January 2016 News and Events from Commissioner Linda Higgins

Commissioner Linda Higgins, Hennepin County, MN




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Linda Higgins
Commissioner, District 2

Tina Sanz
Principal Aide

Roshonda Royston
Administrative Secretary

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For past issues of my monthly newsletter, visit my webpage.


District 2 serves the cities of Golden Valley,Medicine Lake, north and northeast Minneapolis, southeast Plymouth andSt. Anthony.

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Understanding your property tax

Happy New Year 2016! May your new year be healthy, prosperous, and filled with love and joy.

Don’t forget: Don’t drink and drive. Take a cab or, Metro Transit has partnered up with Miller Lite and J.J. Taylor Distributing Company of MN, Inc. to offer free rides on New Year’s Eve! No fares, no coupons – just hop on any Metro Transit bus or light-rail train from 6 p.m. tonight through 3 a.m. on January 1. Celebrate safely and take Metro Transit to and from your New Year’s Eve festivities!


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Top stories

2016 Hennepin budget reflects service demands, initiatives in child protection, elections

The Hennepin County Board voted December 15 to approve the county’s 2016 budget of $1.9 billion. The budget includes a property tax levy of $726.8 million, an increase of 4.48 percent over 2015. The budget reflects increasing service demands across the county.

Hennepin budget collage images

Some elements of the 2016 budget include:

Child protection

A plan to improve the safety of children in the county includes increasing critical staff and reexamining current work practices.


The county is updating existing voting equipment in preparation for national and local elections in 2016.

Self-sufficiency and workforce initiatives

As baby boomer-age employees retire, the Career Connections program identifies, trains and hires qualified candidates for gateway county positions with opportunities for additional education and advancement. County officials are committed to sharing best practices with other employers in the region.

Workforce competitiveness

The county and AFSCME, its largest union, have agreed on a series of contracts, reflected in the budget, continues to incorporate competitive compensation and benefits. They include an enhanced tuition reimbursement program, paid parental leave, progressive health and life insurance and a new salary minimum of at least $15 per hour. The measures are part of a larger effort to maintain Hennepin County’s status as an employer of choice in the region, and to maintain a high level of customer service to taxpayers.

Property tax levy

The increase in this year’s property tax levy follows several years of nearly flat increases. With this budget, Hennepin County’s property tax levy has increased by an average of 1.67 percent per year over the past five years.

The budget demonstrates a commitment to solid fiscal priorities and responsibilities that remain evident in more than three decades of AAA bond ratings, according to Hennepin County Board Chair Jan Callison.

“As commissioners, we understand the enormous responsibility to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” Callison said. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done over the past several months, culminating in the adoption of a budget that shows our commitment to serving residents, improving lives and continuing to attract and retain a talented workforce.”

The budget adoption follows more than six months of budget preparation and hearings focused on the county’s continued commitment to help residents to be healthy, protected and safe, self-reliant, assured due process and mobile.

Learn more

For more information about the Hennepin County budget, visitwww.hennepin.us.

Blue Line LRT

Hearing set for Blue Line Extension (Bottineau) preliminary design plans

On January 19, 2016, the Metropolitan Council, Hennepin County Board of Commissioners and Hennepin County Re­gional Railroad Authority will hold a joint public hearing at 6 p.m. for municipal approval of preliminary design plans for the Blue Line Extension (Bottineau) Light Rail Transit. The meeting will be held at Hennepin County’s Minneapolis Central Library at 300 Nicollet Mall, Pohlad Hall, in Minneapolis. The meeting will follow a public open house beginning at 5 p.m.

By early March 2016, the five corridor cities and the county would need to act on plans for their jurisdictions. Each city and the county will announce the dates, times and locations of their municipal consent meetings on their websites.

Learn more about the Blue Line Extension municipal consent process.

services people disabilities

Services for people with disabilities

Hennepin’s services help people with disabilities live in their communities as independently as possible. Starting with disability screenings and information sessions on community resources and county, state and federal programs, Hennepin County can then help with short term service planning and ongoing case management.

The Community Informational Sessions for Seniors and People with Disabilities booklet has been updated with new dates, times and locations. These sessions are free and open to the public.

Community Informational Sessions are offered as a continuing effort to keep families, clients and providers informed about service options and application processes. Please visit services for people with disabilities for more information.

career connections video

Video link via Hennepin County.

Hennepin County Career Connections – Working for Hennepin

I am proud to say that Hennepin County is changing hiring practices to better reflect the work that employees do and services our county residents need. Through the Career Connections program, the county and its partners guide people onto career paths that include training, work experience and professional support once people are hired.

