A Review year in review

As we move ahead into 2017, the Review paused to reflect on some of the major events from 2016. Here is a recap of some stories from the last year in the Review coverage area: 

 

Washington County Commissioner Ted Bearth passed away

Oakdale community leader and District 2 Washington County Commissioner Ted Bearth died on March 10. He was 77 and had been battling a long term illness.

Bearth was a longtime Oakdale resident and had been involved in the growth and development of Oakdale since the 1970s.

He was first elected to the Oakdale City Council in 1974 and spent 26 years as either a city council member or mayor.

In a special election, Oakdale mayor Stan Karwoski was elected to take over the remaining two years of Bearth’s county commissioner term. Karwoski’s resignation from his position as Oakdale mayor became effective Dec. 5, and he was sworn in as the District 2 Washington County commissioner Dec. 6.

At the Dec. 13 Oakdale City Council meeting, the council unanimously appointed council member Paul Reinke to fill the vacant mayoral position until a candidate is elected in a special election, and he was sworn in during the same meeting. Reinke’s city council member term was set to expire at the end of 2016, and he had not run for re-election this past fall.

Reinke will serve as appointed mayor until a special election is held to elect someone to fill out the remainder of Karwoski’s mayoral term, which ends Jan. 1, 2019. 

 

3M sold Tartan Park 

On March 15, the sale of 3M’s 477-acre Tartan Park in Lake Elmo to developer Hollis Cavner was announced.

Cavner plans to reopen the golf course summer 2017 as an 18-hole course, scaling back from the original 27 holes. Golf legends Annika Sorenstam and the late Arnold Palmer each designed nine holes, which lends itself to the course’s new name, The King & The Queen.

According to HC Golf Course Development, the new course will include LEED-certified facilities, an innovative irrigation system that reduces water consumption and a commitment to only using eco-friendly, biodegradable products for course maintenance. 

Additional facility plans include an on-site fitness and wellness center and a renovated version of the clubhouse with a new restaurant and event center overlooking the course.

Development plans call for about 350 residential homes, which will also be built to LEED standards, and designed in a way to preserve the natural wildlife of the land. The houses would be located on the east and west sides of the Tartan Park property.

 

Cub Foods opened a larger store in Oakdale 

On May 10, Cub Foods opened their new location in Oakdale on Tenth Street North, just west of Interstate 94.

They moved to their new location on the east side of Bergen Plaza after renovating the former Kmart building. The move from their former location on the west side of Bergen Plaza allowed the store to expand from 64,189 square feet to 84,583 square feet.

The new store features a larger produce section, several different prepared foods sections, a pharmacy and a liquor store.

The building that Cub Foods left behind was remodeled over the fall, so Big Thrill Factory, a Minnetonka-based family entertainment business, could open a second location in Oakdale. 

Starting in November some of the Big Thrill Factory’s attractions began arriving and being installed. For indoor activities, the Oakdale location offers laser tag, an arcade, a ropes course, a drop tower and electric go-carts. 

Outdoors, on the west side of the building, Big Thrill Factory is planning a giant slide, several trampolines and 18 holes of miniature golf. Although the business officially opened near the end of December, the outdoor attractions won’t be open until spring 2017.

 

The Cable Commission cuts public access programs 

Maplewood’s withdrawal from the Ramsey-Washington Suburban Cable Commission was effective Jan. 1, 2016. The city had been a part of the RWSCC for almost two decades. 

Now, the RWSCC serves 11 member cities — Birchwood Village, Dellwood, Grant, Lake Elmo, Mahtomedi, North St. Paul, Oakdale, Vadnais Heights, White Bear Lake, White Bear Township and Willernie. Its board of directors is comprised of members from each of the cities.

When Maplewood left, the city took with it over $500,000 in operating revenues, which severely impacted the cable commission’s budget and operating revenues needed to maintain current operations, and lead to all public access programs produced by residents being cut in July.

Also, to compensate for the loss of Maplewood revenues, the GTN government access channel 16 producer and assistant producer positions were also eliminated, and three other positions were not filled after people left.

 

The EPA lowered the federal health advisory level of PFOS and PFOA 

Around Aug. 23, 80 residents in Lake Elmo, Cottage Grove and West Lakeland Township received letters that their water contained higher concentrations of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and/or perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) than the new federal Environmental Protection Agency standards recommend.

PFOS and PFOA are two types of perfluorochemicals (PFO), which are a family of synthetic chemicals developed by the 3M Company and used for decades to make products that resist heat, water, oil, grease and stains.

Before the change the EPA’s acceptable standard was up to 200 parts per trillion of PFOS and 400 ppt in PFOA. Now the advisory level of both kinds of PFO is 70 ppt. The EPA changed the standards based on recent studies in laboratory animals that indicated a lower amount of the chemicals would better protect developing fetuses and infants.

The releases of PFOs have been traced to some sites in Washington County, one of which is an old landfill in Lake Elmo, and investigations of those sites have been going on for more than a decade.

The affected residents were provided access to free bottled water and granular-activated carbon filters. 

 

The YMCA took over management of the Maplewood Community Center 

YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities formally assumed operations of the Maplewood Community Center Nov. 1.

While the MCC has played a positive role in the community for more than two decades, the financial burden of operating the facility was significant and used funds the city could have dedicated to other projects. For example, city officials have discussed using some of the MCC cost savings on park improvement projects. 

