Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.
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The rate at which Dakota County homes were foreclosed on declined from 2008 to 2009, but that's hardly a guarantee tough economic times are over in the south metro. There were 1,859 foreclosures in Dakota County in 2009. That is below the record 2,052 that took place in 2008, but it's still more than 2007's total of 1,580, which at the time was a county record by more than 700. And last year's decline doesn't tell the whole story.
Alfredo, Brent, Jason M. and Jason L. recently completed a college class through Metropolitan State University. This class, though, was held for 15 weeks where the four young men are currently living - the Dakota County Jail in Hastings. Another twist to this innovative program is that, in addition to the 15 inmates who were members of the class, another 15 students in the class were from the "outside," attending Metropolitan State. The Inside-Out Prison Exchange program has an innovative approach for solving challenging problems facing the criminal justice system.
Dakota County elected officials and administrator had their salaries frozen for 2010. They will be thawed slightly for 2011. At its regular meeting this week, the Dakota County Board of Commissioners approved next year's compensation for itself, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom, Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows, and county administrator Brandt Richardson. The end result will be a 1 percent base adjustment plus $400 medical plan incentive payment.
The holiday celebrations are already in full swing. I attended one work holiday party during the middle of a snowstorm. Holiday work parties are always exquisite torture, set to the backdrop of smooth jazz. You stand awkwardly with these people whose peccadilloes involving paper clips and tuna sandwiches are intimately familiar, but whose personal lives are a complete mystery. I was surrounded by tables covered with platters of cookies, crock pots brimming with barbecue meatballs and fancy cheese platters, but I was too busy attempting small talk and too nervous to eat much at all.
For several years in the 1990s, rapid population growth was a fact of life in Dakota County. New developments popped up and were filled, seemingly in a matter of months. The county is still growing today, but the pace of that growth has slowed dramatically. With most of the county's developable land already filled with homes, much of the growth boom has moved to other nearby counties. According to the county's biannual Community Indicators Report, Dakota County remains the third most populous county in Minnesota, accounting for 13.5 percent of the metro area population.
Most days Kayla Peterson wouldn't think twice about performing in front of a few thousand people. As a student at the Classical Ballet Academy, the Boeckman Middle School sixth grader has been a regular performer in Ballet Minnesota's holiday productions of The Nutcracker Suite. But Wednesday, Peterson was nervous. Because on Wednesday she wasn't just in front of a crowd of strangers. She was in front of her classmates. All of her classmates. Wednesday's Nutcracker show was the first of the holiday season for Ballet Minnesota, and there were special deals for school groups.
To some the holiday season means gifts, hefty spending and an abundance of food. For others, it's being thankful for the things you have and cherishing the people who are in your life. The past few years have taken a toll on many families, and some aren't able to have that extra gift under the tree or the extra large ham for Christmas dinner. Also, we think of how the troops are spending their holidays overseas, not able to spend it with their families. So, what it is the true meaning of the holidays? In a way, I guess its different, yet the same to everyone.
I do not have what could reasonably be described as good luck with cars. My first car, handed down to me by my father just before my sophomore year of college, was a 1990 Toyota Camry that the dealer described as ice blue but that my brother insisted on calling powder blue. Some might consider it bad enough to have such an unfortunately colored car. But about a week before he handed over the keys, my dad hit a deer just a few miles from our house in Stillwater. It smashed into the front of the roof.
A family dispute boiled over on Thanksgiving day in Castle Rock Township, and a 22-year-old Wisconsin man faces felony charges as a result. According to a complaint filed last week in the Dakota County Attorney's office Anthony Tyler Spease got into a fight with his stepfather around 4 p.m. Nov. 25. Dakota County Sheriff's deputies broke them up, but when it became clear deputies were not going to arrest anybody Spease reportedly got upset and threatened to kill his stepfather."I have $2,000 in my pocket right now and I'm going to buy a gun," he said, according to the complaint.
Despite a growing number of unknowns, Dakota County has developed its 2011 budget. At its regular meeting this week, the Dakota County Board of Commissioners approved a 2011 budget of $307 million and a property tax levy of $129 million. The 2010 budget was $368 million. The levy was $128.