Jobs will be available in several areas, including human services, information technology, health care, public works, customer service and public safety.

Candidates can train for a good job while setting up for a great future. With PPL’s human services training program, candidates build computer and professional skills to prepare for positions such as human services representative while getting hands-on experience through an internship with Hennepin County. Candidates also earn credits from MCTC upon completion, giving a head start on future academic and professional goals.

Eligibility requirements include: a High School diploma or GED; strong computer skills; excellent customer service skills; multi-tasking abilities in demanding environments. To apply, start by attending a one-hour information session held every Monday at 9 a.m. at the PPL Learning Center.

For more information about Career Connections, training programsand Hennepin County, visit hennepin.us/jobs/career-connections or call 612-348-7473.

bicycle image

Hennepin named “Bicycle Friendly Community”

Hennepin County is the first Minnesota county to receive Bicycle Friendly Community silver status from the League of American Bicyclists.

“This award acknowledges how far Hennepin County has come in the past 25 years,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. “We couldn’t have dreamed of this much progress even a few years ago. Our residents benefit from a robust bicycle network within Hennepin County that also connects to our neighboring counties. We are fortunate to live in a bicycling county and a bicycling region.”

Regional trails in Hennepin County had more than 8.1 million trail visits in 2014 and more than 8 million visits in 2013. Also, 1.8 percent of commuters primarily biked to work in 2013. This compares to 0.8 percent across Minnesota and 0.6 percent nationwide. The bicycle network includes buffered bike lanes, cycle tracks and trails connecting the entire county.

Residents and visitors enjoy 651 miles of on-and off-street bikeways in Hennepin County.

Hennepin County will continue to improve bicycling conditions by making the system safer and more comfortable for all ages and abilities, while continuing to expand the bikeway network.

Visit www.hennepin.us/ridehennepin for the Hennepin County bike map and riding tips.

MLK breakfast logo

26th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Breakfast to feature Governor Deval Patrick

The General Mills Foundation and The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) are pleased to present the 26th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Breakfast. The breakfast is an opportunity to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy of service and be inspired to live out his dream today in our homes, the community and throughout the world.

This year’s keynote speaker is Deval Patrick, former Governor of Massachusetts and Civil Rights Leader. He will provide powerful messages on this year’s theme: “Civil and Right.”

There will also be entertainment this year with guests Voice of Culture and Steven Daniels and Shiloh Baptist Church. Tickets and further information are at mlkbreakfast.com.

Plymouth 494 service

New Suburb to Suburb transit service connects Plymouth, Maple Grove, Hopkins, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, and Shakopee

Route 494 is aimed at increasing access to major employment and commercial centers throughout the Twin Cities western suburbs.

The first ever Suburb to Suburb transit service will be available to commuters in the cities of Plymouth, Maple Grove, Hopkins, Eden Prairie and Shakopee beginning Jan. 19.

Route 494 will offer commuters the opportunity to ride the bus between Shakopee’s Marschall Road Transit Station and Plymouth’s Station 73, with connecting service to and from the Maple Grove Transit Station. The initiative is funded by the Minnesota Legislature and facilitated by the Suburban Transit Association. The route is designed to demonstrate the success of express bus service between suburbs.

The service plan includes 20 trips operating about every 30 minutes, in both northbound and southbound directions during the morning and afternoon peak periods.

A local peak fare of $2.25 per trip will be charged on this demonstration route. Transfers to local or other routes may include an additional fee. All buses will be equipped with regional fare equipment and will accept Go-To cards, Metropass, tokens, Stored Value cards and cash. Change is not available. To obtain a schedule, call MVTA at 952-882-7500 or visit s2s494.com.


Be snow savvy on winter roads

Heading to work or school in the morning, it’s likely you will travel on a county road. Hennepin County has more than 570 miles of them. Some you might know simply by their number; others you may know as Broadway, Lowry or Winnetka Avenues.

Keeping these county roads safe during the winter is our priority. Plow drivers get regular refreshers in training and do dry runs of their routes in the fall. When winter weather arrives, our primary goal is to get lanes passable. We have 66 plow routes to cover all 2,200 lane miles of county roads. During a typical storm, we are out clearing and de-icing starting around 2 a.m. in order to help with a safe morning commute.

Working in shifts, our snow and ice removal team will stay active until roads are clear. Then comes post-storm clean up, when we work to clear everything from guardrail to shoulder. All in all, it can be a nearly continuous effort for several days, and – in some instances – almost daily for weeks.

You have a role to play, too.

