City Council approves Vikings' hotel permit

Representatives from a limited liability company established to build a hotel at the Viking Lakes site presented construction plans to Eagan City Council Oct. 16
EAGAN, MN -- The Eagan City Council approved an agreement to allow construction of a 320-room hotel to begin at the Viking Lakes site in northeast Eagan before winter.
   The developers of the Viking Lakes hotel requested the city issue a permit so excavation at the site could begin before the recording of the final subdivision of the site. Developers declined to announce a completion date for the hotel and conference center. Eagan hotels currently have a vacancy rate of about 30 percent during the peak season in August.
   The project’s supporters told city councilors corporate sponsors –which would be featured on billboard-style ads visible from Interstate 494 -- will be needed to make the project economically viable. Because of the need for corporate sponsorship, the Vikings’ representatives told the city council they would likely need “flexibility” on the city’s signage rules. The agreement requires compliance with the city’s rules for signage.
   The city council approved the permit unanimously. Earlier at its meeting, the council approved, without discussion as part of its consent agenda, an agreement to install sewer lines and other infrastructure to support the hotel.
   In other business, the city council Oct. 16 also approved a series of assessments to homeowners in several neighborhoods throughout the city for street improvements. Property owners will be charged for the improvements, in addition to their regular tax bills.
Leigh Monson reviews A Star Is Born

City council tables vote on variance request

EAGAN, MN – The Eagan City Council tabled a request by a Yankee Doodle Road self-storage facility to use the same construction materials as the Vikings practice facility.
   The owner of property at 540 Yankee Doodle Road, the site an imminent self-storage facility, requested a variance from the city code to build with insulated metal panels, rather than other materials specified by the city code. The company’s representative, Jeff Johnson, told city council members at an Oct. 16 public hearing the insulated metal panels would reduce building costs. Such panels comprise about 80 percent of the Vikings’ practice facility in northeast Eagan, Johnson told the city council. Unlike other construction materials, logos and other graphics can printed on the panels.
   The city council took no action on the request, tabling the matter for further discussion at a future meeting. Mayor Mike Maguire expressed concern that allowing a business to use the materials used by the Vikings would give it an unfair competitive advantage.

School district replaces finance chief

   In another sudden departure of leadership from the financially troubled school district, School District 196 announced its long-time financial chief will be retiring in January.
   The district has already hired an outsider, Mark Stotts, to replace retiring director of finance and operations Brian Solomon. Solomon, who has worked for District 196 for the past 15 years, recently forecast an approaching budget deficit of $25 million. The district has blamed the predicted deficit on inadequate state funding.
   The replacement of the financial chief follows former District 196 Superintendent Jane Berenz’s sudden retirement at the end of the last school year. The district has appointed a substitute and will be searching for a new superintendent.
   A subordinate to Solomon had been appearing before the school board for recent financial presentations and was recently given an $18,000 bonus. However, the district, so far without public explanation, hired Solomon’s replacement from outside the district. The hiring was announced quietly with a posting on the district’s website among such items as a visit to a local elementary school by a professional basketball player.

County welfare recipient allegedly failed to mention she owned a Maserati

HASTINGS, MN – A St. Paul woman is facing a felony charge for allegedly failing to tell Dakota County’s welfare office she owned a Maserati when she applied for public assistance with her rent.
   Erin Alhachem, 27, of 6569 158th St. W. Apt. 114D, St. Paul, was charged with theft by false representation, a felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint. Prosecutors allege, in addition to failing to report she owned a Maserati and a Chevy Camaro, Alhachem also failed to report she had taken in a roommate, a suspected heroin dealer, while she was receiving public assistance with her rent.
   Alhachem received public assistance with her rent for at least six years, according to court records. Investigators allege, because of her failure to accurately report her assets, she was overpaid more than $5,200 in public assistance between April 2017 and March 2018.
   Prices for this year’s new Maseratis start at about $74,000, for a base model, according to Car and Driver.
 

