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Posts about Politics and government

Midway Stadium site gets state money for cleanup

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: December 23, 2014 - 12:41 PM

While the Saints’ new ballpark continues to rise in downtown St. Paul, plans for their old home at Midway Stadium got a significant boost Tuesday from the state.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced $4.16 million in pollution cleanup or investigative grants to 10 redevelopment sites across the state, including $1.25 million to remediate the old ballpark site near Snelling Avenue in St. Paul.

The 12.9-acre site, once a dump, is co-owned by the St. Paul Port Authority and United Properties. They plan to build a light-industrial building where nearly 200 people can be employed. The redevelopment is expected to increase the tax base by $814,331.

The Port Authority and other grant sources will match the cleanup costs, according to a DEED news release.

The Port Authority acquired the Midway Stadium site in 2012 in a land swap with the city of St. Paul, which didn’t have the needed funds to buy the Lowertown site for the new ballpark. The Port Authority bought the downtown site for $1.85 million, then gave it to the city in exchange for the Midway site.

Another St. Paul developer also received $200,000 to clean up pollution at a site along W. 7th Street near the Xcel Energy Center, where a new hotel, housing and street-level commercial space are planned. The redevelopment is expected to add 50 jobs and increase the tax base by $818,317.

Other sites receiving cleanup grants Tuesday, along with plans for redevelopment: Howe Fertilizer, Brooklyn Center, dock facility, $610,000; 602 Residences, Minneapolis, condos and underground parking, $292,000; New Horizon Academy, Minneapolis, daycare center, $243,000; Brad’s Auto Salvage, Blue Earth County, shop and office building, $233,000; Washington and Chicago redevelopment, Minneapolis, apartment building with commercial space, $227,000; city of Mankato, children’s museum, $98,000; and Garceau Hardware, Vadnais Heights, senior housing complex, $18,000.

St. Paul submits its legislative wish list for 2015

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: December 17, 2014 - 2:04 PM

The St. Paul City Council on Wednesday will sign off on the city’s legislative wish list for 2015, a series of funding requests, projects and statutory changes that council members and Mayor Chris Coleman are making a priority in the New Year.

At the top of the list: restoration of local government aid to 2003 levels, more state funding for transportation infrastructure and transit, and five top capital projects for which the city will seek state bonding (although 2015 isn’t necessarily a bonding year at the State Capitol).

Those projects and the amount requested, in order of priority, are reconstruction of the Kellogg Boulevard-3rd Street bridge ($40 million); an environmental learning center at Crosby Farm Regional Park ($19.5 million); renovation of the Como Zoo’s seals and sea lions exhibit ($14.5 million); a regional public safety facility and indoor firing range ($6.5 million); and a cultural center at the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary ($3 million).

Coleman said Wednesday that the city also hopes to get authorization for multiple tax-increment financing districts to aid development at the Ford site in Highland Park.

The legislative agenda includes a number of issues on which the city wishes to express its views. For instance, St. Paul opposes state-sanctioned tax levy limits, wants construction materials exempted from sales taxes, and supports more funding to help communities slow the progress of the emerald ash borer.

The city’s lobbying efforts are led by J.D. Burton, who has been St. Paul’s government relations director for a couple years.

“It’s a fairly wide-ranging package of things that we’ll be presenting to the Legislature,” Coleman said. “It’s consistent with what most cities and communities across the state are going to be asking.”

Santa, Mrs. Claus deliver gifts to hospitalized children

Posted by: James Walsh Updated: December 17, 2014 - 1:50 PM

Shortly after 8:30 Wednesday morning, Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus marshalled their forces at St. Paul Police Department headquarters and launched an early start to Christmas for hundreds of sick children.

Using a St. Paul Police motorcade with sirens blaring as an escort, the department's Cops and Kids program first visited Children's Hospitals and Clinics on Smith Avenue. Later Wednesday afternoon, they were to appear at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare on University Avenue E. It is the 14th year for the event.

Santa, who left the police station driving a motorcycle and not a sleigh, and Mrs. Claus, who was riding in the sidecar, planned to deliver more than 500 gifts over the course of the day. And a handful of elves tagged along to help.

So did several police horses and Duke, a K-9 officer.

At Children's, Santa even played a little air hockey with one young patient.

Officer Amy Rahlf, who has been on the Cops and Kids planning committee for 14 years and has played Mrs. Claus for the last past three, said the event means as much to the cops as it does to the kids.

“It’s just amazing as you visit with the children and see their smiles when Santa and Mrs. Claus walk into their rooms,” she said. “It brings joy to everyone who participates in this event to really make it a special day for the children and their families.”

Cops and Kids is supported by donations from St. Paul businesses and organizations. Other police fundraising events -- including an officer-organized motorcycle run, chili cook-off and Koins for Kids collection -- provide money for the program. Police also give gas cards to some families with children in the hospitals to help ease the stress of getting to and from the hospital to visit their kids.

Photo of Emily Kargel with Santa and his helpers by Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

Ramsey County Board approves 2015 budget with no tax levy hike

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: December 16, 2014 - 1:11 PM

Ramsey County commissioners on Tuesday approved the second year of the county’s 2014-15 biennial budget with no change in the property tax levy for the second year in a row.

The $615.3 million budget includes about $11.8 million more in spending next year. New revenues to cover the additional spending come from program and user fees, and intergovernmental aid from the state and federal governments.

A little more than half of Ramsey’s budget is paid with intergovernmental aid and service-fee charges and fines, with the balance covered by property taxes. The 2015 tax levy will collect $276.5 million from county taxpayers.

Unlike most counties, Ramsey County plans its budget every two years. The biennial budget it approved last year increased spending in both 2014 and 2015 but paid for it with increased state and federal aid and department revenues rather than increased property tax collections.

Tuesday’s vote guarantees that, for the first time in more than 20 years, Ramsey County taxpayers will go two straight years without an increase in the county’s property tax levy. Individual tax bills may go up regardless because of the state tax formula, market value shifts and tax decisions by other jurisdictions.

Ramsey County is the only one in the metro area to propose no change in the property tax levy for next year.

The board also approved last-minute contingency funding of $900,000 for the Sheriff’s Office, mostly due to overtime payments.

Cops, firefighters to help with holiday meals

Posted by: James Walsh Updated: December 12, 2014 - 12:19 PM

St. Paul police officers and firefighters are stepping up to help dozens of families have a good holiday meal -- by going grocery shopping with kids.

Through the Heroes and Helpers partnership, more than 48 St. Paul children will be joined by police officers and firefighters from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13,
 
The kids, from St. Paul’s East Side, will be paired with St. Paul firefighters and police officers as they go down the grocery aisles of the Target at 1744 Suburban Ave., filling baskets with food.

This is the third year for Heroes and Helpers, which builds on the St. Paul Police Department’s annual Shop with Cops event. Both programs are designed to strengthen the bond between St. Paul’s emergency responders and the families they serve.

The District 2 Community Council, the St. Paul Police and Fire Departments, St. Paul Public Schools (Hazel Park Academy) and Target are partners in the program.

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