, and someone with all the credentials was not," Rossbach said.

In his statement of his skills and experience, Trippler wrote that he spent two-and-a-half years on the Maplewood Environmental Committee and has worked for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for 31 years. In that time he has done work on water quality and solid waste, spent 11 years as a project manager for the Superfund program and overseen programs dealing with dry-cleaner pollution.

But to Trippler the motives behind it were clear. He has often been a vocal critic of the City Council, particularly of Longrie, Council Member Erik Hjelle and Council Member Rebecca Cave.

"I ran against Rebecca in the campaign. I've confronted Erik publicly at the council meetings," Trippler said. He describes the committee-commission change as "the vehicle to sort out in a Stalinistic purge the people that aren't in lockstep with what they want."

When asked, neither Longrie nor Cave offered reasons for Trippler's ouster, although Longrie did say that he's been "a valuable committee member."

"Obviously, if he didn't have the right points (from the votes), he didn't make it," Longrie said. "I don't know how individual people voted... I can't speak for other people. I would only be speculating, and that's not fair."

Both Cave and Longrie said they were glad to see new additions to the commission.

"I liked that we had new blood out there that was interested in participating with the commissions," Cave said.

"It's important to have folks with professional skills, but you also want lay people as well," Longrie said. "It's a citizen's commission."

Cave added that she was excited for the commission to start work on the South Leg Moratorium. The moratorium is a hold on new development in southern Maplewood for up to a year, while the city conducts a study which will include land use, zoning and planning components, as well as several environmental issues.

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