Star News » Government The Star News covers community news, sports, current events and provides advertising and information for Elk River, Otsego, Rogers and Zimmerman, Minnesota and their surrounding areas. Wed, 17 Dec 2014 17:38:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 House leadership calls home here Thu, 11 Dec 2014 22:53:36 +0000 • Rogers rep looks for entire state be heard, including rural and suburban areas

by Jim Boyle


When the Minnesota House of Representatives opens for business on Jan. 6, its leaders promise that the needs of suburbia and outstate Minnesota won’t be overlooked.

It will help that the next speaker of the House, Kurt Daudt, 41, is a farm boy who will drive through communities like Rogers, Elk River and Livonia Township on his way home to rural Crown in Isanti County.

It will also help that Joyce Peppin, 44, now in her fifth term as a member of the House, will have the new role as the Minnesota House majority leader. Peppin grew up on a farm in Randall, Minnesota, graduated from the University of Minnesota, Duluth and cut her teeth at the Capitol first as a legislative staffer before going to work in banking and settling in Rogers to raise a family with her politically charged husband, Greg Peppin.

“To become the majority leader after being in the House five terms is exciting,” she said. “It’s a big responsibility, but I am really looking forward to it. It’s just a thrill.”

Submitted photo State Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, was elected majority leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives on Nov. 8 at the State Office Building. She will serve alongside Speaker of the House-designate Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.

Submitted photo
State Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, was elected majority leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives on Nov. 8 at the State Office Building. She will serve alongside Speaker of the House-designate Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.

Neither has a long history of aspiring to these leadership positions, but they were honored to be picked by their Republican caucus in a closed five-hour sesson on Nov. 8 at the State Office Building. They emerged from that meeting jazzed up about bringing a statewide focus.

“We’re going to look at the suburbs and their needs,” Peppin said. “We’re going to look at Greater Minnesota and their needs. It’s not going to be just about Minneapolis and St. Paul.”

They point to some of their earliest decisions as proof.

Agriculture Finance and Agriculture Policy will be standalone committees led by rural legislators.

Peppin said when Democrats took control, they made “it pretty clear that they were all about Minneapolis and St. Paul.”

One example, she said, was combining ag and environmental committees and putting a Minneapolis legislator in charge.

“That really sent a message throughout the state,” Peppin said.

The new House Republican majority has reduced the number of committees, but still added some to address needs in Greater Minnesota. They include a Greater Minnesota Economic and Workforce Development Policy Committee and an Aging and Long-term Care Policy Committee to look at changes in the way senior care is funded.

Republicans picked up 10 of 11 seats in rural legislative districts to make this change possible. Peppin and Daudt, who did not have challengers in their re-election bids this past fall, helped campaign in many of these districts that were picked up.

The DFL has had control of the House and Senate as well as the governor’s office for the past two years.

Daudt and Peppin had a sense heading into the Nov. 4 election they would regain control of the House. The Senate remains in control by the DFL, of course, as its members were not up for re-election. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton was re-elected, so the pendulum didn’t make a complete swing.

“People wanted balance restored,” Peppin said. “I think you will see a more balanced approach, one that looks at real bread-and-butter issues, like jobs, the economy, education, seniors and aging and ways to solve transportation issues.”

Peppin first elected to House in 2004

Peppin was first elected in 2004. She overtook sitting House member Arlon Lindner to win the Republican endorsement after he was perceived to have not carried his weight on several matters, including support for the 610 road project. His involvement in controversial bills also helped pave the way for Peppin.

She brought a background in communications and community service, having served on the board of directors for Mary Queen of Peace and the Hassan Park Board.

She promised to push for 610 to be completed, and that is well on its way. She also played a role in getting the Corridors of Commerce on I-94 between St. Michael and Rogers approved at the Legislature.

Personally, she has also been pushing for legislation to for an interchange at Brockton Avenue, located in a 6-mile stretch between Maple Grove Parkway and the Rogers exit off of I-94.

Last year, however, she couldn’t get a hearing on the proposed measure.

“I will continue to work on that,” she said.

