Excelsior leaders are back at the State Capitol for the fourth straight year, looking for approval of a half-cent sales tax to raise $7 million for improvements to the Commons park along Lake Minnetonka.

Excelsior officials long have planned to revitalize the 13-acre waterfront city park, which has been in the public domain for more than 160 years. They want to improve park facilities and concessions to resemble those at Minneapolis' lakes, such as the Tin Fish restaurant at Lake Calhoun.

City leaders argue that the Commons, which is used for free by visitors from outside Excelsior, should be supported regionally and not just by the city's 2,100 residents.

In previous years, the city had sought $5 million in state bonding. Voters narrowly approved a sales tax increase of up to 1 percent for the park in 2014, but state approval is still needed before the tax can be levied.

Once $7 million has been collected in about 25 years, the tax would end.

A park conservancy group, Community for the Commons, was established last year to lead private fundraising.

Excelsior isn't the only west metro city back at the Capitol after repeated requests.

Plymouth is seeking approval for $2.3 million in bonds to renovate the Plymouth Ice Center; officials want to convert an Olympic-sized rink into a smaller professional-sized one, and build a new roof and parking lot.

Wayzata is asking for $500,000 for safer railroad crossings; the city's downtown is cut off from its lakefront by BNSF rail tracks, and the city has been working to make the area more accessible and safer for visitors.



City moves to change name of 49-1/2 Street

The City Council voted Tuesday to craft an ordinance that would change the name of W. 49-1/2 Street back to its original name, Market Street.

The ordinance will be introduced at the first council meeting in April and is expected to be adopted later that month.

City Manager Scott Neal proposed the change in January, saying that 49-1/2 Street is awkward to say and write. The city would slowly transition to the new name, he said.

The street, which is located in the 50th and France shopping district, likely will be the site of new housing, retail and parking in the coming years.

Lisa Williams, who runs Bespoke Hair Artisans, supported the name change at the council meeting.

"Our clients have a tough time finding us, and our mail has a tough time finding us, and our deliveries have a tough time finding us," Williams said.

The street was called Market Street until 1951, when the name was changed by the council.

Miguel Otárola


County to form child well-being committee

After meeting for a year, an oversight committee put together by Hennepin County to reform its child protection system is set to be replaced by a new committee.

The county is looking to establish a new child well-being advisory committee to advise county staffers as they implement a new program model that seeks to help families prevent abuse, rather than waiting to act until after it happens.

The new 18-member advisory board will start this year if the County Board gives final approval Tuesday.

In 2015, Hennepin County established the oversight committee in response to recommendations from a state task force and a national nonprofit that assessed the county's system.

Besides launching the new model, the committee recommended hiring more staffers to decrease child protection workers' caseloads, reconfigure work space, build prevention and early intervention practices, establish an independent data unit and establish the new committee.


St. Louis Park

City selects company to build new skate park

A California company has been chosen to design and build a new skate park on the southwest corner of Carpenter Park.

The City Council on Monday authorized a $200,000 contract with California Skateparks for the project. Construction is set to begin in July and finish in September.

The replacement of skate park equipment was included in the city's Capital Improvement Plan, and a $100,000 Hennepin County Youth Sports Facilities grant was awarded for the project.

The city hopes to work on a stormwater project in Carpenter Park in conjunction with the skate park construction.

If the stormwater project is rejected by the council, the city would need an additional $50,000 for the park construction.

California Skateparks has built skate parks in Duluth, Bemidji and St. Cloud, according to its website.

Carpenter Park is located behind City Hall, near the intersection of Minnetonka Boulevard and Raleigh Avenue.

Miguel Otárola


Watershed district opens Gray's Bay Dam

Another sign of spring has arrived: Gray's Bay Dam, which regulates the flow of water from Lake Minnetonka to Minnehaha Creek, is open.

The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District announced last week that the dam had opened for the season, discharging water into the creek at a rate of 150 cubic feet per second. That's four days later than last year's opening.

Although ice-out hadn't yet been declared on Lake Minnetonka as of midweek, watershed district officials said opening the dam would help lower the lake levels in time for anticipated rain over the weekend.

The watershed district recommends that people canoe or kayak the creek when the water is flowing between 75 to 150 cubic feet per second.

For updated conditions, go to minnehahacreek.org.