A St. Louis Park woman has been recognized for her work to inspire civic engagement within the city.

Fatuma Irshat received the city's 2017 Human Rights Award at the St. Louis Park City Council meeting last week. The award is given to an individual, group or organization that has helped form relationships between different groups in the city.

Irshat is a grass-roots neighborhood organizer for the city. As a member of the city's Affordable Housing Team and resident of Oak Park Village Apartments, she has kept the local Somali community informed about tenant rights and housing policies.

She also encourages residents to become involved in the city's elections. Last year, she drove neighbors to the polls and looked after their kids as they voted, according to resident Susan Niz.

Irshat works for the Minnesota Department of Health and has ties with groups such as Jewish Community Action and Allies of St. Louis Park, which Niz founded.

"Our future is women. Our future is immigrants," Niz said at the council meeting. "Our future is Fatuma and our future is her daughter."

Miguel Otárola


First step taken on conservation easement

The Hennepin County Board has agreed to hold a conservation easement for property in Independence with the nonprofit Minnesota Land Trust, the first step in getting an easement for the property, Hennepin County Environment and Energy assistant director John Evans said.

The next steps will be working with the property owner and waiting for the Legislature to approve funding, Evans said.

The land for the proposed easement runs along a corridor between Lake Sarah Regional Park and the Lake Rebecca Park Reserve, said David Thill, the county's natural resource specialist.

It borders other easements the state approved in the late 1990s and early 2000s for the Board of Water and Soil Resources' "Reinvest in Minnesota" program, Thill said.

A conservation easement is made up of restrictions that landowners place on their property to protect natural resources. Landowners are usually compensated for easements, according to Thill. That payment comes from the difference between a land appraisal taken before and after the easement.

"We only work with landowners that are interested, what we call 'willing landowners,' " Thill said. If the county is interested in the property, Thill said it will pursue an easement and pay the landowner afterward.

To pay for this and future easements, Evans said, legislators and private citizens have recommended a $1.5 million grant to the county from the state's Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Fund.

The Legislature will vote on the recommendation this session.



City collecting feedback on bodycams

Richfield city officials are seeking public feedback on the use of body cameras by its police force.

More than 160 residents had responded by Wednesday last week to an online survey that opened in mid-February, City Manager Steve Devich said. The survey will close Monday.

The city will host an open house from 7 to 8 p.m. on March 20 in the Bartholomew Room at the city's Municipal Center, 6700 Portland Av., to "further vet the process," Devich said.

The City Council has promoted body cameras in an effort to keep up with technology and ensure transparency in police operations.

The Richfield Police Department currently uses only squad car cameras.



Cities selling rain barrels, compost bins

Plymouth and St. Louis Park are partnering with the Recycling Association of Minnesota to provide low-cost rain barrels and compost bins for residents.

Rain barrels collect stormwater from gutters, which can then be reused for landscaping and gardening. Compost bins are used for organics such as vegetable scraps and yard waste, which over time decompose into a natural fertilizer.

The containers are available for sale through recycleminnesota.org. A compost bin costs $64 and a 45-gallon rain barrel costs $79.

St. Louis Park orders will be available for pickup from 8 a.m. to noon on May 5, and from 5 to 7 p.m. on May 7, at the city's municipal center, 7305 Oxford St.

Plymouth orders must be placed by May 10 and picked up between 8 a.m. and noon on May 12 at the Plymouth Maintenance Facility, 14900 23rd Av. N.

Miguel Otárola

New Hope

City Council to meet with trash haulers

A special work session planned for early next month will tackle the much-debated topic of organized trash collection in New Hope.

City Council members will meet with the suburb's six licensed garbage haulers as they continue to weigh whether to move from an open collection system, which would allow residents to choose their own hauler from among those licensed by the city, or move to an organized system.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on April 2 at City Hall, 4401 Xylon Av. N. There will not be a time for public comment, city officials said.

The work session follows months of feedback received through a resident survey and a listening session. About 49 percent of residents surveyed either opposed or strongly opposed an organized collection system, while 43 percent favored or strongly favored the move. About 8 percent were undecided.

City leaders began studying the topic last April amid concerns about the impact of garbage trucks on city streets.