Washington County last week became the last key player in the Red Rock transit corridor to approve the implementation plan for upgraded service between Hastings and St. Paul.

That means the study stage is over and it’s on to making things real, officials said.

The next stage is a phased approach to creating bus rapid transit in the southeast metro area, beginning with building ridership in the corridor and improving local bus service.

The idea is to keep an eye on ridership to see when it grows strong enough to move to full-scale bus rapid transit, which offers frequent all-day service that mimics light rail but is less expensive to build.

Washington County commissioners will arrange to help cities create plans for areas around proposed stations in St. Paul Park and at 80th Street and Jamaica Avenue in Cottage Grove.

The Red Rock corridor is a proposed 20-mile transit route that would run between Hastings and the Union Depot in downtown St. Paul, with several stops in between.

David Peterson

Anoka County

Third staffer added to gun permit unit

The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office soon will add a third full-time staffer to its gun permit unit to help tackle the steady increase in conceal-and-carry permit requests.

County commissioners unanimously approved the additional position at a board meeting last week. The staffer will help handle conceal-and-carry permit requests, as well as conduct the annual record checks associated with the permits, according to county officials.

The staff position will also help ensure that the sheriff’s office meets its 30-day deadline to approve or deny new requests. “There’s a lot involved,” Commissioner Robyn West said.

The full-time position will be funded by gun permit fees.

Hannah Covington


Open house to invite feedback on land use

Residents will have a chance to forge Hugo’s future at a public open house at 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall. The workshop is the first in a series to determine land-use decisions in the city of 14,000 in northern Washington County.

The public workshops will focus on parks and trails, city leaders said.

Hugo has been working for years to build its business district along Hwy. 61 and has studied new amenities to correspond with population growth.

Hugo isn’t alone in its planning. The Metropolitan Council requires cities, townships and the seven metro counties to update their comprehensive plans every 10 years. The new plans must be completed by 2018.

The Hugo City Hall is at 14669 Fitzgerald Av. N.

Kevin Giles


Hope 4 Youth gets boost after losing bracket

A north metro nonprofit has received an unexpected boost in donations after finishing runner-up in a national bracket challenge for charities.

HOPE 4 Youth, a nonprofit for homeless youth, recently reached the championship round in a March Madness-style contest before narrowly losing to an Iowa charity.

Farrell’s eXtreme Bodyshaping, an Iowa-based fitness franchise spread across 10 states, marked its 15th year in business with the bracket challenge, which pitted 64 charities nominated by local gyms against each another for a $5,000 prize. Voters advanced their favorite charities through each round.

HOPE 4 Youth was nominated for the challenge by members of Farrell’s Brooklyn Park location, who say they didn’t want the nonprofit to walk away from the contest empty-handed.

The owner of the gym started a $5,000 match soon after the challenge ended, resulting in $14,500 raised.

Lance Farrell, the company’s founder, ventured to the nonprofit’s Anoka location for a check presentation ceremony last week.

“It’s huge to have these new donors supporting homeless youth right here in our community,” said Kristin Van Heel, a HOPE 4 Youth spokesperson.

Hannah Covington

Arden Hills

Polka named city’s public works director

Arden Hills has again gone the consulting route in order to fill a key position.

Sue Polka, a staffer at WSB, a St. Paul firm, has been put on contract for three years as Arden Hills’ public works director and city engineer.

Polka has 30 years’ experience in the public sector, having been director of engineering for a Houston suburb, city engineer in Prior Lake, and city engineer/public works chief for Mendota Heights.

The city, which has experienced a good deal of turnover of its staff, has turned to consulting help at times rather than make an outright hire.

David Peterson


Repairs to start soon on Lake-Marshall bridge

Ramsey and Hennepin counties will work together this summer on a $1.4 million project to repair and upgrade the Lake Street-Marshall Avenue bridge linking St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The Ramsey County Board signed off on the project in February as part of this year’s transportation improvement plan, and the Hennepin County Board approved the project Tuesday.

The counties will split the cost of construction and also engineering costs, estimated at $370,000.

The project will include replacing the bridge’s expansion joints, repairing its limestone veneer and the plaza areas, sealing the concrete deck and installing inspection safety equipment.

Construction is scheduled to conclude in the fall of 2018.

The bridge, a concrete open span arch about 555 feet long, was opened in 1992 and replaced an aging span. An estimated 19,000 vehicles cross it each day, coming and going from Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood and St. Paul’s Merriam Park.

Kevin Duchschere