One topic was notably absent in Mayor Chris Coleman’s budget speech this month, especially given the fact that it was one of last year’s major subjects: recycling.
His plan for 2015 had been to give residents wheeled carts with lids for their recycling, making it easier and more convenient. You can toss everything together into the 96-gallon cart and then wheel it out to the curb or alley.
But that plan has been pushed back. Anne Hunt, Coleman’s environmental advisor, said that the fees proposed by the city’s recycling contractor, Eureka, to implement the wheeled carts would have been too high to stomach right now.
Eureka, on the other hand, says its proposed fee hike was not nearly as high as Hunt says.
Coleman had announced last year a new effort to boost St. Paul’s recycling rates. It involved enlarging the circle of products acceptable for recycling and making it easier for residents to do.
The city’s program now accepts many plastics it had previously rejected, such as yogurt tubs and microwave trays. It also converted to a single-sort system, making it unnecessary for residents to separate newspapers, cans, bottles and other recyclables into different bins.
Hunt said that for 2015, Eureka proposed a fee hike for single-family homes of 58 percent and that city officials negotiated that increase down to 32.6 percent. That was still too high, she said, for the mayor to recommend to the City Council -- especially given the fact that he was proposing a 2.4 percent increase in the property tax levy.
“We’re committed to offering a high-quality program, but also have to be sure that we’re getting the best value that we can,” Hunt said.
But Tim Brownell, co-president of Eureka, a nonprofit based in Minneapolis, disputed her figures.
He said the first estimate they gave the city was a 40 percent fee increase for weekly service moved from the curbs and into the city's alleys, which would require different trucks. The city was to cover the cost of the wheeled containers, he said.
Both sides knew 40 percent wouldn't work, Brownell said, so Eureka came back with an 18.8 percent fee hike for every other week service. From there, he said, the city and Eureka negotiated a reduced proposal of 12.2 percent.
With Eureka’s contract with the city ending in 2016, St. Paul officials plan to seek competitive bids for the next contract period. Eureka has provided recycling services for the city since 2000.
Whatever the figures, Roger Meyer, a consultant and neighborhood activist who briefly ran for mayor last year as a Green Party candidate, said he was disappointed by Coleman's decision.
“I think it’s a reflection of where his priorities lie, rather than a negotiated deal with Eureka,” he said. “It was such a big deal in last year’s budget address and then this year there’s no acknowledgement, like it didn’t exist.It just feels like a pretty substantial departure from a commitment made."
If you drive up the hill too fast, you might miss it. The street signs attached to lampposts on a stretch of 6th Street in St. Paul's Dayton's Bluff neighborhood read "Ron Ryan Jr. Blvd."
The street was dedicated in 1999 to the memory of Officer Ron Ryan Jr. who was shot and killed 20 years ago on Aug. 26, 1994, after he responded to a report of someone sleeping in a car in a church parking lot. Officer Tim Jones and his K-9 dog Laser were shot and killed later that same day by the man who shot Ryan as they searched for Ryan's killer. On Tuesday, the 20th anniversary of the killings, the two officers were honored in two ceremonies in St. Paul.
"It always makes you feel good that people still remember," Ron Ryan Sr. said about his son.
Ron Ryan Sr. and his wife, Kelly, attended a special mass at Sacred Heart Church to remember their son and Jones. Ron Ryan Jr. was shot in the church's parking lot 20 years ago.
Pastor Eugene Michel told those in attendance that the service was to reflect on "the tragedy that occurred here on this property."
"We believe that Tim and Ron are with God," Michel said.
Kelly Ryan hugged people as they entered the sanctuary. About 100 friends, family and other officers attended the mass. Among them were several current and past St. Paul police personnel such as Metro Transit Police Chief and former St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington.
"For me, it's important to be here to remember," Harrington said.
Officer Kevin Clarkin, who grew up on St. Paul's East Side, said he remembers when the shootings happened. Clarkin, who had yet to join the department, said he was out washing his car when he saw helicopters fly overhead. It wasn't until he turned on his TV that he found out what happened.
"It's hard to believe it's been 20 years," said Clarkin, who made it to the mass on his day off.
Later in the morning, at the St. Paul police headquarters, officers and family along with other guests such as St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and retired St. Paul Police Chief Bill Finney gathered for a brief ceremony to honor the officers.
"Twenty years ago was one of the darkest days in the history of the City of St. Paul," said current St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith. "I don't think anybody would argue that fact. It was a day that we lost two of our own."
Ron Ryan Sr. said that Tuesday was going to be a long day for him and his family. Sometimes it feels like his son has been gone "forever." Sometimes, it feels "like yesterday," he said.
