City officials announced last week that four finalists have been chosen in the search for Brooklyn Park's next fire chief.

According to a city news release, the candidates are T. John Cunningham, Elk River's fire chief and director of emergency management; Donald Johnson, Chanhassen's fire chief and emergency manager; Dennis Jones, St. Paul fire captain; and Todd Seitz, Brooklyn Park's interim fire chief and director of emergency management.

Members of the public are invited to meet the candidates at an informal gathering from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Community Activity Center, 5600 85th Av. N.

The position opened after Fire Chief Ken Prillaman resigned last year, pushed out by what some city leaders alleged was "a culture of hostility" involving Council Member Mark Mata, who for years has worked as a paid on-call firefighter.

City Manager Jay Stroebel said he likely will recommend a candidate in early May, with the City Council expected to give final approval soon after.

Hannah Covington


Council criticizes apartment manager

Osseo City Council members this month urged a property manager to improve its business practices after vacancy notices went out to tenants and forced many of them to move from an apartment complex.

The company, QT Property Management, recently took over an 86-unit complex near Hwys. 169 and 610. The company told tenants they had to vacate their units for renovations and that current leases would not be renewed. Remaining residents later learned they would be able to reapply to live in renovated units.

The City Council approved a variance requested by QT to build a free-standing office and gym on the property. But council members warned that they would be watching the development closely.

"I want you to be on your best behavior," Council Member Harold E. Johnson said to QT officials before the vote. "We don't particularly like the way your operations began with the city."

Council Member Mark Schulz said he was saddened to hear about residents who had already moved out of the complex.

"I'm looking forward to significant steps by QT Properties to facilitate communication with their residents," he said.

Tenants also spoke against the company during the meeting, asking the council to prevent similar practices going forward.

Miguel Otárola


Strommen's resignation opens council seat

Ramsey Mayor Sarah Strommen's upcoming resignation is the latest move in an ongoing City Council shuffle at City Hall.

Strommen announced last month that she will be resigning effective May 1 because her family is moving out of Ramsey.

"Unfortunately, the job of mayor is one that you cannot take with you outside the city," Strommen said at the March 27 meeting.

Strommen, who is in her second term as mayor, said she wanted to time her resignation so the special election to fill her position overlaps with the Nov. 6 general election. Until a new mayor is elected, Council Member John LeTourneau will serve as acting mayor.

That means there will be two vacancies on the seven-member council until November. Council Member Chris Riley will be changing seats after winning an April 10 special election prompted by a former council member's move to Canada last fall. As with the mayoral job, Riley's vacant seat will be filled in a special election also set for November.

Hannah Covington

New Hope

Council approves $264K in park upgrades

Work is set to begin at two New Hope parks to replace aging basketball courts and playground equipment.

New Hope City Council members approved two contracts April 9 totaling about $264,000 for a playground in Sunnyside Park as well as new basketball courts in Sunnyside and Begin parks.

The city plans to use a $25,000 grant from Hennepin County to defray costs of the Sunnyside playground project. Residents helped select the play equipment, which will include swings, slides and a zipline. Crews will spruce up the blacktop pathway linking the playground to Quebec Avenue.

The basketball courts at Sunnyside and Begin parks also will be replaced in coming months. City officials have applied for an additional $10,000 grant from Hennepin County for new basketball hoops.

Work on the parks is expected to be completed by early summer, according to the city.

Hannah Covington

Mendota Heights

Controversial apartment plan amended

The Mendota Heights City Council has approved an amended plan for a new two-building apartment complex off Hwy. 13, despite opposition from residents.

The buildings would sit on a 5.5-acre site formerly occupied by the Mendota Motel and Larson Garden Center, south of Acacia Boulevard. The altered plan would shrink one building to create more room between the two buildings and replace part of the parking lot with more green space.

The developer granted the changes as a "peace offering" to Council Member Ultan Duggan, who requested them. Duggan is one of two council members opposing the project, said Tim Benetti, community development director, who called the original plans for the complex "very well designed."

The council approved the plan on a 3-1 vote at its April 3 meeting. Duggan was not present for the vote.

A group of residents is suing the city over the project, claiming city officials broke several ordinances in approving it. They believe the project is too big, with limited parking, reduced setbacks and too much pavement.

A ruling in the suit is expected by mid-May, Benetti said.

Erin Adler