Sure signs of spring in Dakota County: Baseball, construction and mosquitoes

When I started writing this column, the Minnesota Twins were on TV beating Cleveland in their home opener, my email inbox was rapidly flooding with notices of countywide road construction, sandbagging efforts were protecting South St. Paul and Hastings from actual flooding, and Dakota County’s Byllesby Dam was holding back a raging river from ravaging Cannon Falls a mere mile downstream.

This confirmed for me that in spite of our seemingly never-ending winter, it may finally be spring here in Dakota County. 

Before we put winter completely behind us, however, I did want to give a much-deserved pat on the back to our plow drivers and public safety personnel for all their outstanding efforts to keep residents safe, especially during our record snowy February.

I also want to thank all the volunteers who helped out with so many services this winter, from assisting in our county libraries and parks to shoveling out fire hydrants. 

Since its start in 2015, our volunteer program at Dakota County has grown from 664 registered volunteers to over 4,000 in 2018. Together, volunteers contributed 43,544 hours last year, representing 68 percent growth since 2015, and total taxpayer savings of $3,551,207 over the program’s four years. 

Deserving of special recognition are the volunteers and faith communities who assisted families and individuals experiencing homelessness at Dakota County’s emergency shelter this record-shattering winter.

When I volunteered at the shelter shortly after the polar vortex that brought with it -54 degree wind chills, the experience provided additional motivation for ensuring help is available for families and individuals experiencing a housing crisis. 

Throughout the year, we work with cities and other partners to pair people with permanent and/or supportive housing, like the new 40-unit Center City Homes development under construction on property owned by River Heights Vineyard Church in Inver Grove Heights.

I expect to see considerable progress on the Center City project this spring.

Speaking of spring construction, watch for lane closures on Highway 52 in Rosemount and Inver Grove starting April 15 for replacement of an Xcel Energy conductor. Highway 3 (Robert Trail) will be closed at County Road 26 until November for installation of a roundabout and sewer line. Portions of Interstate 494 will be under construction this summer for road repairs and bridge maintenance. 

All told, 21 projects will be underway countywide. To view the whole list, go to and search “road construction.”

Construction is not limited to housing and roads, however. 

Replacement of the 119-year-old turbines at the Byllesby Dam will soon begin. This follows major safety repairs performed by Dakota County over the past few years, which seem especially wise right now, in light of what we have seen on the Cannon River this spring.

In addition, state grants will support construction of a law enforcement training and restoration efforts in our parks this spring and summer. 

The law enforcement training center on Highway 55 in Inver Grove Heights will focus on crisis intervention and training officers to deal with mentally ill individuals, among other things. 

State grants will be used to restore Schulze, McDonough, and Jensen lakes at Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, as well as prairies, woodlands, wetlands and wildlife habitats at county parks and reserves, including at Lebanon Hills, Lake Byllesby and Miesville Ravine.

Mosquito control is also more critical than ever, since West Nile Virus was detected metrowide in more than 15 percent of samples in 2018. Dakota County will again partner with other counties to tackle the pesky disease-spreaders. 

As you can see, spring is going to be a busy time in Dakota County, with a lot of important efforts underway. For additional questions or concerns, feel free to contact me at or 651-438-4430.

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