ABC Newspapers http://abcnewspapers.com Local News from The Anoka County Union, Blaine Spring Lake Park Life and The Coon Rapids Herald Tue, 23 Sep 2014 13:55:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Council renews service contract for housing rehab program http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/23/council-renews-service-contract-for-housing-rehab-program/ http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/23/council-renews-service-contract-for-housing-rehab-program/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 13:55:59 +0000 http://abcnewspapers.com/?p=145234 The Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation will continue to administer the city of Coon Rapids’ housing rehabilitation program.

The Coon Rapids City Council Sept. 2 renewed its service contract with the corporation for the 2014 program year.

Funding for the housing rehabilitation program, for which homeowners earning not more than 80 percent of the area median income, which is currently $63,900 per four-person household, are eligible, comes from the federal Community Development Block Grant program.

For the program year, July 1, 2014 through Dec. 31, 2015, the city will receive $188,786 in CDBG dollars with an additional $18,605.50 in program income, which is derived from loan repayments.

According to Cheryl Bennett, city housing and zoning coordinator, between eight and 12 households will receive loans during the program year.

The city’s housing rehabilitation program began in 2001 using annual CDBG allocations and energy efficiency improvements were added in 2011, Bennett said.

Through the program, loans up to $24,999, which have zero interest and are deferred, are provided for housing rehabilitation work, plus a grant not to exceed $5,000 is available to address lead-based paint hazards.

“Up to 50 percent of the rehab loan is forgiven after five years,” Bennett said.

Zero-interest, deferred loans for energy efficiency improvements are available to $10,000. These loans are completely forgiven after 10 years, Bennett said.

“Property owners may no access both programs,” she said. “However, the housing rehabilitation loan can address both energy and property maintenance needs.”

According to Bennett, if a property is sold or is no longer the principal residence of the homeowner, the outstanding loan balance becomes due.

In only one year, 2009 during the recession, was the city unable to completely use the CDBG grant for housing rehabilitation program because of lack of demand; the remaining money was switched to another program, Bennett said.

“Demand for the program remains strong and application numbers are rising,” she said.

Under the service contract, the housing corporation provides program marketing, intake and application, income and asset verification, site inspection, scope of work preparation, bidding, bid award, contract execution, construction oversight and document filing.

The corporation “has done a great job for us and meets the requirements,” Bennett said.

According to Bennett, through July 31, the corporation in the years it has had the service contract with the city has closed 148 loans worth over $2.9 million.

Ten loans are currently being processed and they are expected to be completed by the end of the current program year, Dec, 31, 2014, Bennett told the council.

The administrative fee of 15 percent charged by the housing corporation is unchanged from 2013, she said.

Mayor Tim Howe said the fee is competitive and in line with what’s in the market. The corporation has done “a superb job for us in the administrative process,” he said.

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Owner defends accused dog in East Bethel http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/23/owner-defends-accused-dog-in-east-bethel/ http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/23/owner-defends-accused-dog-in-east-bethel/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 13:53:25 +0000 http://abcnewspapers.com/?p=145232 Prompted by two citizens who say the meeting minutes are incorrect, the East Bethel City Council agreed at its Sept. 3 meeting to amend the official record of its decision about a potentially dangerous dog.

The Aug. 3 council meeting included a public hearing and discussion that ended in the council deciding not to allow the dog back into the city. The minutes of the meeting say the city also deemed the dog dangerous.

The dog’s owner, Joe Avite, and his friend who occasionally kept the dog, Gayle Murphy, said the dog is not dangerous. Both asserted that the complainant who asked for the dangerous-dog public hearing, Randy Bohland, had provoked a bite by kicking the animal and is trying to make money from the incident.

Murphy, who was keeping the dog at the time of the bite incident, said she accepts the city’s decision to ban the dog but adamantly disagrees that it’s dangerous or that East Bethel deemed it dangerous at the August meeting. Avite said the dog has never hurt or bitten anyone before and declared the situation “wrong.”

Avite and Murphy explained that a “dangerous dog” designation can support complainants in legal action such as Bohland has initiated. The two criticized him for not being present with his lawyer that night or at the public hearing last month.

The council acknowledged it had prohibited the dog from returning to the city but had not officially deemed the animal dangerous. The members agreed to amend the minutes for accuracy but did not seem eager to reverse the ban, which would require repeating the entire process including notification and the public hearing.

