The Scott County Board has approved a $179 million budget for 2018, which includes a 3.19 percent property tax levy.

County Administrator Gary Shelton said the county’s tax rate — based on $1,000 of assessed value — has steadily fallen since 2013, from 40.7 percent to 35 percent.

“I anticipate that will continue to decline,” Shelton said at the Dec. 19 meeting. “That declining tax rate has accomplished the board’s goal of trying to minimize the impact to our residents and to our businesses, while at the same time proving a level of service that is mandated and expected.”

A majority of homeowners whose home does not change in value will see a slight decrease in property taxes, he said. A homeowner would see a $27 property tax decrease on a house valued at $275,000 when compared to last year. A home valued at $290,000 would show a 3.4 percent increase — or $31.70. State law requires that homes be reevaluated by assessors every five years.

The nearly $66 million levy passed 4-1, with Commissioner Dave Beer dissenting. The budget passed unanimously.

The commissioners also approved salary increases for Scott County officials, they said, to remain competitive with similar counties. Starting Jan. 1, all five commissioners will now earn an annual salary of $62,627 — a 4.5 percent increase from last year. Vice Chairman Tom Wolf will make an extra $75 a month and Chairman Michael Beard will get an extra $150 a month.

County Attorney Ron Hocevar will get a 3.34 percent bump to $163,424 a year, plus a $300 monthly car allowance. Sheriff Luke Hennen will get a 2 percent raise to $149,198 a year. Shelton also will get a 2 percent hike, to $167,138 a year, plus a $4,200 annual car allowance.

All salary changes are based on comparable market rate salaries in the metro area, excluding Hennepin and Ramsey counties. Most other county employees will also receive a 2 percent pay raise on Jan. 1 and are eligible for merit pay.

Liz Sawyer


More ice rinks are coming to town

Come January, Jordan residents will have two more ice rinks to skate on.

The City Council recently voted to buy two 30-by-60 foot backyard skating rink systems for the Bridle Creek and Timberline neighborhoods. The mini rinks would provide more family-friendly skating options for parents with young children. The existing community hockey rink typically draws teenagers and older children.

The makeshift rinks, to be located on neighborhood basketball courts, can be built in less than an hour. Individual boards weigh less than 10 pounds each and are durable enough to sustain wear and tear of backyard hockey, said planning intern Mary Kennedy.

Public Works would set up the boards and flood the rink, but the residents would be responsible for maintenance after snow events. Each rink will cost the city about $3,900. Funding will come from the park improvement fund.

The much larger community hockey rink could also see some capital improvements next year. The Parks and Recreation Commission recommended adding an open-air shelter over the ice and replacing sideboards to protect the rink from sunlight. Current sideboards reflect the sun on the south end of rink and melt the ice.

“It’s always the same every year,” said Public Works Director Scott Haas. “Once that ice melts, the water works its way throughout the ice, causing more ice to melt.”

Last year, Haas installed a reflector at the rink’s south end, but it failed to resolve the problem.

The council asked for more information before making a decision.

Liz Sawyer


Water, sewer rates see 3 percent hike

Citing increasing service costs, the city implemented a 3 percent increase for water and sewer rates in 2018.

New rates will be reflected on customers’ bills by the end of January.

Utility revenue act as the primary funding source for maintaining water and sewer infrastructure. This year, Savage remodeled Water Treatment Plant #2 to improve efficiency and began replacing all 10,000 residential and commercial water meters with “smart” meter technology. The updated meters provide homeowners with near real-time data on water usage and better leak detection.

Those looking for tips on how to reduce water consumption can visit

Liz Sawyer


Firefighters, officer get lifesaving award

Allina Health Emergency Medical Services presented Fire Chief Rick Coleman, Deputy Chief Ryan Yttreness and police Sgt. Derek Nordtvedt with the Life Saver Award for heroism that saved a toddler in cardiac arrest.

They responded to an emergency call about an unresponsive 2-year-old girl in 2014. Coleman discovered Abrielle Watschke without a pulse and carried her to an ambulance to perform CPR.

“Miraculously, she survived and today is absolutely thriving,” said her mother, Angela Watschke. Abrielle was diagnosed with a congenital heart arrhythmia called Long QT Syndrome. Treatment has kept her stable for three years.

Liz Sawyer

Cottage Grove

Firefighters donate winter coats

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 through SoWashCo Community Action Reaching Every Student (CARES).

Kevin Giles