Three facing felony charges after county meth bust

HASTINGS, MN – Three people are facing felony charges following a West Metro Drug Task Force and federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation into methamphetamine sales and suspected transport of drugs from Madison, Wisconsin, into Dakota County.
   Agustin Hernandez-Coria, 40, of 926 Woodbridge St., St. Paul, was being held at Dakota County jail in lieu of $500,000 bail on a charge of first-degree sale of a controlled substance, according to court records. Two Madison, Wis., residents – Joyce Rios, 56, and Rodrigo Guevara, 39, both of 4353 Britta Drive, Apt. 3 – were also charged with first-degree sale of a controlled substance, according to court records. The felony charges carry a maximum sentence of 5 to 40 years in prison.
   The charges stem from an investigation that began last month into information received from a confidential police source that Coria, who was living in Inver Grove Heights, was allegedly “involved in the sale of large amounts of methamphetamine,” which he might be receiving from a supplier in Madison, according to court records.  
   Last week, an informant, whose identity was not revealed by police, arranged to “purchase a large quantity of methamphetamine from Coria,” according to a criminal complaint. Before contacting Coria, police began surveillance of a Madison home they believed to be that of Coria’s source, according to court records. While surveilling the home, police saw a car driven by a woman later identified as Rios leave the home. The car, still under surveillance, picked up a man later identified as Guevara, according to police.
   Police allege Rios and Guevara drove from Madison to Coria’s home in Inver Grove Heights. Police had also set up surveillance of Coria’s home, according to court records. The police informant then called Coria’s cell phone to arrange the sale of methamphetamine, according to a criminal complaint.
   Surveillance officers then watched as Coria, Guevara and Rios left the Inver Grove Heights residence and drove to another home in Vadnais Heights. The car then allegedly drove to the arranged site of the drug sale in West St. Paul. During the trip, the car took a circuitous route through parking lots in what police described as behavior “consistent with attempts by drug distributors to determine whether they are being surveilled by law enforcement.”
   The car eventually drove to a parking lot where police arrested Coria, Guevara, and Rios. Inside the car in which the three had been travelling, police reported finding five one-gallon size plastic bags containing substances which field-tested positive for the presence of methamphetamine, according to court records.
   After the three were arrested, police searched the Vadnais Heights home they had visited before their arrests. Police reported finding $44,500 cash and a plastic container under a bed that contained 638 grams of suspected methamphetamine.
  
Agustin Hernandez-Coria

Price of city hall renovation goes up

EAGAN, MN – The Eagan City Council approved a $57,000 increase to the cost of renovations to the city hall and police headquarters, the fourth such increase since construction on the $15.7 million project began.
   The city attributed the cost increase to “changes primarily related to unforeseen pipe rerouting, roof patching, and improvements that were needed once actual conditions were realized.”
   The increased costs were approved as part of the city council’s consent agenda, a list of items approved summarily without individual discussion.

School district seeks suggestions for budget cuts

   School District 196 is seeking suggestions on how to cut $25 million, or about seven percent, from its budget.
   The district has posted a link on its website to a form members of the public can use to submit suggestions: https://district196.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8II5OXy8XpzPCwB.
   A copy of the district’s preliminary operating budget can be obtained by clicking the following link 2018-19 Preliminary Budget Book.pdf. The district’s 2018-19 capital expenditure budget can be obtained by clicking this link: 18-19 capital expenditure book.pdf.
   The district has claimed budget cuts are necessary because of inadequate state and federal funding. The assertion follows a period of heavy spending by the district on staff raises and bonuses, new administrative positions, new construction and renovation, a $6 million speculative land purchase, and a 40 percent raise for members of the District 196 school board.
 

No charges brought against truck driver

   EAGAN, MN -- A young Eagan mother of two hospitalized since a truck allegedly ran a red light and crashed into her car at the intersection of Cliff and Pilot Knob roads passed away Oct. 18, more than two months after the crash.
   Eagan police have not yet determined whether charges will be brought against the driver of the semi-truck involved in the crash, identified as Todd Steven Franklin. The Dakota County Attorney's office said crash reconstruction, which can take months, is still underway.
    Alayna Tanaka, 33, of Eagan, was seriously injured at about 11:30 a.m. Aug. 13 in a two-car crash at the intersection. Her children were not in the car at the time of crash. An online fundraising site was established to help the Tanaka's young family meet the enormous expenses of caring for a victim of a traumatic brain injury. 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. Franklin has an extensive history of driving offenses, according to court records. 
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.