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.
- Member for
- 1 year 9 months
Take a stroll through Dakota City Heritage Village during the Dakota County Fair in August, and you'll see plenty of people dressed somewhat ... oddly. They'll be the women in the long, heavy clothing, the men sporting suspenders and top hats. All volunteers, it's those folks -- dressed in period-appropriate costumes -- who help bring Dakota City to life every year. Finding enough volunteers can be daunting task, according to Dakota City Heritage Village board of directors vice president Mary Hendricks.
The past week has been particularly soupy in Minnesota, with local radio broadcasters declaring it "Underarm-ageddon." The phrase sums up the moist heat wave we are enduring. It's a much more clever twist on words than this past winter's "Snow-mageddon." In the midst of this heat wave, I've been searching for a new car. I thought it might be time for me to buy a summer beater. I have a reliable, sensible car with working heat for the wintertime. But I crave the unpredictable experience of a car that is over 10 years of age. I'm looking forward to a flashy sports car which is past its prime.
During the hot, humid days last week and the week before, Farmington firefighters had more than their fair share of false alarms. And they weren't alone. Around Farmington, firefighters were dispatched to at least a dozen calls of smoke alarms going off in homes and businesses. In all of the cases, there was no fire, but Farmington fire marshal John Powers said it's better to be safe than sorry. "We always try to err on the side of caution and get everybody started then cut back after that," Powers said. The problem seems to be in the wiring, he said.
He claimed he was giving the teenage girls "energy readings." Farmington police see his actions as criminal sexual conduct. Farmington resident Russell Castillo, 37, will appear before a Dakota County judge Sept. 24 on two second-degree charges of felony criminal sexual conduct. The complaint issued by assistant Dakota County attorney Elizabeth Swank alleges that Castillo forced two teenage girls to perform sexual acts on several occasions. Both girls are related to Castillo. Now 16, the first girl to report an incident was 15 years old when Castillo allegedly started touching her.
Farmington police can't be everywhere at once, but they've got a few sets of extra eyes on parts of the downtown area. There are 54 surveillance cameras posted around the community, giving Farmington police a chance to see things that happen even when they're not there. The camera system was a large purchase, but it's come in handy more than once. Farmington police administrative sergeant Jim Constantineau said the surveillance system is a work in progress.
The Farmington Business Association is going to have to find another place to put up its community Christmas tree. The vacant lot on Third Street, where the tree has been placed for the past few years, won't be vacant much longer. By this fall, a 3,000-square-foot building will be taking up the space. Last Wednesday, Immanuel Dental owner Dr. Linden Dungy closed on the purchase of the vacant lot.
While the economy has meant plenty of doom and gloom for many Farmington residents, it might offer a blessing in disguise for taxpayers. On Monday, the Farmington City Council agreed to refinancing a bond issued in 2003 to cover costs associated with construction of the law enforcement center and central maintenance facility. Doing so will save the city more than $104,000 on bond payments. Issued at an interest rate of 2.95 to 3.65 percent, the original general obligation bond was for $3.74 million.
They say every little bit helps, and in Farmington's case, that may just be true. After more than four years with the current auditing firm of Kern, DeWinter and Viere, the Farmington City Council will give a new firm a whirl - and save about $23,000 at the same time. On Monday, council members selected Smith Shafer and Associates as the city's new auditing firm. The company was one of eight to submit a proposal when finance director Teresa Walters posted a request for proposals in May.
They say a picture speaks a thousand words. I don't know who they are, but they've pretty much labeled me as a bigmouth. It's been almost two years since I purchased my own camera - a fancy one, complete with all kinds of attachments, filters and such. We have cameras here at the office, but for some reason, I've decided to use my own when it comes to shooting pictures for the paper. I think it's a comfort level, although I was pretty doggone comfortable with the cameras here, too. Well, this is the problem I now face: I have too many pictures.
In an effort to be a little more earth-friendly, and save a few dollars, the Farmington City Council has decided to go paper free for their meetings. On Monday, council members agreed the time has come to do away with printed versions of the city council agenda, and instead just pull it up on a screen. It turns out it would be cheaper for the city of Farmington to purchase five iPads than it is for city staff to prepare, print and deliver the agenda packets in the current format.