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Shooter Blames Squirrel

An Inver Grove Heights man has been summoned to appear in court to answer to charges of a dangerous weapon violation. 56-year-old Timothy David OBrien was charged on Jan. 26. for an incident that happened in July of 2015. O'Brien's neighbor says he heard a gunshot and glass breaking on the morning of July 12 and found a hole in the dining room window along with glass on the floor and a bullet. The neighbor confronted O'Brien, who made apologies and offered to pay for damages. OBrien claims he fired his gun at a squirrel that was eating his bird seed and that it must have ricocheted off of a rock. His first court appearance is scheduled for March 14.

Residential Riviera Options Approved

The Hastings City Council has approved a resolution for a Special Use Permit to allow 1st floor residential use at the old Riviera Theater at 213 Sibley St. Hastings Community Development Director John Hinzman presented the resolution to the council.

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   Council member Alongi did express some concern with the proposed dwelling's proximity to the Black Dirt Theater.

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The motion passed unanimously with no amendments to the resolution.


Notice To New Voters

The Minnesota Secretary of State's Office sent out thousands of birthday reminders last month to 18-year-olds who will be eligible to cast their first votes in the Aug. 9 primary elections or the Nov. 8 general election, not to mention participate in next month's statewide caucuses in the presidential election. Within nine months, the office expects to mail nearly 100,000 unregistered voters to encourage them to sign up. While most will be 18-year-olds who recently have earned the privilege, the program also will send notices to anyone of voting age that receives a state driver's license or identification card with information that doesn't match voting records. In addition to showing Minnesota's newest voters the importance of joining the state's 3.1 million registered voters, it also aims to alleviate potential problems at the polls. While Election Day registration is available at the polls for unregistered voters, taking care of the paperwork early will help speed the process for the individual voter and decrease the potential of lines during peak hours. With a presidential race heating up and contests possible in all state Senate and House races, the number of voters in November is expected to be high.


Emergence Of Classroom Independence

We take a closer look at one more of the varied projects that were submitted for the I Wish Grants by District 200 teachers, Today we find out about Emergence to Independence, that depends on a powerful software program to assist struggling students who use this tool to make their education more self directed and successful. Teacher Matt Bruns tells us about the Kurzweil system and explains how some of the features can make all the difference in allowing the student to accomplish the work.

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By middle School, learning differences have usually been identified already and Bruns shares how teaching methods can best utilize the system

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Middle school is also a very socially volatile time with lots of changes and pressures. The program helps reduce the stigma often felt when receiving adapted services.

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All of the programs we have explored in the I Wish Grant Awards will provide us updates in the future and hopefully some of the results of the use of these grants. Stay tuned for those stories only on KDWA.


Cottage Grove Police Reserves Honored

The sixteen members of the cottage Grove Police Reserves were recognized by Mayor Myron Bailey and the Cottage Grove City Council during the regular city council meeting on Wednesday, February 3rd. Officer Jordan Ziebarth made the presentation that honored the significant contribution that the reserves make to the community. He stated that There was a 15 percent increase in volunteer hours, 10 percent increase in emergency callouts and a 61 percent increase in special details (excluding regular civic events) last year which is an impressive increase Four reserve officers also received letters of recognition for their outstanding commitment to the program. In 2015, the police reserves volunteered 3,534 hours, covered 22 emergency callouts, and worked 58 special details outside their normal parades, civic events, and patrols.


Fugitive Captured In Hampton

Two days of running, hiding, assault, theft and other criminal damage finally came to a halt when Faribault Police and local authorities using a SWAT type Bearcat vehicle managed to arrest 32 year-old Joshua Paul Barron of Hampton. Adding to a long criminal history including attempted murder, fleeing a police officer, theft of at least two vehicles, weapons charges, and numerous assault and drug charges, authorities were able to track Barron to a Hampton residence on Wednesday and police credit several law enforcement agencies using their combined resources to finally ending the string of crimes charged against the man. Barron was involved in a series of events involving stolen vehicles, several damaged cars, and the ramming of a police squad in the first escape last week near Northfield. He was also charged with felony damage in a Dakota County case and had received a five and a half year sentence in 2004 for manufacturing meth in Washington county. A December arrest, again for drug manufacture and firearm charges, resulted in Barron being released on 50 thousand dollars bond, although he was a known flight risk. Charges are now pending in several counties and Barron is in custody at the Dakota County Jail.


Bus Inspection Scores An A+

Seventy five percent of the approximately 20,000 students who reside in the South Washington School District 833 currently ride a school bus to and from school. Safe transport of children to and from every school relies on a team to provide safe, reliable and efficient transportation to students who reside in the school district.

