On Sept. 11, the Inver Grove Heights City Council discussed adopting a permanent ordinance restricting where Level 3 sex offenders can live, with certain exceptions for offenders who live with family members.
The ordinance under consideration restricts predatory offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, day care, religious facility, park or library.
The city reviewed codes of the largest cities in Dakota County and found that Burnsville, Eagan, Lakeville, Mendota Heights, and Northfield have no domicile restrictions for predatory offenders whereas Apple Valley, Farmington, Hastings, Rosemount, South St. Paul and West St. Paul do restrict where they can live. Four of the six with restrictions include exceptions for offenders who live with family members.
The Inver Grove Heights City Council added a similar exception for sex offenders living with family members in an updated version of the ordinance, concerned that they could be sued if the restrictions were too narrow.
"We can't control everything," Council Member Rosemary Piekarski Krech said. "If we don't allow them [to live] anywhere, we're going to have legal suits and they're going to be allowed wherever."
The Minnesota Department of Corrections advises that housing sex offenders with family members provides the most stable environment for them, said Police Chief Sean Folmar.
Mayor George Tourville said some cities no longer object to housing Level 3 sex offenders. "They're probably the safest predators that you've got because you know every move they're making," Tourville said.
Several residents opposed the family-member exception and worried about the sex offenders' proximity to school bus stops.
There are no Level 3 sex offenders living in Inver Grove Heights.
Tourville said that before the ordinance's final reading at the City Council meeting Monday, city staff will contact schools and ask for bus stop maps.
Lebanon Hills to hold kid-friendly acorn hunt
Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan and Apple Valley seeks people to collect white oak and bur oak acorns to be planted in the park.
"Those are the two species we really want to give a hand to," said Katie Pata, visitor services coordinator for Dakota County.
Visitors, including kids, can hunt for the acorns on their own through Friday. To get started, they can go to the Lebanon Hills Visitor Center, where there is an acorn collection center set up. They will learn more about which acorns to look for and kids can decorate a special bag.
Kids are encouraged to participate in the first-time collection.
"They can just collect any old acorn that they want" and park staff will sort them later, Pata said.
The Visitor Center, located at 860 Cliff Road in Eagan, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and Fridays until 7 p.m.
The acorns will be planted in the park on Sept. 30, which is National Public Lands Day. Volunteers, kids included, are also needed for that event.
The hunt, which started after Labor Day, has had a great public response so far, Pata said, and the park may continue it in the future.
County out of Red Rock Commission
Dakota County's Regional Rail Authority authorized the county's withdrawal from the Red Rock Commission Sept. 12, citing its intentions to explore transit on the county's eastern side — especially in the Hastings area — on its own.
The Red Rock Commission, led by Washington County, comprises counties along Hwy. 61 in the east metro. The commission is "committed to advancing transit options and transit-supportive development along the Hwy. 61 Corridor from Hastings to Minneapolis," according to county documents.
In 2015, the commission began creating a plan to improve transit, including bus rapid transit service. In the near term, the plan recommends all-day transit service to Cottage Grove and working to maintain express service to that city. Longer term, the plan aims to explore transit to Hastings when ridership projections justify doing so, estimated to occur in 2040.
The county's Regional Rail Authority — comprising the entire County Board — joined the group in 1999 as a financial member and has annually contributed 10 percent of its budget. Recently, that has amounted to $5,000 a year.
Dakota County staff would still like to attend commission meetings regularly, county documents said.
After debate, city remains with Greater MSP
The Burnsville City Council voted Sept. 12 to remain a member of Greater MSP, a private nonprofit that aims to grow the economy of the 16-county metro area. After an animated discussion, council members decided the membership was worth the $25,000 recommended annual fee.
Council Member Dan Kealey was enthusiastic about positive changes in the public perception of the Twin Cities since Greater MSP began more than five years ago.
Greater MSP representatives said financial contributions are optional, but of its more than 30 members, including cities, counties and an American Indian tribe, all are paying the recommended fee, which is based on population.
Mayor Elizabeth Kautz, who is on the Greater MSP board of directors, advocated for staying in the group as a way to maintain "a seat at the table," even if Burnsville doesn't appear to be benefiting right now.
Kautz said it wouldn't be fair for Burnsville to remain in Greater MSP without investing the full dollar amount. When Brooklyn Park wanted to pay a reduced fee, Kautz said she put her foot down and said no.
Greater MSP leaders said they couldn't guarantee the organization's assistance on city projects unless the city paid in full.