2014: A year in Review

The University of Minnesota Raptor Center celebrated 40 years of operation Sept. 27 at the Carpenter-St. Croix Valley Nature Center in Hastings with several bird releases and other fun activities. The first bird released was a broad wing hawk that came to the Raptor Center in August after hitting a window. Two more birds, including a red shoulder hawk and bald eagle were also released under the awe-filled gaze of many observers.
The University of Minnesota Raptor Center celebrated 40 years of operation Sept. 27 at the Carpenter-St. Croix Valley Nature Center in Hastings with several bird releases and other fun activities. The first bird released was a broad wing hawk that came to the Raptor Center in August after hitting a window. Two more birds, including a red shoulder hawk and bald eagle were also released under the awe-filled gaze of many observers. (Linda E. Andersen/Review)
The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park in St. Paul hosted its annual Holiday Flower Show in the sunken garden. Poinsettias and other gorgeous Christmas blooms were on display until Jan. 6.
The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park in St. Paul hosted its annual Holiday Flower Show in the sunken garden. Poinsettias and other gorgeous Christmas blooms were on display until Jan. 6. (Linda E. Andersen/Review)
The Skyflier ride in the Minnesota State Fair Mighty Midway greeted visitors this summmer during the annual Great Minnesota Get-Together in August.
The Skyflier ride in the Minnesota State Fair Mighty Midway greeted visitors this summmer during the annual Great Minnesota Get-Together in August. (Linda E. Andersen/Review)
Falcon Heights resident Kurt Rossou had everyone slowing down to check out his yard on the corner of Roselawn and Prior avenues in May. Last fall, he planted 2,200 tulip bulbs and 400 daffodil bulbs by hand, a task that took him 16 hours over two days to complete.
Falcon Heights resident Kurt Rossou had everyone slowing down to check out his yard on the corner of Roselawn and Prior avenues in May. Last fall, he planted 2,200 tulip bulbs and 400 daffodil bulbs by hand, a task that took him 16 hours over two days to complete. (Linda E. Andersen/Review)
Bill Blesener
Bill Blesener

The Review area had its fair share of ups and downs in 2014. Here are some of the top stories that made headlines this past year.

1. Bill Blesener passes away

Longtime Little Canada Mayor Bill Blesener, 74, passed away Dec. 21, 2014, just days before he would have completed his 10th term as the city's leader. Blesener had been fighting a long battle against cancer since February.

Blesener, who lived in Little Canada for over 40 years, was a city council member for eight years before taking the reins as mayor in 2005, serving the city as an elected official for a total of nearly two decades. He championed many important city initiatives, including the establishment of rail quiet zones throughout the city, various housing developments, the expansion at St. Jude Medical and the construction of a new public works facility, which is slated to be finished in April 2015. City officials dedicated the new building to Blesener, and will install a plaque inside that reads, "His leadership made this building a reality."

City administrator Joel Hanson, who had worked with Blesener since 1989, called Blesener a "great leader" for the city. Council member John Keis, who was elected mayor in the November general election, said Blesener "always had the best interest of the city at heart."

In an interview in July, Blesener told the Review he was proud of how well the council worked together at addressing residents' needs over their own individual desires.

According to his obituary, Blesener was a longtime employee of 3M and Imation before he retired. Blesener is survived by his wife Grace, two children, David and Lynne, and three grandchildren. A burial ceremony was held at St. John's Cemetery Dec. 27.

2. Snelling Avenue bus rapid transit speeds ahead

Metro Transit finalized plans to construct a bus rapid transit (BRT) route called the A Line along Snelling Avenue in Roseville and Falcon Heights in 2015.

The A Line will start at Rosedale Center and continue south on Snelling to Ford Parkway in St. Paul, ending at the 46th Street stop in Minneapolis. There are 20 stops on the 10-mile route, and planners estimate the BRT line will be 25 percent faster than traditional bus Route 84. Metro Transit estimates it will take a passenger 36 minutes to ride the A Line from start to finish, compared to 48 minutes on a traditional bus route.

The $25 million BRT line is much like a cross between a light-rail train and a traditional bus line. Riders purchase tickets at an upgraded bus stop before getting on the bus, which arrives every 10 minutes. 

Project planners anticipate construction will be completed by the end of next year.

Metro Transit says BRT lines are better alternatives for public transit in areas of high demand where the roads may not be wide enough for a light rail system or dedicated bus lane. Additional BRT lines in the east metro are currently being explored in St. Paul and Woodbury.

