Michelle Leonard started covering the Farmington community in June, 1994. 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 Farmington American Legion Auxiliary Unit 189, and acts as 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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After a couple years of financial ups and downs, the Farmington Fire Department Relief Association's pension plan might finally see some relief of its own. It's been a rocky couple of years for just about everyone who carries investments. A stock market crash left investors hurting. Add to that eight retirements for the local department and the dollars add up. Or down, depending on how you look at it. For the past couple of years, the Farmington Fire Relief Association has had to turn to the Farmington City Council for financial assistance.
Establishing priorities isn't always easy, but there's a group of concerned Farmington residents and business owners who are giving it a try all the same. That group includes the folks who came out to last week's Grow Farmington session at city hall.
Part of my job is to ask questions. To do a little digging. To find some answers. A couple of weeks ago, I came across a photo in a February, 1961 edition of the Dakota County Tribune. To be frank, it's got me a little stumped. So I figured I'd check with the community and see if anyone out there is able to help. It's a community curiosity. A historical mystery.
Any way they look at it, the Farmington City Council has realized they need to turn to residents to help keep the city's roads in shape. Farmington needs residents to help pay for the seal coating process that maintains city streets. Of that, there seems to be little question. But the question council members have wrestled with is whether to get that funding through a levy increase of $500,000 or so, or whether it is time to start asking residents to pay franchise fees. The idea of using franchise fees to pay for seal coating has been tossed around for nearly a year. The concept is simple.
Of all of the cities in Dakota County, Farmington tops the list when it comes to foreclosure rates. 2010 was the second consecutive year the city had Dakota County's highest foreclosure rate. According to a Jan. 19 report from the Dakota County Community Development Agency, Farmington ranks fifth in the total number of foreclosures, with 206 sheriff sales in 2010.
Nick Patton is the first to tell you he almost didn't graduate from high school last year. He's kind of proud to tell you about it. He's not advocating flunking out of school. It's actually quite the opposite. Patton is proud to say he was able to get his life together and graduate with the Farmington High School Class of 2010. And he credits the Farmington Rotary Club for helping him make that happen. At age 19, Patton is now in his first year at Inver Hills Community College.
At one time or another, all Farmington students have learned about the importance of giving to those less fortunate than they are. Regardless of grade level or school building, students have been asked to help others by donating change, clothing, toys or food. So the food drive at Dodge Middle School is nothing new to students.
Last month, Farmington economic development specialist Tina Hansmeier provided the city's economic development authority with a list of all of the local businesses that had opened and those that closed in. Hansmeier provides the list to keep city officials apprised of development activity in the community, so we decided to take her reports one step further and visit with her on the subject. She and city administrator Peter Herlofsky sat down with us Tuesday afternoon. In 2010, 15 news businesses opened and 17 closed. Is this anything to be alarmed by? Tina: I don't think so.
Choirpalooza isn't just a cool sounding name for a concert. It's a cool concept for one, too. The annual Choirpaloooza concert is Thursday night at Farmington High School. And while it will feature several of the high school choirs, it's really all about the younger performers -- the sixth graders of Dodge and Boeckman middle schools. The younger students are working on songs of their own -- Dodge Middle School students were busy perfecting The Star Spangled Banner earlier this week -- but they'll perform a few with the older students, too.
The temperature may have been chilly Monday afternoon, but kids on recess at Farmington Elementary School kept plenty warm while getting in a little extra ice time.