The annual state school bus inspection conducted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation resulted in a perfect score of zero defects on every one of District 833s more than 140 vehicles for the fourth consecutive year. For the fifth year in a row, the district also received a 100% pass rate, meaning every bus passed the inspection.

Each district receives the inspection to make sure their vehicles are safe and able to transport thousands of students to and from school and school related events each school day.


MN Teacher of the Year Candidates

The names of 114 candidates for the teacher of the year award has been announced.

This years program will name the 52nd Minnesota Teacher of the Year, with candidates selected from prekindergarten through 12th-grade and Adult Basic Education teachers, from public or private schools.

Several area educators are included in the list including Wes Bolin

Andrea Kleoppel, Linda Pieper, and Kaarin Schumacher, from the South Washington County district.; John Bertucci from Farmington, Heather Walseth from Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan and Sara Bremer and Kari Jaeger from Hastings. The 2016 Minnesota Teacher of the Year will be announced Sunday, May 15, at the Radisson Blu Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. Over the coming weeks, a 25-member panel of community leaders will name a group of semifinalists and finalists.


Community Development Reviews 2015

The Hastings Community Development Department has released its Annual Report for 2015. Highlights in the report include: a purchase and development agreement with Confluence Development to develop Great River Landing in the former Hudson Building into 60 apartment units and 20,000 s.f. of commercial space and securing a $1.5 million Met Council grant for parking facilities and $600,000 in EPA clean-up grants for the site; Apurchase and development agreement with Hastings Artspace Lofts to develop 37 units for artists to live and work on HEDRA owned land at northeast of 2nd and Tyler Streets; Annexation of 10 acres of property to accommodate a 50,000 s.f. medical office building for Allina Regina Hospital; Adoption of a Taproom, Brewpub and Microdistillery ordinance; and issuance of 85 commercial and industrial permits for business expansion totaling $21.9 million, a substantial increase from previous years.


Grant Funds Outdoor Classroom

In our continuing series in the stories told by the I Wish Grant recipients, one of the submissions might be an outside the box type of request. McAuliffe Elementary teacher Jodi Glazier, wrote her grant to address the need for equipment for an outdoor classroom. Several classes travel outside for all kinds of reasons, Glazier told us the reason for the grant.

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She is grateful that some special students will also benefit from the funding.

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The five industrial strength tables will be ordered and placed near the building for access by teachers and students as soon as the weather allows.

This has been another in our series of Followup of the recent I Wish Grants. Thanks to the educators who took time to share their important stories with KDWA.

Bus Fire Close Call

A Lakeville School District bus with 2 children on it caught fire in Scott County around 3:50 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, Luckily, those children and the bus driver made it out safely with no injuries The incident happened near the home of a neighbor who provided a dramatic photo of the burning bus that was completely engulfed in flames near the end of her driveway. The first indication was that something in the engine malfunctioned and caused the fire.

Shoen To Run for Sieben Vacancy

Representative Dan Schoen (DFL of St. Paul Park) announced Wednesday that he will run for the State Senate. This announcement comes one day after Senator Katie Sieben (DFLof Cottage Grove) announced she would not seek reelection to Senate District 54 in 2016. Representative Schoen has been elected twice to represent House District 54A (South St. Paul, Newport, St. Paul Park, Cottage Grove, Grey Cloud Island Township). Schoen is a police officer with the Cottage Grove Police Department, serving there for 15 years including work as a Detective in the Narcotics and Violent Crimes Task Force, Paramedic and Hostage and Crisis Negotiator. Although Schoen could not be reached for comment before this newscast deadline, his team released this statement. "It has been an honor to work with Senator Sieben at the capitol the past three years. She has been a mentor and friend since I was elected to the House. She has a passion for helping people and has made a positive impact on thousand of people's lives. It has also been an honor to represent our neighbors in the House of Representatives. I am truly humbled by the trust placed in me by the voters to be able to advocate for our friends, neighbors, and communities. I hope to continue to represent our district and would be honored to represent Hastings, Afton, Denmark Township, Nininger Township and the rest of Cottage Grove as well as the people I serve now in Grey Cloud Island Township, Newport, St. Paul Park and South St. Paul.


Regina Senior Living Connects

Regina Senior Living has now been part of the Benedictine Health System for two years. BHS Administrator and CEO Kari Everson is looking to make connections with the Hastings Community.

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   Sr. Lisa Maurer Director of Mission Integration for BHS says Regina Senior Living has been a perfect fit for their system.

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Town Hall Meeting Replays Set

Coming up this weekend on KDWA the entire 4 part coverage of the recent Town Hall meeting held at City Hall and hosted by Senator Katie Sieben and State Representative Denny McNamara. Each segment continues the community discussion on surplus spending, bonding bills, the state Capitol renovation, social security and health care increases. You can hear each In Depth on air or online at KDWA .com.


