City Council postpones senior housing vote

EAGAN, MN – The Eagan City Council this week postponed a vote on a proposal to build 173 units of senior housing near Yankee Doodle Road to allow for development of public park space on the lot.
   The city council expressed concern that the Discovery Road property, as developed by Skyline Graphics, did not include enough public space on one of the busiest pedestrian areas in the city. The council tabled the matter until Oct. 16. The council originally discussed postponing the matter until November, but moved up the date after developers expressed concern about such a delay’s impact on the proposed sale of the real estate.
   Building the proposed senior housing development would require a series of votes from the city council, including a change in zoning from business park to high-density residential. City councilors said at their meeting Monday night they would like to see something like a “pocket park,” a small park with benches and, possibly, public art, in the spot.

Eagan taxpayers get new 20-year mortgage

   The Eagan City Council approved the sale of about $22.3 million in bonds this week to finance extensive renovations at city hall and police headquarters and to buy new firefighting equipment.
   The sale of bonds, at about 3.5 percent interest, will extend the city’s debt for another 20 years. About $1 million of the funding will pay for new firefighting equipment, including two new ladder trucks. The rest will pay for the expansion of city offices, police headquarters, and the public works facility.

Eagan man accused of abusing children

EAGAN, MN -- An Eagan man is facing two criminal charges based on allegations he physically abused his children, one of whom was allegedly whipped with a phone charger for failing to properly recite scripture.
   Boru Boku, 40, of 1923 Covington Lane, Eagan, was charged with two counts of malicious punishment of a child, gross misdemeanors, after his 17-year-old daughter borrowed a cell phone from a contractor working at the home to dial 911 to report the abuse, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint.
   The teeanage victim told police she came home on Sept. 8 to Boku “screaming at his 11-year-old child…for making a mistake while reciting scripture.” The teenager reported hearing Boku “tell [the second victim] that he was going to kill her and the sounds of [the father] whipping [the 11-year-old] with a phone charger,” according to court records.
   The father then allegedly went to the teenager’s room and told her to move some items in the basement. When the teenager replied she would get to it later, according to the complaint, Boku allegedly “shoved [the teenager] up against the wall, ripped an iPad from her left hand, and slapped her face with an open hand.” The teenager then went to the basement and borrowed a contractor’s phone to call 911.

State's high court upholds student's suspension for party

    The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld a private school’s suspension of a hockey player accused of violating the school’s alcohol policy, reasoning that the school’s student handbook was not a contract for a particular type of discipline.
   “We hold that the student handbook is not a contract and makes no promise of any disciplinary procedure,” Judge Kevin G. Ross wrote in an unpublished opinion for the Court of Appeals released Monday, Sept. 17. “As a matter of law…general complaints of unfairness do not establish a breach of contract where no contract exists.”
   The appeal stemmed from the dismissal of a lawsuit was filed by the parent of a suspended hockey player against her daughter’s private school, Benilde-St. Margaret’s School. The school suspended the student, a sophomore, for two days after concluding, based in part on images from the event posted on social media, the student hosted a party where students drank alcohol. The suspension prevented the student from attending part of the school’s varsity hockey tryouts.
   The student and her mother then sued the school in Hennepin County court, alleging that the student handbook was a contract the school breached by suspending the hockey player without due process. The student claimed the investigation was not adequate and that the school had defamed both mother and daughter. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit.
   In affirming the dismissal of the lawsuit, the Court of Appeals rejected the student’s argument she was treated unfairly because the school had not established that she knew alcohol was being consumed at the party. “[E]ven if school officials doubted whether they could prove [the suspended student] knew alcohol was present, the handbook suggests that she may have violated the policy if alcohol was present, whether or not she knew it was present,” the Court of Appeals reasoned. “Again, no contract regulating the substance or process of the school’s disciplinary scheme exists, so we do not explore whether the … party actually constituted a punishable policy violation.”
A sketch of the proposed 14-story 320-room hotel at Viking Lakes in northeast Eagan.