The East Bethel City Council attended to other action at its Sept. 3 meeting:

–Approved a rezoning request from CD Properties North, LLC, to rezone an area within the Classic Commercial park to light industrial, asking about the status of its request to the state to use 185th Street as a second park-entry point instead of Jackson Street, where pedestrian safety is a concern. City Administrator Jack Davis said after a late-summer meeting and a recent phone call, the city awaits word from the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

–Voted to allow the city’s authorities and commissions to interview and choose their own members, subject to the City Council’s approval. Members agreed that the old method of publicly broadcasting interviews and the votes on new members proved to be awkward and uncomfortable, as well as an obstacle to recruitment.

–Agreed to forward to the county its preliminary budget for 2015, which includes a city-levy increase of 0.9 percent compared to 2014 – about $12 per year more for the owner of a $300,000 home. The city budget will be finalized at a December meeting.

–Heard from Mayor Bob DeRoche that a donated MIA flag would fly at City Hall.

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Column: Big changes coming for Minnesota high school students http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/22/column-big-changes-coming-for-minnesota-high-school-students/ http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/22/column-big-changes-coming-for-minnesota-high-school-students/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 20:12:37 +0000 http://abcnewspapers.com/?p=145034 Big changes are coming for Minnesota’s high school students, and meetings are scheduled throughout the state to discuss them. That’s good because the changes are controversial.

Joe Nathan

Joe Nathan

Minnesota has passed some education reform laws, like Postsecondary Enrollment Options, that have worked out well. We’ve adopted others, like the Profile of Learning graduation requirements that were disappointing and ultimately were discarded.

The changes that are being implemented this fall include:

–Eliminating the requirement that students pass any statewide reading, writing or math test in order to graduate. Up until recently, students were required to pass statewide tests in those three areas before graduating.

–Requiring that before graduation, students take one or more tests designed to help them understand their skill level and compare their skills with others who hope to attend a two- or four-year college, join the military or enter into some occupation.

–Requiring that starting in the ninth grade, students must develop, and then update, an individual plan for what they want to do after graduating from high school.

These changes are controversial. Minnesota House Education Policy Committee Chair Carlos Mariani wrote to me: “Minnesota was producing too many graduates who required remedial course work in postsecondary under the GRAD test that was recently ended by 2013 Legislature. In addition, that flawed test was most likely artificially holding down our graduation rates as it held back lots of students who couldn’t pass it but who were good students nonetheless, such as English language learners who struggled with written English but who excelled at math and other subjects.”

Mariani believes: “By replacing the GRAD with an ACT-like test, legislators sought to lower the need for remediation courses once students moved onto college. … Legislators sought to make a high school diploma a more meaningful and empowering thing. The ACT/SAT are nationally normed career and college readiness assessment instruments. The GRAD was not, and because it wasn’t, employers and college admissions ignored the GRAD. They do not, however, ignore the ACT nor the SAT. “

Charlie Weaver, CEO of the Minnesota Business Partnership, is concerned that students no longer will be required to pass statewide tests to graduate. He recently wrote in a St. Paul Pioneer Press column: “When there are no performance targets that must be met, students have little incentive to take learning or testing seriously. …

If we want to continue competing for world-class jobs that improve our quality of life, we can’t ignore that we’re falling behind our international peers or that our K-12 system is leaving behind a significant number of students – particularly students of color – and graduating too few who are prepared for college.”

Mariani explained: “It’s not easy for lawmakers to admit the failure of laws they created in the past to solve a problem. Yet, the responsible thing to do is to stop doing what doesn’t work and try something new. Of course, good research should guide what that new policy should be, as it did in 2013, when the Minnesota Legislature courageously and responsibly eliminated the flawed GRAD approach and implemented a new and better testing system that empowers students with real world opportunities.”

The Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Office of Higher Education and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities are cosponsoring meetings to discuss the new approaches. Schools are being asked to create teams to attend meetings that include community and business representatives. More information is at http://bit.ly/1qhr50Q.

Thousands of high school graduates had to take remedial courses in Minnesota public colleges and universities under the old system. I hope Mariani is right, and that the new system will reduce this problem.

If the new approaches work, Minnesota will have more informed, focused and knowledgeable high school graduates.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions are welcome at joe@centerforschoolchange.org.

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The Corner for Sept. 19, 2014 http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/20/the-corner-for-sept-19-2014/ http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/20/the-corner-for-sept-19-2014/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 21:06:49 +0000 http://abcnewspapers.com/?p=145030 This is the first in a two-part series on bonds.

