A public open house will be held Jan. 11 in Bloomington on state and federal plans to rebuild the Interstate 35W bridge over the Minnesota River linking Bloomington and Burnsville.
The open house, which will focus on the project’s environmental assessment, will be held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Oak Grove Middle School, 1300 W. 106th St. Staffers and engineers from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) will be on hand to answer questions, and members of the public may leave comments on the project for the public record.
MnDOT is planning to reconstruct the bridge and parts of I-35W starting in 2018. The project will rebuild the freeway stretch from Cliff Road in Burnsville to 106th Street in Bloomington, raise the road out of the flood plain, add another northbound lane and install a pedestrian and bike trail over the river. Work is expected to be completed in fall 2020.
MnDOT and the Federal Highway Administration will use feedback from the open house to decide whether environmental impacts will be significant enough to warrant completion of an environmental-impact statement.
A paper copy of the environmental assessment will be available for review at Bloomington’s engineering office, 1700 W. 98th St. Comments may be made through Jan. 25.
Police station, City Hall project get final OK
A long campaign to build a new police station and City Hall in New Hope cleared a key hurdle this month.
In a 4-1 vote during their Dec. 11 meeting, City Council members approved the low bid of $14.8 million from Terra General Contractors for the project’s construction work.
Construction may begin as early as January, with plans first to demolish the outdoor pool at the chosen site on the Civic Center campus off Xylon Avenue N.
Nearly 20 general contractors bid on the project.
City officials, who have been looking into police department and City Hall space needs since 2013, formed a task force in 2015 to provide feedback.
Summit on invasive species scheduled
This year’s Aquatic Invaders Summit, a workshop focused on protecting Minnesota’s lakes and rivers from invasive species, will be held Feb. 28-March 1 in Brooklyn Center, it was announced last week.
The two-day event, to be held at the Earle Brown Heritage Center, will include sessions on using native pathogens to kill carp and possibly zebra mussels; how the state Department of Natural Resources has made zebra mussel-sniffing dogs part of its enforcement efforts; whether the state should create freshwater conservation areas to protect lakes; and what anglers can do to limit the spread of invasive species.
A keynote address on climate impacts and invasive species, followed by a panel discussion, will be given by Don Shelby, former WCCO-TV news anchor and reporter. Those unable to attend in person will be able to follow the event via livestreaming.
The summit “is an ideal crossroads for concerned citizens, elected policymakers, tribal resource managers and leaders, government officials and leading experts to connect on issues,” said Jeff Forester, executive director of Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates, the event’s main sponsor.
The first summit was held in January 2015 in St. Cloud, with the purpose of helping local leaders learn what others were doing to slow the spread of invasive species. At the time, Minnesota was starting to direct more funding to county governments to control invasive species.
Zebra mussels are perhaps the most well-known invasive species in Minnesota, attaching to boats, docks, rocks and other solid surfaces. They quickly proliferate by the millions and have infected more than 200 waterways.
Registration is open and early bird discounts are available. For more information, go to aissummit3.mnlakesandrivers.org.
Board approves budget, raises salaries
Scott County commissioners this month approved a $179 million budget for 2018, which included 3.19 percent tax levy.
Despite the increase, County Administrator Gary Shelton said, the county’s overall tax rate 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.”
The average homeowner will see a $27 property tax decrease on a house valued at $275,000. A home valued at $290,000 will see a 3.4 percent tax increase, or $31.70. Most homeowners whose home values remain the same will see a slight decrease in property taxes, he said.
The nearly $66 million tax levy passed 4-1, with Commissioner Dave Beer dissenting. The budget passed unanimously.
In their budget, Scott County commissioners raised the pay of several county officials — including themselves — in what they said was an effort to remain competitive with comparable counties.
Starting Jan. 1, commissioners will get an annual salary of $62,627, a 4.5 percent increase from last year. Board Chairman Michael Beard will receive an additional $150 per month, and Vice Chairman Tom Wolf will make an extra $75 per 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 make $149,198, a 2 percent increase, and Shelton will also get a 2 percent raise, to $167,138 salary, and a $4,200 annual car allowance.
County officials said salary changes were based on comparable market rate salaries in the metro area, excluding Hennepin and Ramsey counties. Most other Scott County employees will receive a 2 percent pay raise on Jan. 1 and are eligible for merit pay.