Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages. Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing.
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State funding will allow Washington County to hire three more child protection workers, but officials say there is no additional funding to process those cases through the legal system. Washington County Community Services has received grant funding of $222,758 from the state to hire another three child protection workers. Funding was approved by state lawmakers last year, and came after a state task force offered 93 recommendations to improve Minnesota’s child protection system.
Getting to school by foot or bike might get easier for some Cottage Grove students, thanks to a Washington County project. The county was selected to conduct a pilot program for the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program. Cottage Grove Elementary was chosen as the pilot site. Congress established the Safe Routes to School program to promote biking and walking to school. Minnesota also created its own Safe Routes to School program, funded regularly through state legislation.
Washington County is implementing a large-scale security training program in all county offices. The county’s security training is based on the national security training program that goes by the acronym ALICE — for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate — and is being led by Sgt. Tim Harris of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Washington County may raise its property tax levy in 2017, higher than the 3.49-percent increases of the past two years. The county budget is based on principles including focusing spending on core functions, not relying on one-time funding for ongoing costs and making strategic investments in human resources and technology, said Deputy County Administrator Kevin Corbid.
Part of the city of Newport could look much different in a decade, thanks to a redevelopment plan moving through the Washington County Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Known as Red Rock Crossing, the redevelopment plan covers property to the west of Highway 61 and south of Interstate 494. The four-phase project is expected to evolve over the next decade, according to HRA Executive Director Barbara Dacy.
Washington County has received a two-year, $125,000 sex trafficking investigations and training grant issued by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Justice Programs. The funds will be used...
Residents of Washington County’s District 2 will have one more election to vote on this fall. An election will be held to fill the county commissioner seat left vacant by Ted Bearth’s death March 10. Bearth, of Oakdale, was two months into the second year of his four-year term when he died. With more than a year left of his term, Washington County Administrator Molly O’Rourke said, state election laws require the county to hold a special election to fill the seat.
Washington County is beginning to plan how it will fund a slate of capital improvement projects for this summer. The Washington County Board on March 1 initiated the first steps needed to issue $20 million in capital improvement plan bonds to pay for a portion of five 2016 projects. Locally, $1.5 million of the Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park renovation will be funded through the bond proceeds, and $5 million in bonds will be allocated to the county’s portion of the County State Aid Highway 21 project in downtown Afton.
Now that spring has sprung, Minnesotans generally know what comes next: road construction season. And Washington County is ready for the coming months. Like communities and counties around the state, Washington County has a full slate of road construction projects for 2016. In fact, County Engineer Wayne Sandberg said, this year brings the most projects in the county’s history.
Things could get easier for Washington County township residents who want to change the zoning of their properties. Washington County officials are considering a change to give the six townships in the county full authority over land use decisions. Both the county and the townships have zoning ordinances, according to Washington County Public Works Director Don Theisen. While a township’s zoning ordinances can be more restrictive than the county’s ordinances, township ordinances cannot be less restrictive.