Snow Woes

The snow created traffic problems as the heavy downpours of flakes combined with wind to cause whiteout conditions for much of the area during the middle of the day. Intersections and city streets were clogged and compacted reducing speeds and increasing needed stopping times. The weather which caused cancellation of many events and closed schools also puts the Hastings public works crews into full alert. Director Nick Egger lets us know what to expect as the Snow Emergency and cleanup continues today.

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Allina ER Opens Doors

Just ahead of the snowstorm Tuesday, Regina Hospitals new Emergency Department and Main Entrance officially opened at 6:20 am when the first patient arrived at the recently completed facility in Hastings. Patient care manager Jennifer Guild stated that the two medical teams on hand were well prepared to handle the new patients . Regina Hospitals new main entrance is located next to its new Emergency Department. Patients and visitors are encouraged to use the new entrance for proximity to parking and convenience for registration. Designated patient general parking and Emergency Department patient parking area are signposted on campus.


Master Gardener Spring Kickoff

Spring is around the corner and so is the 17th annual Let's Get Growing Spring Expo, hosted by the University of Minnesota Master Gardeners of Dakota County on Saturday, March 5, 2016, from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm at the Rosemount Community Center, 13885 South Robert Trail (Highway 3), Rosemount, MN 55088. The Master Gardener Program of Dakota County is a community outreach program of the University of Minnesota Extension, with the mission to improve the quality of life and enhance the economy and the environment of the Dakota County community through education, applied research and the resources of the University of Minnesota.

Highlights of the event include two keynote panel discussions, classes, a Garden Market place, and opportunity to confir with garden enthusiasts of all levels. Spaces are limited, and the $35 registration can be completed by calling 651-4807700 or download the brochure from their website

Strawberry Fest Chooses Logo

The organizers of this year's Cottage Grove Strawberry Fest have announced a winner in the logo design contest. Paula Mueske submitted her sweet deal button design which features playing cards with strawberry characters. The city festival takes place June 16 thru the 19th and more information can be found on their website-

Science Sinks Perfect Solution

Water Water everywhere, and not a drop to drink. The adage was true in the Hastings Middle school that is, until a grant written by 5th grade science teacher Adam Peterson was approved. Peterson had been placed in a part of the school that was converted from a typical classroom to a science lab. He explains how a lack of a common sink created a big problem]

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He also describes how the ciriculum depends on a water supply

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The portable sinks have a capacity of about 5-8 gallons of hot and cold water and because of the I Wish grants, 5th graders can explore the sometimes messy business of learning science. We'll feature another of the I wish grant success stories coming up in future broadcasts.

ArtSpace Debuts Community View

The community is invited to a neighborhood meeting to learn more about ArtSpace Hastings Lofts on 2nd & Tyler Street. This mixed-use affordable housing development for artists, their families, and arts related businesses and organizations will feature: 37 apartments for rent, 2,500 square feet of commercial space, resident gallery space, an outdoor courtyard and underground parking. The meeting takes place at Hastings City Hall on Tuesday, February 16, at 6:00 P.M. Come to hear from ArtSpace and UrbanWorks Architecture staff as they present the projects schematic plans and renderings, to ask them questions, and to provide your comments on the project. For more information, please e-mail or


PBIS Comes to Middle School

In our continuing series of reports on the recent grants given to educators in District 200, Amy Mares received a grant to support the School Wide Positive Behavior Interventions program which includes systemic and individualized strategies for achieving social and learning outcomes while preventing problem behavior.

The program will focus on proactive modeling of expectations in 4 key areas of the Hastings Middle School . It difines expected behavior in the Classroom, Cafeteria, Hallways and Bathrooms, and spell out Respectful, Safe and Responsibile behaviors in each. Mares explains the advantage of the program

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She also explains who is involved in the staff training

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The grant will provide necessary training and planning.

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The expectations are clearly spelled out

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She also stressed the proactive structure and its effect

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Stay tuned tomorrow for another feature on the 2016 I Wish Grant awards.


House Fire in Hastings

A Hastings man is receiving assistance from the Red Cross after losing his home in fire Sunday night. The Hastings Fire Department was dispatched to a house fire at 1003 Ramsey Street where flames were visible on both the main and the second levels of the home. Crews were given reason to believe two people might still be inside the house and entered the structure for search and rescue operations. No people were found inside the home, but crews did locate a cat which had already perished of smoke inhalation. It was later learned the occupant was not at home. The cause of the fire is thought to be unintentional discarded smoking material in a bedroom on the main level of the house. Hastings Fire crews were assisted by Miesville Fire, Hastings Police and Reserves and Hastings Public Works. The home and its contents are a total loss, estimated at approximately $200,000.


