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.

Posts about People and neighborhoods

Rice Creek Commons website launches

Posted by: James Walsh Updated: February 9, 2015 - 1:51 PM

Ramsey County officials announced Monday the launch of a new, dedicated website for Rice Creek Commons, the new name of the development at the old Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills.

The website will be a place to go for the most current information about the project, officials said.

Work is progressing at the site. Since the county bought the 427-acre site in April 2013, crews from Bolander & Sons have demolished the 44 buildings that once stood on the property and completed environmental cleanup on 60 percent of the site.

Ramsey County also is working with Arden Hills to complete a master plan for the development, as well as a long-term energy plan for the site.

Officials say the goal is a mixed-use development that includes housing, commercial, retail, light manufacturing and recreational uses.

The site is expected to be cleaned to residential standards by fall 2015.

For more information, go to: RiceCreekCommons.com

Six people were interviewed for St. Paul public works chief, and Lantry wasn't one of them

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: January 30, 2015 - 3:06 PM

In the days since St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman announced his appointment of City Council President Kathy Lantry to be the city’s new Public Works Director ( http://www.startribune.com/local/stpaul/289199231.html ), some people have wondered how that all came about. After all, she's not a typical choice for the job -- and she didn't apply for it.

Lantry knows as much, or more, about city government than just about anyone at City Hall. She’s smart, a skillful negotiator and possesses the kind of humor that enables her to disarm windbags without ruffling feathers. She’s able to cut to the heart of complex issues and has a large store of common sense.

But she’s not an engineer, nor has she ever worked in the department she soon will be managing.

Moreover, 33 people applied for the job in response to a national search conducted by a city contractor, Springsted Consulting, for $10,000.

Seven of the applicants were invited for interviews, and in the end a panel of city officials led by Deputy Mayor Kristin Beckmann interviewed six of them, said the city's Human Resources Director Angie Nalezny.

Of those six, three were interviewed by a second, larger panel -- including Beckmann, Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb, and public works officials with Minneapolis and Ramsey County.

One of those three, from the Chicago area, was immediately interviewed by Coleman to save the cost of flying her back to St. Paul. The other two of the three, reportedly from the metro area, likely would have been interviewed by the mayor -- had he not halted the process at that point and appointed Lantry instead.

Lantry and Coleman are longtime political allies. Both were raised in staunchly DFL homes in St. Paul, and both had parents who were effective and respected legislators. Both joined the City Council at the same time, in 1998. They’re separated in age by only seven days (Coleman is older).

Even so, the mayor has never been able to take Lantry’s support for granted. When she has disagreed with him – notably on budget issues, and most recently on the matter of funding for expanded library hours – she hasn’t been shy about saying so publicly.

The city’s job description says candidates “must have seven years of progressively-responsible, professional experience in public works construction projects and/or engineering design with three years at a management level,” and also suggests that candidates have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, public administration or business administration.

Lantry’s degree, from the College of St. Benedict, is in liberal studies.

Lantry won’t be the city’s first public works director without a background in the field. Rich Lallier, for instance, took the job in 2010 after a long tenure in the Parks and Recreation Department.

Council Member Dan Bostrom doesn’t think technical expertise is essential for the job. “It’s more a management position as opposed to being out in the field,” he said. “Kathy having been around for a long time, you know who the actors are and who’s in charge.”

Lantry said that she was surprised by Coleman's job offer, but "he thought she would be the best person for the job," mayoral spokeswoman Tonya Tennessen said in an email message. "As a fellow lifelong resident of St. Paul and after serving 15 years on the City Council, no one knows St. Paul better than Kathy Lantry.

“What’s more, she has a deep understanding of the department given the many public works issues she has dealt with during her time on the City Council – so ramp-up time will be minimal. Yet, at the same time, she offers an outside perspective that will be important in setting the forward direction for the department.”

The job will mean more money for Lantry, but perhaps not as much as seems to be the case at first glance. She makes $58,491 on the City Council, which is considered a part-time job; her salary as public works director, which is full-time and then some, will be $136,000.

Lantry said she is excited at the prospect of starting on March 1, although she knows the job is “fraught with peril,” as she put it. A lot of fingers get pointed at the person in charge of making sure the city’s streets get repaired in the summer and plowed in the winter.

Although she didn’t say it, public works also may not be the best place from which to launch a mayoral campaign in 2017, should one be so inclined.

“It’s a big, daunting task,” Lantry said, “but I know the department, I know the players, and I come in with pure motives. I really am taking this on because infrastructure and public works are core city services that I want to make sure work well.”

Wanted: City Council member, East Side

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: January 27, 2015 - 4:39 PM

The city of St. Paul on Monday issued a request for proposals, if you will, from people looking to serve on the City Council through the end of the year.

The opening is for the Seventh Ward seat, to be vacated at the end of February by Kathy Lantry as she leaves the City Council to take up her new job as director of St. Paul's Public Works Department.

Here are the basic conditions:

--  You must live in the ward, which encompasses the East Side mostly south of Minnehaha Avenue;

--  You must agree not to run for the seat in this year's election (there are five candidates so far, and the council doesn't want to be accused of being king- or queen-makers in advance of the voting);

-- You should be familiar with city government and have the time and energy necessary to do a good job.

Interested? Send your resume and cover letter to Trudy Moloney, City Council operations director, at trudy.moloney@ci.stpaul.mn.us or St. Paul City Council, Suite 310, City Hall, 15 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102. Applications must be received by 4:30 p.m. on February 6.

The council will conduct interviews for job finalists on February 11, and plans to make the appointment at its meeting on February 25. It reserves the right to limit the number of applicants to be interviewed.

The term ends on December 31.

Mid-January thaw to bring out the plows

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: January 14, 2015 - 12:36 PM

With warmer weather in the forecast Thursday and Friday, St. Paul is planning to pull out the plows to do some touching up of residential streets.

City officials are asking residents to move their vehicles off north-south residential streets on Thursday, and off east-west residential streets on Friday, to make it easier for plows to get through.

The city won’t ticket or tow vehicles that aren’t moved. But officials hope for a high degree of voluntary compliance to ensure that streets can be cleared of snow as much as possible.

Crews plan to plow from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on each of those days.

The high temperature forecast for St. Paul on Thursday is 35 degrees; on Friday, temps are expected to rise to 31 degrees.

Hot music for cold nights at Latimer Central Library

Posted by: James Walsh Updated: January 12, 2015 - 10:40 AM

Yes, it is supposed to warm up considerably by the end of the week. But folks at the George Latimer Central Library in downtown St. Paul want to crank it up a few degrees warmer still.

Hot Music for Cold Nights, a free series to chase the winter blues away with music and dance from warmer climates, hits the downtown library on Sunday, Jan. 18, with a performance by the Tropics Steel Drum Band. The 2 p.m. show will be in the Magazine Room.

Steel drum style comes from Trinidad and Tobago. Steel bands play on instruments that began as oil drums -- refined over the last 60 years.

The Tropics Steel band draws from Caribbean styles such as Calypso, Reggae, SKA, Soca, pop and others. The leader is Jahbee, a former player with Shangoya, a popular Twin Cities Reggae group.

For more information on this and other Hot Nights performances, go to: http://www.sppl.org/hotmusic

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