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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Planning for the future of West Side Flats

This year, the City of Saint Paul’s Department of Planning and Economic Development has been leading a community-based planning process to update the West Side Flats Master Plan and Development Guidelines, adopted in 2001. This plan provides the community’s vision for the future development of 40 acres bounded by Wabasha Street, Plato Boulevard, Robert Street and the Mississippi River. The updated plan is expanding the planning area to take in the 60+ acres east of Robert Street.

West Side Flats Area
This area provides an opportunity to revitalize a large and unique urban riverfront in Saint Paul. Since the initial plan’s adoption, a US Bank call center has been built, the Fillmore Street railroad crossing has been reopened, and construction started on West Side Flats Apartments that will be completed in 2014.

Drafted Illustrative Plan for West Side Flats
To update the plan, the Planning Commission created a community task force chaired by a Planning Commissioner to advise city staff and consultants during the planning process. A series of community meetings have been and will continue to be held to get input from the public. The first draft of the updated plan is now available and the next open house will be held on November 20 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at The Wellstone Center located at 179 East Robie Street in Saint Paul. 
West Side Flats Apartments, July 2013

For more information visit

Monday, October 28, 2013

City of Saint Paul’s Videos Receive National Recognition

Over the years, the City of Saint Paul’s Office of Technology and Communications department has received more than 100 awards for its video programming.  Recently, Saint Paul was recognized as one of the top local government video production departments in the country for 2013.  The city placed third in the  Government Excellence division, with operating budgets between $200,000-$400,000.  This award was presented during the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) Government Programming Awards ceremony.  This accomplishment reflects the overall excellence for the quality of video programming produced by the City of Saint Paul during the past year. 
In addition to the overall recognition for Communications Services production staff, two of its video producers received awards for individual programs.

Mike Popadiuk was honored with both a first place award for his documentary event coverage of the  Minnesota Fallen Firefighter Memorial Dedication” in September, 2012 and a second place Community Awareness award for "Green Roof Harvest at St. Paul Fire Dept. HQ."   The video covers the 2012 growing season of the rooftop garden at the Fire Department’s new administration building.
Mike Kaplan received top honors for his production, “Helicopter Rescue Training,” in the Profile of a City/County Department category.  The video provides a dramatic, and sometimes personal, view of what happens during a helicopter rescue operation.  Kaplan also received Honorable Mention for Community Awareness of "Do the Summer Countdown,” a city and Saint Paul Public School program designed to keep youth active and learning all summer long.
These award-winning videos, and more than 500 hundred other videos (many of them award-winning as well), can be accessed at the City of Saint Paul’s YouTube website.  You can subscribe to the city’s video programming by going to and clicking on the subscribe button.  And of course, you can see many of these videos on the City’s Cable Channel 18.  Check them out! 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Individuals with disabilities represent a valuable and capable portion of the labor force.  Unfortunately, physical barriers and misconceptions about people with disabilities often limit their employment opportunities.  In 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate for persons with a disability was 13.4 percent.  In 2010, the Saint Paul unemployment rate for persons with a disability was 15.7 percent.  In comparison, the unemployment rate in 2011 for the city of Saint Paul was 7.1 percent.  The MACPD asks businesses and residents to identify and eliminate the physical and institutional barriers that limit gainful employment of persons with disabilities.        

On November 1, in celebration of the many contributions of people with disabilities, the Twin Cities Reel Abilities Disabilities Film Festival begins.  The four-day film festival features award-winning films by and about people with disabilities.  Films will be shown throughout the Twin Cities as the Disabilities Film Festival is the largest festival in the country dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories, and artistic expression of people with different disabilities.  This will be the first year the Twin Cities hosts the ReelAbilities Film Festival.  For more information and schedule of events, check out ReelAbilities Twin-Cities or the ReelAbilities Facebook page. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Change your clocks, change your batteries

Submitted by Mike Lovas, Saint Paul Emergency Management

What type of batteries do your smoke detectors take?  If you don’t know, perhaps you haven’t changed your smoke detector batteries in quite a while.  The usual rule of thumb is to change your batteries twice a year using the start and end of Daylight Savings Time to remember to perform this simple but crucial preventative maintenance.  When you change your clocks, change your smoke detector batteries.

