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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Sometimes you have to give a little, especially when it's for the greater good. That's what Farmington's police sergeants figured this year, when they decided to ask for just half of their contracted raise amounts in 2011 and 2012. It's not the first time they've given concessions in the amount they're being paid, either. "We knew it was the right thing for us to do," said administrative Sgt. Jim Constantineau. Typically, the Farmington Police Department accounts for the lion's share of the annual operating costs in the city's budget.
After months of discussion and debate to iron out details of the 2011 budget and levy, Farmington City Council members were quick to take action Monday night. The Farmington City Council took less than 10 minutes to approve the 2011 financials and eliminate the position of administrative services director Lisa Shadick. Council members and city staff spent more than six months wrestling with the levy and budget documents, trying to find ways to get the most bang for the buck.
"Paralysis by analysis" is how Farmington City Council member Christy Jo Fogarty described the council's decision to delay a decision to deal with a deficit in the fund that pays for the annual seal coating of Farmington's streets. On Monday, three of five council members said they weren't ready or interested in approving a franchise fee agreement to build up the funds that are needed to pay for the city's seal-coat street maintenance program.
Though there doesn't seem to be any extra money in the city's 2011 budget to open a deputy registrar's office, the project could still happen next year. The city of Farmington has received a "very promising" proposal from an unidentified, outside source, according to city administrator Peter Herlofsky. Herlofsky is hesitant to give away too many of the details because the proposal hasn't even been presented to the city council just yet. Plans for opening a deputy registrar's office in city hall were more or less dead in the water following a Nov. 22 city council budget workshop.
Riverview Elementary School kindergarten teacher Renee Schultz is still kind of reeling from the recent announcement proclaiming her Farmington's Teacher of the Year. She's had a few weeks to get used to the idea, but she's still very honored to have been selected by her peers for the designation. The Farmington School District is the only place she's ever taught, and she's got the better part of two decades to her credit. She started in Early Childhood Family Education at Akin Road Elementary, then transferred to the district's Kindergarten Center when it opened.
If this keeps up, there's going to be a lot of super-smart kids coming out of Meadowview Elementary School. And they'll be pretty fit and trim, for that matter. MVES has a new club for students in grades 1-5. It's called the Running Club, and its membership requirements are simple: just run. So they do. Every day, about 300 of the school's students take to the small track behind the school. The first- and second graders run for a minimum of half a mile. The kids in third through fifth grade run a minimum of a mile.
What do making Christmas cookies and helping military families have in common? Giving that warm, fuzzy feeling, of course. Fortunately for warm-fuzzy seekers, there's a way to tie those two feel-good activities together, and it's just a little over a week away. Farmington's second annual Warrior to Citizen Cookie Walk will take place Dec. 5, at Trinity Terrace. It's an opportunity to munch on some really great cookies, and to help military families in the community. Event coordinator Kara Hildreth came up with the idea a couple of years ago.
Donations have been down in the past couple of years, but the number of families who need assistance through Farmington's Toys for Town program is on the rise. Last year, Farmington's annual gift drive helped about 250 kids from just fewer than 100 families. This year seems to be on pace to meet, or even exceed that number. By Nov. 17, this year's list already included 28 families. "It's not a slower pace of names coming in, but a difference in the number of toys that are coming in," said Marjorie Boese, one of this year's Toys for Town coordinators.
The message from the Farmington City Council to city administrator Peter Herlofsky is perfectly clear -- one of the city's management staff has to go. After another two-hour budget workshop Monday, council members agreed to most of the recommended budget adjustments brought to them, with the exception of one. They agreed to a projection of $340,000 in building permit revenues for 2011.
In a world of e-mails and text messages, writing letters may seem to be a lost art. But Dodge Middle School language teacher Brianna Fleetham knows there is power behind words, and now her seventh grade students know that, as well. At the beginning of the school year, Fleetham gave her students a pretty straightforward assignment: write a letter that makes a difference. Her requirements were simple: choose a subject that is important to you, and find an appropriate audience to write to. And so they did. Some wrote letters to the editor and submitted them to the Farmington Independent.