A Thai restaurant has become the newest business to occupy the historic Savage Depot, a city landmark that’s struggled to maintain tenants for more than a few years at a time.

The City Council approved the venture — called Wow! Thai Food — in May and granted a three-year lease extension to operators Helen and Carl Andersen, who opened there late last month.

The Andersens succeeded Huong Nguyen and Fabian Vu, who ran the restaurant as Flavor Pho for about eight months. That shop specialized in Vietnamese, American and Mexican dishes, along with coffee and baked goods.

The city-owned Depot has been a challenging space for businesses, with limited visibility from nearby Hwy. 13 and minimal storage space. Two coffee shops have failed there since 2007.

The conditions make it difficult to attract any motorists traveling through town, said City Administrator Barry Stock.

“They’re basically serving people who are already here,” he said. “It’s very labor-intensive and sometimes the profit margins aren’t there.”

Mayor Janet Williams said she hopes the new operators will find their own niche to help drive traffic downtown.

Wow! Thai Food markets itself as a “made-from-scratch” eatery that serves authentic Thai cuisine without monosodium glutamate (MSG). It’s open Tuesday through Sunday, though hours vary.

The Depot, built in 1880, served as a railroad station until 1970. It was later moved to a site in Shakopee before returning to Savage in 2006 after residents raised money to “bring the Depot home.”

The city spent $130,000 to install the Depot at its downtown location and used a grant from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community to pay for a $30,000 commercial hood and exhaust system needed for a restaurant to operate in the building.

Liz Sawyer

Dakota County

Volunteers sought to hunt invasive species

Volunteers are needed around the state at more than a dozen sites, including Dakota County, to search for a type of algae identified as Minnesota’s newest invasive species.

In Dakota County, volunteers will meet at 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 5 at the Dakota County Western Service Center, 14955 Galaxie Av., Apple Valley, to head to nearby lakes in search of starry stonewort and then return to report their discoveries.

Volunteers need no equipment to participate in the free event, called Starry Trek, and training will be provided. They will receive a complimentary tote bag and boot brush for their help. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Registration is requested by Friday. For a list of all the sites, visitstarrytrek.org.

Starry stonewort was first found in 2015 at Lake Koronis in Meeker County and then in nine Minnesota lakes.

To register, go to maisrc.umn.edu/starrytrek. For more information, contact Lindsey Albright, Dakota County water resources specialist, at 651-480-7783.

Erin Adler

Board OKs new staffers for child protection

The Dakota County Board approved hiring a new child protection supervisor and a half-time paralegal in the county attorney’s office for help in addressing the county’s increasingly high volume of cases and families’ extreme needs, according to a Dakota County Community Services Committee memo last week.

The child protection system is currently overwhelmed, the memo said, and immediate help is needed.

The Social Services Department has child protection revenue it can reallocate to pay for salary, benefits and other costs of hiring the two new staff members for the rest of 2017.

Increased drug use is bringing more families into the child protection system, and a tough rental market is making it hard to find stable housing when it’s time for kids to be returned to their parents after a child protection issue, according to a letter from Phil Prokopowicz, chief deputy Dakota County attorney.

Several statewide changes have also extended the duration of children’s placement, creating more work for staff.

Erin Adler

Lakeville

Plans approved for Hy-Vee store, gas station

The Lakeville City Council on Monday approved several measures necessary to allow Hy-Vee to move forward in building a gas station and convenience store, the first of its kind in the Twin Cities.

The convenience store concept is novel, a Hy-Vee representative told the council, because it will be an 8,700-square-foot store with a significant produce section and meat counter.

The store will be located east of Cedar Avenue, south of Glacier Way and west of Dodd Boulevard.

The City Council at Monday’s meeting approved the final plat, a conditional use permit to allow for several specific parts of the project and an easement vacation.

Erin Adler