Washington County commissioners, in a recent unanimous vote, declined to give themselves a salary raise in 2018 for the eighth consecutive year.
“It’s not that we don’t deserve one, it’s just that we elect not to take one,” said Commissioner Gary Kriesel of Stillwater, the County Board’s longest-serving member.
Washington County commissioners are paid $52,713 annually, far below their peers in some other metro counties.
Commissioners, however, approved a 7.5 percent raise for County Attorney Pete Orput, putting his salary at $171,580 and bringing it more in line with those of county attorneys in Dakota, Ramsey and Anoka counties.
Orput’s initiatives this year included his front-line response to Minnesota sex trafficking and numerous community seminars, such as internet safety for families, commissioners said.
Dan Starry, who was appointed sheriff in May after Bill Hutton retired, received a 3 percent increase to $153,876. His record in 2017 included crisis intervention training for deputies and correctional officers, an internship program and completion of an upgrade in jail security monitoring.
Molly O’Rourke, completing her sixth year as the county administrator, will be paid $176,344, a 3 percent hike over 2017.
“Her leadership brings out the best in everyone,” said Commissioner Stan Karwoski, turning to O’Rourke. “You’re the right leader for the right county.”
Police station, City Hall project get final OK
A long campaign to build a new police station and City Hall in New Hope cleared a key hurdle this month.
In a 4-1 vote during their Dec. 11 meeting, City Council members approved the low bid of $14.8 million from Terra General Contractors for the project’s construction work.
Construction may begin as early as January, with plans first to demolish the outdoor pool at the chosen site on the Civic Center campus off Xylon Avenue N.
City officials, who have been looking into police department and City Hall space needs since 2013, formed a task force in 2015 to provide feedback.
Palumbo honored by county attorney group
Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo this month received a top honor from the Minnesota County Attorneys Association.
Palumbo was chosen for the Johnson Distinguished Service Award, which he received on Dec. 7 at the association’s awards banquet. The service award is given annually to a county attorney with “a history of significant leadership.”
In nominating him for the award, Palumbo’s peers wrote that he is well-known for his expertise in Minnesota’s data practices and his work in protecting the elderly.
Palumbo has been Anoka County attorney since 2011, after working 31 years as an assistant county attorney.
Grants awarded to four local organizations
The Stillwater Area Foundation made four recent grants to local programs. They are:
• $5,000 to Stillwater Area High School, to purchase equipment for high-achieving students to conduct water quality testing on Brown’s Creek;
• $4,200 to the Middle St. Croix Watershed Management Organization, which protects and preserves groundwater storage and retention, for an “adopt-a-rain-garden” program to help maintain Stillwater’s 100-plus rain gardens;
• $2,100 to Canvas Health, an Oakdale nonprofit that helps children, adolescents, adults and families who struggle with mental health, chemical health, and domestic and sexual abuse. The grant will be used to train staff members on how substance abuse and mental illness interact;
• $750 to Our Community Kitchen, to fund a healthy eating class for parents of children living in poverty. The funds will pay for ingredients, journals, cookbooks and instructors.
Summit on invasive species scheduled
The Aquatic Invaders Summit, a workshop focused on protecting Minnesota’s lakes and rivers from invasive species, will be held Feb. 28-March 1 in Brooklyn Center.
The two-day event, to be held at the Earle Brown Heritage Center, will include sessions on using native pathogens to kill carp and possibly zebra mussels; how the state Department of Natural Resources has made zebra mussel-sniffing dogs part of its enforcement efforts; whether the state should create freshwater conservation areas to protect lakes; and what anglers can do to limit the spread of invasive species.
A keynote address on climate impacts and invasive species, followed by a panel discussion, will be given by Don Shelby, former WCCO-TV news anchor and reporter. Those unable to attend in person will be able to follow the event via livestreaming.
Registration is open and early bird discounts are available. For more information, go to aissummit3.mnlakesandrivers.org/about.
Firefighters donate winter coats to kids
The Cottage Grove Fire Department and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2570 Union recently donated more than 60 new coats to South Washington County Schools students in need.
The coats were distributed before winter break to students with the highest needs through SoWashCo CARES (Community Action Reaching Every Student).
Firefighter and paramedic Christy Kreminski organized the fundraiser, through the department, to buy the coats through Operation Warm, a national nonprofit organization.