February Meetings In Hastings

Here's a list of upcoming meeting and events for the City's agencies and committees: Monday, February 8 The Hastings Planning Commission meeting takes place at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Tuesday, February 9 The Parks & Recreation Commission will meet at 6:00 p.m. at the Joint Maintenance Facility, 920 West 10th Street. Thursday, February 11 there will be a Joint HEDRA/City Council Meeting at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. Monday, February 15 City Offices will be closed to observe the Presidents Day holiday. Tuesday, February 16 the Hastings City Council Meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Also on the 16th, the Heritage Preservation Commission will be meeting at 7 p.m. in the Volunteer Room at City Hall. On Thursday, February 18 the Public Safety Advisory Commission will meet at 6 p.m. at a location to be determined. Monday, February 22 the Arts Task Force will hold its meeting at 7:30 a.m. at City Hall. Also on the 22nd The Hastings Planning Commission will meet at 7 p.m. at City Hall. And, on Tuesday, March 8 the Police Reservist Appreciation Dinner will take place at the Onion Grille.


Show Choir Sweeps Third Competition

Two Minnesota MotorCoach busses rolled into the Hastings High School parking lot on Sunday Afternoon and were met with an unusal greeting- Brooms. The reason for the visual of sweeping the sidewalk is that the Riverside Company Show Choir, who traveled to Omaha Nebraska on Saturday, had once again Swept the top categories including Grand Champion of the Westside Competition of Excellence.

KDWA was there, brooms in hand, to get some of the reaction from students and directors including Austin, who , despite the 7 hour return bus trip,was all smiles.

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Rose Peine, a parent waiting for the return, gave her view on the multiple benefits from the success of the group

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Some choirs augment the personell of their back up bands with adult players. First year director Jake Bohlken praises the all-student Hastings Band.

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We spoke briefly with Director Lin Warren and he commented on the remarkable feat of a so-far unbroken string of Grand Champion Awards this season and the gutsy move he made that really paid off.

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We took a great photo of the chaperones as they returned costumes and props to the storage closet. They are part of the team effort as well.


Preview Feb 1 City Council Agenda

The Hastings City Council will hold its regular meeting tonight at city hall. Hastings Mayor Paul Hicks gives a rundown of the agenda.

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Facility Maintenence Tests School Budget

Hastings Schools Superintendent Tim Collins has met several times lately with the district's facilities committee. Collins says they have been discussing when to bring a larger part of the community into the conversation on how to address mounting maintenance issues in the face of dwindling budgets.

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Foundation Grant Aids Science Study

In another story from the Hastings Public School Foundation grants that were awarded last week, we heard from Cindy Benson, a science teacher who wrote a grant for equipment that will pair technology and a digital advantage with the addition of Chromebooks and something called SPARK. Benson tells how students will most benefit from the new tools.

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There is another reason this equipment is needed now.

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One big advantage of the updated equipment is increased accuracy

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Benson wants to thank the Foundation for its history of support

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United Way of Hastings Names New Board

The United Way of Hastings recently recognized the long list of volunteers who are dedicated to fulfilling the mission that provides leadership, governance and direction in service to the community. Out going president Russ Rohloff and outgoing members Tony Alongi, Liz Dickinson, Joy Johnson and Norm Rogers brought a wealth of skills to the board throughout the years. The board welcomes new members Charlie Black, Kevin Davison, Sandy Greten and Julie Hicks as they begin to help steering the decisions that will affect the future in education, financial stability and health in the local families they serve.


Icy River 911

On Friday, January 29th at 4 in the afternoon, the Washington County Sheriffs Office Dispatch received a 911 call for a person possibly in the Saint Croix river near 9477 St. Croix Trail North. This location is known as the Boomsite. Dispatch activated the Washington County Sheriffs Office area Deputies, the Washington County Sheriffs Office Water/Parks and Trails unit, Stillwater Fire Department and Lakeview EMS. All responding units worked together with the assistance of the caller and it was determined that it was a log floating in the water. With rivers and lakes within the county, water rescues are likely any time of the year. Emergency teams practice cold water rescues and have equipment ready to answer such calls, when every minute can count. Call 911 if you suspect a water emergency has occurred, stay on the line, give detailed locations and landmark directions as best you can until help arrives. It is not recommended that you make a rescue attempt, in most cases that only adds to the number of those needing help.


Changes Coming To Dakota County

In our In Depth conversation with 1st District County Commissioner Mike Slavik, we discussed transit news, and county changes. He shared some timely news that will also have an impact on the board of County Commissioners

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The fourth district is not the only one that will see a change. Slavik continues

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You can hear our complete conversation that looks at a new year in Dakota County airing today on InDepth. Or listen online with a link found at


Red Rock Transit Choice

The Red Rock Corridor Commission met at the Newport City Hall on Thursday Afternoon to decide an important question of access points to be set for an express bus that would connect Hastings with points north to the St. Paul Depot. Commission Co-Chair, Mike Slavik gives us the result of that vote

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With this decision, the commission moves one step closer to implementing the first step in the availability of mass transit in the SouthEast Metro. We asked Slavik what is the next step.