  • Plan ahead for snow days – give yourself extra time.
  • Know the road.
  • Be patient – slow down and give plows room to work.
  • Never use cruise control.
  • Remember, just because a road is plowed, doesn’t mean it’s okay to speed up. The de-icing materials crews on the road need time to work. Learn more at www.hennepin.us/plowing.

snow emergency notification

Reminder: sign up for snow alerts…

… in Minneapolis, Golden Valley, andPlymouth. St. Anthony mandates that residents are not allowed to park on any street for a period of 48 hours, beginning immediately after two inches or more of continuous snow fall. Don’t get towed!

Golden Valley new chief

Golden Valley announces retirement of Chief Stacy Carlson and new Chief Jason Sturgis

The City of Golden Valley has announced that Golden Valley Police Chief Stacy Carlson will retire December 31, 2015, and will be succeeded by current Police Commander Jason Sturgis, who will take the helm January 1, 2016.

Carlson served Golden Valley as police chief for eight years. Chief Carlson expressed gratitude for “the tremendous support the community shows the police department.”

Jason Sturgis joined the Golden Valley Police Department in 2004, and has held positions of progressive leadership as patrol sergeant, detective sergeant, patrol lieutenant, and police commander.

 See the full story at goldenvalleymn.gov.

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Board news

December 1

Solid Waste Enterprise Fund grants expand recycling opportunities in public spaces

The board awarded eight grants totaling $97,786 to improve recycling in public spaces. Grants were awarded to the cities of Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Minneapolis, New Hope, St. Bonifacius, St. Louis Park and Tonka Bay and the University of Minnesota. The projects will add recycling receptacles to parks and high-traffic pedestrian routes and expand organics collections programs. The public space recycling program, established in 2014, provides a financial incentive to municipalities and public entities to explore new opportunities to reduce, reuse, recycle or compost waste. Up to $100,000 from the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund, which is funded by fees that waste haulers pay to dispose of garbage generated by residents and businesses in the county, is available annually for these grants.

Learn more about the county’s public space recycling grants.

Negotiations authorized for Southwest Light Rail trail crossings

The board authorized negotiations with the Metropolitan Council to fund three trail grade-separated crossings adjacent to the Southwest LRT (METRO Green Line Extension) route, in Hopkins and St. Louis Park. Construction of the three trail grade-separated crossings will be incorporated and move forward as part of the METRO Green Line Extension project. The county will contribute up to $2.6 million. Three Rivers Park District will reimburse Hennepin County $1.1 million for its share of the local construction costs.

Learn more about the proposed trail crossing projects.

Three Rivers Park District 2016 budget approved

The board reviewed and approved the Three Rivers Park District superintendent’s proposed $35.9 million operating budget for 2016. The proposed budget reflects an increase of 3.45 percent from 2015. The total budgeted property tax levy including debt service is about $41.5 million, an increase of 0.66 percent over last year.

Learn more about the Three Rivers Park District budget. 

Sentencing to Service Homes program contracts approved

The board approved two contracts for the Sentencing to Service Homes program effective January 1 to December 31, 2016. This construction and carpenter training program will receive as much as $225,000 from Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation (GMHC) and as much as $140,000 from Three Rivers Park District, for STS Homes work crews to assist with home rehabilitation, new home construction and other construction related projects for both organizations. STS Homes has partnered with GMHC since 2007 and with Three Rivers Park District since 2004. Program participants are men and women, primarily Hennepin County residents, who are incarcerated in Minnesota Correctional Facilities such as Lino Lakes and Stillwater, or who are on probation in Hennepin County and participating in the Summit Academy OIC Rehabilitation Technician Program. They are expected to be ready for pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship, or union-scale jobs once they complete the program.

Learn more about the STS Homes program.

December 15

Plans move forward for joint youth residential treatment facility with Ramsey County

The County Board agreed to proceed with plans for a joint Hennepin-Ramsey County residential youth treatment center. Two existing residential treatment centers, at the Hennepin County Home School and Ramsey County’s Boys Totem Town, are in need of significant ongoing preservation and maintenance efforts. For the past 18 months, the counties have worked toward creating a joint facility replacement. The next phase will:

  • Complete facility pre-design with an architectural consultant
  • Finalize site requirements, develop site option descriptions and finalize site selection
  • Finalize capacity, scope and staffing needs
  • Complete project construction, project cost estimates and update project schedule
  • Draft cooperative agreement and develop projected operating budget
  • Arrange capital funding

The cost for a facility pre-design is expected to exceed $50,000, to be shared equally between Hennepin and Ramsey Counties. Once a consultant has been identified, further approval will be sought from the respective county boards. This phase is expected to be accomplished in 12 to 14 months, at which time staff will be ready to seek final Board approval to begin the construction process of the joint facility.

Learn more about the joint treatment facility.