Peppin expects the Elk River Area School District to continue its push for more equitable funding, and this time there may be a different fate. Legislators came close to getting District 728’s most prized equity measure passed. It did pass, in fact in both the House and Senate, but it was “pulled out in a conference committee.”

Peppin said she will also continue to fight for Rogers, which she calls the biggest loser of all Met Council communities when it comes to the funding of municipal wastewater treatment.

She entered the Legislature as a parent of two young girls, and they are now 13 and 15.

Her husband was the senior adviser to the gubernatorial campaign of Jeff Johnson. They met while they both worked for House Republicans in the 1990s.

Spent time first as a legislative staffer

Peppin was a legislative staffer in the 1990s for six years. She came to the position with wide eyes and a focus on a global world perspective. Her interest then was in policy matters, “probably more at the national level,” she said.

“As I have gotten to be a legislator, the things I have gotten more interested in are government efficiency,” she said, noting her experiences in state government finance and shared government operations have fueled this.

“It’s very important to me as a legislator,” she said. “I take this job very seriously. We are taking people’s tax dollars that they have worked very hard to earn to fund state programs. We have a large state budget. It’s important to me we’re running as efficiently as possible.

“I can say with a straight face that I have done everything I can to ensure we’re not wasting what people have entrusted us,” Peppin said.

That’s why she pushed for the creation of a sunset commission to look at old legislation to see if it was still needed, but laments that it has been written out of statute by Democrats.

“It’s hugely important we have control over state government,” Peppin said. “I would like to look for ways to go in that direction again.”

As the majority leader, she will chair the rules committee that sets staff salaries and per diem pay as well as views every legislative bill before it’s put on the calendar.

She will also be the main floor leader for Republicans while Daudt serves as the parliamentarian.

Her duties will not stop there. Her role model, if anyone, will be former House Speaker Steve Sviggum, a rural teacher and legislator from Kenyon who had an unprecedented run of 14 years as either House minority leader or speaker of the House.

Peppin was a staff person with Sviggum from 1992-1997 during his six-year stretch as House minority leader before she left for a job at  U.S. Bancorp as a communications manager and vice president of public relations from 1997-2001.

Her first term in the Legislature was the last two years of Sviggum’s ride as the speaker of the House.

“That’s a big run, so I had the opportunity to see how as staff person he treated staff, how he conducted himself and how he motivated people,” Peppin said. “He managed everybody’s personalities and legislative goals. He had a very unique and polished way of doing that.

“I can’t say I will ever have that amount of talent he had to lead, but the advantage I have is I got to see his leadership style when he was in the minority and the majority.”

Peppin also saw Dee Long, Irv Anderson, Margaret Anderson-Kelliher and Kurt Zellers lead.

“Nobody’s perfect and everybody has their things that they are good at,” Peppin said. “I will try to emulate the things I saw that were done well.”

]]> 0
Elk River’s proposed levy shows 1.66 percent increase Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:20:02 +0000 After months of review, the city of Elk River is tentatively looking at increasing the property tax levy by 1.66 percent in 2015.

Notices that were sent to property owners showed a maximum levy increase of 2.05 percent, but the city has trimmed that down.

The city’s overall tax rate is projected to decrease approximately 2.96 percent.

The city’s proposed general fund budget for 2015 totals $13.3 million. It includes a new drug task force detective who would be assigned to the Sherburne County Drug Task Force.

A public hearing and presentation on the proposed 2015 budget is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 1, at Elk River City Hall, 13065 Orono Parkway.

]]> 0
Commissioner race confirmed with recount Sat, 22 Nov 2014 13:30:52 +0000 by Jim Boyle


A recount has confirmed incumbent Ewald Petersen’s victory over Erv Danielowski in the race for the District 2 seat on the Sherburne County Board of Commissioners.

Danielowski, who lost by 32 votes on election night, called for the recount and will pick up the tab for the cost of it.

Danielowski’s vote total in the recount was identical to his vote total in the election. He garnered 2,455 votes in each.

“The machines are pretty accurate,” Sherburne Auditor and Treasurer Diane Arnold said.

Petersen gained one vote in the recount, going from 2,487 votes to 2,488 votes. A voter had filled in bubbles for both Petersen and Danielowski, but had crossed Danielowski out. Election officials determined the voter’s intent was to vote for Peterson.