For more information about this story, visit http://www.lillienews.com/articles/2014/11/25/snelling-ave-bus-rapid-transit-speeds-ahead#.VKry9ivF-Sq.

3. Raiders volleyball takes fourth place at state

The Roseville Area High School girls volleyball team took fourth place at the 2014 state volleyball tournament in November, marking the third year the Raiders have qualified for the state tournament. Their fourth-place finish was the highest ever in those three state appearances.

Behind the overall play of senior Monica Burich, Roseville picked up its first championship-round victory at the state tournament when it defeated Champlin Park in the quarterfinals. A week later, Burich signed her letter of intent to play Division I college basketball at the University of Colorado.

For more information about this story, visit http://www.lillienews.com/articles/2014/11/11/roseville-volleyball-takes-fourth-place-state#.VKry_ivF-Sp.

4. Trudgeon named new Roseville city manager

Patrick Trudgeon, Roseville's community development director since 2007, was selected by the city council to officially take on the city manager position in February. He served as the interim city manager after Bill Malinen and the council parted ways in May 2013.

Trudgeon says his first official year in the position has gone well.

"I've really enjoyed it," he said. "I feel like I've got my feet under me and I've settled into the position. I really enjoy working with the city council, staff and the residents of Roseville."

Some of Trudgeon's highlights for 2014 include the construction of several new parks buildings as part of the city's Parks Renewal Program, the creation of two new city commissions -- the Community Engagement Commission and the Finance Commission -- and a $52 million budget that only increased the levy 1.5 percent.

Additionally, Trudgeon said the city began strengthening its ties to the business community with the first-ever Roseville Business Exchange in December, and hopes to continue to offer opportunities for Roseville businesses in 2015.

Looking forward to the coming year, Trudgeon says the improving economy will likely spur some redevelopment in the city, particularly in the Twin Lakes area near Cleveland Avenue and County Road C.

"The economy is coming back, and Roseville is a coveted place for businesses to be located," he said.

For more information about this story, visit http://www.lillienews.com/articles/2014/03/04/trudgeon-named-new-roseville-city-manager#.VKryvivF-So.

5. Local cities establish rail quiet zones

This year Little Canada and Shoreview went through the process of establishing "quiet zones" along railroad corridors within their borders. 

The moves were in response to complaints from weary residents, who had been dogged by train noise emanating from busier-than-ever railroad lines. The homeowners had approached city and state elected officials seeking relief from blaring train whistles.

Federal regulations require trains crossing through traffic at street-level crossings to sound their horns. With certain improvements to the crossings, like lighted crossing gates, medians and extra signage, trains can forgo the noise.

In May, Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill that allocated $2 million of state bonding money to improve railroad crossings in Shoreview and Little Canada so they can be considered railroad quiet zones. Little Canada is set to receive $1.25 million to upgrade six crossings, and Shoreview, $500,000, for two crossings.

Little Canada plans to improve crossings at Woodlyn Avenue, South Owasso Boulevard, Little Canada Road, Demont Avenue, County Road B2 and County Road B.

In Shoreview, improvements will be made at crossings at North Owasso Boulevard and Jerrold Avenue. Shoreview established two additional quiet zones last year at Victoria Street and Lexington Avenue, which took effect in August. 

The majority of improvements in both cities will likely begin this summer, with hopes that they will be completed by the end of the year.

For more information about this story, visit http://lillienews.com/articles/2014/09/23/railroad-quiet-zones-track-little-canada-and-shoreview-still-ways#.VKryzCvF-Sp.

6. Roseville Community Band celebrates 50 years of making music

The Roseville Community Band celebrated its 50-year anniversary with a summer road trip across the Midwest.

Mark Lammers founded the group in 1964, and since then it has grown into a 60-member community staple. One of the band's main traditions is playing just before the well-attended Independence Day fireworks over Bennett Lake in Roseville's Central Park.

In honor of the band's half-century milestone, Gov. Mark Dayton proclaimed July 12-15 "Roseville Community Band Days," and the Roseville City Council proclaimed the entire month of May "Roseville Community Band Month."

To celebrate the band's birthday, director Dan Kuch composed his first-ever arrangement entitled "March of the Roses," a joyous, up-tempo song the band performed at its summer concerts.

"It's a thrill to hear it be played," Kuch told the Review in May. "We should be joyous after our 50 years."

For more information about this story, visit http://www.lillienews.com/articles/2014/05/20/roseville-community-band-celebrates-50-years-making-music#.VKry1ivF-Sp.

