Fire and Ice

The Eagan Fire Dept. responded to a report of a fire at a garage near the Yankee Tavern restaurant on Route 13 Tuesday, Jan. 29. No injuries were reported, but the fire engine had to be towed from the scene to the city garage because of mechanical issues.

Cold enough for ya? Arctic blast freezes region

   The subzero temperatures, and school closings, have prompted many workers to just stay home or head for warmer climes. IF you couldn't get a flight to Florida and you're looking for something else to read while you're home from work or school, you might want to take a look at https://scijinks.gov/polar-vortex/

Schools reopen as temps head north

EAGAN, MN, Feb. 1, 2019 – Schools reopened Friday for a single-day school week following a four-day closure during a far below-zero cold spell resulting from a polar vortex. School officials have made no announcement as to how the four-day January vacation will affect the rest of the school year.
  Schools, which had closed when temperatures reached 20 below zero, reopened Friday to temperatures at a relatively balmy 5 degrees Farenheit.

ISD 196 board approves $502 million budget

   Eagan’s largest school district, ISD 196, has approved a final budget of more than $502 million for the 2018-19 school year, which includes about $41 million in deficit spending and a near tripling of its administrative expenses.
    The District 196 school board approved the budget with little public discussion. The 63-page budget document released to the public does not include detailed line item information about the district’s expenditures or specific salary and benefit information for administrators and staff.
    According to the final budget released by the district, the district will spend most of its budget, more than $315 million, on salaries and benefits paid to its union and other staff. The district will employ about 3,522 full-time employees, about 27 more than the previous year, for an average compensation of about $89,500 per year. There are nearly 29,000 students in the district, according to the budget.
    The final budget also includes more than $2.1 million in administrative expenses, nearly triple the $739,764 included in the 2017-18 budget. The purpose of most of that money, $1.5 million, was unspecified and was identified in the public budget only as “other fiscal expenses.” The superintendent’s office is budgeted to spend about $460,000. The school board, which last year voted itself a pay raise of about 40 percent, is budgeted at about $228,000.
    The budget reports an increase of about $17 million in general fund revenues in 2018-19, from $387.6 million to $404.3 million. Most of that comes from the state, $275.8 million in 2018, an increase from 2017’s $264.1 million. General fund expenses will increase from 2017’s $415.5 million to $459 million.
    The district is preparing to ask taxpayers to approve an additional levy for more operating funds.
ISD 196 displayed this summary of its 2018-2019 final budget during a recent presentation.

Snow job

After residents responding to a recent survey gave snow removal among the lowest grades of the city's services, Eagan city government fired back with a new website about Snow and the City. Among the admonishments to city residents is a warning not to shovel snow into the street. Eagan recently hired St. Paul's former public works spokesman as its communications director at an annual salary of more than $124,000. You can see your tax dollars at work at https://cityofeagan.maps.arcgis.com/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=b958cadd53644df6b901a1ce6ae64515.

Eagan prepares for cold war

EAGAN, MN, Jan. 28, 2019  – Eaganites braced for record low temperatures this week as schools closed for most of the week.
   The week started with a Sunday night/Monday morning snowstorm that dumped about six inches of snow on the city’s roads just in time for the morning commute. Local school districts announced Sunday night schools would be closed Monday because of the snow and closed again Tuesday and Wednesday because wind chill temperatures were expected to drop far below zero.
   The National Weather Service was predicting wind chills below -20 degrees Fahrenheit Tuesday and Wednesday. Temperatures are then predicted to soar into the 30s, above zero, by the weekend.
   Public safety officials warned that, at the extremely low temperatures, salt and other chemicals would likely not be effective, so roads could be slippery.       

APC rejects Quarry Road self-storage

EAGAN, MN – The Advisory Planning Commission (APC) unanimously rejected an Indianapolis company’s proposal to build a two-story self-storage facility on Quarry Road, reasoning that the project would not fit in with the city’s scheme for the Central Park Commons area.
   “It’s not a good fit for the vision that was originally put together,” APC Chair Jane Vanderpoel said. The vote rejecting the project followed a public hearing during which several people who bought homes at a nearby senior housing co-op under construction spoke out against the project.
   Supporters of the project detailed difficulty over the past two years in finding a buyer for the 1522 Quarry Road property, formerly a field but now surrounded by a hotel, grocery store, bank, and fast food restaurant. The proposed site is the last undeveloped lot in the Quarry Road development. Originally, it would have abutted Yankee Doodle Road, but a 2017 change to plans for the site changed the orientation of the lots, according to a city report.
    The Eagan City Council is scheduled to review the self-storage plan at its Feb. 5 meeting.

