Year In Review: It’s the end of the year as we know it…

Editor’s Note: The year 2012 was filled with many headlines and changes in the Champlin and Dayton area. The list of top headlines wasn’t easy to pick. Factors considered include the scope and impact of an event on the community. Here’s a rundown of some of the top headlines for Champlin and Dayton in 2012. The Champlin-Dayton Press hopes you enjoy this look back at some of the top headlines for Champlin and Dayton. Further in this issue, we look back at top news in the Anoka-Hennepin School District as well as revisit 10 of the most fascinating folks we met up with along the way during 2012.




Uglem seeks higher office

After nearly 8 years on the Champlin City Council, serving six of them as mayor, Mark Uglem announced his intentions to seek a new office. Instead of running for re-election as the city’s mayor, Uglem threw his hat in the ring for the MN House Dist. 36A seat. Rep. Denise Dittrich did not to seek re-election for the seat.

Uglem ran on the Republican ticket facing DFL opponent Grace Baltich. Uglem won the seat with 51 percent of the vote, edging out Baltich 10,691 votes to 10,235 votes. Uglem will be sworn into his new office at the Capitol Tuesday, Jan. 8.

Champlin mayor race heats up with 3-person challenge

With the city’s top elected spot up for grabs, the 2012 mayoral race became a three-way contest between two experienced council members, ArMand Nelson and Greg Payer, along with Ryan Sabas, a local businessman with no council experience.

The voters spoke in favor of Nelson, handing him the mayoral victory with more than 36 percent of the vote, coming in 342 votes ahead of Sabas and 808 votes ahead of Payer.

“It was very competitive and I think my experience on the council pushed me over the top,” said Nelson. “What I heard while knocking on doors is that most people like the way the city is currently run.”

Nelson reported his focus would be on providing the most value for their tax dollars to the taxpayers.

“This includes all the services we provide from road repairs to snow removal to emergency services and more,” said Nelson.

Since Payer’s term as council member ended Dec. 31, 2012, he shared a heartfelt goodbye with residents during comments at the final 2012 council meeting. He has since put in an application for a vacancy on the Anoka-Hennepin School Board.


Councilor Julia Whalen resigns

As the summer came to a close, longtime council member Julia Whalen announced her plans to resign from the Champlin City Council. Her decision was based on relocating to a horse farm outside of Champlin, to nearby Dayton. Whalen served on the council representing Ward 1 for more than 17 years.

There was some council discussion about the decision to appoint her replacement versus allowing residents in Ward 1 to vote on the new council member. Since Whalen’s decision to resign came after the deadline to include candidates on the upcoming election’s ballot, that opportunity was not available.

The remaining city council chose Ryan Karasekas Whalen’s replacement.

With Whalen, Uglem and Payer’s departure in 2012, leaving Nelson and Eric Johnson as the senior members on the council along with Karasek. They are joined by newly elected Bruce Miller representing Ward 3 and Kara Terry, representing Ward 4.


Million dollar grant caps off year of progress on Mississippi Crossings Redevelopment

Champlin made great strides in bringing its Mississippi Crossings Redevelopment project closer to fruition. In addition to identifying a master plan and providing dialogue within the community through open houses, the project earned a $1 million Livable Communities grant through the Metropolitan Council. The grant is meant to specifically support the signature project — a two-story restaurant/event center, a 3.5-acre village green and riverfront amphitheatre, a 120-unit market-rate apartment building and parking garage.

Additionally, the riverfront plan calls for hundreds of housing units, market-rate and affordable, retail and office space, eateries and a hotel, drawing traffic from land and water.

Overall, the project is a $32.5 million undertaking. In addition to EDA and investment funds, private funding will underwrite part of the cost. The city is continuing its efforts to secure additional federal funding and other grant funding sources.


Andrews Park begins first phase of improvements

Beginning this year, Andrews Park is taking on a new look. A major effort got underway to make improvements to this park, which is considered a central hub gathering place for the community. During 2012, the park received parking lot upgrades, lighting and improvements to its underground infrastructure. The park continued to play host to many youth activities. As 2012 closed out, the city approved seeking bids for phase 2 which will focus on one of the new signature features, a splash pad, as well as a new programming area, entry features, picnic shelter, landscaping, electrical and lighting work.