7. Incumbents victorious in Roseville-area elections

All incumbent candidates in the Review's coverage area up for reelection in November retained their seats for another term.

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum kept her seat in Minnesota Congressional District 4.

DFL state Rep. Jason Isaacson was elected to his second term in District 42B, and District 66A Rep. Alice Hausman, also a DFLer, was reelected to serve her 14th term.

Janice Rettman, who has held her seat since 1997, was elected for another four-year term on the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners.

In Lauderdale, Mayor Jeffrey Dains ran unopposed, and incumbent council members Mary Gaasch and Roxanne Grove retained their seats. They will be sworn in at the first council meeting of the year on Tuesday, Jan. 13, at 7:30 p.m.

Little Canada saw the most change with council member John Keis elected mayor, and two newcomers, Tom Fischer and Christian Torkelson, elected to serve on the council. They will be sworn in at the first council meeting of the year at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 14.

In Roseville, Mayor Dan Roe ran unopposed, and council members Tammy McGehee and Bob Willmus were both reelected to their second four-year term. They were sworn in at the Jan. 5 council meeting.

Falcon Heights will hold an election for three council seats and the mayorship in November 2015.

For more information about this story, visit http://lillienews.com/articles/2014/11/05/incumbents-victorious-roseville-area-elections#.VKrysSvF-Sq.

8. Little Canada constructs Veterans Memorial

The city of Little Canada constructed a Veterans Memorial on Little Canada Road near Round Lake, holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 11, Veterans Day. The project was overseen by the city council and the Veterans Memorial Committee, spearheaded by resident Rocky Waite, a Vietnam War veteran.

According to the city's website, the purpose of the memorial is to provide a "place of remembrance and reflection to honor all of those who have served or are serving our country in the military."

The memorial features three flagpoles, benches along a trail and dedicated brick pavers of various sizes, which are available for purchase.

For more information about this story, visit http://www.lillienews.com/articles/2014/07/01/little-canada-breaks-ground-veterans-memorial#.VKry7CvF-Sq.

9. Harambee officially joins District 623

Although the Roseville Area School District has been operating Harambee Community Cultures/Environmental Science Elementary School since 2013, the 2014 state bonding bill officially made the school part of the ISD 623 in May.

Harambee, a year-round kindergarten through fifth-grade magnet school located on County Road B in Maplewood, educates about 400 students and focuses on community cultures and environmental science. The school used to be part of the East Metro Integration District, but was dropped due to funding issues.

Students at Harambee attend school in four nine-week quarters with breaks in between. Classes at the school are also looped, meaning students keep the same teacher and classmates for two years in a row.

"Harambee" is a Swahili word that means "working together for a common purpose."

For more information about this story, visit http://www.lillienews.com/articles/2014/05/27/bonding-bill-allows-harambee-officially-join-isd-623#.VKrzBivF-Sp.

10. Cable commission and Comcast come to terms, CenturyLink eyes market 

The North Suburban Cable Commission agreed to a franchise extension with Comcast after four years of negotiations came into conflict with the cable company's plans to buy Time Warner Cable.

If that sale is allowed by the Federal Communications Commission, Comcast will vacate the Twin Cities market, leaving behind a successor cable company called Midwest Cable, which will do business as Greatland Connections.

Member cities in NSCC, Arden Hills, Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, Little Canada, Mounds View, New Brighton, North Oaks, Roseville, and St. Anthony have all signed off on a franchise transfer to the new company. Shoreview left NSCC and will negotiate future cable franchise deals on its own, though it agreed to the franchise extension and transfer.

Franchise agreements set the rules of cable operations in the area and the level of funding for services like public access programming, which is paid for by cable customers. NSCC enforces the franchise agreements. 

A switchover to Greatland Connections could happen later this year.

One potential future franchise for NSCC is with CenturyLink, a phone and Internet provider in the Twin Cities that offers cable television in other places.

CenturyLink pitched NSCC at the commission's Dec. 4 meeting, presenting its TV product, "Prism." According to information prepared by CenturyLink, a more competitive cable TV market can lead to lower cable prices. 

Company representatives gave no details on when CenturyLink cable service could be available in the area, and one of their franchise conditions would be to not have a build out schedule. 

For more information about this story, visit http://www.lillienews.com/articles/2014/11/18/nscc-cities-extend-cable-franchise-and-ready-possible-comcast-successor#.VKr46CvF-So.

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