Each year, more than 2,500 people die and 12,600 are injured in home fires in the US, with property loss estimated at $7.3 billion every year.  Fire spreads quickly, becoming life-threatening in two minutes, and within five minutes a house can be engulfed by flames.  The flames aren’t the only threat either.  The heat and smoke produced by fire can be more dangerous.  Inhaling the super-hot air can scorch your lungs.  The smoke and gases produced can make you disoriented or drowsy.  Asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths, exceeding burns by a ratio of three-to-one according to the US Fire Administration.

Many potential fire hazards in the home and at the workplace fall into three categories:  electrical hazards, natural gas hazards and flammable liquids.  Electrical fires are some of the most common fires in a house. 

Have you ever been running late or been distracted by kids, the dog, or something else and rushed out the door, forgetting to turn off an electrical appliance like the stove, oven, coffeemaker or even a space heater?  Do you daisy-chain power strips with more cords than an outlet can handle or use extension cords as permanent wiring, tucked behind a couch or table, to reach a lamp or other object?  Is your fuse box properly labeled? 

It is important to have evacuation plans to include alternate routes for your house, and it is important to practice and discuss these plans with all members of your family.  Review the placement of your smoke alarms.  Do they sound an alarm?  Voice alerts?  Some even have a bright light that can shine through smoke to help you find your way out.  This is important because room temperatures in a fire can be 100 degrees at floor level and rise to 600 degrees at eye level. 

Always have two ways to exit the fire area.  A backup escape plan is necessary in case your main escape route becomes blocked.  Whenever possible, as you leave the area, shut doors behind you to confine the fire.  Feel closed doors with the back of your hand, working from the bottom of the door up. Do NOT touch the door handle before feeling the door.  If the door is hot, there is a fire behind it. Do not enter! Opening the door will feed additional oxygen to the fire.  Trapped fuel vapors can ignite violently.

Did you know there are smoke alarms made for people with visual or hearing impairments?  Audible alarms for visually impaired people should pause with a small window of silence between each successive cycle so that they can listen to instructions or voices of others.  Smoke alarms with a vibrating pad or flashing light are available for the hearing impaired. Contact your local fire department for information about obtaining a flashing or vibrating smoke alarm.

For more fire safety tips visit

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Douglas Tells Public Works: “Climate Change is Here”

In his keynote address at the Public Works annual employee conference this week, noted meteorologist Paul Douglas told his audience that climate change is real, and has real consequences for Saint Paul and public works, saying the evidence of climate change for Minnesota can no longer be ignored.

Pointing to several disturbing trends in Minnesota’s climate, Douglas remarked that the extremes are becoming more extreme, and we’re seeing weather events that we’ve never observed before.  Of particular interest to Public Works Street Maintenance staff was Douglas’s tracking of longer freeze-thaw cycles the past few winters.

According to Douglas, the longer freeze-thaw cycles are attributable to warmer winter evening temperatures. 

“Prolonged freeze-thaw cycles will have serious implications for our patching operations,” said Public Works Supervisor III Chris Anderson.  “It means potholes will develop earlier in the winter and in greater numbers.”

 Applying a permanent patch during the winter season is not possible using winter mix asphalt. Our hot mix asphalt plant usually fires up in early March which helps the situation, but potholes keep spawning typically into mid-May.

Anderson continued, “If our ability to apply a permanent patch is delayed, as was the case this past winter, there is a domino effect on our other paving work that continues into the spring and summer.  Our pothole patching work was delayed, which in turn delayed our seal coating and mill and overlay programs.  This meant added labor and material costs for the city and added to our administrative duties.”

The climate change effects for Public Works didn’t end with the beginning of summer.  Record-breaking heat the past two summers meant that on some days seal coating work had to be postponed because of the high humidity that often accompanies hotter air temperatures.

High humidity prevents the emulsion oil used in the seal coating process from setting up properly.  When the mixture fails to set up properly, it’s vulnerable to being washed away into the city’s catch basins when it rains.