The park also earned a 2012 Hennepin County Youth Sports Grant for $220,000 and another $20,000 grant from the Minnesota Twins Community Fund to help offset the city’s costs for the improvements.



Anderson announces plans to retire

After more 20 years on the Dayton City Council, Mayor Doug Anderson announced he would not be seeking re-election. Councilor Scott Hoke also joined Anderson in retiring from the council.

This opened the door to a record number of candidates running for three open seats on the board. The primary election held in August pared the seven candidate pool running for the two open council seats down to four: incumbent Phil Forseth, James Jadwin, Eric Lucero and Scott Salonek.

Council member Tim McNeil made a bid for the mayoral seat. Anne Ziebell, a former council member, opposed him.


McNeil becomes Dayton’s next mayor

On Election Day, McNeil won the top spot in Dayton earning 54.24 percent of the vote with 1,374 votes. McNeil beat out Anne Ziebell, who earned 1,150 votes or 45.4 percent of the vote. There were nine write-in votes.

While residents were in favor of McNeil stepping into the mayoral role, they were divided in selecting the two councilors to fill the open seats. Scott Hoke did not run for re-election but Phil Forseth did; however, he was edged out by 15 votes.

“With the current council having nearly 70 years of experience, the next council will begin with just 8 years of experience,” McNeil stated in a post on his website “There will be many hard choices, and lots of learning to do. We will have to see how many promises were made, and how many can be kept.”

The council will see a significant changeover as Anderson, Hoke and Forseth — who lost his re-election bid — depart the council, taking with them decades of experience. They will be replaced by newcomers Eric Lucero and Scott Salonek and a yet to be determined council member. One of McNeil’s first tasks as mayor will be to appoint his replacement to the council seat he leaves vacant by his win.

McNeil’s platform has been that of approaching the city’s finances with a conservative hand and to remain very conscientious about telling people what to do or how to do it with their own property. Earning 54.24 percent of the vote, McNeil’s categorical win demonstrates the voters seem to agree with his philosophy.

“I doubt residents will see anything that resembles drastic change,” said McNeil. “Like most communities, Dayton has been hit by the economic slow-down, which limits our ability to actually do things, because doing things requires money and with slow growth and decreasing property values, money is in short supply everywhere.”


Grant funding helps Dayton repair

portion of South Diamond Lake Road

Dayton earned a $500,000 grant from the state’s Local Road Improvement Program to fund road improvements for South Diamond Lake Road. With assistance from the grant, the city was finally able to conduct a repave and reclamation of a portion of South Diamond Lake Road from just west of Vinewood Lane to west of Zanzibar Lane. The city planned two additional phases for future repair.

Funding sources for the phase one repairs came from the $500,000 grant, more tan $109,000 in existing state aid, $200,000 from the city’s pavement management fund, $323,000 from future pavement management funds and approximately $130,000 in assessments to property owners.

Roadwork began in August and was completed in October.


City spearheads final design process

for I-94/Brockton Lane interchange

The Cities of Dayton and Rogers took official action to formally advance the selected design of a proposed new interchange on I-94 near Brockton Lane to the approval and environmental review stage. The design, known as the “Offset Design Alternative” was selected from among seven options considered during an 18-month process involving broad technical review and extensive public participation and comment.

At its final regularly scheduled meeting on Sep. 6, at Dayton City Hall, the Project Steering Committee (PSC) outlined the steps involved as the project moves through the design layout and environmental documentation approvals. The PSC, made up of representatives from the Cities of Dayton, Maple Grove, Rogers and Corcoran, Hassan Mainstreet, LLC, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Hennepin County, Federal Highway Administration, Metropolitan Council, and Three Rivers Park District, guided the study process since it was initiated by the City of Dayton in the spring 2011.

