Board OKs $200M cushion for SWLRT

Hennepin County commissioners approved a measure last week that will put the county on the hook for up to $200 million more should the proposed Southwest light-rail project run out of money. The vote was 6 to 1, with Commissioner Jeff Johnson dissenting.

The Federal Transit Administration, which is expected to pay nearly half of Southwest's $2 billion price tag, requested the financial safeguard to cover potential cost increases or funding shortfalls. Commissioners said Tuesday's vote was a technical change that won't affect the project's overall cost, since contingency funds are budgeted.

The Southwest LRT will link downtown Minneapolis with Eden Prairie. Slated to open in 2023, the Southwest line is the largest public works project in Minnesota history.

David Chanen


Muni liquor rings up $1M in donations

Farmington's municipal liquor operation has given $1 million to the community since 2005, a milestone noted by city officials at a City Council meeting this month.

The donations have supplemented budgets in various city departments, with the largest contribution — nearly $750,000 — going to parks and recreation, according to a Farmington news release.

In 2017, the city's two liquor stores brought in nearly $5 million with a net profit of $343,000, and Farmington ranked 12th out of 19 metro cities in municipal liquor gross profits as a percent of sales, according to the state auditor's report. In 2012, Farmington was the lowest of 17 metro cities that had municipal liquor stores at the time, ranked by profit.

Erin Adler

St. Francis

Traffic signal goes in at Hwy. 47 crosswalk

A temporary traffic signal will help control traffic at a hazardous crosswalk in St. Francis as state and local officials continue to examine safety issues on Hwy. 47.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation finished installing the signal last week at the intersection of Hwy. 47 and Pederson Drive NW. The signal project is one of several interim fixes as officials weigh long-term changes for the corridor.

The signal for now will replace flashing warning lights in a crosswalk where two teenagers were hit and seriously injured while crossing the busy four-lane stretch in November. State officials have said they hope to decide on a solution for the corridor and secure funding in time for construction to begin in 2021.

Hannah Covington


Fairy Falls cleanup gets $10K in funding

The Stillwater Area Community Foundation has awarded $10,000 to a new group in Stillwater that aims to spruce up and maintain a waterfall near the city that's popular with hikers.

Fairy Falls, located less than 2 miles north of downtown Stillwater within the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, has been tarnished with garbage and graffiti. The funds will be used to clean it up, implement safety measures and remove invasive species nearby.

Kyle and Nicole TePoel, of Stillwater Township, applied for the grant and will lead the restoration work with a volunteer group called Friends of Fairy Falls. The award came as part of the Stillwater Foundation's Great Idea Competition, now in its seventh year.

Mara Klecker