Blaine's cramped, 36-year-old senior center soon will be replaced by a facility that could offer triple the space.

After months of debate, City Council members voted unanimously May 3 to spend up to $5.4 million to replace the existing 4,200-square-foot Mary Ann Young Senior Center.

In the coming months, city officials plan to finalize a design and determine project costs for the new facility, expected to be about 12,000 to 14,000 square feet.

Funding will come from the city's Capital Improvement Fund, according to Blaine staffers. To dip into the fund, City Council members must determine whether a project provides a communitywide benefit.

To that end, city leaders say the new facility will be used primarily as a senior center but also will be available for recreation programs and as community meeting space.

"This fund has been sitting here since 1988," Mayor Tom Ryan said at the meeting. "It's here for a darn good use."

The existing center, in Aquatore Park at 9150 Central Av. NE., will be torn down to make way for the new building.

The city's decision to build stems from a long-standing debate over what to do about the senior center. The latest effort to overhaul the building comes after a failed referendum in 2016, which sought to build a new senior center along with a community center.

"This has been about a 10-year deal," Ryan said. "I'm ready."

Hannah Covington


New veterans memorial takes shape

Work is set to begin on a new $350,000 Anoka veterans memorial at a scenic spot along the Rum River.

Crews in coming weeks will move several features of the existing memorial at 621 Church St. about a mile away to Riverfront Park, north of Anoka City Hall. Construction on the new memorial is expected to begin in early June.

City Council members last month awarded a contract for the work, which is expected to wrap up in September, said Lisa LaCasse, Anoka's public services administrator. The Memorial Day celebration on May 28 will be held at the Church Street location, with next year's gathering planned for the new site.

Moving the memorial to Riverfront Park will help avoid issues related to road work planned along Hwy. 10 in coming years and also remedy parking concerns at the annual Memorial Day gathering hosted by the American Legion, city officials say.

City officials have worked with the American Legion to design the new site, which will have a stage area and grass seating for events.

The existing veterans memorial includes a granite "praying hands" sculpture and a statue and plaque for Medal of Honor recipient Rick Sorenson. Crews will be moving both features to the new site.

There also will be a monument to display the seals of the military branches and a shared monument showcasing badges for the local police and fire departments.

Community members can purchase an engraved granite paver for a "Walk of Honor" brick area planned for veterans and active or nonactive local military service members. Residents also can buy pavers with a standard message. Order forms are available on the city's website.

Hannah Covington

Brooklyn Park

Controlled burn planned for city park

If you see smoke rising from the grasslands spanning Village Creek Park in the coming weeks, don't be alarmed — it's all according to plan.

Brooklyn Park officials say that they expect crews to conduct a controlled burn sometime before June 1, depending on weather and wind conditions.

Controlled burns keep woody plants and weeds at bay and keep the prairie healthy. The blackened area then comes back, greening up during the next growing season, city officials say.

Residents in nearby homes are encouraged to keep their windows shut if they're worried about the smell of smoke. Anyone with questions may call Prairie Restorations at 763-389-4342.

Hannah Covington


Slater wins national award for principals

A Wyoming school principal has been honored with a national award.

Curtis Slater, principal of Wyoming Elementary School in the Forest Lake school district, was named Minnesota's National Distinguished Principal by the Minnesota Elementary School Principals' Association and the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

Only one principal is selected from each state for the annual award, which recognizes top elementary and middle-level principals.

Slater, who has been in education for 22 years and has served as principal at Wyoming Elementary for the past three years, was described as a visionary leader who has reduced student suspension rates, increased support for students struggling with social and emotional issues and spearheaded the start of a "makerspace," a collaborative working area for students.

He previously worked as a teacher and dean in the Anoka-Hennepin School District and as associate principal in both Princeton and Wayzata school districts.

The other finalists for the award in Minnesota were Alexandria principal Lisa Pikop and Delano principal Darren Schuler.

Kelly Smith