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Dakota County is planning a $7.1 million reconstruction project of County Road 42 from Highway 55 to Lock Boulevard this spring. The project entails adding paved shoulders and turning lanes. The road was last reconstructed 60 years ago and is three time higher in crashes and crash severity than other similar roads, according to Dakota County documents. The county is set to receive construction bids in March, with construction concluding in November, said Bobby Kuennen, the project's manager. "The age of the pavement and the base of the pavement is old," he added.
Snow has piled on for the last two weeks and so have snow days at Hastings schools. Now school officials are trying to find ways to make up time in the classroom. Since Jan. 28, Hastings Superintendent Tim Collins has called off school seven times due to freezing temperatures in late January and heavy snowfall in February. While there is little penalty for missing the days, Collins and other officials are scheduling school on Feb. 18, which was a nonschool day in recognition of President's Day. The Hastings School Board is planning to vote on two more days to bring back as well.
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom announced Tuesday afternoon that Josh McLay, 37, of Hastings has been charged with eight counts of embezzlement of public funds and eight counts of theft by swindle. The charges are in connection with the alleged theft of over $13,900 from the Hastings School District. At the time of the alleged thefts, McLay was working as the Hastings High School head wrestling coach. He has also served as the high school assistant principal since July 2016.
Ahead of its planned summer opening, Hastings' Pleasant Hill Library has a new manager. Julia Carlis, a Dakota County library employee since 2014, was recently named the library's manager. She took on the role after Mary Scheide — the library manager since 2013 and the Farmington Library manager prior to that — retired. "I'm really looking forward to being able to shepherd the library into the new building," Carlis said. "The staff here is really great and they are super connected to the community."
Dakota County commissioners adjusted terms of a purchase agreement with the city of Inver Grove Heights for the site of the Safety and Mental Health Alternative Response Training (SMART) Center.
Dakota County's homeless population's need for shelter continues to outpace what is available. In Hastings, officials surveyed nine people as part of its the annual Point in Time survey — a federally-mandated count of the number of unsheltered people in a community — in late January, up from last year's count of five people. Housing vacancy rates around 2 percent and a lack of shelter space has left some struggling to put a roof over their heads, sometimes for even a night.
Hasting School Board approved three hirings, gave out "employees of the semester" awards and discussed progress for ongoing projects at its Jan. 23 meeting. The board discussed the possible options for a new accessibility entrance at Todd Field and an energy bill-cutting "solar garden" contract with Renesola — a green-energy product manufacturer based out of California. Board members also approved several assignment changes for district employees, one resignation and other minor administrative decisions.
McAuliffe Elementary School second-graders learned about weather from someone who knows it best — Wren Clair, KSTP-TV meteorologist. Clair's presentation was part of the students' science unit and arranged through the school's parent teacher connection group. The Twin Cities meteorologist taught the students how weather happens, and showed videos of tornadoes, inside the eye of a hurricane and record-sized hail, said Jessica Dressely, the McAuliffe Parent Teacher Connection president.
Mirroring other library systems statewide and nationally, the Dakota County Library system plans to waive overdue material fines during an eight-day period in April. The library has about 10,000 active users blocked, those who have been to the library within two years, and 23,000 total users blocked. The fee waiving effort has a projected loss of $30,000 for the system, but officials hope it will be worth it through encouraging blocked users to return and stick around, while attracting newcomers.
Dakota County legislators have education and gun control at the top of their legislative priorities for the 2019 session. At a town hall Jan. 14 in Apple Valley's Falcon Ridge Middle School, Sen. Greg Clausen, DFL-Apple Valley, Rep. John Huot, DFL-Rosemount, and Rep. Robert Bierman, DFL-Apple Valley, heard from Dakota County residents who shared those priorities and more. Residents voiced concerns ranging from health policy and environmental policy to 2018's last-minute omnibus budget bill.