The recount will cost about $337, Arnold said. Danielowski agreed to pay that when requesting the recount.

“I got a lot of calls from people asking me to have it done,” he said.

The closeness of the race on election night (0.64 difference) did not give Danielowski a chance to request a publicly funded recount. Danielowski said he wouldn’t have asked the public to pay for a recount.

A losing candidate for an election to a county office may request a publicly funded recount of the votes if the difference between the votes cast for that candidate and the winning candidate is less than 0.5 percent of the total votes if there between 400 and 50,000 votes cast for the office, according to the 2014 recount guide published by the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State.

Both Danielowski and Petersen were intrigued by the fact that there were more than 1,000 voters in the district that did not vote on the District 2 county commissioner race.

“The (Big Lake) school bond and levy seemed to have their attention,” Danielowski said. “I’m surprised so many cared little about the local race.

“To walk in, look at that and not vote, I don’t understand that. I don’t know if that’s complacency or what it is.”

Danielowski suggested individuals concerned about school taxes would have wanted to vote for a candidate that wanted to push more industrial development to take the pressure off of schools.

Both Danielowski and Petersen didn’t expect the outcome to change.

“With the accuracy of the voting machines, it’s highly unlikely,” Petersen said.

Petersen attended the recount; Danielowski did not.

“The undervote was tremendous,” Petersen said. “I’m not sure what was going on in people’s minds.”

Petersen, 75, will be sworn in for his next term on Jan. 6, 2015. He has been on the board since 2007.

He is a specialty crop farmer, who grows fruits and vegetables. He is married to wife Rita, has six children and six grandchildren.


]]> 0
Big snow brings illegal piles, complaints in Zimmerman Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:40:44 +0000 by Debbie Griffin

Contributing Writer

The Zimmerman City Council talked at its Nov. 17 meeting about snow plowing and parking restrictions after Public Works Director Dave Horvath said the storm a week earlier had dumped 13 inches of snow and brought about 20 complaint calls.

“It’s very hard for us to do a nice job with things in the street,” he said.

Horvath said normally the city can keep roads clear even in a big storm, but the task held other challenges other than the wet, heavy, fast-falling snow: sub-freezing temperatures and a shortage of one snow plow for a period.

First, Horvath said state law prohibits anyone from depositing snow onto a public roadway, yet plenty of people and plowing services push their driveway snow into the city street and leave it there. Big piles turn hard and icy enough to damage the city plow’s wing blade. The director said he understands that residents do it for convenience but said the practice is “wrecking equipment” because even the big blades don’t swipe away huge piles of rock-hard ice.

He, the sheriff’s deputy at the meeting and the City Council discussed the state law Zimmerman can choose to enforce – section 160.2715 entitled right of way use, misdemeanors. A Minnesota Department of Transportation information release held similar warnings and said if a snow hazard contributes to an accident, the property owner and the person who placed the snow can be held liable for damages.

Second, some people aren’t able to get into their driveways when they come home from work, so they leave the vehicle in the street. Horvath said the city plows can’t get down a street with cars parked along it. The council acknowledged winter-parking regulations in effect Nov. 1 through May 1, which say no type of vehicle may be stored in the street between midnight and 8 a.m.

Third, more than a few residents have objects in or too close to the road’s right of way including basketball hoops and long recreational vehicles. Horvath said no objects should be in or near the street except a mailbox and trash cans once a week.

The group agreed Zimmerman will provide a deputy with a list of houses that need a reminder about depositing snow in the street. If problems persist after that, the city would issue tickets.

The Zimmerman City Council took other action at the Nov. 17 meeting.

•Saw a presentation from Girl Scouts in Troop 16162 about their plan to hold a book drive and then place and maintain a second Little Free Library in Zimmerman, a bit bigger than the one at Dairy Queen. The Scouts proposed putting the decorated, weatherproof box in a city park but liked the mayor’s idea of having it at City Hall, a central location less susceptible to damage and easier to access for bringing and taking free books.

•Agreed to certify about $13,000 – down from October’s $51,000 total – in delinquent utility bills it will submit to the county assessor for addition to the property-tax bills. Zimmerman sent 351 letters in early October notifying owners of the pending action, which they can prevent by paying delinquent bills before Thanksgiving.