Party City

Few would accuse Eagan of being a dry town, but, now apparently even the city's website is serving up cocktails. Among the schedule of city meetings and recreational events on the city's website is an offer to try some hard liquor. Transportation not provided.

Less than a week after sentencing, man charged with another domestic felony

   A Belle Plaine man is facing a felony charge based on an allegation he violated a restraining order by calling an Eagan woman on Jan. 15.
   Rickie Walls, 37, of 315 Walnut St. So. #12, Belle Plaine, was arrested on a felony charge of violation of a domestic abuse not contact order after two prior convictions, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint.
   Eagan police were called to the home of an Eagan woman shortly before 11 p.m. Jan. 15, according to a criminal complaint. The victim told police she had been receiving calls from Walls despite a restraining order. As the victim was speaking to police, she received a call from a private number. The caller was allegedly identified as Walls and the call was recorded by police, according to court records.
   Eagan police arrested Walls on the felony charge less than a week after his sentencing on another felony charge stemming from a call to Eagan police after he allegedly tried to strangle a girlfriend. According to court records, Walls was on probation following his arrest by Eagan police on October 4, 2018.  On that date, police were called to an apartment building for a report of a woman screaming. When officers arrived, they heard a woman screaming, a male and female arguing and “a sound as if someone had been hit,” according to court records.
   The victim told police Walls had been beating her for a half hour, which Walls denied. The victim also told police Walls had placed his hands on her neck and choked her, according to a criminal complaint. The victim told police she “believed he was trying to kill her.” She tried to call 911 but Walls allegedly swatted the phone out of her hand.
   Walls was sentenced for the Oct. 2018 case on Jan. 9, six days before Eagan police were called for the alleged violation of the restraining order. Under the terms of an apparent plea agreement, Walls was sentenced on a felony charge of threats of violence. Another felony charge of domestic assault by strangulation and two gross misdemeanor charges of domestic assault were dismissed, according to court records. Judge Cynthia McCollum sentenced Walls to probation and 44 days in jail with credit for time served, according to the court. An 18-month prison sentence was stayed for three years, the length of Walls’ probation, according to court records.
Rickie Walls

Prosecution drops swim coach sex case

   The Dakota County Attorney’s office has dismissed one of two criminal sexual conduct cases against a former Burnsville swim coach for a lack of evidence.
   In a single sentence filing in Dakota County District Court, prosecutor Jacob Barnes wrote the state was dismissing the complaint against former swim coach Alfred “Rocky” O’Neill “in the interest of justice.” In response to an inquiry about the dismissal, County Attorney James Backstrom replied “Based upon evidentiary issues that arose in this case following the initial filing of these charges, we determined that we could no longer prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.  When that occurs, it is the ethical obligation of a prosecutor to dismiss the case.”  
   O’Neill, 61, of 14812 Idaho Ave., Savage, had been charged with three counts of felony third-degree criminal sexual conduct in the dismissed complaint. The complaint was filed after a second victim came forward with allegations the former Burnsville Swim Club coach following news reports of another allegation against him.
   The dismissal came less than two months after the prosecution obtained a warrant for O’Neill’s arrest  on Nov. 1 for violating conditions of his release on bail based on allegations he intimidated the victim in the case. Shortly after the complaints were filed, the Dakota County district court released O’Neill on $5,000 bail with conditions that included no contact with the victims, according to court records. O'Neill was released again the following day with the same conditions, according to court records.
   At the time the prosecution argued O'Neill had violated the conditions of his release, police reported that the victim found an unmarked letter in her mailbox two days after O’Neill’s release. The letter, according to court records, said “You will never be able to handle a trial. Drop it.”
   Two days after finding the letter, the victim was walking in her neighborhood with her daughter when O’Neill allegedly stepped out of a car and began to question the victim about who the child was, according to court records. He left after the victim yelled.
   The following day, the victim answered her door to find O’Neill standing on the threshold, according to court records. She slammed the door, in “extreme fear,” court records said.

   The second victim had come forward following news reports the O'Neill had been charged in connection with another victim, a teenager at the time of the alleged offense.
   O’Neill was originally charged last fall with a single count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct involving another victim. The investigation of that case 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.
   O’Neill’s defense lawyer has filed a motion to dismiss the remaining complaint, scheduled for trial in April.  
Former Burnsville Swim Club coach Alfred "Rocky" O'Neill