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Lots of activity at food shelf

Exciting things are happening at the Friends in Need Food Shelf. March is Minnesota FoodShare Month. The money, toiletries and food that we receive during the month of March are partially matched by Minnesota FoodShare and the Feinstein Foundation.

If you would like to do a drive in March, we would really encourage you to consider toiletry items such as bar soap, shampoo, toilet paper, deodorant, dish soap and laundry soap instead of food so we don't need to worry about the expiration dates. As most of you know, money is always best as we purchase most of our food from Second Harvest. If you would like to send a check, please mail it to Friends in Need, P.O. Box 6, Cottage Grove, MN 55016.

Everyone is invited to our 20th anniversary open house here at the food shelf at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 3. You will have a chance to tour the food shelf and ask any questions that you might have. Refreshments and drinks will be provided. We are located on Northern Tier Energy property in St. Paul Park. Call (651) 458-0730 for directions.

Please check out our updated website at www.friendsinneedfoodshelf.org. It has our weekly job list, media links and information about other local agencies. You can also donate online with a credit card.

We want to thank everyone for their wonderful support of our Share the Joy program this past Thanksgiving and Christmas. We also want to thank all of those who helped make the Holiday Train fundraiser the best yet. This past year, we served over 36,000 people, a 30 percent increase. The reason we are so successful is that we are supported so generously by the community around us. Our local businesses, civic organizations, schools and churches are amazing. With Northern Tier Energy donating our building and utilities and the generosity of our donors, we are able to meet the demand and be very generous in how much food we give out. We couldn't do this without you.

Michelle Rageth

Friends in Need director

Tree-trimming work in city should be better

I think every five years the city of Cottage Grove chooses an area of the city to have the boulevard trees trimmed. This year it was my neighborhood. I drove up and down the streets and every mature tree had at least one cut on it. Obviously the tree trimming contract goes to the lowest bidder and they get a certain amount per tree as long as they remove at least one (even very small) limb. They even made several cuts on my neighbor's tree that was on private property and wasn't on the boulevard. I know for sure because I went and measured how far the tree was set back. No one apparently checks up on the tree service and they cut as little as possible, but make at least one branch cut.

A number of years ago when the tree service came through, they cut one-third of my boulevard maple tree away and I complained to a friend who at the time was on the City Council. He got back to me and said that he checked and for every trained arborist they had on staff, they had 12 trimmers they hired off the street, gave a chain saw, no training and said "go to it."

I'm all for frugality in government, but I think that all services provided by contracted vendors should at least meet some minimum professional standards and then they should be held accountable for doing professional and complete work rather than just telling them what to do, not checking on the quality of the work and then saying "thanks" and simply writing a check for the services provided.

Residential tree trimming isn't the biggest priority for me, but if it's got to be done (and probably it does), we should have a reasonable expectation of a little more thoroughness of quality service and government oversight.

John Sipe

Cottage Grove

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