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Hastings Creamery Seeks Expansion Options

A mainstay on Vermillion Street is looking for a way to grow. The Hastings Co-Op Creamery is hoping to upgrade its facility and equipment and is seeking a way to lessen the growing pains that may come with the plan. Plant manager Dave Zwart contacted HEDRA due to water and sewer upgrades necessary with such an expansion, will create a hardship due to the utility costs-projected to top 1.3 million. John Young is the realtor helping Zwart make critical choices for the future of the business. He addressed the meeting to share three options this plan will consider

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The business, founded in 1913, was grandfathered into its current status with water and sewer access charges known as WAC/SAC. This is a one time start fee that sets the utility in place. This fee was implemented long after the construction of the existing facility but would be charged if the current building expands. Much discussion followed allowing that the unique aspects of the dairy business doesnt fit neatly into a standard formula. Usage of water and power is much higher than a typical building due to the needs of the production.

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The Creamery is looking to mitigate that sum, which would be incurred at the start of the proposed project, with financing that would reduce the city and accompanying Met Council fees for these water access charges. HEDRA doesnt have the authority to lower or eliminate the city fees, . That decision, if made, would have to come from the City Council. Dana Schultz, expressed her opposition to creating an incentive for one business, that may be expected from others.

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The business is asking for a timely decision on financial help from the city, as it projects how to expand the 103 year old facility, with the primary goal being to increase efficiency while keeping the business viable as the operation is brought up to date. A request for response considering some form of city involvement was requested within the next 2 months and another meeting will be scheduled to revisit the issue sometime next week.


Hopp Charged In Bomb Threat

Charges have been filed in Dakota County against Justin Joseph Hopp, a resident of Milaca for one felony count of a Threat of Violence suggesting the presence of a explosive device for an incident in November when he is accused of calling the Rosemount Middle School attendance line at 4:30 in the morning and leaving a message including the words today is the day you're all dead, boom boom. Multiple police officers, K-9 units and emergency responders were alerted and a sweep of the campus was conducted resulting in no discovery of explosives. Officials then traced the cell phone GPS to reveal the call came from a residence in St. Cloud. An unidentified person was questioned about the call and it was discovered that person lived with Hopp but had no knowledge of the threat. Hopp admitted under questioning that he had made the call hoping to have a building site near the school closed. He was employeed in construction and was working on that building at the time of the threat and his goal was not to have to go to work that day. The charge could bring a 3,000 dollar fine and or up to 3 years in prison if convicted.


I Wish Grant Recipients Revealed

The Hastings Public School Foundation was responsible for a total of 14 surprise presentations on Tuesday morning. Led by High school band students including

Abe Kummer,Josh Tank, Rachel Roberts and Erin Smothers the prize distribution committee paused outside unsuspecting classrooms awaiting the signal.

The door is opened revealing a dozen Hastings Public School Foundation members, Superintendent Collins and the announcement that they had received one

of the I Wish grants submitted last fall. The foundation Committee is comprised of Former ISD 200 teachers and administrators,local business people,

parents and grandparents. A total of 65,500 in grant awards were announced during their morning including: funding for ROAR which is a robotics program that engages and instructs middle school and High school students in engineering, designing, and operating robots.We will feature many of the stories behind the projects and begin with the reason robotics receive such interest in this popular program led by 8th grade mathmatics teacher Kim Wald.

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Wald expressed gratitude at the funding and thanked the committee for also showing the students the team approach that made it happen.

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A condensed list of the grant recipients includes: Brazilian Samba Drums for the HHS Music Program, SPARK to Spark Chemistry Stations,Vital Sign Monitor for Better Health,Sphero SPRK robotics software, portable science sinks, Positive Intervention discipline system,FTC Robotics kits,Kurzweil Education software, Personal Fitness program, Outdoor classroom theater, Stand-Up desks,Character education, a SPOT vision screener, and the SMART readiness system. We will feature the educator heading each of these programs on upcoming newscasts.(Robotics Team photo provided by Kim Wald)


Red Rock Corridor Narrows Choices

The Red Rock Corridor Commission will meet Thursday afternoon to decide between two route choices for the BRT line that would traverse between the Downtown Depot in St. Paul and Hastings. First District Dakota County Commissioner Mike Slavik, who also co-chairs the Red Rock committee, describes the two choices

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He also reminded us what BRT is truly designed to do.

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The choice comes down to a number of proposed stops between Hastings and the St. Paul Hub. Slavik supports 3 Hastings transfer locations, but has received feedback that may reduce that number to two .With each community comes the desire to have this mode of transport make stops that provide equal service.

