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A year in Review - Bulletin Area News
Another busy year has wrapped up in the Bulletin area. Here is a look at some of the top stories in local neighborhoods over the past year.
U.S. News ranks St. Anthony Village High School third in state
U.S. News and World Report ranked St. Anthony Village High School (SAVHS) the third best in the state in its 2013 Best High Schools report released last spring.
U.S. News analyzed data from more than 21,000 public high schools from across the country to determine its rankings.
National rankings are determined using a three-step process. The first two steps, according to the report, ensure that the schools serve all students well, using performance on state proficiency tests as a benchmark. The third step, for schools that made it past the first two steps, assesses the degree to which schools prepare students for college-level course work.
Based on the above-mentioned criteria, schools are eligible to be awarded bronze, silver or gold metals. To be eligible for a state ranking a school must be awarded silver or gold medals. SAVHS received a silver medal from U.S. News World Reports rankings last year and a bronze medal the year before. For the first time this year SAVHS received a gold medal, a third place state ranking and a 320 place national ranking.
“A big part of our ranking has to do with our AP [advanced placement] students and college readiness,” SAVHS Principal Wayne Terry said.
Terry said out of the 675 students in the school, 238 of them were enrolled in Advanced Placement classes this school year. Those students who took AP classes make up over one-third of the student population and will take a total of 417 AP exams this year. Mahtomedi High School took top honors in the state with Edina School taking second place.
Residential development project approved in New Brighton Exchange
The New Brighton City Council unanimously authorized execution of a contract for private redevelopment with Pulte Homes at its Tuesday, June 11 council meeting.
Pulte plans to build 86 single-family homes and 34 town homes at the 27-acre site once occupied by the former Midwest Asphalt and Beisswenger’s properties. The land slated for redevelopment by Pulte -- west of Hwy. 8 and just north of the View Apartments -- is the largest undeveloped parcel in the Exchange.
New Brighton’s Community Development Director Grant Fernelius said the average price of a single-family home in the site would be around $385,000 and town houses would average around $170,000. The New Brighton project is estimated to have a market value of $33.6 million on full build-out and generate about $336,000 annually in property tax capacity. Fernelius said over the life of the tax increment district that will amount to approximately $6.3 million of tax increment.
The developer planned to start building in 2014 with an estimated project completion by December 2018.
Murder-suicide leaves two dead, two injured in Shoreview
Ramsey County authorities named the victims two days after a deadly shooting that occurred at a Shoreview home on Tuesday morning, June 4.
Nancy Anne Sullivan, 57, and Johnny Lee Simpson, 65, were pronounced dead at the scene when officers arrived around 10 a.m.
The two were reportedly in a long-term romantic relationship and lived together in a home on the 5900 block of Grotto Street in Shoreview where the shooting took place. It is believed that Sullivan was ending the relationship with Simpson and in the process of moving out when neighbors reported hearing the gunfire. "We're investigating this as if it's a murder-suicide with Simpson as the suspect," Ramsey County Sheriff's Department spokesman Randy Gustafson said.
Two other victims sustained gunshot wounds at the same home, Tony Sewell Brown, 28, of St. Paul and Kathleen Maureen Fay, 29, of St. Paul. Brown and Fay were transported to Regions Hospital in St. Paul where they both underwent surgery.
Fay is Sullivan’s daughter.
Urban farming, a growing trend, has people in some communities worked up
Last year, the city of New Brighton began seeking input from residents on what the city sees as a hot button issue -- urban farming, or more specifically, the keeping of chickens and other farm birds on residential lots.
Most communities around the metro have regulations either limiting the practice or prohibiting it all together but that is where New Brighton is unique, it has none.
To address this controversy, which seems to be growing in New Brighton, the city council established an urban farming task force in the summer, charged with making recommendations to the council on all things grown on a farm, from apples to zucchini, from pigs to butterflies.
But chickens seem to be at the core of the issue, and that will likely be the focus of the group.
Nine residents, five men and four women, were selected by the council based on their divergent backgrounds from the 26 who applied, and several are members of other city commissions.
The task force has been meeting monthly and has set an April target for presenting recommendations on possible city ordinance changes to the council.
Canadian Pacific Railway changing its operations at Cardigan Junction
Residents living near Cardigan Junction in southeast Shoreview have gotten some relief from the around-the-clock train noise they have been enduring since the spring as a result of increased railroad activity.
After months of complaints from concerned residents and local lawmakers, Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) announced in November that they would be implementing a new operation plan through the junction. CPR, which owns the railway intersection just north of I-694 and west of Rice Street, has seen an uptick in business lately as a result of an improved economy, according to Ed Greenberg, a spokesman for the company.
Although Greenberg did not elaborate, Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman said an improving economy; a busy harvest season and an increase in silica sand mining used for oil extraction have all contributed to a boom in nearby railroad activity recently.
As a part of the company’s new operations plan, Greenberg said CPR is conducting its daily switching operations in another area.
“By no longer switching any of these rail cars, we believe this will reduce the amount of night operations, train noise, potential for blocked crossings and train idling.”
Shoreview resident Marcia Figus and others living close by are skeptical CPR officials will stick to their word; her home is just a few hundred feet from the tracks near the junction. She said the neighborhood would like to see an agreement that is “legally binding and something that says what changes they are making,” she said. So far, CPR has signed no such contract.
