On the strength of a 3-2 vote, the Oak Park Heights City Council recently donated $3,000 to the coalition that’s promoting the new St. Croix River bridge, but with conditions.
The city will audit just how the coalition uses the money after City Attorney Mark Vierling advised that the coalition can’t spend it on a legal defense, as representatives of the Coalition for the St. Croix River Crossing had inferred.
“In our view, the Coalition would not have legal standing that would allow it to participate in any litigation should that ever present itself, relative to the bridge, as it has no legal standing in the issue,” Vierling wrote in a letter to city leaders. “Consequently, the anticipation of capital building for litigation or legal defense in my opinion would be an illegal gift.”
Vierling said the City Council had the legal authority to make the donation if it “serves an identified worthy and beneficial public purpose,” but he also suggested that the city inquire further into the coalition’s budget and anticipated revenue.
Mayor Mary McComber and council members Mark Swenson and Chuck Dougherty voted in favor of the donation. Mike Runk and Les Abrahamson opposed.
McComber has been an ex-officio member of the coalition. Doughtery owns the Water Street Inn, a bar, restaurant and hotel operation at the foot of the Stillwater Lift Bridge. The coalition has advocated closing the 82-year-old Lift Bridge for safety reasons and to divert commuter traffic out of Stillwater.
Money for the donation will come from the council’s contingency fund.
Abrahamson said he voted against the donation because the coalition didn’t help Oak Park Heights with problems such as finding money to move utilities during construction of approach roads to the new bridge.
“Our issues never became the coalition’s issues,” he said. “Oak Park Heights was on a bit of an island trying to resolve these issues. I had a hard time supporting that.”
Grants available to teach recycling
Nonprofit organizations and schools in Washington County are eligible to apply for grants from the Community POWER (Partners on Waste Education and Reduction) program to teach about waste reduction and recycling.
The deadline to apply is April 1. Anyone wanting to learn more can attend an informational meeting from noon to 1 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Roseville Public Library. Applicants can apply online at www.RethinkRecycling.com/Grants.
Recent recipients include the Stillwater Area High School transition program, Oltman Middle School in St. Paul Park, and Carpenter Nature Center. Their projects focused on reducing packaging waste, composting, recycling and using non-toxic cleaners.
For more information, contact Laurie Gustafson at CommunityPOWER@RethinkRecycling.com or at 651-252-1487.
Historical society offers scholarship
The Washington County Historical Society is offering a scholarship for post-secondary education.
The scholarship is available to graduating seniors enrolled in a Washington County high school or a student in a college or university program currently residing in Washington County as a permanent resident and who is focusing on history, American studies, architecture or a history related field of study.