Ice castles still on despite weather

Last week's atypical winter weather may delay the opening of the ice castles under construction in Excelsior, but it's not expected to seriously interfere with the popular attraction, said Amanda Roseth, events director for Woodbury-based Ice Castles LLC.

Roseth said the company's tentative opening date of Jan. 4 may get pushed to Jan. 11. By the time Thursday's rain fell, the castles' walls were already 8 to 10 feet thick and weren't seriously damaged, she said.

Finished walls are 10 to 12 feet thick and made of thousands of icicles sprayed with a mist that freezes and builds up.

Subzero cold, thawing and even the wind can affect the process, but Roseth said such weather changes just add the interesting shapes and textures for which the castles are known. "We're used to dealing with weather," she said.

Katy Read

Ramsey County

Board OKs pay hikes for Fletcher, Choi

The Ramsey County Board has voted 2.5 percent pay raises for Sheriff-elect Bob Fletcher and County Attorney John Choi next year, increasing the salaries of the offices to be held by the two to $164,000 and $180,000, respectively.

The pay hikes are on par with those granted most county employees next year, including County Board members who had voted to raise their own pay by 2.5 percent.

Fletcher, who will take office in early January, also will receive a monthly $110 administrative allowance, as well as a $1,375 uniform allowance. Choi will receive a $100 administrative allowance and $150 every month for transportation.

Greg Stanley

Columbia Heights

Bourgeois starts as city manager Jan. 1

Kelli Bourgeois, Columbia Heights' assistant city manager and human resources director, will become city manager Tuesday following the retirement of Walt Fehst.

The City Council approved Bourgeois' contract at its Nov. 26 meeting after Fehst, who has held the position for 22 years, submitted his letter of resignation.

City officials previously had struck an agreement with Bourgeois to take over Fehst's job, contingent on receiving official notice of his retirement.

Bourgeois, who has worked for the city since 2014, will be paid a $140,000 salary. Before coming to Columbia Heights she was a community development director, assistant city administrator and city planner in Becker, Minn.

Hannah Covington


New zoo reindeer to be named Jingles

Jingles will be the name of the Minnesota Zoo's newest resident, a 3½-year-old male reindeer that "desperately wants to audition as a backup reindeer" for Santa Claus next Christmas, according to zoo officials.

The name was selected by about 3,500 voters on the zoo website after nominations were submitted earlier this month by the public on Facebook.

Other name choices were Atlas, Oliver, Rocket and Waldo.

The winning name was announced on Dec. 22, said Michelle Benson, the zoo's senior director of marketing and communication.

Jingles, raised on a farm in Lake Crystal, Minn., will be part of the zoo's herd of reindeer and caribou when he isn't busy working for Santa.

Kevin Duchschere