Viking Lakes seeks to build 14-story hotel

EAGAN, MN -- The developers of the Viking Lakes project in northeast Eagan have submitted plans seeking the city’s approval to build a 14-story, 320-room hotel and conference center.
   “We request that the City approve this application so that we may add a full service, 4-Star hotel amenity to Viking Lakes and Northeast Eagan,” the developers wrote.
   Noting the recent opening of the Vikings’ headquarters and an attached performance center, the developers wrote, in a proposal submitted to the city, “[The] Landowners desire to maintain their momentum by developing a ‘best in class’ conference center hotel at Viking Lakes.” The developers hope to open the hotel by the summer of 2020 and have commenced a marketing campaign for the project, including a stop at the Dakota County Chamber of Commerce in October.
   In its proposal, the development company, MN Development Co. LLC, asks for the city’s help in developing the hotel and conference center, which would substantially increase the sources of revenue at the current sports site, and make the owners money through rental of hotel rooms and parking spots, hosting weddings and other events, liquor and food sales, advertising signs, and other sources.
   There is no discussion in the proposal of city services and infrastructure that would be required. Since the development of the Vikings’ headquarters and football practice field currently at the site, the city has increased its budget and taken on new debt, in part because of a need to hire more police officers and full-time firefighters.
   "The Eagan Fire Department is well equipped and staffed to respond to calls to our community including the proposed hotel," said Eagan Fire Chief Mike Scott. "Eagan has many high rise buildings including the former Blue Cross Blue Shield building on Yankee Doodle Road that is now an 11-story apartment building. That building has been in our response area for over 40 years along with many hotels, apartments, senior facilities and office buildings."
   The city fire department is expecting delivery of two new ladder trucks within the next 60 days. Chief Scott also noted improved fire safety features in modern buildings.
   "Facilities built today have many built in safety features including fire safety equipment, communications for evacuations and other safety features which makes a modern facility much less of a concern from a fire response," Chief Scott said, in a written response to an inquiry about the proposed hotel.
    The developer is asking the city for an exception to Eagan’s parking requirements, stating it wants to “test” the site with about 30 percent less parking required under the city code.
   “Strictly applied to our Project plans, City Code would require us to construct 961 parking spaces to serve the Project” the developer wrote in its proposal. “One of our Project consultants, Wischermann Partners (“Wischermann”), led by Paul Wischermann, a prominent local hotel developer of upscale projects similar to our Project, believes from experience that 961 parking spaces are excessive. Instead,Wischermann believes that 668 parking stalls will satisfy parking demand for the hotel.”
    The plans include about 9,400 square feet of restaurant and bar space next to the parking area, and a 5,100-square-foot rooftop bar, according to the proposal.
     The developers are also planning for a 250,000-square-foot office building, accompanied by 1,250 parking spots, at the site. The city recently approved a rezoning of a nearby site from office to retail space after owners of office space in the Blue Gentian Road area, near the Vikings site, argued there was insufficient demand for office space in the area.
    The plan also includes a request for signs advertising sponsors that would be visible from Interstate 494. “Sponsorship signage will be tasteful, but some of these signs may be visible on the exterior of the hotel from public rights-of-way,” the developers wrote in the proposal. “We request that the City permit tasteful and professional signage for our business partners if City staff approves a supplement to the signage plan we submitted with our application.”
     “With the City’s help, we can both build and operate a 4-Star world class hotel,” the developer wrote.
     “We have an aggressive timeline to ensure that the hotel is open for training
camp in 2020. We need the City’s help to meet our timeline and to develop the Project
in the manner shown in our submitted plans with the considerations we request of the
City in this Narrative. Please help us continue our momentum at Viking Lakes as we
continue to work on achieving our goal of developing a world class 'live, work, play'
environment at Viking Lakes.”