To this day, the Ryans still get mail from people offering condolences. Besides making a visit to his son's grave, Ryan said there will also be a gathering Tuesday to remember his son.
August always has been a slow month for the folks at Signal Garage Auto Care. So, 11 years ago, they decided to do something that would help drum up a little business -- while also doing some good for the community and their customers. Signal is offering free brake inspections and, if necessary, repairs to people who bring in a bag of groceries or school supplies. The effort is meant to help restock food shelves and school supply inventory as the new school year is about to start.
"As a neighborhood business, contributing to the lives of those in the community is important to us and our employees. This year marks our 11th year Free Brakes For Food drive." said Heidi Wessel Derhy, co-owner of Signal Garage Auto Care.
Here is the deal, says Avi Derhy of Signal:
For the month of August, customers who make an appointment and bring their car in on a weekday between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. -- and provide a bag of nonperishable food items or school supplies -- will get a free test drive and brake inspection. After that, if the vehicle needs new brake pads or shoes, the garage will replace them, free of charge. If the vehicle needs more than that, like calipers or brake lines or rotors, the garage will charge for parts and labor -- but not before getting customer approval first.
As far as foodshelf efforts go, this one seems to work. Derhy said that, in 2012, Signal collected 6,138 pounds of food and $2,000 in school supplies. Last year, the numbers rose to 7,200 pounds of food and $3,106 in school supplies. Signal will also accept cash donations.
Last year, as part of the promotion, Signal performed 331 brake inspections and replaced 138 brake pads sets.
To make an appointment through Aug. 31, call 651-455-1045. Signal locations are at 84 E. Moreland Av. in West St. Paul and at 2050 Grand Av. in St Paul.
Ricardo Martinez, 16, may only be in high school, but if an award ceremony this week is any indication, he could have a future as a firefighter.
Martinez was honored Tuesday with the Meritorious Service Award, the highest civilian recognition given by the St. Paul Fire Department, for his efforts to save a man and his brother from a burning duplex last month on the city's West End. He was honored alongside several other residents and fire staff.
"It feels pretty good," Martinez said.
The award is given to people who go above and beyond the call of duty at the risk of their own lives, said St. Paul Fire Chief Tim Butler.
"To have that presence of mind at such a young age is really commendable," said Capt. Sean Lofgren, a paramedic who responded to the fire scene and was also honored.
On July 21, Ricardo rushed into the duplex at 424 Goodrich Av. after hearing screams. The thick smoke forced him back outside where he scaled a ladder to climb to the roof above the house’s porch. When Martinez reached the top, he spotted Richard Stauch through the window and was able to get him out to the roof. But when Martinez went through a window and called through the smoke to Stauch's brother Louis, there was no answer. Firefighters later rescued Louis Stauch.
Besides Martinez, several others also were honored in the Tuesday ceremony. Joshua Hoover and Dale Tilleskjor received Letters of Commendation for attempting to rescue the Stauch brothers by going into the burning building and trying to knock down the locked door where the men were trapped. They had to retreat because of the heat and smoke, but they were able to help Martinez by finding a ladder. Jackie Venable also received a Letter of Commendation for calling emergency crews and rushing into the building to try to save the brothers' dog. Fire District Chief Barton "Butch" Inks and the Engine/Medic 10-B Shift also were honored for their work that day.
Deanna L. Thielbar, the homeowner's girlfriend, was charged earlier this month with first-degree arson for allegedly setting the duplex on fire following a fight with the homeowner. The two brothers had been renting the second-floor unit.
St. Paul leaders are taking the first steps towards a full-scale renovation of Rice Park, the downtown square that fronts on the Ordway and Landmark centers.
On Monday morning, the St. Paul Garden Club is giving the city a $46,000 check to begin the planning process for the 120-year-old park, which is regarded as one of the most beautiful urban squares in the country. Its fountain and large leafy trees provide the backdrop for numerous events and festivals.
Officials and community leaders said, however, that more events and more visitors are taking a toll on the park. The Ordway is adding a $75 million concert hall and the Landmark Center is undergoing a $4 million restoration, making it the right time to take a new look at how the park functions, said Amy Mino, president of the Rice Park Association, a private group dedicated to enhancing the park area.
"Rice Park is a jewel in downtown and requires a commitment from both the city and neighborhood groups to keep it looking beautiful," Mino said.
Following a public engagement process, a conceptual plan will be developed for the park that includes an estimated cost and a timeline for how the plan would be implemented.
The St. Paul Garden Club first planted 1,700 tulips in Rice Park in 1927, and has helped maintain the park’s growth since. Most recently, it purchased and installed 140 yew shrubs in the park.