Funding has always been one of the driving forces behind the push to develop an identified design alternative for the interchange. The dollars necessary to construct the new interchange are not currently included in MnDOT’s long range budget; but the hope is that by having a design in place that has been widely reviewed, has broad support in the community, and a completed EAW and implementation plan, the project would be at a significant advantage over competing projects when additional funding becomes available. It will also make it possible for project partners to confidently pursue funding options more aggressively at the regional, state and federal levels.

“Those of us who have been promoting a Brockton interchange for years understand what it could mean in terms of improved safety, access, and economic development opportunities for the area,” said Dayton’s Mayor Doug Anderson, “But now, because of this design development process, a much larger audience of residents, business owners, and agency partners understand the huge benefit this will have. That will help us in the future as we go after the funding we need to get it built.”


Council struggles with division on numerous issues

A division of philosophies emerged during 2012 as the council was presented with numerous issues.

Starting with review of their 5-year capital improvement plan in January, an ongoing discussion of how to plan, budget, save and pay for city costs became the underlying focus of many topics facing the council.

Councilor Tim McNeil wanted to know why the city published and approved a document for capital needs that they knew going in would not be funded. He requested a document showing what the true expected tax impact would be based on what the city realistically expected to purchase during 2012.

Discussions continued as the city considered funding a street reconstruction for South Diamond Lake Road. Councilor Rick Shermer brought up concerns about costs, how to pay for it and the details on the work to be done. At one point, during a council meeting in June, Shermer suggested the city delay repairing the road for a year. He questioned where the additional funds would come from if they had to cover assessments that might be appealed an ultimately unpaid.

Mayor Doug Anderson said the city had additional funds in the various accounts they would be using and may have to draw down the balances further to cover it should that situation present itself.

“There is no downside to doing the project now,” said Anderson. “The road needs to be fixed. Everyone loses sight of that.”

Shermer was also concerned about the city’s workplace environment. Coming off of a difficult 2011 that included layoffs and furloughs, the city formed a Workplace Respect and Awareness Program committee, which conducted some staff training.

In the spring, the issue of using personal cell phones became fodder for review. The impetus behind the cell phone policy discussion was a complaint to the state auditor’s office regarding a number of issues including the cell phone policy.

City Administrator Samantha Orduno said that out of concern for privacy and given actions by some members of the public, staff declined to continue to use their phones for city business. The cost of acquiring cell phones for individuals determined needing one increased the city’s costs.

McNeil also brought up his wishes for more transparency and convenience of viewing council meetings by getting them broadcast or televised. Staff reviewed the option and reported it would cost from $5,000 to more than $100,000 to obtain the equipment and capabilities to do that.

As the weather warmed and residents began requesting hook-ups to the NE Dayton water and sewer connections, Shermer revisited his concerns about the project and whether the city installed pipe too deep and if there was erroneous paperwork being used for connections.

One of Shermer’s biggest concerns has been, who is financially responsible for underwriting and problems encountered by homeowners trying to connect. If this were one isolated instance, Shermer says he would understand.

“Everyone makes mistakes,” he said. But he feels the inaccuracies are piling up. “My main concern is for Dayton and the residents and if the city and city engineer are looking out for residents’ best interests.”

Another issue that caused division among the council was whether to remove the urban reserve designation for a portion of the city.

Councilors Tim McNeil and Rick Shermer opposed pursuing a change in the land use designation. One of their concerns was how the change in designation might affect property taxes for landowners in the current urban reserve.

Mayor Anderson and councilors Phil Forseth and Scott Hoke were in favor of the designation removal because any development project in the urban reserve would have to be reviewed by Metropolitan Council first.

“It would allow the council to have more control over what happens instead of Met Council,” said Anderson.

For Anderson, Forseth and Hoke, pulling the land out of urban reserve made sense because of the flexibility they said it would afford the city council, landowners and developers. They also said they believed it would save developers time and money by not having to submit a comp plan amendment to Met Council for approval. Since approval would be directly under city council’s control the process could potentially flow more quickly and smoothly.

Ultimately, the council decided to forgo the change, leaving the designation as it is.

With numerous changes on the city council, it is yet to be determined the path the city’s leadership will take or if they will continue to remain divided on numerous issues in 2013.