An image of a yawning red fox, captured by a Burnsville-based photographer, is on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History after being recognized by Nature’s Best Photography Magazine.

The photo, by self-taught conservation photographer Benjamin Olson, was taken in August on the Gunflint Trail in northeastern Minnesota. Olson said he spent about an hour photographing the young fox, after spotting her hunting in a roadside ditch.

Thousands of photographers submit their work to the Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards each year. Just 82 images were selected this year, including Olson’s, which received an honorable mention. The photo was featured in a recent issue of the magazine, and will be on display at the Natural History museum until September 2017.

Emma Nelson

Inver Grove Heights

Council weighs water connection fee hike

Water and sewer connection fees in Inver Grove Heights may rise up to 5 percent, pending City Council approval.

It’s an effort to recover costs associated with existing water, sewer and storm sewer improvements that were made without assessing property owners, according to a proposed ordinance update. State statute allows cities to charge fees for connections to municipal utilities. The council approved a first reading of updated ordinance language Nov. 14. A second reading is Nov. 28, and a third reading and public hearing are scheduled for Dec. 12.

Emma Nelson


Study sees big need for more housing units

Scott County had better get building if it’s to meet the demand for 30,200 more housing units by 2040.

The county’s community development agency recently released a study it commissioned through Maxfield Research and Consulting that analyzed county demographics and outlined projections for changes in the housing market with recommendations for rental, owner-occupied residences and senior housing.

The study found that 80 percent of demand will be for owner-occupied housing through 2040, with the balance going to rental units. The study is available at

Natalie Daher


Pine Bend appears in Emmy-nominated show

An oil refinery in Rosemount was featured in a regional Emmy-nominated show. An educational program titled, “Into the Outdoors,” highlighted Flint Hills Pine Bend Refinery in a 20-minute episode on the science and process of oil refineries. The episode is called “Decoding the Science of Crude Oil” and includes interviews with engineers, project managers and scientists at the Dakota County site. The regional Emmy ceremony is on Saturday, Dec. 3 in Chicago. Viewers can watch the episode at

Natalie Daher


Board mulls wheelage tax increase for 2017

With state funding uncertain and a host of transportation needs foreseen for the next 15 to 20 years, Carver County officials are considering a wheelage tax increase beginning in 2017.

The current wheelage tax, which is tacked onto annual vehicle registration fees to pay for road maintenance projects, is $10. The County Board is discussing an increase of up to $10, which would make it $20. Many of the county’s roads said to be in critical need of updating — including Highways 5, 212 and 41 — are high-traffic state roads, County Administrator Dave Hemze said.

“The county is stepping up to take care of what’s traditionally been a state responsibility,” he said.

No decisions have been made about the wheelage tax. The board directed staffers to come up with a process of collecting input from residents and businesses before the tax is discussed again in January.


St. Louis Park

City named Bicycle Friendly Community

The League of American Bicyclists last week recognized St. Louis Park as a Bicycle Friendly Community, the latest addition to its list of safe and accessible areas for two-wheelers.

The city, one of 26 added to the program, received the bronze level designation. It will remain on the list for four years.

St. Louis Park launched its “Connect the Park” plan in 2013 to develop a large, comprehensive system of trails, sidewalks and bikeways open to bicyclists. Since then, the city has built more than 6 miles of bikeways, 5 miles of sidewalk and more than 1.5 miles of trail, said Deb Heiser, the city’s engineering director.

St. Louis Park was part of the largest application pool in the history of the program, with 140 communities applying for the designation. Bemidji and Greater Mankato renewed their designations.

Miguel Otárola