St. Francis hospital expansion breaks ground

A 15,500-square-foot expansion kicked off at St. Francis Regional Medical Center last week with a groundbreaking at the hospital's Shakopee campus.

The upgrade, which will cost an estimated $7 million to $8 million, will add a new front entrance, coffee shop and pharmacy, and free up space to expand an existing clinic.

St. Francis, which was founded in 1938 in downtown Shakopee and moved to its current space in 1996, serves a fast-growing population throughout the south-metro area. The hospital gets more than 120,000 outpatient visits per year, said President Mike McMahan. This year, the number of surgeries and emergency room visits rose 10 percent and 20 percent respectively, he said.

Construction is expected to continue through the winter, weather permitting, and wrap up in the summer or early fall of 2016.

Emma Nelson


Movement builds to keep police officer

Some Forest Lake residents have taken to Facebook to protest the possible loss of a full-time police officer in next year's city budget.

The page, "Save FLPD Officer Max," notes that a proposal to eliminate the job held by officer Max Boukal comes at a time of escalating building permits in Forest Lake.

"How does the City Council justify laying off an officer with this type of community growth?" says the Facebook page, which by Saturday had drawn more than 800 likes.

In comments before the City Council at the Nov. 23 meeting, resident Karen Morehead asked that the Police Department be kept intact instead of redistributing Boukal's pay to cover other portions of the city budget.

"If there's ever a time in our city, our state, our country, that we have to stand up for police, it's now," she said.

The City Council is expected to vote Monday on its 2016 levy and budget.

Kevin Giles


'Minnesota Masters' visit arboretum's gallery

Time is running out to catch the art exhibit "Minnesota Masters" at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's Reedy Gallery. The gallery is in the Oswald Visitor Center.

The exhibit, which opened Sept. 1 and runs through New Year's Eve, focuses on four painters.

They are Kairong Liu, known for his sense of color in oil and acrylic paintings; Bruce Miller, a landscape and wildlife painter and past winner of the National Duck Stamp competition; Catherine Hearding, a watercolorist who teaches at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts, and Richard Kochenash, an impressionist and instructor at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, the Edina Art Center, the Minnesota River School of Art and Atelier and his Chaska studio.

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Hennepin County

Court dismisses suit by former Crystal officer

Hennepin County District Court last week dismissed a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by former Crystal police officer Alan Watt against the city, its police chief and city manager.

Watt alleged he was retaliated against and terminated because he asked why the department apparently didn't investigate a family's theft report involving the now-defunct Metro Gang Strike Force.

Watt, who was on the force for 17 years, alleged he had been disciplined, demoted and placed on leave for questioning the apparent lack of an investigation into a theft report filed by a Crystal family after a 2008 raid by the Strike Force.

The officer claims he also was also targeted for other criticisms.

The court found that Watt's claims were without legal merit and that the city's employment decisions were not the result of discrimination or retaliation.

"The decision affirms the city's position that … Watt's discipline and ultimate termination were the result of his own conduct," said attorney Jana O'Leary Sullivan of the League of Minnesota Cities, which represented the defendants.

Karen Zamora