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.

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Burglar breaks through wall of St. Paul store, steals $50,000 in merchandise

Posted by: Nicole Norfleet Updated: September 25, 2014 - 10:10 AM

A St. Paul sportswear store was burglarized early Tuesday when someone smashed through a wall and snagged thousands of dollars in merchandise.

At least one burglar, and possibly more, smashed a hole through an exterior brick and block wall at the Sports Dome and took off with at least $50,000 worth of clothes and other items, including leather jackets and jeans, St. Paul police said Wednesday.

Police are asking for the public's help to catch the thief or thieves.

Police responded to an alarm about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday at the store, located at 1505 University Av. W. But when officers arrived, they found the building and doors to be secured, said Sgt. Paul Paulos, spokesman for the St. Paul police. Hours later, the owner reported the burglary to police. It's believed that the heist happened between 5:30 a.m. and 10:20 a.m.

Anyone with information about the case should call the police at 651-266-5574.

The above photo is courtesy of the St. Paul Police Department.

Ballpark signs would be an exception in downtown St. Paul

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere 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.

Levy ceiling expected to reflect Coleman's 2015 tax proposal

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere 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.

Wanted: Food and rec services manager for Como Pavilion

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: September 11, 2014 - 12:47 PM

St. Paul will host a tour Friday morning of the lakeside pavilion at Como Park for vendors interested in managing food and recreational services there.

That wouldn't be especially interesting, except for the fact that the City Council a couple weeks ago agreed to spend $800,000 to sever ties with longtime pavilion manager Black Bear Crossings.

Black Bear's owners, David and Pamela Glass, had sued the city for breach of contract, claiming that parks officials had wrongfully prevented them from renewing their lease.

A Ramsey County judge ruled they were entitled to damages from the city, which led to the settlement approved by the City Council -- the third largest in St. Paul's history.

Black Bear will close at the end of the year, so St. Paul officials want to get a new manager in place to launch a new cafe and take over the busy banquet calendar at Como.

That's why, at 9 a.m. Friday, they'll conduct tours of the pavilion facility and take questions from interested parties. They're looking for someone to manage all aspects of the pavilion, including food and catering services, rec services on or around the lake, and facility maintenance.

For more information, click on www.stpaulbids.com/.

Free brakes for food?

Posted by: James Walsh Updated: August 20, 2014 - 6:14 PM

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.



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