What’s making news in St. Paul, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to richard.meryhew@startribune.com.

Guilty plea in July murder on St. Paul's West Side

Posted by: Chao Xiong under Public safety Updated: September 22, 2014 - 3:32 PM

A St. Paul man pleaded guilty Friday in the July murder of British Autavia Morris-Rice.

DeMarcus L. Barnett, 30, pleaded guilty in Ramsey County District Court to one count of second-degree murder for the July 19 killing on St. Paul's West Side.

According to the criminal complaint filed against Barnett: Morris-Rice, her male companion and Barnett were at a party with others that night on E. Delos Street. Witnesses told police that Barnett scuffled with Morris-Rice's companion about 11:30 p.m. Surveillance video corroborated witness accounts.

One witness told police that he saw two groups of men arguing and heard a woman yell, "Just leave! Stop being disrespectful to people."

Surveillance video showed one man chase another, Morris-Rice drive out of a parking lot and a man identified as Barnett pointing a gun at the car being driven by Morris-Rice.

Morris-Rice, 22, crashed the car near Robert and George Streets after being shot. She died nine hours later after being removed from life support at Regions Hospital.

Barnett is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 17.

Ballpark signs would be an exception in downtown St. Paul

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere under Local business, Parks and recreation, People and neighborhoods, Politics and government, Urban living Updated: September 22, 2014 - 3:00 PM

Signs long have been a heated issue in St. Paul, perhaps more than most cities.

A local group called Scenic St. Paul has vigorously championed billboard removal and tighter sign regulations. The City Council typically has balked at allowing large and flashing signs to advertise products or companies; most of those seen now, such as the iconic “1st” on top of the First National Bank building, have been around for a long time and were grandfathered in.

But the council may be ready to carve out an exception for the new city-owned Lowertown ballpark, recently named CHS Field, where the St. Paul Saints will play starting next season.

An ordinance has made its way to the council that would amend city code to permit two roof signs at the ballpark. Roof signs are defined as either those mounted on a roof, or projecting above the top of a building.

The first version of the ordinance would have permitted roof signs anywhere downtown, subject to a conditional use permit. That was too much for City Council Member Dave Thune, who asked last week that the ordinance be reworked to permit only the ballpark signs. The council agreed with Thune, striking out what could have the most controversial of the signage ideas.

The council is making other provisions for CHS Field. The proposed ordinance would allow sponsor signs at the new ballpark and let them be bigger than usual, as well as advertising signs.

City Parks Director Mike Hahm told the Planning Commission that a roof sign “will be a great identifier for the ballpark and the neighborhood.  Saints Vice President Thomas Whaley said ballpark roof signs “will add to the visual experiences of fans attending events at the park and visitors to the neighborhood.” Whaley wanted a four-sided sign, which the current ordinance version doesn't permit.

The ordinance also would allow sponsor signs at transit stop stations and for bike sharing facilities, such as Nice Ride. The council is expected to vote on the ordinance next week.

Gun found in crib during search of St. Paul home

Posted by: Nicole Norfleet under Public safety Updated: September 22, 2014 - 4:13 PM

St. Paul police discovered a gun in a crib and also found drug paraphernalia when they searched a home in the city's North End last week.

The Central District FORCE unit, which addresses neighborhood crime issues such as problem residential properties, executed a search warrant about 8:30 p.m. last Friday at a house in the 1100 block of Abell Street, according to a police report. The home was the site of a day care business.

After police entered the house, they found marijuana and drug paraphernalia. They also located a gun in a crib on an upper floor. Several people were arrested in connection with the search.

According to arrest and police records, a 33-year-old man was arrested for possession of a gun by a felon and for a felony warrant out of Wisconsin for a parole violation. A 19-year-old St. Paul man was arrested for two misdemeanor warrants and a 37-year-old woman, whose apparently lived at the house, was booked for negligent storage of a firearm and neglect/endangerment of a child, both gross misdemeanors. According to online Minnesota Department of Human Services records, the woman has an active license to provide family child care. Her license was first effective in 2000.

A juvenile also was cited for possession of a small amount of marijuana and operating a disorderly house.

The police reports didn't indicate whether or not there were children in the home at the time of the search, said Sgt. Paul Paulos, spokesman for the St. Paul police, on Monday.

Levy ceiling expected to reflect Coleman's 2015 tax proposal

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere under Local business, People and neighborhoods, Politics and government Updated: September 22, 2014 - 11:14 AM

The St. Paul City Council on Wednesday likely will set the 2015 maximum property tax levy at $103,636,842, which represents a 2.4 percent increase over this year’s tax collection.

How did they arrive at that figure? It’s the number that Mayor Chris Coleman put down in his proposed budget, which he presented to the council last month.

Under Minnesota law, all taxing jurisdictions must set a ceiling for the following year’s levy by the end of September. Once they’ve decided on a maximum levy, they can shrink the levy but they can’t raise it.

About three-fourths of the tax levy goes to fund city operations. Last year, the City Council also adopted Coleman’s recommendation: a zero percent increase.

The levy that Coleman proposes would raise taxes by $16 on a median-valued St. Paul home of $145,000. But a homeowner’s final tax bill also will include additional taxes due to property value shifts from the commercial to the residential side, and whatever tax changes are made by Ramsey County and the school district.

Two weeks ago, the Ramsey County Board agreed not to increase the tax levy for next year, capping collections at $276.6 million. The St. Paul school board is scheduled to makes its levy decision Tuesday.

City extends Fitness in the Parks

Posted by: James Walsh under Parks and recreation, People and neighborhoods Updated: September 15, 2014 - 3:09 PM

Want to get fit this fall? Or, at least fitter?

St. Paul Parks and Recreation is extending its free outdoor fitness program, Fitness in the Parks, thanks to popular demand.

The program, which started in June, will now run well into autumn.

“Our goal for the Fitness in the Parks program was to give people another reason to get outdoors and exercise,” said Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hahm. “The success of this program has exceeded our expectations, and the public has expressed a lot of interest in seeing this program continue for as long as weather will permit. We are pleased to offer classes through the end of September.”

Summer program classes included martial arts, dance, yoga, boot camp, Pilates, Zumba and CrossFit. Classes scheduled for September include yoga on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Cherokee Heights Park, CrossFit on Tuesdays and Saturdays at Harriet Island and boot camp on Saturdays at Indian Mounds Park. Classes are taught by people with local Saint Paul businesses who have partnered with the City of St. Paul.

No prior registration is required and classes are free and open to all ages and fitness levels. For more information including the most recent schedule, visit stpaul.gov/FitnessintheParks.

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