The Prior Lake-Savage school board last week rejected construction bids for expansion projects at four elementary schools, delaying efforts to address overcrowding for at least several months.

Board members said that prices were too high for renovation projects at Five Hawks, Glendale, Jeffers Pond and Redtail Ridge schools, which district officials attributed to late-season bids and steep competition for contractors.

Bidding opened April 3 with construction expected to begin in June, but board Chairman Richard Wolf said bids came back 50 percent over budget.

“We truly believe it is a timing issue,” Assistant Superintendent Jeff Holmberg said at Monday’s board meeting. “We knew there was a risk coming out this late.”

The expansion plans are part of a $109.3 million bond referendum approved by voters in November to fund a new elementary school, alternative learning center, two-story high school addition and other school improvements.

As a result of the board’s vote, classroom additions at Five Hawks and Glendale will go back out for bids, while the other projects will be rolled into larger expansions starting next spring.

Board Member Mary Frantz questioned why staffers hadn’t anticipated the problem and urged the board to prepare contingency plans should bids come back too high again.

“I think that we probably need to get a little more involved ... so that we’re not repeating mistakes,” Frantz said.

Several board members countered that they didn’t view the delay as a mistake. “To me, it’s simple — it if comes in high, we’re going to have to reject it,” Board Member Lee Shimek said.

Liz Sawyer

Mendota Heights

Council OKs amended plan for apartments

The Mendota Heights City Council has approved an amended plan for a new two-building apartment complex off Hwy. 13, despite opposition from residents.

The buildings would sit on a 5.5-acre site formerly occupied by the Mendota Motel and Larson Garden Center, south of Acacia Boulevard. The altered plan would shrink one building to create more room between the two buildings, and replace part of the parking lot with more green space.

The developer granted the changes as a “peace offering” to Council Member Ultan Duggan, who requested them. Duggan is one of two council members opposing the project, said Tim Benetti, community development director, who called the original plans for the complex “very well designed, very well presented.”

The council approved the plan on a 3-1 vote at its April 3 meeting. Duggan was not present for the vote.

A group of residents is suing the city over the project, claiming city officials broke several ordinances in approving it. They believe the project is too big, with limited parking, reduced setbacks and too much pavement.

A ruling on the lawsuit is expected by mid-May, Benetti said.

Erin Adler

Carver

City opening downtown to sidewalk cafés

Carver has adopted an ordinance allowing for the creation of sidewalk cafés, in an effort to drive more foot traffic downtown.

City officials hope that area restaurants will take advantage of the ordinance to draw customers to the “Shops of Carver,” a business district specializing in vintage goods, restored furniture and classic antiques.

“We want to capture some of that energy in the form of additional pedestrian traffic,” said City Manager Brent Mareck.

The cafés can operate between April 1 and Oct. 31, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Smoking will be prohibited in cafe areas.

The city’s master plan calls for a “more well-rounded downtown experience,” and sidewalk cafés would complement recent efforts to widen public sidewalks.

So far, only Harvey’s Bar and Grill, 220 Broadway St., has applied for a city permit to operate a sidewalk cafe.

Liz Sawyer

Norwood Young America

Eagle Lake to host annual Astronomy Day

The Minnesota Astronomical Society will hold its annual Astronomy Day on Saturday for seasoned and new stargazers.

The event will begin at 1 p.m. at the Eagle Lake Observatory in Baylor Regional Park, 10775 County Road 33. Weather permitting, visitors will be able to use the observatory’s two dozen telescopes and attend presentations on astronomy topics, such as what is visible this time of year and a laser-light tour of the night sky.

“There is a lot of joy … that people get from the first time they see a planet through a telescope. … It’s really an awesome, a ‘Wow’ moment for a lot of people,” said Clayton Lindsey, president of the society.

The volunteer organization, with about 500 members, holds star parties twice a month at the observatory from March to November, which typically go from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Volunteers are “interested in sharing their love for the night sky, the universe,” Lindsey said.

Around 200 visitors are expected for Saturday’s event.

Kelly Busche

Eagan

Legion Post searching for Vietnam vets

Officials with Eagan American Legion Post 594 are asking for the public’s help in identifying area Vietnam veterans for special recognition during the national Vietnam War Commemoration.

The commemoration honors all active-duty veterans serving from Nov. 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that there are 6.6 million Vietnam veterans alive today who are eligible for a lapel pin to recognize their service.

Post 594 recently became a registered partner for the national commemoration and will host several 50th anniversary events for veterans over the next three years. Post officials know of only a small number of veterans and families living in the area who are eligible for recognition.

To share information about a Vietnam veteran in the area or learn more, contact ealp594@gmail.com.

Erin Adler