Moreover, high summer temperatures can also buckle existing pavement, and pose an acute health threat to paving crews in the form of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Where do we go from here if we’re to avoid the health and financial costs of climate change?  As Douglas reminded his audience of city employees, the answer has been known for several years – we must reduce our carbon footprint.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Celebrating National Public Lands Day at the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary

Even though a few rain squalls blew through the area, the weather did not dampen the enthusiasm of the many neighborhood volunteers who gathered to celebrate National Public Lands Day (NPLD) on September 28 at the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary.  Approximately 100 people showed up to help plant shrubs and plugs, pick up litter, collect native prairie seeds, and make seed “bombs” that will be used at the sanctuary and other Saint Paul Parks.

NPLD is the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands.  It began in 1994 with three sites and 700 volunteers.  It proved to be a huge success and became an annual tradition, typically held on the last Saturday in September.  In 2012, about 175,000 volunteers worked at 2,206 sites in every state, making it the largest NPLD in the history of the event.  NLDP’s goals are to educate Americans about the environment and natural resources and the need for shared stewardship of these valued, irreplaceable lands.

This year’s event at the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary was organized by Tracy Sides, owner of bravely be and winner of the Saint Paul Foundation’s Forever Saint Paul challenge.  Other partners included Saint Paul Parks and Recreation, Friends of the Mississippi River, the Lower Phalen Creek Project, Eureka Recycling, the Saint Paul Garden Club, Flat Earth Brewing Company, My Inner Kitchen, the Swede Hollow CafĂ©, Mississippi Market, Volunteer Transport, Ward 6 Food & Drink, and Rogers Printing Services.

Volunteers spent the morning in teams working on improvement projects at the sanctuary.  They were rewarded with a fresh lunch prepared by My Inner Kitchen, keg root beer supplied by Flat Earth Brewing Company, and music supplied by the Arborators.  It was a great day to share in stewardship of the park—and we look forward to celebrating another National Public Lands Day next year!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Great ways to enjoy autumn at Saint Paul parks

Fall has arrived in the great city of Saint Paul and the Department of Parks and Recreation has many family-friendly activities that will have you celebrating the arrival of this short-lived season.

Nothing says fall more than Halloween. To help you release your inner ghost or goblin, there a number of Halloween parties taking place at rec centers across the city.  These events feature a variety of activities ranging from magicians, costume contests, bounce castles and carnival-style games.  A complete listing of participating locations, dates and activities can be found on the What’s Happening Page of the Parks website or in the Fall 2013 activity brochure.

If you’re looking for something to do on a cold and blustery fall day, look no further than your local rec center.  Many of the recreation centers have regularly-scheduled open gym hours where you can come and hang out with friends and shoot some hoops in the comfort of an indoor gym.  A list of open gym hours can be found here.

Not quite ready to give up on summer?  Head to the Great River Water Park located at Oxford Community Center.  The Great River Water Park is Saint Paul’s only indoor water park and features a kid-friendly splash pad, an eight-lane pool, water slides and diving boards.  The Great River Water Park is located at Oxford Community Center, and hours of operation can be found on the pool’s webpage.  It’s a great way to escape the chill of the fall air and put a little summer back into your life.

As the mercury drops and we head toward winter, it is important to remember those who are in need of warm winter clothing.  To help meet this need, Battle Creek Recreation Center is hosting a winter clothing drive.  Bring new or gently-used winter clothing items to Battle Creek Recreation Center between now and December 18.  On December 20, the items will be distributed to those who have registered.  If you have any questions about this program give the Battle Creek Recreation Center a call at 651-501-6347.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

No better place to see the fall colors than from the Highland Park Water Tower

Fall is here and the vibrant autumnal colors will soon follow in the Twin Cities.

There is no better place to get a bird’s-eye view of those colors than from the Highland Park water tower. The annual fall open house will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, October 12 -13.

The tower’s observation deck provides visitors with a spectacular view of the area, particularly looking down on the changing colors of the trees dotting the Highland Park golf course below and out toward the Mississippi River.

In addition to the spectacular view from the top of the tower, the base contains blueprints of the building from the tower’s architect, Clarence Wigington.

