South-West year in review

file photos 2018 saw students raising their voices for safer schools. Students from both Henry Sibley High School, below, and Simley High School, above, participated in a nationwide walkout on March 14. The walkout came in response to the February 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. From this, a group of Henry Sibley students formed MNeverAgain, which traveled to the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C., and wants to work toward what it terms as sensible, comprehensive gun control laws.

file photos In 2018, two new memorials were established in honor of those who served the community. A new bench at Rock Island Swing Bridge was dedicated in honor of the late state Sen. Jim Metzen, who passed away in 2016 after a battle with lung cancer. He was credited as being a significant player in protecting the pier from being demolished. Four years after he was killed in the line of duty, a memorial now stands at Market Square Park in honor of Scott Patrick. The late Mendota Heights police officer was killed in the line of duty during a 2014 traffic stop.

There’re new acting opportunities in Inver Grove Heights after a local theater group was formed last year. The Inver Grove Heights Community Theatre’s first production, “Little Shop of Horrors,” opened in August.

The calendar flipping to 2019 means another year has come and gone in the South-West Review coverage area. This past year saw new ordinances and bonds passed, furthering of public safety and changes to school times. Here’s a look back at some of the stories covered this year.


Schools go for later starts

After years of planning and research, the Inver Grove Heights School Board approved new start and end times for the 2019-2020 school year. The schedule will have secondary schools in session from 8:30 a.m. to 3:20 p.m., and elementary schools in session from 7:50 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The move is a reaction to research that suggests teens need more sleep to help their minds work better.

The South St. Paul School District is also making progress on a potential school start times change that would have high school classes begin later, though it’s still gathering input and the earliest such a change could take place would be the 2020-2021 school year.


Renovations coming ISD 197

In May, voters approved a $117 million bond referendum for West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan ISD 197. The money will be going toward updating facilities, much of it to maintain systems like boilers, as well as school building expansions and a new athletic field. 

Most work will be completed by the summer of 2019. Large projects could take multiple years to complete. Information about the projects can be found at


‘Controlled burn’ in West St. Paul

What some described as a “controlled burn” took place in West St. Paul last year. Following the initial denial of one of then-Mayor Jenny Halverson’s commission appointments — Samantha Green to the Planning Commission — allegations of sexism against members of the council were made. Halverson and Green, who was eventually appointed to the commission, found tissues and feminine hygiene products left at their homes. 

The first city council meeting after this was met with a full council chambers and people bringing in feminine hygiene products to donate to women in need. Civic-minded women formed a volunteer action group called Women of West St. Paul, which is working toward transparency in local government and increasing accountability. Still, throughout the year, a number of vocal women and their supporters found screws in their cars’ tires.


Cities crack down on tobacco

Just months after banning flavored tobacco products in the city, the Mendota Heights City Council approved a resolution in November that banned the sale of tobacco products to those under 21. The city joined a growing list of other cities that are either limiting flavored tobacco products or raising the purchase age from 18 to 21. 

West St. Paul also started a conversation about Tobacco 21, but City Manager Ryan Schroeder said it was never approved. He said it was felt it would be best for the Legislature to take up the issue, or it could be taken up again by the 2019 city council.


New training facility gets state funding help

In May, the planned SMART Center in Inver Grove Heights got a funding boost when Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Capital Investment Bill, which allocated $6.2 million for the facility. Expected to cost about $13.2 million, the center will be located near Highway 52/55 and will be used by first responders for crisis intervention training. 

Trainees will learn how to interact with and peacefully de-escalate crisis situations. The center will also house the Dakota County Electronic Crimes Unit, Dakota County Drug Task Force, Dakota County Criminal Justice Network and the Sheriff’s Water Rescue and Recovery Fleet.


Body camera conversation

The Inver Grove Heights City Council began discussing police-worn body cameras in August 2018, and such cameras, along with new squad car cameras, went live as of Thanksgiving.

Mendota Heights began its police body camera discussion in September. When the city budget was passed in December, it included $40,000 for body cameras and squad car camera replacement. 

New fire stations kept moving forward

Both Inver Grove Heights and Mendota Heights took steps toward getting new or upgraded fire stations. Inver Grove Heights is building a new Fire Station 2, the first fire station to be built in the community since the 1980s. It will be located at Highway 52/55 and Concord Boulevard, and cost an estimated $8.7 million facility.

Mendota Heights is also looking at renovating its fire station. The estimated $4.5 million project aims to address operational issues by adding space onto the existing station and remodeling and upgrading parts of it. City Administrator Mark McNeill said designs for the station upgrades are expected to be at the Jan. 15 council meeting, with the project going to bid in the middle of February. McNeill said construction could start in April and take 19 months to complete the addition and remodeling of the 1985 building. 


South St. Paul Library finds new way to get involved in community

This past summer, the South St. Paul Library received a donation to purchase the Bobski, a cart that is used by “Librarian on Wheels” Honora Rodriguez. She often brought the cart, which was made possible thanks to late volunteer Bob Meehl’s widow, Ann, to the South St. Paul Farmers Market. 

Rodriguez said there will be more outreach this summer, including taking the Bobski to Lorraine Park for a “special series of programs geared at adults with disabilities in the community,” which will include a drum circle, story time and meditation the first Monday nights of the month June through August. 


Development for everyone


West St. Paul will be home to a new Hy-Vee in 2019, while the old Rainbow building in Inver Grove Heights is becoming a new special education school. Kaposia Club, a new restaurant, opened its doors late in the year in South St. Paul, and Sassy Pecan opened a retail side of its business in South St. Paul. A new 67-unit development keeps moving forward in South St. Paul.


–Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or

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