Americans have more money invested in bonds than in stocks, mutual funds or other types of securities. One of the major appeals is that bonds pay a set amount of interest on a regular basis. That is why they’re called fixed-income securities. Additionally, the issuer of a bond promises to repay the loan in full and on time. So bonds seem less risky than investments that depend on the ups and downs of the stock market.

Every bond has a fixed maturity date when the bond expires and the loan must be paid back in full, or at what is known as par value. The interest a bond pays is also set when the bond is issued. The rate is competitive, which means the bond pays interest comparable to what investors can earn elsewhere. As a result, the rate on a new bond is usually similar to other current interest rates, including mortgage rates.

Investors can buy bonds issued by U.S. companies, by the U.S. Treasury, by various cities and states and various federal, state and local government agencies. Many overseas companies and governments also sell bonds to U.S. investors. When those bonds are sold in dollars rather than the currency of the issuing country, they’re sometimes known as “Yankee bonds.” There is an advantage for individual investors: they don’t have to worry about currency fluctuations in figuring the bond’s worth.

When companies need to raise money to invest in growth and development, they can issue stock or sell bonds. They often prefer bonds, in part, because issuing more stock tends to dilute, or lessen, the value of shares investors already own. Bonds may also provide some income-tax advantages.

Unlike companies, governments aren’t profit-making enterprises and can’t issue stock. Bonds are the primary way they raise money to fund capital improvements like roads or airports. Money from bond issues also keeps everyday operations running when other revenues (like taxes, tolls and other fees) aren’t sufficient to cover their costs.

When a company or government wants to raise cash, it tests the waters by floating a bond. That is, it offers the public an opportunity to invest for a fixed period of time at a specific rate of interest. If investors think the rate justifies the risk and they buy the bond, the issue floats.

The life, or term, of any bond is fixed at the time issue. It can range from short-term (usually a year or less), to intermediate-term (two to ten years), to long-term (30 years or more). Generally speaking, the longer the term, the higher the interest rate that’s offered to make up for the additional risks of tying up money for so long a time.

The relationship between the interest rates paid on short-term and long-term bonds is called the yield curve.

Comeback next week for the “end of the story.”

Quote of the Week: “The day will happen whether or not you get up.” – John Ciardi

Bart Ward is the chief executive officer of Ward & Co. Ltd., an Anoka-based registered investment adviser – specializing in the management of stock and bond portfolios in companies which are listed on the NYSE.

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Holthus running for Andover City Council http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/20/holthus-running-for-andover-city-council/ http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/20/holthus-running-for-andover-city-council/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 21:00:11 +0000 http://abcnewspapers.com/?p=145114 With a 15 year service record to the city of Andover, Val Holthus said she has a proven commitment to the community. She is currently serving her ninth year, first as chairperson, as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission. Previously, Holthus served six years on the Park and Recreation Commission and the Open Space Commission.

Her goals for the city include maintaining and sustaining the quality of life residents currently enjoy. Holthus said she  will continue to dedicate herself to responsible development of commercial and residential areas, promote opportunities to create jobs and will oppose the influx of low-income housing projects. She also said believes that careful planning of a city’s development supports strong property values and promotes affordable property taxes.

Val Holthus

Val Holthus

Holthus is an outdoors sports enthusiast, and her love of tournament bass fishing led to an appointment on the Citizen Budget Oversight Committee of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The Minnesota Legislature requires this committee to provide an independent evaluation of the DNR’s budget and policies and to make yearly recommendations to the Legislature concerning its expenditures. “I plan to use similar budgeting evaluation strategies with the Andover city budget,” she said.

Holthusplayed an important role in the development of the Andover Community Center as Communications Chairperson for the Capital Campaign, and later served on the Community Board of Directors. She continued her service with the YMCA by organizing its first major fundraiser and was honored with the Metro-wide Community Hero Award. Over the years she has also volunteered for the city with the Andover Fun Fest, Recycling Day and highway clean-up as well as initiating and writing the monthly “Park Place” column in the Andover Today Newsletter.

As a long distance runner and bicyclist, Holthus said sees the disconnects in our trail system. She plans to propose a comprehensive revision of the trail layout to improve connections allowing people to safely use the trails to get to work or school, and for recreation as well.

Holthus received her Bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences from the College of St.Catherine, and a Master’s Degree in Administration and Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota. She works as the work-release program coordinator at Andover High School. She has lived in Andover for 21 years with her husband Don, a U.S. Army veteran, graduate of the Carlson School of Management and an employee of the U.S. Postal Service. They have a son and a daughter who are currently pursuing their professional degrees in college.

