On the strength of a 3-2 vote, the Oak Park Heights City Council recently donated $3,000 to the coalition that’s promoting the new St. Croix River bridge, but with conditions.

The city will audit just how the coalition uses the money after City Attorney Mark Vierling advised that the coalition can’t spend it on a legal defense, as representatives of the Coalition for the St. Croix River Crossing had inferred.

“In our view, the Coalition would not have legal standing that would allow it to participate in any litigation should that ever present itself, relative to the bridge, as it has no legal standing in the issue,” Vierling wrote in a letter to city leaders. “Consequently, the anticipation of capital building for litigation or legal defense in my opinion would be an illegal gift.”

Vierling said the City Council had the legal authority to make the donation if it “serves an identified worthy and beneficial public purpose,” but he also suggested that the city inquire further into the coalition’s budget and anticipated revenue.

Mayor Mary McComber and council members Mark Swenson and Chuck Dougherty voted in favor of the donation. Mike Runk and Les Abrahamson opposed.

McComber has been an ex-officio member of the coalition. Doughtery owns the Water Street Inn, a bar, restaurant and hotel operation at the foot of the Stillwater Lift Bridge. The coalition has advocated closing the 82-year-old Lift Bridge for safety reasons and to divert commuter traffic out of Stillwater.

Money for the donation will come from the council’s contingency fund.

Abrahamson said he voted against the donation because the coalition didn’t help Oak Park Heights with problems such as finding money to move utilities during construction of approach roads to the new bridge.

“Our issues never became the coalition’s issues,” he said. “Oak Park Heights was on a bit of an island trying to resolve these issues. I had a hard time supporting that.”



Grants available to teach recycling

Nonprofit organizations and schools in Washington County are eligible to apply for grants from the Community POWER (Partners on Waste Education and Reduction) program to teach about waste reduction and recycling.

The deadline to apply is April 1. Anyone wanting to learn more can attend an informational meeting from noon to 1 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Roseville Public Library. Applicants can apply online at www.RethinkRecycling.com/Grants.

Recent recipients include the Stillwater Area High School transition program, Oltman Middle School in St. Paul Park, and Carpenter Nature Center. Their projects focused on reducing packaging waste, composting, recycling and using non-toxic cleaners.

For more information, contact Laurie Gustafson at CommunityPOWER@RethinkRecycling.com or at 651-252-1487.

Historical society offers scholarship

The Washington County Historical Society is offering a scholarship for post-secondary education.

The scholarship is available to graduating seniors enrolled in a Washington County high school or a student in a college or university program currently residing in Washington County as a permanent resident and who is focusing on history, American studies, architecture or a history related field of study.

Applicants must have a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher and must be a member of WCHS or have an immediate family member who is a member. Applications must be received by May 1. To get an application, contact a high school counselor or the historical society at 651-439-5956. Or e-mail information@wchsmn.org or visit www.wchsmn.org.

Savings to follow move from paper

Washington County Board members will begin receiving documents related to county board business electronically by springtime.

Moving to electronic delivery will save at least $5,000 over the next four years in staff costs, printing and mailing paper packets, the county said.

Earlier in February the County Board approved a $1,500 stipend to purchase electronic equipment to receive documents for county business electronically. Board members who accept the stipend will be required to personally own a device that is able to connect to the county network and that allows the board member to receive the weekly board packet electronically.



Stantec will design new roundabout

The Washington County Board of Commissioners has approved a contract with Stantec Consulting Services Inc. to start design work on construction of a roundabout at Radio Drive and Military Road in Woodbury.

Stantec was selected after obtaining competitive bids. The design contract is for $78,416. The project is part of the county’s 2013 Capital Improvement Plan.



Foundation seeks more ‘great ideas’

The Stillwater Area Foundation has unveiled a “Great Idea Competition” that seeks the newest and most innovative ideas to benefit the city.

The winner will receive a $5,000 grant to implement their “great idea.”

Ideas must be submitted no later than April 1 on the Stillwater Area Foundation website at www.stillwaterareafoundation.org.

The top three entrants will be asked to present them at a May board meeting, and the winner will be announced in June.

Kevin Giles