Officials from Northern Tier and the union representing workers at the St. Paul Park refinery have gone back to the bargaining table to try to reach a deal to avert a strike.

Last week, refinery operators, maintenance workers and others voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if a settlement isn't reached before the labor contract expires on Tuesday, Dec. 31, Teamsters Local 120 officials said. The union represents about 190 workers.

Union business agent Chris Riley said the company has proposed to cut some workers' pay, eliminate some jobs and seniority protection, and cut vacations and holidays.

"We're willing to continue working on the current contract, but this company came to the table with 150 concessions," Riley said. "We're not asking for the moon here, but we're trying to keep working."

Contract negotiations began the day after Thanksgiving, Riley said, and will continue every day until the end of the year deadline.

Washington County

Employees will receive 2.5 percent pay raises

County employees who work in the law enforcement commander unit, as well as county probation officers, confidential employees and supervisors, assistant county attorneys, and department heads have reached new salary agreements with the County Board. Terms are:

• A two-year contract effective Wednesday Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2015.

• A 2.5 percent general increase effective Jan. 1, and a 2.5 percent general increase effective Jan. 1, 2015.

• For 2014 and 2015, employees below the maximum of the salary range shall be eligible for a 4 percent increase not to exceed the salary range maximum on their classification date.

The contracts also state how much the county will contribute to employees' health care premiums.

County employees help fill food shelves

Washington County employees contributed $3,145 and filled 106 boxes with food in their winter food drive. Donations were distributed equally around the county at:

• Community Helping Hands serving the Forest Lake area;

• Valley Outreach serving the St. Croix Valley area;

• Christian Cupboard serving the Woodbury area;

• North St. Paul Food Shelf serving the Oakdale area;

• Friends in Need Food Shelf, serving Cottage Grove, Newport, St. Paul Park and Grey Cloud Island;

Washington County reserve deputies delivered money and food to the food shelves on Dec. 19.

Public hearing will review fees for county services

The Washington County Board will conduct a public hearing Jan. 7 to review the fee schedule the county uses to charge for services provided by the county. Unless a state law determines a specified fee, a public hearing must be conducted to establish the fee.

The hearing will be at 9 a.m. in the fifth-floor boardroom of the Washington County Government Center, 14949 62nd St. N., Stillwater.

Child care provider orientation scheduled

Any Washington County resident interested in becoming a licensed family child care provider can attend an orientation meeting from 1-3:30 p.m. Jan. 7.

Meetings are held in Lower Level Conference Room 14 in the Washington County Government Center in Stillwater. Use parking lot A on the south side. Check in with the security guard when entering the building.

Basic information regarding the family child care program and requirements for licensing will be discussed. Attendance is required at one of these meetings before a license can be issued.

Call Annie Walton at 651-430-6539 to register. There is no fee for this informational meeting.

Cottage Grove

Holiday lights winners, community givers named

John Kruczek and Tim and Diane Maslowski won the 2013 Winter Lights and Decoration Contest in Cottage Grove. Kruczek's home, at 91852 Jergen Bay, features a winter wonderland with Santa, snowmen, sleighs and more filling almost every open space in the front yard. The Maslowski home, decorated with lots of lights and other holiday decor, is situated at 11570 Layton Av.

New this year was an award to a business or organization that gives back to the community during the holiday season. The Cottage Grove Lions were selected for having prepared and delivered Thanksgiving food baskets with the Friends in Need Food Shelf, served 600 guests at their 28th annual Breakfast with Santa event, participated in Salvation Army bell ringing, bought Christmas presents for 25 children, and managed traffic in the largest parking lot for the Holiday Train event. They also prepared and delivered Christmas meal baskets in partnership with St. Paul Park Lions.


County commissioner recognized for local work

Ted Bearth, a first-term Washington County commissioner, was awarded Oakdale's annual Volunteer of the Year Award. Mayor Carmen Sarrack presented the honor at the City Council's Dec. 10 meeting.

Bearth, whose district includes Oakdale, has long been active in the community. Over the years, the former mayor and City Council member has coordinated the city's annual Summerfest celebration and helped found the Oakdale Athletic Association. He currently serves on the city's Parks and Recreation Commission.

"The fact that he does so many volunteer things consecutively," is how city clerk Sue Barry explained why Bearth was chosen. "It's not just one thing or another. The mayor thinks that Ted could be considered to volunteer of the decade, and not just of the year, because of everything he does."

Kevin Giles, Libor Jany