It doesn't happen often, but Washington County gave away a highway last week.

Lake Elmo will inherit DeMontreville Trail, a country road that winds through the lake region in the northwest portion of the city. The highway, also known as County Road 13B, lacks many of the features that distinguish county highways, County Engineer Wayne Sandberg told the county board last week.

The 2.2-mile section of narrow and winding road has many driveways, serves primarily local traffic and isn't a good truck route, Sandberg said.

Under the agreement with Lake Elmo, the county will clear snow and ice from DeMontreville Trail for two years at a projected cost of $36,740. The county also made improvements to the road to avoid handing Lake Elmo a liability, Sandberg said.

"What we're doing is turning over a road to Lake Elmo that's in excellent condition," he told commissioners, who approved the arrangement 5-0.

COTTAGE GROVE

Police reservists get vests

A couple of private companies and the city have teamed up to donate bulletproof vests to the city's reserve police officers, who volunteer more than 2,000 hours each year.

"Our reserve officers are given a uniform but not a vest, so we were excited to have this donation for them," said Gail Griffith, community affairs officer for the Cottage Grove Police Department.

About a year ago, Wes Halberg of Yocum Oil had contacted Griffith to tell her the company was putting out a "use again" box to collect used clothing at the Holiday Station Store on Jamaica Avenue and East Point Douglas Road, she said. Yocum offered to donate 2 cents a pound from items collected to go toward the protective vests.

The checks came in quarterly to the local crime board, she said, adding up to enough to buy one $299 vest after a year. Remax Realty, the employer of reservist Justin Fox, donated enough to buy two more vests, and the city bought the last two, Griffith said.

Military families receive toys

Santa, along with ambassadors from the Cottage Grove Strawberry Fest, will pass out gifts to children and teens whose parents are reserve or active duty military personnel and live in Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park or Newport.

Items collected by festival ambassadors and Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Cottage Grove will be distributed from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the VFW Post 8752, 9260 E. Point Douglas Road.

Holiday Train tops $79,000

Police and Canadian Pacific Railroad officials estimate that more than 10,000 people were on hand to catch the Holiday Train stop in Cottage Grove, and they apparently were a generous bunch.

The Cottage Grove Chamber of Commerce thus far has collected $79,849 and about 10,000 pounds of food and toiletries for the Friends in Need Food Shelf. Some of that was collected in pre-event fundraisers. The chamber is still accepting donations and also is collecting toys, said Mary Slusser, a spokeswoman for the Holiday Train committee.

In the nine years the train has stopped in the southeast metro community, the chamber has collected more than $370,000 and 95,000 pounds of food and household items. The food shelf serves residents in Cottage Grove, Newport, Grey Cloud Island and St. Paul Park.

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Board votes elevator upgrades

Elevators in the Washington County Historic Courthouse in Stillwater and the county Service Center in Woodbury will be brought up to state code after the County Board voted Dec. 8 to approve the work.

Washington County contracts with ThyssenKrupp Elevator Corp. to provide preventive and emergency maintenance for county elevators. After a recent audit by the company, several deficiencies were found.

The proposal to upgrade the elevator at the Historic Courthouse is $7,316; at the Woodbury Service Center, it's $5,732.50.

Library Express wins award

The Washington County Library has won an Achievement Award for its Library Express service. Library Director Pat Conley accepted the award from the Association of Minnesota Counties at its annual conference Dec. 5 in Minneapolis. Carver County also received the award.

Washington County installed a Library Express in Hugo in the middle of 2010 in lieu of building a brick-and-mortar library. Through the service, patrons can use a public kiosk or any computer to request materials, which are then delivered to lockers outside Hugo City Hall. Patrons can pick up or drop off materials there 24 hours a day.

The service was so popular in Hugo that the number of lockers was doubled from 20 to 40. The same service is being installed this month in Marine on St. Croix and Newport.

Carver County installed its Library Express at a recreation center in Victoria.

Both counties used a federal Institutes of Museum and Library Services grant of $140,000 to buy the equipment.

ST. CROIX RIVER

MPCA seeks comments about Lake St. Croix water quality

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is seeking comments on a water quality improvement report for the portion of the St. Croix River known as Lake St. Croix. The report, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study, focuses on pollution caused by excess phosphorus. The public comment period continues through Jan. 11.

Lake St. Croix is a natural lake in the lower 25 miles of the St. Croix River. Over the years algae blooms that deplete oxygen in the water have occurred from excess phosphorus loading, the MPCA has determined. The loading has a detrimental effect on fish and other aquatic life and diminishes recreational use of the lake, the agency said.

The draft report can be viewed at www. startribune.com/a885. For information or to submit comments, contact Chris Zadak, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road N., St. Paul, MN 55155. He also can be reached at chris.zadak@state.mn.us or 651-757-2837.

Kevin Giles, tim harlow and Joy powell