Apart from capital expenditures, the MCC generally had a yearly operational loss between $250,000 and $450,000. Additionally, a 2014 study indicated the MCC needed significant capital improvements, including air handling and roof replacement. The city and the YMCA agreed to work on these projects together.

The YMCA did not purchase the MCC outright. Instead, the city and the YMCA are jointly funding a capital improvement fund, and the YMCA has assumed the MCC’s future financial risk and is providing all programming and operational responsibilities.

Under the agreement, Maplewood residents are able to keep their special pricing for three years with annual increases capped at 3 percent. Residents are also able to upgrade their memberships to gain access to YMCAs throughout the Twin Cities.

 

School District 622 passed a levy increase

On Nov. 8, residents within the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District voted to increase the operating levy for the first time since 2002.

Over the 33 precincts within District 622, 54.5 percent of the votes were in support of the funding request to increase the operating levy by $630 per student for 10 years, adjusted annually for inflation. About 45.5 percent of residents voted against the referendum.

The average home in District 622 is valued at $190,000 and will see a projected $15.60 monthly increase in its property taxes.

District administrators said the increased funding will go towards maintaining existing academic programs, support for struggling students, improved student and school safety and expanded accelerated-learning opportunities.

Even with the increase, District 622’s operating levy is still lower than the average of the Twin Cities’ 20 largest school districts.

 

Maplewood police update body camera policies

The Maplewood Police Department updated its body-worn camera policy Nov. 15. Although the workgroup made 11 recommendations for policy changes, several of them only included updated language to make the policy more easily understood.

Some highlighted areas include the access to footage, use of data and storage of footage. 

In regard to access of footage, officers involved in a critical incident resulting in great bodily harm or death are not allowed to view the footage from his/her body camera before making a voluntary statement, unless it is approved by the chief of police, the investigating authority and the prosecuting authority.

The point of interest in the use of data section is that at least twice a month supervisors will randomly review the body-worn camera footage to make sure it is both working properly and being used properly. There will also be an audit twice a year to ensure that the footage review is being fairly distributed across the personnel.

Non-incident body camera footage will be stored for a year because the digital storage space Maplewood pays for is unlimited and one year is the statutory limit for human rights complaints to be filed in Minnesota. However, the data is private, which makes it inaccessible to the public without the subject’s consent.

A handful of Maplewood police have been wearing body cameras since April 2014, and the entire department is expected to be outfitted with the cameras this February.

 

A woman was shot at her work in North St. Paul.

On Nov. 30, Ramsey County Attorney’s Office charged John Bruce Steurer with one count of second-degree attempted murder for allegedly shooting his ex-wife with a shotgun at her work in North St. Paul on Nov. 23. The attempted murder charge is classified as “with intent,” but “not premeditated.”

According to the criminal complaint, at around 2:20 p.m. on Nov. 23 Steurer, 47, brought a shotgun to his 45-year-old ex-wife’s office at Anchor Mold and Tool Company, located in the 2200 block of Second Street in North St. Paul. Due to Thanksgiving, the woman and one other co-worker were the only two employees left in the building after 2 p.m.

When the woman realized, her ex-husband was there to kill her, she tried to run down the stairs from her office, but Steurer chased after her. When she was about three-quarters of the way down the stairs, Steurer allegedly shot her, and the gunshot caused her to fall down the rest of the stairs. 

When Steurer tried to shoot again, his gun jammed and the chase continued through the building and outside to the loading dock area. After a physical fight, the woman was able to run back into the building and lock the doors. 

After North St. Paul Police arrived, the woman was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul where she was treated for a collapsed lung, an injury to her small intestine and other injuries caused by the shotgun blast.

Anoka County Sheriff’s Department apprehended Steurer around 5:30 p.m. Due to several self-inflicted gunshot wounds, including one in the head, Steurer was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center for treatment.

His first court appearance was Dec. 23 where bail was set at $1 million and Steurer was ordered to have no contact with his ex-wife. An omnibus hearing is set for Jan. 20.

 

A route was approved for the Gateway Gold Line bus rapid transit project 

The Gateway Gold Line bus rapid transit system, which is expected to open in 2023, will provide frequent, all-day service from the Union Depot in downtown St. Paul through the East Side of St. Paul, Maplewood, Landfall, Oakdale and Woodbury. Although early route studies included stops in Lake Elmo, on Jan. 5, 2016 the Lake Elmo City Council voted against further involvement with the project.

The Gold Line is expected to run primarily along streets that parallel Interstate 94 with dedicated bus lanes and a balance between accessible stops and a minimized travel time. 

The initial routes under consideration for the segment through Oakdale included Fourth Street and a segment that combined travel along Fourth Street and Hudson Road, but many residents opposed the busses running along Fourth Street. 

In December, the Gateway Corridor Commission selected a new locally preferred route for Gold Line in Oakdale and Woodbury, which involves the buses traveling on or next to Hudson Road and Fourth Street, then down Helmo Avenue in Oakdale to Bielenberg Drive in Woodbury and ending at the Woodbury Theater Park and Ride. 

The new route is estimated to cost $420 million, a reduction from a previous route that ran through Lake Elmo and was estimated at $485 million. 

On Jan. 4, 2017, Gov. Mark Dayton unveiled his recommendations for a $1.5 billion capital investment bill that includes $3 million for the Gateway Gold Line bus rapid transit project, which would complete the $5 million the state would pay during the project development stage.

 

For more information about any of these stories, visit www.lillienews.com.

 

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