District 196 releases half-billion-dollar budget

  School District 196 has released its final budget for the 2017-2018 school year, a $512 million spending plan that exceeds projected revenues by nearly $70 million.
   The school district, the fourth-largest in the state, plans to spend more than $12,700 for each of its more than 28,000 students, according to the budget.
   The final budget is slated to be the topic of finance committee and school board meetings on Monday, Dec. 11.
ArtWorks Eagan, the city's new arts center at 3795 Pilot Knob Road opened  its second exhibit Art: Diverse Perspective Through Local Eyes, Sunday, Dec. 3. The exhibit features work by Eagan artists.
Leigh Monson reviews Wonder

City council approves two-year budget increase

    With no public input at a scheduled hearing, the Eagan City Council Dec. 5 approved a 7.4% general fund budget increase to $36.1 million for 2018. The 2019 budget would increase to $37.9 million.
     The city’s portion of the county property tax bill jumped this year, a fact city officials attribute to the need for more public safety personnel. The city launched a pre-emptive strike to opposition to the budget holding a forum on social media and carefully positioning discussion of the budget as an issue of public safety.
     The city is seeking to change the fire department from a volunteer force to paid staff. Eagan’s police chief has also requested five more police officers to deal with the issues created by development in the city, which has brought an outlet mall, new hotels, and a new football facility.
     Residents have questioned other expenditures, such as a $75,000 no-bid design bill for a new logo for the city and the associated cost of placing the new logo on city fixtures and stationery. Some residents have also questioned the decision to sell the former fire administration building across the street from city hall for $468,000 while the city is considering more office space at city hall and the police station at an estimated cost of $17 million.
     The city council also approved a four percent increase in the city’s convention and visitors bureau budget, bringing that expense to over $1 million. That budget includes more than $330,000 for personnel, $540,000 for marketing expenses, $29,500 for travel and entertainment, and $135,500 for “other” uncategorized expenses.
     In other business, the city council also summarily renewed the city’s liquor licenses, including a special state-legislature created license for the new Vikings headquarters.

 Send in the plows
   It was, quite simply, a mess.
   The first lingering snow of the season Dec. 5, about two inches in the city, brought a mess for the city’s morning and afternoon commutes. No snowplows or salt trucks were in sight as residents made their way over snow- and ice-packed roads to get to work. Throughout the day, drivers slid towards intersections like baserunners sliding towards home, their brakes having no effect on the icy roads.
   Residents surveyed reported no evidence of snow plows or salt trucks in the area. The one city truck we did see on Pilot Knob road had its plow raised.
   At 6 a.m. Tuesday, as the commute was getting heavy on Pilot Knob Road, one of the city’s major routes, snow had covered the road and most drivers appeared wary of changing lanes or engaging in the usual sort of rush hour driving. Lines dividing travel lanes were virtually invisible throughout the day.
   At 4 p.m., as the evening commute was progressing, major intersections such Lexington Ave. and Diffley Road were still covered with snow. Wescott Road, which runs from the city’s police station to its largest employer, remained covered in snow throughout the day.                     
 Employee accused of phone theft      An Eagan woman is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 29 in connection with the theft of two cell phones from a Target store.
   Brooke Lawson, 23, of 1997 Gold Trail #305, Eagan, was charged with felony theft in connection with the Sept. 30 theft, according to court records. The theft of the two phones, valued at nearly $1,800, was reported by store security Oct. 20.

Eagan police find stolen gun in teen's hotel room

A Prior Lake woman is facing a felony charge after she was caught in the act stealing from vehicles at an Eagan business and later found with a stolen handgun in a local hotel room.
   Hannah Courtney, 19, of 19101 Eagle View Lane, Prior Lake, was being held in the Dakota County jail in lieu of $60,000 bail following her arrest on Nov. 28, according to court records. Courtney was charged with felony theft of a firearm and misdemeanor tampering with a motor vehicle, according to a criminal complaint.
   Eagan police were called to a local business shortly after 3:15 p.m. Nov. 28 after a man reported finding a woman rummaging through his co-worker’s car. When the victim confronted the woman, she claimed she thought it was her sister’s car. The woman ran away after the victim told her to stay there while he called the police.
   The man who confronted the woman then checked his own car and discovered his wallet was missing and that it appeared someone had rummaged through the vehicle, according to court records.
   Police went to a nearby hotel to see if anyone there had seen the woman. The hotel staff told police they hadn’t seen the woman run into the building, but told police her description matched that of a suspicious unregistered guest staying in one of the rooms.
   Police went to the hotel room and discovered four people there. Police arrested Courtney after she was identified as the woman in the parking lot by a witness, according to court records. She was initially cited and released by police, until about 15 minutes later, when one of the victims reported that his Smith and Wesson .44 caliber revolver had been stolen from his vehicle.
   Police went back to the hotel and searched the room. They found the handgun in a purse on top of a light fixture in the bathroom.
   When questioned by police, according to court records, Courtney admitted she had rummaged through three vehicles in the parking lot of the business across the street from the hotel and two other cars in a different parking lot.
   The suspect also admitted stealing the gun to sell for cash and told police she had the gun in her pocket when she was confronted by the victim in the parking lot, according to a criminal complaint.
Hannah Courtney