•Listened to the park-board update that work continues to replace boards and repair chain-link fencing at the hockey rink. The park board has two open seats available to city residents willing to serve.

•Noted the law-enforcement report and asked what people can do to keep their homes safe when they’re out of town for the holidays. The deputy answered that people can call the sheriff’s office and ask for a security check, as well as inform neighbors of when they’ll be away.

•Scheduled the public-comment session on the 2015 budget for 7 p.m. Dec. 1.

•Announced the chamber’s Celebrate the Season event throughout the day Dec. 6 and breakfast with Santa Dec. 7.

•Confirmed a Passing the Bread distribution at 10 a.m. Nov. 22 and Dec. 20; the group could use volunteer help on the days before distribution.

]]> 0
Wastewater plant expansion underway Thu, 20 Nov 2014 16:50:38 +0000 Work is underway on an $18 million expansion and upgrade to Elk River’s wastewater treatment plant.

The project will increase the facility’s capacity for average wet weather flow from 2.2 million gallons to 4.54 millions gallons per day, according to Matt Stevens, chief wastewater operator. The project will also increase the plant’s ability to meet mandated discharge limits, he said.

Rice Lake Construction broke ground on the 700-day project in October.

]]> 0
Elk River OKs permit for Japanese restaurant Wed, 19 Nov 2014 20:29:46 +0000 A permit has been approved for a Japanese restaurant seeking to locate in Elk River.

The City Council voted 5-0 Monday to approve a conditional use permit for Hajime Restaurant. The restaurant will be located in an existing multi-tenant building at 18850 Dodge St., just north of Perkins.

There will be seating for 60.

]]> 0
No recount requested in Elk River City Council race Wed, 19 Nov 2014 20:29:07 +0000 No recount will be held in the Elk River City Council Ward 1 race.

Jerry Olsen won the contest, beating Garrett Christianson by 29 votes, 875 to 846, in the Nov. 4 election.

A candidate could request a recount, at city expense, if the difference between the votes cast for him and the winning candidate was less than one-half of one percent. The difference between the votes cast for Olsen and Christianson was 1.69 percent, so any recount would have been at Christianson’s expense.

Christianson didn’t pursue a recount. However, he said he plans to stay involved with the city through other avenues and will more than likely run again during the next election.

The Ward 1 seat is now held by Stewart Wilson, who did not run.

Olsen will take office after the first of the year. The term is for four years.

]]> 0
City encouraged by interest in new lots Wed, 19 Nov 2014 20:24:48 +0000 The city of Elk River has received a “letter of interest” from one party interested in two new lots in the city’s Nature’s Edge Business Center.

The lots are in the center’s second addition, which is on pace to open next spring.

Jeremy Barnhart said the letter of interest has come before the streets are even in. “It’s very encouraging,” Barnhart told the Elk River Economic Development Authority on Monday. He is the city’s deputy director of community operations and development.

Nature’s Edge Business Center is located near Highway 10 and 171st Avenue, not far from the Northstar train station.

]]> 0
Elk River stormwater pond bid is awarded Wed, 19 Nov 2014 20:24:15 +0000 Frattalone Companies in St. Paul has been awarded a $137,445 bid to dredge stormwater ponds near the Orono Dam and at the northwest corner of Highland and Jackson in Elk River. In their current condition, the ponds are at or near their treatment effectiveness, according to City Engineer Justin Femrite.

Frattalone will remove and dispose of 1,134 cubic yards of sediment from the Orono pond and 823 cubic yards from the Highland/Jackson site. The work will be done this winter.

Six companies expressed interest in the project, but only Frattalone bid.

]]> 0
Banking trends prompt ordinance change Wed, 19 Nov 2014 20:23:34 +0000 In a sign of the times, the Elk River City Council has reduced the required number of vehicle stacking spaces for bank drive-through lanes from five to two per lane.

The change reflects an increase in on-line banking and direct deposit.

City Planner Chris Leeseberg said 62 percent of people were banking on-line in 2011, according to the American Banking Association .

]]> 0