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Although this decision serves an important function in the planning of BRT, the true timeline may surprise potential riders. Slavik stated that the next step is gathering a ridership base, which may take up to 10 years to develop. The immediate future does not include round the clock bus service. Slavik tells us how soon the corridor can expect any form of mass transit.

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We'll discuss the outcome of the Thursday decision with Commissioner Slavik on an upcoming newscast.


District 200 Public Meeting

The School board, Superintendent Tim Collins and the building principals from District 200 schools participated in a Public meeting held on Wednesday Night at the Hastings Middle School. A brief overview of the budget shortfalls, created in part by the continuing decline in enrollment levels, was provided before Collins invited the group of only about 30 to circulate among school representatives and discuss concerns or suggest classes or existing programs they wished to support. I spoke with Board Chair Vince O'Brien who welcomed this proactive opportunity ahead of the March decisions that will need to trim 700,000 in costs and also dip into the 12.6 million dollar savings for the additional 900,000 needed to meet budget goals. With just a handful of community members in attendance, I was able to spend time with newest board member Joe Becker as well. He told me he is doing alot of studying, listening and learning as he determines just what it will mean to make some hard decisions when it comes to cutting expenses that may be tied to staff positions or a favorite program. Coming from a business background, he also sees that changes may be necessary when it comes to shifting priorities and perhaps some expenses that have been covered by the school in the past. Student fees for participation in everything from sports to music programs fall under potential revenue increases needed to keep some programs viable. Becker said he is required to look at the district through the eyes of others now. That's what he agreed to do when elected and what he plans to uphold as his vote will now impact the families who placed him on the board in November. Stay tuned for continuing discussion of the event on Friday's Tim Collins Show which starts at 9:10am


Prescott City Council Meeting Review

The Prescott City Council held its regular meeting on Monday night. Prescott City Administrator Jayne Brand goes over the meeting.

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Bids Open For Hudson Soil Removal

The City of Hastings is seeking bids for removal of contaminated soil at the former H.D. Hudson Manufacturing Facility. A mandatory pre- bid meeting will be held at the facility at 200 West 2nd Street in Hastings on January 28 at 10:00 am to review existing site conditions and access. Bids are due by 4:00 pm on February 5, and should be submitted by email to Work will be awarded on February 11 and completed by February 29, provided Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office clearance is received by February 11.


Prescott Dr. Spicuzza Reviews Levy Meeting

The Prescott School Board held its second informational meeting on Monday night to give the community details about the upcoming levy cap override referendum. Prescott schools superintendent Ric Spicuzza says he was happy with the turnout.

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With the average annual increase in the district's expenses out pacing the revenue received from the state, Dr. Spicuzza says its important for the community to understand how funding occurs.

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   Dr. Spicuzza also wanted the community to understand that the levy cap override was not related to the district's new construction.

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The referendum election will be held on February 16th. Absentee ballots can be obtained from the municipal clerk's office.



Members from the Hastings Middle school and High School participated in the Youth in Government week which gives students in grades 8-12 an opportunity to explore the innerworkings of the legislative process and form leadership skills. The Hastings Family YMCA helps coordinate the preparation that allows a hands on experience and real world exercises. This year, the group found a change to their plans. Amy Rowan, from the YMCA explains.

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Although many students have a beginning interest in the process, this year's outgoing president, senior Nick McGrath, has a political plan for himself.

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Students who would like to participate in next year's Youth In Government week should contact the Y or an advisor at school.Rowan also announced the upcoming International Assembly event that happens in March, will allow 7th through 12th graders a similar platform where students represent a United Nations model. (photo by Hastings YMCA)


Hastings Chamber Gala Recap

Members of the business community gathered to celebrate the beginning of another prosperous year. The Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce annual meeting and Awards Banquet took place on Tuesday evening with a wall to wall turn out at the Hastings Country Inn. New Chamber President Kristy Barse was thrilled with the large turnout

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This is Barses' first major project since taking the reins at the chamber and she praises the hard work of the award recipients.

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Businesswoman Amy Reents gave her impression on the strength of the Hastings Business Community.

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The Annual meeting was paired with three awards, one being educator of the year. Superintendent Tim Collins was on hand for the presentation.

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HHS Hosts Instrument Fairs

The music departments of District 200 will host the first of 2 MidWinter Music Fairs that will introduce budding musicans to many of the instrumental opportunities available through the Band and Orchestra Programs. The first event will take place in the Music area of Hastings High School tonight between 5 and 7 pm. Youngsters in 4th grade and above can drop in and spend some time investigating woodwinds, strings, brass, and percussion selections, even having a try at getting a sound out of a saxophone or flute. Parents are encouraged to talk to instructors on hand about rental costs, lesson schedules and what is required to have your student begin an instrument next Fall. The second event will take place on Monday, February from 6 to 8 PM.