Regional Railroad Authority budget approved

The county approved a $63 million budget for the Regional Railroad Authority. The budget supports the following priority projects:

  • The Southwest Light Rail Transit requires $33.1 million – as the project completes engineering and moves to construction
  • The Bottineau Light Rail Transit requires $12.33 million as the project completes the project development phase and moves toward engineering
  • The Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit requires $2.67 million for project development and property acquisition purposes
  • The Hiawatha Light Rail requires $2.89 million for debt service
  • The 2016 HCRRA budget includes $11.96 million for maintenance of the 55 miles of corridor and staff support for transitways and oversight of HCRRA’s infrastructure assets and operational needs.

Learn more about the Regional Railroad Authority’s 2016 budget.

Labor agreements set three-year contracts, minimum AFSCME wage at $15 an hour

The board approved six labor agreements with AFSCME Council 5, various locals. The three-year agreements cover approximately 4,000 employees from the clerical, social services, probation/parole, legal, adult corrections and professional units. Prominent provisions of this agreement include modifications to wages and differential pay, merit steps, market adjustments, health insurance and the union dental plan. The agreements also ensure that members of the county’s largest union are paid a minimum of $15 an hour.

The agreements reflect that everything we do each day is dependent on our greatest asset – the dedicated, skilled and hardworking Hennepin County staff that deliver a multitude of critical services.

Learn about the labor agreements with AFSCME.

Youth Sports Program grants will fund playgrounds, sports facilities

The County Board awarded 39 Youth Sports Grants for projects throughout Hennepin County, including a $200,000 facilities project for a new adaptive softball field and universal access playground in Plymouth and $150,000 to remodel and install new equipment at the North High School fitness center. The board approved 14 large facilities projects in the amount of $1,815,000, and 25 small equipment grants totaling $125,000, including four glass basketball blackboards for indoor courts at Sandburg Learning Center, portable soccer goals at Edison High School, and baseball, badminton and track and field equipment at North High School. The Hennepin Youth Sports Grant program provides substantial support to local communities throughout the county.

Search the list of 2016 Youth Sports Grant projects.

Grant offers program oversight for people in long-term homelessness

The board agreed to accept a $5.7 million two-year grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to oversee supportive housing programs for people who have experienced long-term homelessness, and families who are at risk of long-term homelessness. Hennepin County has been designated as lead agency and fiscal agency for a multi-county collaboration. As part of the ongoing plan to end long-term homelessness, the county will work with St. Paul-based Hearth Connection to provide supports across county boundaries, training to service providers, client monitoring and tracking, data collection and reporting and connections for clients to permanent supportive housing.

Learn about the supportive housing proposal.

Study to assess contracted food support programs

The board agreed to support a study of current contracted food support programs, to look for opportunities for increased efficiency, effectiveness and maximum accessibility. Currently, the county works with six providers that provide emergency food support; in all, 80 programs provide food support in the county. The Human Services Department will report back to the board with recommendations by July 1, 2016.

Learn more about the food support study.

Hearing set for Blue Line Extension preliminary design plans

The board established a joint public hearing with the Metropolitan Council and the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority, for municipal approval of preliminary design plans for the Blue Line Extension (Bottineau) Light Rail Transit. The hearing will be held Tuesday, January 19, 6 p.m., at Hennepin County Library—Minneapolis Central, 300 Nicollet Mall. The hearing will be preceded by a public open house beginning at 5 p.m. (see story above).

Learn more about the Blue Line Extension hearing.

Information about County board meetings – including agendas, minutes, and viewing information – is online at hennepin.us/your-government/leadership/county-board-meetings.

Look for more news on the Hennepin County website athennepin.us/news.

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St. Anthony

  • Thursday, January 14 through Saturday, January 16, 7pm and Sunday, January 17, 4pm
    “Terra Nova.” Staged outside in a performance tent. Winter theatre experience, about discovery and courage in Antarctica, tells the story of Robert Falcon Scott’s journey to the South Pole in 1911-1912. $25. For tickets, visit heronowtheatre.org or call 612-789-2087.
    St. Anthony Village Central Park
    3400 Silver Lake Road, St. Anthony


  • Thursday, December 31, 9pm
    New Years Eve 80’s Disco Ball. Dj dance party, drink specials, complimentary champagne and more. Free disco danger sleigh rides from 9pm-10pm. For tickets, visitdangernye.brownpapertickets.com.
    Betty Danger’s Country Club
    2501 Marshall Street NE, Minneapolis
  • Tuesday, January 12, 7pm
    Winter Choir Concert. Free.
    Edison High School Auditorium
    700 22nd Avenue NE, Minneapolis
  • Wednesday, January 13, 7pm