Tensions ran high last week during a special meeting of the West St. Paul City Council, which is expected to meet again Monday to talk more about a much debated proposal to build a $16 million ice arena and FieldTurf Dome near City Hall.

About a week after a resolution directing city staff to continue to work on the sports campus project was yanked from council agendas, a special meeting was called to further discuss the resolution. But the conversation turned ugly early on, with city officials unleashing their frustrations on each other.

At the meeting, City Council Member Jim Englin, who has spearheaded the project, gave a public explanation as to why he pulled the resolution from the previous meeting's agenda.

Englin accused the mayor, the city manager and the city attorney of adding a line to the resolution, without notice to the council, that would have effectively prohibited council members from advocating for or against the project outside of council meetings.

"I'm sorry, sir," Englin said, referring to City Manager John Remkus not telling him about the resolution change. "I see that as bias."

In his defense, Mayor John Zanmiller said that the change was to protect the city against possible litigation. He said the change would have been brought up during the last work session if Englin hadn't pulled it from the agenda.

At last week's meeting, Englin also revealed that one of the city's main tenants, the Sibley High School varsity team, reiterated their concern with playing on the city's current ice past this year. The city's other primary user has an agreement in principle to move most of its ice time to another facility.

At Monday's City Council meeting, it's expected that the old resolution will be reintroduced. Englin said he plans to present another resolution that would call for ending operations at the city's current arena and demolishing it by March or April of 2012.


Shutdown shouldn't affect construction

A state government shutdown may not slow Cedar Avenue construction after all.

Dakota County plans to proceed with the two-year road construction project with the help of private inspectors if state inspectors are not available during a government shutdown.

Periodic inspections of the road work are requirements of the federal funding that is paying for a portion of the construction.

Officials had initially worried that a state shutdown would stall the project because it would reduce staff at the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

But county Physical Development Director Lynn Thompson told commissioners last week that private-sector inspectors could be hired to fulfill those requirements, albeit at extra cost.

County Attorney James Backstrom, whose office helped review the Cedar Avenue contracts, also recommended continuing with the project.

"It seems like a pretty good risk to take," he said. "It's going to cost us a lot more to shut it down and start it up."

The county board members, expressing frustration with the state's budget uncertainty, passed a resolution urging the governor and legislators to work together and avoid a shutdown.

Aid for first-time home buyers

There is more financial assistance available for first-time home buyers in Dakota County.

The Dakota County Community Development Agency has added $5 million to its First Time Homebuyer Program. It's available in the form of low-interest, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage financing and as down payment assistance of up to $10,000 for properties in the county.

People who wish to access the funding must meet income limits, purchase properties that meet price requirements and take home buyer education classes. So far this year, the First Time Homebuyer Program has provided more than $21 million in assistance to 157 households.

More information, including a list of participating lenders, is online at or by calling the Dakota CDA at 651-675-4442.


City opens green fire safety center

What is believed to be the first green-certified fire safety center in the country opened in Eagan last Thursday.

The center, located at 1001 Station Trail near the intersection of Yankee Doodle Road and Wescott Woodlands, replaces two city fire stations.

City officials expect improved response times as a result. The center is also the first Green Globes certified-fire facility in the country.

The station also includes a historic touch, featuring the city's first firetruck, fully restored with volunteer donations, and a replica of the first squad car.



Nita Killebrew to speak at Miracle Field opening

Nita Killebrew will speak tonight in Lakeville at the grand opening of a Miracle Field baseball field named after her late husband.

Harmon Killebrew, the Hall of Fame slugger for the Minnesota Twins, was a major backer of the Miracle League, which builds rubber-surfaced ball fields for disabled children. The Killebrew Foundation was the largest giver to the $400,000 Lakeville field, said Brian Roseen, director of the South Metro Miracle League.

Nita Killebrew's remarks will include the story of her husband's last visit to see a Miracle League game 10 days before he died from esophageal cancer in May, said Kelly McDyre, executive director of the foundation. She said despite his pain, Killebrew insisted on being taken in near 100-degree heat to a Miracle League field near his home in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"He sat there and wouldn't leave until he watched every child cross home plate," said McDyre, who was with him. Every batter scores under Miracle League rules.