District 200 Wellness Policy Updates

The Hastings School district has updated its Wellness Policy that has been in place for almost 10 years. The purpose of the policy is to assure a school environment that promotes and protects student's physical, social and emotional health and development, and ability to learn by supporting healthy eating and physical activity. The district's nursing services coordinator, Mary Ellen Fox says an analysis of the previous and current wellness policies was done to determine how comprehensive and strong the policies were and that the updated policy is considered well above average for similar policies in other school districts in the state. The district worked with a registered dietician through the Smart Choices program. Staff developed activities and programs aimed toward healthier living for students and faculty and preparing hot meals in the district's schools that meet U.S.D.A. guidelines. Fox says studies have shown that there is a correlation between diet and school performance. District staff will spend the rest of the school year assessing the effects of the new policy before presenting the information to the school board in June.


St.Paul Park Names New Police Chief

The City of St. Paul Park has chosen Inver Grove Heights police Sgt. Jessica Billmeyer as its new chief of police. Originally from neighboring Newport, Billmeyer was selected from among 20 other applicants by the city's elected officials, staff and police officers. She will take over for Chief Mike Monahan who will step down at the end of January after 33 years on the force. Billmeyer has been an officer with the Inver Grove Heights police since 1998 and has been a sergeant since 2011. She says she is looking forward to working in her old stomping grounds and was attracted by the city of 5300 resident's sense of community. Billmeyer will oversee the 9-member police force that also serves Grey Cloud Island Township. (provided photo)


Downtown Development Opportunities

In an InDepth conversation we had with Community Development Director John Hinzman we heard several updates on properties currently in development in Hastings. One of the challenges is to take full advantage of benefits afforded our commercial properties. Hinzman explains how the Riverfront Renaissance may have downtown business owners taking a look out their back door.

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Hastings Fire Dept Special Training

Hastings Firefighter Chad Jensen has been awarded a scholarship to receive specialized training out of state. Hastings Fire Chief Mike Schutt says the training is a great opportunity for his department.

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Chief Schutt says despite appearances, the training goes well beyond extinguishing oil and refinery fires.

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Cottage Grove Names Top Firefighter

The Cottage Grove Fire Department held its annual firefighter appreciation Appreciation Banquet on Sunday with almost 80 people on hand to recognize a wide variety of activities that took place during 2015. There were also 9 retired firefighters who attended the event and shared in the celebration of community safety service. Several awards were given including the selection of Firefighter of the Year. Those nominated included Captain Jeff Brown, Christine Bastolich, Mike Dandl and the winner, Tony Rich. Mike Gabrielli was also recognized for most duty crew hours worked- 1, 135 and Mike Krubsack who tied with Captain Brown for the most drills attended in 2015 which was 29. (Photo from Cottage Grove FD)


Prescott Mayor Gives State of City

The City of Prescott welcomed the business community,council members and the public to the Great Rivers Printing Company for the presentation by Mayor David Hovel for the State of the City Address. Mayor Hovel provided a look back at 2015 as well as a plan for the coming year. One topic of his presentation addressed grants sought by the city to fund 2 projects. The first being the repair of Elm Street

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Another grant is for an ambitious project affecting Hwy 10.

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You can hear the full State of the City Address given by Mayor Hovel this weekend on Community InDepth. Tune in or listen Saturday and Sunday in a link you'll find on the homepage.


Contract Set for Sewer Project

The Hastings City Council awarded the contract for the Minnesota Veterans Home Sewer Project at its meeting on Tuesday night. City Engineer Brian Stempsky made the recommendation to the council.

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Library Introduces Hoopla Service

The Dakota County Library is offering patrons a new streaming service. Mary Scheide of the Pleasant Hill Library in Hastings talks about Hoopla.

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District 200 Faces Declining Enrollment

In our continuing conversation with Vince O'Brien from the Hastings School Board, he explains how the numbers of incoming Kindergartners dictate the direction of many decisions in the district.

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The adjustment in numbers can have a major impact on decisions made about class size and even the current curriculum

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There will be an open meeting for District 200 at the Middle School on Wednesday, January 27th at 7 PM for community members to speak with the school board and ask questions about potential decisions to be made concerning upcoming budget cuts necessary to submit a balanced budget for next year.

Body Cam Pilot Program for HPD

At Tuesday nights City Council meeting the pilot program for Hastings Police to implement body cameras was discussed by Chief Bryan Schafer. The program took a great deal of preparation and Shafer first explains the main purpose for the program

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The preparation for this program was over 2 years in development. Chief Schafer explains the numbers that support use of body cameras.