Wigington is the state’s first African American architect, and the nation’s first African American municipal architect. Wigington worked for the City of Saint Paul from 1915 to 1949 and designed many other important structures in the area, including the Keller Golf Course Clubhouse (1929), the Saint Paul Public Safety Building (1929–30), and Como Park Pavilion (1934).

The open house is designed to inform residents about municipal water and the efforts of the utility to preserve and protect water resources.

Information about the utility’s water purification process and distribution system will also be available. Utility employees will be on hand to answer questions and provide information about utility services.

For more information, please contact Saint Paul Regional Water Services at 651-266-6350.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Keep an Eye on What You Fry!

It is Fire Prevention Week across the nation and this year everyone is concentrating on kitchen fire prevention.  The Saint Paul Department of Safety and Inspections reminds you that kitchen fires are the No. 1 cause of structure fires both in Minnesota and across the country.  Check out our public service announcement on YouTube and remember these tips:
  • When cooking on the stove, always stay in the kitchen.
  • Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from the stove.  This includes cookbooks, mail, pot holders, and wood or plastic cooking utensils.
  • Turn the handles of your pots and pans toward the stove or countertop.  It is far too easy for a child or pet to bump them.
  • Electric stovetops are hot even when the burner is not red.  The majority of the stovetop fires in Saint Paul occur with electric, not gas stoves. 
Visit the US Fire Administration and Fire Prevention Week website for more cooking fire facts and safety tips.  Saint Paul’s Department of Safety and Inspections also wants to remind you to attend the Saint Paul Fire Department’s open houses this Saturday, October 12 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at:
  • Fire Station 1, 1000 West 7th St.
  • Fire Station 4, 505 Payne Ave
  • Fire Station 19, 2530 Edgcumbe Rd.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

From the river to your faucet

Ever wonder how drinking water gets to your faucet?

Or how water from lakes, wells, and the Mississippi River is treated so that you can drink it?

You can get up close and personal with the water treatment process on Thursday, October 10,  from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Saint Paul Regional Water Services’ McCarrons Center treatment facilities in Maplewood.

The one-hour tour will give visitors a close-up view of how the water is treated, filtered, and pumped into the distribution system.

“The tours have been very popular throughout the years—most people are fascinated by what they see here,” said Jim Graupmann, manager, production division. “Few people have any idea of how their water is treated and actually gets to their home. This is an opportunity for people to see a process that is normally taken for granted.”

The walking tour will cover about one-half of a mile and require the ability to navigate stairs. Sturdy walking shoes are recommended. An adult must accompany all youths younger than the eighth-grade level on the tour.

In addition to the tours, there will be an open house in the administration building.

There will be refreshments of cookies and punch. The event is free.

Because there is no public access to the treatment plant, visitors must first register in the administration building to participate in the tour. The last tour begins at 5:00 p.m.

McCarrons Center is located at 1900 Rice Street, just north of Larpenteur Avenue.

Due to road construction on Rice Street during the open house, the public will need to enter on Sylvan Street from Larpenteur Avenue. There will be no access to the water utility from Rice Street.

Free parking will be available in the utility’s parking lot next to the administration building.

For further information, please call the SPRWS Customer Service office at 651-266-6350.

Monday, October 7, 2013

October at the Library: True Crime and Free Music

Explore Saint Paul’s Dark Past at True Crime Events

Saint Paul Public Library is hosting five free True Crime events this October, exploring the gangster era during the Prohibition years of the early 20th century as well as the infamous murder case of Edward Phalen, one of the founding fathers of the City of Saint Paul.

On October 13, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Gary Brueggemann discusses his book, "Minnesota's Oldest Murder Mystery: The Case of Edward Phalen, St. Paul's Unsaintly Pioneer" at Central Library, 90 West 4th Street.

Read more . . .

 Library’s Free Digital Music Service Upgraded and Expanded to Offer 7 Million Songs 

Saint Paul Public Library recently launched the 4.0 update to its highly-successful Freegal Music Service, providing patrons significant new content.

With Freegal 4.0, Saint Paul Public Library users enjoy access to more than 5 million new songs from labels around the world, a brand-new search and browse function, and the ability to download from a selection of 12,000 popular DRM-free music videos.  The library's digital music collection now tops 7 million songs from over 28,000 labels.

Read more . . .