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Linwood couple wins lotto jackpot http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/20/linwood-couple-wins-lotto-jackpot/ http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/20/linwood-couple-wins-lotto-jackpot/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 19:00:41 +0000 http://abcnewspapers.com/?p=145120 Joe and Rhonda Meath, Linwood Township, became millionaires overnight after winning the $11.7 million Hot Lotto jackpot Sept. 6.

Joe, 53, plays the lotto religiously, stopping by the Corner Express Shell gas station in East Bethel to purchase tickets a couple of times each week.

Joe and Rhonda Meath, Linwood Township, accept the $11.7 million Hot Lotto jackpot Sept. 8. A regular lottery player, Joe Meath bought the winning ticket at Corner Express in East Bethel a few days earlier. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Lottery

Joe and Rhonda Meath, Linwood Township, accept the $11.7 million Hot Lotto jackpot Sept. 8. A regular lottery player, Joe Meath bought the winning ticket at Corner Express in East Bethel a few days earlier. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Lottery

Rhonda, 51, is not a gambler. “It’s just his thing,” she said.   

Rhonda was already in bed Sept. 6 when Joe went online to check the Hot Lotto numbers. The ticket he purchased earlier that day was still in his truck, but the Hot Ball number, 19, looked familiar, so he went out to check it out. He came back inside without the ticket and glanced at the numbers that were called once again. Several more numbers stuck out, so he returned to his truck and brought the ticket inside this time.

“It was disbelief for about an hour,” Joe said. About an hour-and-a-half after his discovery, he woke Rhonda up to tell her the good news.

After 32 years of marriage, Rhonda knew Joe wouldn’t joke about something like this, she said.

The Minnesota Lottery verified the winning ticket Monday. Since 2012, the Hot Lotto game is a taxes-paid jackpot, which means the Meaths will receive the entire $11.7 million.

They’ve already made plans to share their winnings with family, friends and charities.

“We are going to take care of our kids,” Rhonda said. They have four, all with student loans to pay off.

“It’s going to change their lives more than ours,” Joe said.

The Meaths told their children right away, but they kept it a secret from Joe’s mom until her 74th birthday Sept. 11 when they announced their intention of buying her a house in Red Wing, where Joe grew up. His mom lives in Florida now, but stays in Red Wing often.

Immediately, Joe knew he wanted to do something special for the young lady that sold him the ticket at Corner Express.

A senior at Forest Lake High School, where Joe and Rhonda’s children attended school, the young lady has worked at the Shell station for a year, according to Niki Knack, the manager of Corner Express.

In consultation with Knack, Joe learned that the girl was on the fence about attending college after graduation.

“I’ll try to push the issue,” Joe said. “Everybody needs an education.”

The Meaths decided to give the young lady $10,000, but up their gift to $15,000 if she decided to continue her education.

She opted for the $15,000, Joe said.

“He’s taking care of her very well,” Knack said.

The couple will donate to the St. Paul Police K-9 Foundation, where Rhonda volunteers.

“When I knew this was real, that was the first thing I was going to donate to,” she said. “The whole dollar goes to the dogs.”

The Meaths have always said they would buy a motor home and move to Hawaii if they won the lottery, but they have no plans to move.

Joe did make a motor home purchase, but the couple won’t burn through too much cash. Before the big win, the pair was in the market for a new vehicle for Rhonda, but even now, “I’m not going to get a brand new one,” she said quickly.

Joe retired from Xcel Energy after a back injury about three-and-a-half years ago. In retirement, he started snowplowing Corner Express, where he bought the winning ticket.

Rhonda will continue to work as a server at Lake Elmo Inn. She likes her bosses and the fact that the restaurant is a place to celebrate, she said. “There’s always something going on.”

Their lives have changed this September.

“[Winning the lottery] doesn’t change you as a person, but it changes things around you,” Rhonda said. “I’ll fight to keep the people around me the same.”

The Meaths are the 11th Hot Lotto jackpot winners in Minnesota since the game began in 2002, according to Debbie Hoffmann, communications manager for the Minnesota Lottery. The last Hot Lotto jackpot in Minnesota in March 2012 was not nearly as large with a $2.21 million payout.

Olivia Koester is at olivia.koester@ecm-inc.com

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County to upgrade elevators http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/20/county-to-upgrade-elevators/ http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/20/county-to-upgrade-elevators/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 17:00:46 +0000 http://abcnewspapers.com/?p=145112 Two major projects to upgrade elevators in county buildings were approved by the Anoka County Board Aug. 26.