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Security is a top concern with the data captured on these cameras. Schafer discussed some of the safeguards.

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Hastings PD Holds Interviews

Interviews have been held for the two vacant Hastings Police Officer positions. Interview panel members: Mary Fasbender of the Public Safety Advisory Commission, Brenda McGrath of Police Records, Tom Murray of the Hastings Fire Department, Maija Trenary a Senior at Hastings High School, and Dean Truax a Hastings Police Reserve Sergeant assisted in the final interview phase. Candidates selected to move forward will next complete a thorough background investigation as the City moves toward making conditional job offers.


Prescott State of the City Preview

Prescott Mayor David Hovel will give a state of the city address at Great Rivers Printing on January 21st, starting at 3:30 pm. Mayor Hovel Gives a preview of the address.

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Parkkeeper Position Open

The Hastings Parks & Recreation Department is now accepting applications for the position of Parkkeeper. The person hired will be responsible for assisting the rest of the department in keeping City parks and recreation assets safe, clean, and well maintained. Parks and Rec. are looking for an enthusiastic person with some background in maintenance and equipment to join their team. Details for applying can be found on the City's website. Applications will be accepted through Sunday, February 7th.


Schertler New CDA Director

The Dakota County Community Development Agency Board of Commissioners voted to approve a new executive director. Tony Schertler, has already begun his duties to lead the agency in its mission of providing community development and affordable housing to the residents of Dakota County. The agency manages more than 30 programs and oversees approximately 2,700 units of affordable housing in Dakota County. The hiring follows the departure of former director Mark Ulfers, who had served in that position for more than 30 years. Ulfers contract was terminated in 2015 by the board on charges of gross negligence of his duties and creating a hostile work environment. The separation of Ulfers was a civil matter and no charges were filed in connection with the dismissal. (Photo submitted)


Complete Street Program Discussion

With previously announced plans by MNDot to increase the speed limit of Highway 55 within the Hastings City limits, especially involving blocks that have few crossing locations, some have joined council member Joe Balsanek, as he spearheads an effort to consider options that might accomplish a vehicle/pedestrian compromise. Many have expressed support of his efforts to bring traffic experts into the conversation, some with previous experience on working with MNDot to achieve a balance. The factors of traffic flow goals versus pedestrian and biker safety should be studied, says Balsanek and supporters, before making a decision that would negatively impact public safety. One community that has implemented a Complete Street process is Mankato, which uses planning for all users of its roadways, not just the motorized segment. A contingent of transportation and safety lobbyists point to a 2010 state law requiring tranportation officials to consider use by other forms of travel when setting speed limits or developing roadways in a community plan. Other Metro Cities also onboard are Bloomington and St. Paul, with Anne Finn, a transportation lobbyist with the League of Minnesota Cities encouraging all factors to be considered to allow adequate space and safety as buses and heavy trucks travel the same roadways as bikes with crossings and dedicated intersections designed to safely service all . The process is dependent on communication with engineers and designers of roadway projects to maximize safe navigation for all and to connect routes effectively while maintaining costs. A meeting was proposed to have representatives from MN Dot return to Hastings for more discussion on the possible changes, but indications are that no further communications will take place before next month.


HPD Program May Be National Model

The Hastings Police Department has been engaged in a project with the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault over the past three years in a study to assess how to improve responses to crimes of sexual assault. The Data Collection and reporting phase has been completed and the next phase involves developing a best practices policy based on the report findings. A draft is currently under review by City staff. The next phase addresses eForm updates, responder training, and interactive investigative software. The project has the potential of becoming a national model.


Second Murder Conviction for Schunk Killer

A convicted murderer has pled guilty to another killing in Dakota County Court. 33-year-old Shavelle Oscar Chavez-Nelson, who is currently serving a life sentence without parole for murder, pled guilty Friday to second degree murder in connection with the stabbing death of 20-year-old Anarae Schunk of Burnsville, that took place in September of 2013 at a home in Rosemount. The 204 month sentence handed down by Judge Kathryn Messerich will run concurrently with the life sentence Chavez-Nelson is currently serving for the murder of Palagor Oband Jobi that had occurred outside a bar and grill in Burnsville, possibly on the same day he killed Schunk. Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said, "The negotiated settlement of this case was agreed upon with the support of Anarae's family who had expressed a desire to negate any additional trauma to family and friends that may have resulted from a trial".


Blood Donations Urgently Needed

The American Red Cross urgently needs blood donors to make an appointment to give this winter. Eligible blood donors of all types are needed, especially those with O, AB, B negative and A negative. Blood donations are urgently needed now and throughout the winter to maintain a sufficient blood supply for patients in need. Make an appointment to donate blood by downloading the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS. Upcoming blood donation opportunities in Hastings are on February 3rd from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. at the Dakota County Government Complex.



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