In the meantime, to help mitigate noise at rail crossings, Shoreview and Little Canada have hired the professional services firm SEH Inc. to conduct Rail Quiet Zone and Operation studies following hundreds of complaints from residents in the two cities. The studies will be completed later this winter, and will pinpoint what improvements would need to be made to implement quiet zones in each city.
District 621 levy renewal approved
On Election Day, voters approved the proposed tax levy renewal referendum that appeared on the ballot. The eight-year levy renewal will continue the $11.5 million per year in funding the Mounds View School District has received since it was first approved in 2006. The levy renewal passed by a wide margin, with nearly 72 percent of voters approving.
“We are very appreciative of the community’s support of our students and schools by approving the school board’s renewal request,” District 621’s Superintendent Dan Hoverman said.
Hoverman said levy dollars would continue to play an important role in maintaining current class sizes and programs.
City elections tight in New Brighton, uncontested in St. Anthony
In New Brighton’s hard-fought race for city council, all five council candidates vying for two open spots were within 260 votes of one another, making it one of the closest municipal elections in the metro.
Incumbent Gina Bauman and newcomer Brian Strub received the most votes and earned spots serving four-year terms, which began last week. Bauman received just 10 more votes than Strub, and longtime city councilmember and congresswoman Char Samuelson lost her seat by just 11 votes. State law does not require an automatic recount.
The mayoral race between incumbent Dave Jacobsen and city council member Mary Burg was also close. Jacobsen edged out Burg with 173 more votes. Burg has two years left in her current term on the council. She said it was too early to tell whether or not she would run for public office at the end of her term.
“It’s two years away. It’s hard to predict,” Burg said. “But I have a deep commitment to New Brighton and I don’t see that changing.”
Samuelson, like Burg, said she has not determined whether or not she will seek elected office in the near future, but is not ruling it out.
“I still want to stay involved with the city on a commission or task force. It’s important for me to make sure the needs of our citizens are met,” she said.
In an uncontested race for city council in St. Anthony, incumbents Jan Jensen and Randy Stille were reelected to serve four-year terms on the council. Stille has served as a council member for ten years, and Jensen just completed his first term.
Incumbents reign in Mounds View School Board elections
In November, voters reelected three incumbents to serve new four-year terms on the Mounds View Area School Board.
Greg Madsen was first elected to the board in 2008 to fill a seat vacated by former 621 school board member Noreen Thompson, and was reelected one year later to serve a full four-year term. He said he is grateful to have another opportunity to work with a great group of people in Mounds View and believes the district has a lot to be proud of, but recognizes there is work to be done.
John Tynjala earned a third term on the board. He said he is proud of the work ISD 621 has done in providing opportunities for its students to succeed through programs like STEAM, Early College and universal ACT testing for high school juniors.
Mary Jo Sager also retained her seat on the district’s board where she has served for over 20 consecutive years. She, like Tynjala and Madsen, believes Mounds View should continue its focus on current programs like STEAM and Early College, and added that she is eager for the transition to free all-day kindergarten next year.
In the neighboring St. Anthony-New Brighton School District, ISD 282, three candidates ran in an uncontested race for school board. Leah Slye was reelected to serve a third term on the board. Another incumbent, Barry Kinsey was reelected to serve another term. He has served on ISD 282’s School Board since 1990. Newcomer Laura Oksnevad was also elected to serve her first term on the school board.
Local cities approve 2014 tax levies, budgets
Local cities approved slight levy increases, with the exception of New Brighton, where the city council voted to decrease the 2014 levy by 6.8 percent from the previous year’s levy.
At its Dec. 10 meeting, the New Brighton City Council approved a property tax levy of $6,794,308 and a general fund budget of $12,995,400. The 6.8 percent levy decrease over 2013 is due to the council’s decision to give the entire $493,000 in Local Government Aid expected in 2014 back to residents in the form of property tax relief, New Brighton Finance Director Dan Maiers said.
In neighboring Mounds View, the city council approved a 2014 general fund budget of $5,943,985 and a property tax levy of $4,265,010.
The levy represents a 2 percent increase over 2013. Mounds View saw a 3.16 percent decrease in the taxable median home value from 2013, Mark Beer, the city’s finance director said.
The St. Anthony City Council approved the $6,236,200 general fund budget for 2014, along with a tax levy of just over $5.6 million.
St. Anthony Village’s City Manager Mark Casey said the 3.8 percent levy increase of $206,218 is for the city’s ongoing road improvements project. The general fund levy and the HRA (Housing and Redevelopment Authority) levy, he noted, are the same as the previous year.
The Arden Hills City Council approved its 2014 general fund operating budget of $4,411,070 and a $3,257,456 property tax levy. The 2014 levy represents a 2.08 percent increase of $66,226 over 2013.
The Vadnais Heights City Council approved the city’s 2014 property tax levy of $3,686,463 and a general fund-operating budget of just under $5,175,000. The 2.98 percent levy increase will mean the city will collect $166,047 more in property taxes than it did in 2013.
City Council members in Shoreview approved the city’s final 2014 budget and property tax levy at its Monday, Dec. 16 city council meeting.
The general fund operating budget of $9.1 million was set along with a levy of just over $10 million. The 2014 levy represents a 3.4 percent increase of $330,000 over 2013.
Joshua Nielsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-748-7824.