After debating the issue for more than a decade, the Lakeville City Council voted unanimously March 6 to increase the length of its mayoral term to four years from two.
Lakeville was one of just a few cities in the metro with two-year terms, and it was alone among Minnesota's 31 most populous cities, according to City Council documents. Three of the other Twin Cities suburbs that still have two-year terms are in Dakota County. They are: Inver Grove Heights, West St. Paul and Mendota Heights.
"The four-year term … really helps us start thinking long-term," said Luke Hellier, City Council member.
It takes time to learn the ropes of governing a city of 60,000 people, City Council members said, and the longer term brings consistency to city affairs.
Former Mayor Matt Little had been against increasing the term length because it allowed residents to turn over the majority of the council every two years, because council seats are staggered four-year terms.
Lakeville had discussed making the switch in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2015. The new term length will begin Jan. 1, 2019.
Law library filing fees to increase
The Dakota County Board's general governance committee voted March 7 to increase filing fees at the county Law Library to $12 from $10 for conciliation and civil court cases. The added revenue will help offset the rising costs of legal print materials, which have nearly septupled since 1995, against a decadelong decline in the number of filings. The hike is expected to sustain the law libraries through 2021, according to county documents.
No taxes are used to fund the libraries, which are located in Apple Valley and Hastings. Filing fees are the libraries' main funding source. They cover salaries and benefits for three employees.
Library use has gone up every year since 2007, said Shannon Stoneking, law library manager. Law libraries serve government employees and the public by providing access to legal information.
They offer some services that are similar to public libraries, but also provide specific services such as current print and online research tools, guidance on legal materials, legal clinics, legal education workshops, free continuing legal education for attorneys, legal system information and referrals. Final action is pending.
Tribe donates to crisis intervention training
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) recently donated $3,800 to the Chaska Police Department for Crisis Intervention Training.
Crisis intervention programs are often promoted to train authorities how to de-escalate conflicts and recognize signs of mental illness.
The donation will help pay to send 12 patrol officers and three sergeants to a daylong training session, as well as enroll two officers from the training unit to complete a weeklong course. The participating officers will share what they learn with the rest of the department.
Chaska Police Chief Scott Knight said that crisis training is necessary for all police agencies — some of which lack the funding to complete it. "The costs can be an obstacle," he said. "The generosity of [SMSC] is greatly appreciated."
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, a sovereign Indian tribe, operates several Prior Lake casinos and is the largest employer in Scott County.
The organization has emerged as a philanthropic force in the south metro, donating about $350 million to various causes over the past 25 years.
Energy Park achieves commercial operation
Shakopee Energy Park, a new natural gas-powered plant located near Canterbury Park, achieved commercial status and is now producing electricity.
The 46-megawatt facility, owned and operated by the Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (MMPA), will use fuel-efficient engines to generate local, reliable power for the city, leaders said. The plant will also contribute to the overall power supply for member communities like Chaska and Anoka.
Shakopee Mayor Bill Mars applauded the facility as a welcome addition that will provide a long-term and competitive electrical supply, distributed by the city's public utilities. "Public power is stronger than ever," he said.
MMPA's management partner, Avant Energy of Minneapolis, managed the plant's design and construction, and provides operations management for the building.
"This facility demonstrates our commitment to local, efficient power generation," Derick Dahlen, Avant Energy CEO, said in a statement. "We put a lot of effort into designing an attractive facility that will be a long-term asset to Shakopee."