Burglary suspect charged with late-night break-in

   A Burnsville man is facing a felony charge after a woman awoke in the middle of the night last Thursday to discover a burglar in her bedroom.
   Nuradin Hassan, 18, of 12224C 17th Ave., Burnsville, was charged with felony first-degree burglary in connection with the Sept. 13 crime, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint.
   Burnsville Police were called to the scene of the burglary in that city shortly before 1:30 a.m Sept. 13. A woman reported she was asleep in her bedroom when she was awakened by a sound in the doorway of the room. A man then flipped on the light switch of the room and, when asked why he was there, said he was looking for a friend. He then ran out. The victim heard what sounded like a second person in the house as well, according to the complaint.
   The victim called 911 and police nearby found a man fitting the description of the burglar walking near the burglary scene, according to court records. The suspect ran when he saw police. The suspect was eventually found, by a police dog, hiding under a car.
   During a search incident to his arrest, police found a garage door opener in Hassan’s front pocket, according to court records. The victim identified the garage door opener as hers. Police also discovered her car had apparently been “rummaged through.”
   Three days before Hassan’s arrest, Eagan police released surveillance video of an attempted burglary in the Oakbrooke neighborhood shortly before 4 a.m on Sept. 4. The suspect in the video entered a car parked in front of a home then used a garage door opener to enter the home. The suspect, who was joined by others at the scene, was apparently scared off when an alarm sounded and he and the other suspects fled. Police have not released further information about that burglary attempt and whether the cases are linked.
Burglary suspect Nuradin Hassan
Eagan Police last week released surveillance footage of a burglary attempt on Oakbrooke Court at 4 a.m. on Sept. 4.

Galaxie Avenue fire station sold

The Former Fire Station #5 at 4701 Galaxie Avenue
EAGAN, MN – The city has approved an agreement to sell the second of two decommissioned fire stations to a Minneapolis auto storage company for $300,000.
   More than a year after the city began seeking proposals for two decommissioned fire stations, the Eagan City Council approved an agreement to sell what was formerly known as Fire Station #5 to a Minneapolis car storage company for $300,000.  The estimated property value, according to Dakota County property records, is $751,700.
   The city’s first fire station, on Rahn Road, was sold to another car storage company for $50,000 last June.
   The sale follows requests for proposals to redevelop the old fire station properties. The city received four responses to its request for proposals for the 4701 Galaxie Ave. lot. None of the proposals has been released by the city.

Man charged with felony domestic assault

   A Saint Cloud man accused of beating up his girlfriend at her Eagan home has been charged with felony domestic assault.
   Juanel Mikulak, 30, of 3003 7th St. N., St. Cloud, was charged with felony domestic assault following his Sept. 12 arrest by Eagan police, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint.
   Mikulak had been living with the victim at an Eagan home since July, according to the complaint. Police allege Mikulak pushed the victim during an argument Sept. 12 and repeatedly punched the victim as she lay on the ground. While she lay on the ground curled up in the fetal position, the victim counted 22 punches. She alleged that Mikulak told her he considered giving her a “five-finger death punch,” a fatal blow to the heart.
   Police allege the Sept. 12 report followed a history of abuse and intimidation during which Mikulak allegedly stabbed knives into walls and doors and pushed the victim, who was covered with bruises, backwards down stairs. The victim feared for her life, according to the criminal complaint.
   When police tried to arrest Mikulak, the complaint alleges, “he was initially noncompliant with the directions given by law enforcement. Mikulak was eventually apprehended and transported to the Dakota County Jail.”
Juanel Mikulak

No charges brought against truck driver

   EAGAN, MN -- A young mother critically injured when a truck allegedly ran a red light at Cliff and Pilot Knob roads Aug. 13 remains hospitalized with severe injuries resulting from the crash.
   Alayna Tanaka, 33, of Eagan, was seriously injured at about 11:30 a.m. Aug. 13 in a two-car crash at the intersection of Cliff and Pilot Knob roads. An online fundraising site has been established to help the Tanaka's young family meet the enormous expenses of caring for a victim of a traumatic brain injury. There has been an outpouring of support from the community with more than $30,000 raised in just four days. Contributions can be made at https://www.gofundme.com/alayna-tanaka.
  The driver of the truck that struck Tanaka's SUV was identified as Todd Steven Franklin, 50, of Randolph. Franklin was treated for unspecified injuries after the crash and released from the hospital a short time later. The truck he was driving overturned and spilled a large amount of sand into the roadway.
   Although police have alleged Franklin ran a red light and caused the crash, investigators have still not filed any criminal charges against the truck driver. Eagan Police have declined further comment about the matter, on the grounds it is an active investigation. A delay in bringing criminal charges could indicate investigators are seeking the results of toxicology tests taken when Franklin was brought to the hospital after the crash. Such delays are also caused by a need for forensic analysis of a cell phone.  
Alayna Tanaka, the Eagan mother of two young children  who was critically injured when, according to police, her SUV was struck by a truck that ran a red light Aug. 13.