Friday, October 4, 2013

"Spotlight on Railroad Island"

A Response to Violence

Submitted by Councilmember Amy Brendmoen, Ward 5

In my first year in office, I have focused a great deal of energy on the neighborhood known as Railroad Island—a small community immediately to the north and east of downtown Saint Paul that is geographically encircled by a ring of railroad tracks and the lovely Swede Hollow Park. I believe this area holds incredible potential to become one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in the city. Railroad Island boasts proximity to Lowertown, great schools, urban refuge such as Swede Hollow Park and Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, anchor retail institutions such as Morelli’s, Yarusso’s and La Palma, major employers on the Phalen corridor, all of these assets sweetened by solid housing stock of beautiful, Victorian homes.

Unfortunately, this vision of prosperity is contrasted by high levels of poverty, crime and disrepair in the area. The seriousness of these problems was underscored recently when a Metro State student who lived in the area suffered a random, brutal attack by gang members. The Community has called for immediate actions to better address the complex issues that lead to crime and despair. The City of Saint Paul, in partnership with the community, area organizations and Ramsey County, is working to ensure a bright future for railroad Island and its residents.

Last month the Saint Paul Police conducted a “Blue Wave” of increased law enforcement presence and enforcement in the area, much of which remains in place today. This month I am working with the Department of Safety and Inspections and Payne Phalen District Council to conduct comprehensive sweep to rid the area of trash and debris. The City’s Planning and Economic Development Department has chosen Railroad Island as a target cluster area for redevelopment of additional homes and vacant lots to create quality housing options. The East Side Neighborhood Development Company will be conducting an aggressive project in the area to hold landlords accountable for providing safe and attractive places to live.

Residents and neighborhood leaders continue to engage in conversations about what must be done to address the challenges that exist in Railroad Island. Mayor Coleman, my City Council colleagues and I will be listening closely and considering additional opportunities to do better by our city’s youth and neighborhoods challenged by poverty and crime.

I remain committed to shining the spotlight on Railroad Island and surrounding neighborhoods. I urge concerned neighbors to continue the conversation, invest their own time and talents to improve their neighborhoods and share their ideas with me. We need more people working toward the vision of peace and prosperity in Railroad Island and with significant effort and commitment, that vision will become a reality.

The Railroad Island Task Force meets on the fourth Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Eastern District Police Station. All are welcome.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Careless Cooking Causes Most Fires, But They’re Easily Preventable

October 6 – 12 is National Fire Prevention Week – take a moment to get ahead of the curve and learn how you can prevent the most common cause of fire: Cooking.
Cooking is, by far, the leading cause of building fires in Minnesota.  Forty-six percent of fires in buildings are caused by careless cooking, far ahead of the second leading cause -- “open flames” like candles, at 10 percent.  The good news is that cooking fires are easily preventable.
Most kitchen fires are caused by unattended cooking, so the simplest way to prevent all these fires is to stay in the kitchen when you’re cooking on the stovetop.  When you cook, stay and look! 
In the case of a stovetop fire, there is a new and simple product out that is very effective in putting them out.  It’s called a “StoveTop FireStop.”  The device is about the size of a tuna can. Installed over the stove, it drops a dry chemical extinguishing agent on the fire when it is flame actuated.               
One StoveTop FireStop quickly put out this fire
StoveTop FireStops can be ordered online or purchased at some hardware stores. They cost less than $50 a pair.
Additonal safety tips about cooking fires from the National Fire Protections Association include:
  • Be on alert!  If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol don’t use the stove or stovetop.
  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food.  If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • Keep anything that can catch on fire – oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels, or curtains – away from your stovetop.

  • First get out, then call 9-1-1!!  When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
  • If you fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and calling 9-1-1, and you have a clear path out yourself.
  • Keep a lid nearby when you are cooking to smother grease fires.  Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the burner.  Leave the pan covered until it is completely cool.
  • For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the oven door closed.
  • NEVER put water on a cooking oil fire. It will explode.

Visit the links below to view some extraordinary live-fire demonstrations provided by the Saint Paul Fire Department that show you how prevent and survive cooking and other careless fires:  
Learn more about National Fire Prevention Week here.