These projects are part of a phased approach started three years ago to modernize all 29 elevators located in various county buildings to bring them up to state code standards, according to Andrew Dykstra, county facilities management and construction director.

The state required these code standard upgrades to be made by 2012, but has approved the phased plan presented by the county, Dykstra said.

The contracts approved by the board Aug. 26 were phases five and six; the remaining two phases to complete the modernization program will be done in 2015 and 2016.

Schumacher Elevator, Eagan, was awarded the contract for each project on the recommendation of the board’s finance and capital Improvements committee. The same four companies bid on both jobs.

The phase five project covers elevators six and seven in the west courthouse plus the elevator at the Rum River administration building in the amount of $417,940.

In addition, the county will use its state contract with Pro-Tec for an owner-provided card access system totaling a not-to-exceed figure of $8,208.48.

Upgrading the elevator at the Bunker Hills Activity Center was also part of the original phase five work, but was removed when the $126,470 bid would have put the total project cost over the $500,000 estimate, Dykstra said.

That will now be included in the final two phases of the elevator modernization and upgrade program, he said.

The phase six contract totaling $1.1 million awarded to Schumacher is for work on the passenger elevators one through four as well as the freight elevator at the Anoka County Government Center. The estimate was $1.4 million.

The county will also use its state contract with Pro-Tec to the tune of $27,585.45 to provide a card access system on these elevators.

The contracts will be paid for out of the Anoka County Building Fund, according to Dykstra.

County Commissioner Matt Look, who chairs the finance and capital improvements committee, was especially pleased with the low bid on the phase six project, which saves the county some $600,000, he said.

“Schumacher is new to the area, but not to the elevator business,” Look said. “We have been assured they are capable of handling the projects.”

“This work needs to be done.”

The only elevators left to be upgraded and modernized are the Bunker Hills Activity Center (estimated cost $150,000-$165,000), cottage eight at the Rum River Human Service Center (estimated cost $165,000-$175,000), two dumbwaiters in the east courthouse (estimated cost $100,000-$120,000) and the government center ramp (estimated cost $185,000-$195,000), according to Dykstra.

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Free to Be becomes Cars for Neighbors http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/20/free-to-be-becomes-cars-for-neighbors/ http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/20/free-to-be-becomes-cars-for-neighbors/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 15:00:37 +0000 http://abcnewspapers.com/?p=145117 Since the year 2000, Free to Be, Inc. has been fostering independence by providing car care for local folks in need.

More than 800 donated vehicles have been restored and given to people in Anoka County and tens of thousands of volunteer hours have been dedicated to the cause.

Free to Be founders gathered with some 200 supporters at a Sept. 11 event celebrating the mission of the nonprofit and unveiling its new name, Cars for Neighbors. Pictured here are (seated, left-right) Luanne Koskinen, Tom Buchman, Al Sannerud, and (standing) Ellen Erickson and Sandy Froiland. Also founders but not pictured are Steven Klein and Jerry O’Neil. Photo by Sue Austreng

Free to Be founders gathered with some 200 supporters at a Sept. 11 event celebrating the mission of the nonprofit and unveiling its new name, Cars for Neighbors. Pictured here are (seated, left-right) Luanne Koskinen, Tom Buchman, Al Sannerud, and (standing) Ellen Erickson and Sandy Froiland. Also founders but not pictured are Steven Klein and Jerry O’Neil. Photo by Sue Austreng

Trouble is, most people who hear “Free to Be” have no idea what the 501(c)3, nonprofit organization does for people who are challenged with transportation issues.

“For people who don’t know us, the name Free to Be didn’t even hint at what we’re about,” said executive director Jim Huff. “With more than 10 years of service in Anoka County, Free to Be is still one of the best kept secrets around.”

And so, during a Sept. 11 fundraising event, Free to Be’s new name was unveiled: Cars for Neighbors.

“We felt that as a faith-founded nonprofit, we needed to make this a ‘people focused’ name that spoke to our commitment to our neighbors,” said Lori Chaddock, business and financial manager for Free to Be, now Cars for Neighbors.

Huff said the tag line, “Restoring hope one car at a time,” also serves to better describe the nonprofit’s mission.

In Anoka County, having reliable personal transportation is critical to finding and keeping a job, taking children to day care and doctors appointments and obtaining food and clothing, said Huff, describing local people’s basic need for reliable transportation.

However, the board of directors recognizes that the cost of maintaining a vehicle can be far above the budget of many lower income families.

Hence, the need for the services of the nonprofit formerly known as Free to Be.