School official warns of budget cuts

The approaching storm

   School district 196 officials are expected to meet this week to discuss possible budget cuts and the need to ask voters for additional funding for the 2019 school year.
   District 196’s interim superintendent Mary Kreger, in comments to the school board at the end of a recent meeting, warned of the district’s precarious financial position, which she attributed largely to inadequate state funding and unfunded special education mandates.
   The warning came after a flurry of spending by the school district on school construction, new furniture, a new website and corporate branding, and pay raises and bonuses for school staff and administrators. The school board also recently finalized a $6 million speculative land purchase for a potential new elementary school site in Rosemount, as well as a $41,000 pay raise for Kreger while she serves as interim superintendent and an $18,000 bonus to one of the district’s financial coordinators.
   Kreger told the board school administrators and district officials would be meeting this week “to identify significant budget adjustments that will be needed over the next three years as a result of inadequate funding from the state.” The district’s budget chief is expected to report the recommendations at the school board’s next meeting on Sept. 24. In addition to budget cuts, school officials may also discuss bringing another bond referendum, or property tax increase, to district voters.
An International Space Station camera captured this view of Hurricane Florence as it headed for the Carolina coast. The storm has measured 400 miles in diameter, about the distance from Baltimore to Boston.

Swim coach charged with assaulting student

   The Dakota County Attorney’s office has charged a former Burnsville swim coach with a felony sex crime based on allegations he had sex with a 17-year-old student about 30 years ago.
   Alfred O’Neill, also known as “Rocky” O’Neill,  61, of Savage, was charged with felony third-degree sexual conduct, according to the county attorney’s office. The criminal complaint was not available for public inspection because the court conceals criminal complaints involving sex crimes and child pornography, leaving the public without notice of dangerous criminals and threats to children in their communities.
   The investigation was triggered by a report from the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a non-profit organization which investigates reports of sexual misconduct in sports, that the victim might have been abused. After locating the victim, SafeSport contacted the Burnsville Police. The county attorney’s office encouraged other potential victims to contact the Burnsville Police Department at 952-895-4600.
   The victim met O’Neill when she began swimming for the Burnsville Swim Club when she was 14. She alleged the coach had sexual contact with her when she was 17. Prosecutors allege O’Neill admitted having sexual contact with the victim, but after she turned 18.
   “A student athlete can easily be manipulated into a sexual relationship by a coach whom the student trusts, and such relationships can have long-term negative impacts upon the victim,” Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said. “I wish to commend this victim’s courage in coming forward many years after this alleged crime occurred.” 
Former Burnsville swim coach Alfred "Rocky" O'Neill

Vikings player arrested following alleged assault at Eagan hotel

 EAGAN, MN--Dakota District Court Judge Richelle Wahi set bail at $5,000 for Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cayleb Jones, who was formally charged with felony theft and domestic assault following his arrest by Eagan police after the Vikings player allegedly chasing his girlfriend through the Country Inn and Suites hotel when she tried to call 911.
   Jones, 25, of 900 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, had been held without bail at the Dakota County jail following his arrest at about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28. Jones, who majored in social behavior and human understanding at the University of Arizona, was formally charged on a felony count of theft, a gross misdemeanor count of interference with an emergency call, and a misdemeanor domestic assault.
   According to a Dakota County criminal complaint, Eagan police responded to the Holiday Lane hotel after a 911 call was disconnected. Before police arrived, the victim called 911 again and reported her boyfriend, Jones had “put his hands on her.” The call disconnected as the victim told police Jones was trying to leave, according to the complaint.
   When police arrived at the hotel, the victim reported she and Jones had gotten into an argument in their fourth-floor room, according to court records. The victim reported Jones, had “picked her up and threw her down.” She gathered her things and escaped to the hallway where, she reported, Jones kicked her.
   The victim fled to an elevator which, according to the complaint, Jones intercepted at the second floor and allegedly “smacked the phone out of her hand” when the elevator door opened. Jones then allegedly ran off with the phone.
Vikings wide receiver Cayleb Jones