Huff and Chaddock encourage continued support for Cars for Neighbors and invite the community to attend its fundraisers and take advantage of volunteer opportunities.

“Take a minute and imprint this new name of Cars for Neighbors in your mind and spread the word that our mission is still the same, but our new name will be more relevant,” Chaddock said.

To learn more about Cars for Neighbors, call 763-717-7755 or visit CarsForNeighbors.org.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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Housing boom continues in Blaine http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/20/housing-boom-continues-in-blaine/ http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/20/housing-boom-continues-in-blaine/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 13:00:54 +0000 http://abcnewspapers.com/?p=145110 Lately, Blaine City Council’s agendas are not short of items relating to housing projects.

At the council’s Sept. 4 meeting, the body granted final plat approval for 14.26 acres to accommodate 25 single family homes at 123rd Court and Cloud Drive Northeast in The Lakes.

Council approved the preliminary plat for the new neighborhood, called The Enclave, this summer, but rain slowed progress in the far northwest corner of The Lakes development, according to Mayor Tom Ryan. “We don’t seem to get drizzle anymore,” he said. “It’s 2 or 3 inches at a time.”

Now, crews are ready to go, Community Development Director Bryan Schafer said. With the final plat recorded, they can start building and selling homes that will range in price from $425,000 to $600,000.

The council also approved Sept. 4 the conversion of 4.63 acres into 15 single family lots at the northeast corner of the traffic circle on Lakes Parkway and Harpers Street.

“I would imagine that it wouldn’t be too long before we’d see the northwest corner coming through a similar process,” Schafer said.

The same developer of the Club West neighborhood will transform this area into Villas in The Lakes.

Villas homes will be accessible from a private cul-de-sac maintained by the association.

Final plat approval will be requested at a later date.

Council issued a conditional use permit for construction of Villas in The Lakes because the plat is located in a development flex zoning district.

With the completion of these additional 40 homes in The Lakes, approximately 2,660 homes will have been built in development thus far, just shy of the 2,700 housing units Schafer eventually expects, he said.

Olivia Koester is at olivia.koester@ecm-inc.com

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Outdoors column: Upbeat grouse numbers http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/20/outdoors-column-upbeat-grouse-numbers/ http://abcnewspapers.com/2014/09/20/outdoors-column-upbeat-grouse-numbers/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 10:18:37 +0000 http://abcnewspapers.com/?p=145087 The news for Minnesota grouse hunters wasn’t all that rosy last year with drumming counts down and spring nesting conditions that were less than ideal, but something happened.

Somehow some of the birds pulled it off and the evidence is in this year’s drumming counts which are up about 35 percent. That means there was a hatch and that many survived the long hard winter which actually suited their needs.

All that snow made it easier for ruffs to hide out and stay warm and conserve their energy and enter into the spring nesting season in good shape.

The author connected with a couple of hard-to-hit grouse last fall.Submitted photo

The author connected with a couple of hard-to-hit grouse last fall.Submitted photo

The questionable weather conditions we had again this spring has been worrisome but it sounds like we can relax.

There were reports of good hatches and big broods across the grouse belt and that’s something  get a little excited about. That doesn’t mean you’ll find tons of birds everywhere you go but if you put in some time and effort there should be a reasonable reward.

Some of my favorite spots include a big clear cut area with piles of leftover debris and a nice big logging trail running through the middle of it.

The piles create cover that grouse can get into quickly and help them dodge an impending attack which can come from the ground but especially from the air.

The list of predators includes fox, coyotes and timber wolves for sure, but the birds of prey can really take their toll and includes hawks, eagles and owls in particular.

With all that of that predation it’s amazing that any survive but they do, with good cover being the key.

Thick cover, like the aforementioned debris piles, as well as younger aspen growth and thicker brush like you’d find along the edge of a more open woods all provide much needed cover.

A big logging trail next to that heavy cover and loaded with clover and wild strawberry is a perfect combination for seeing birds. Clover is a preferred food source and why you’re more apt to find birds holding close to the trails, especially early in the season.

Another advantage to the trail is the fact that a bird that flushes and follows it might provide the only clear shot you’ll get for the day.

Those are the lay-ups that can really get your dobber down if you miss; so don’t miss.

The thing about grouse is the fact that if you wait for a clear shot you may never get to squeeze the trigger and burning powder is fun.

If a bird gets up and you’re on it you might as well shoot (even in heavy cover) because it doesn’t take that much to knock them down.

See you in the woods.

Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.

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