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Dakota County is planning a $7.1 million reconstruction project of County Road 42 from Highway 55 to Lock Boulevard this spring. The project entails adding paved shoulders and turning lanes. The road was last reconstructed 60 years ago and is three time higher in crashes and crash severity than other similar roads, according to Dakota County documents. The county is set to receive construction bids in March, with construction concluding in November, said Bobby Kuennen, the project's manager. "The age of the pavement and the base of the pavement is old," he added.
Dakota County's homeless population's need for shelter continues to outpace what is available. In Hastings, officials surveyed nine people as part of its the annual Point in Time survey — a federally-mandated count of the number of unsheltered people in a community — in late January, up from last year's count of five people. Housing vacancy rates around 2 percent and a lack of shelter space has left some struggling to put a roof over their heads, sometimes for even a night.
Mirroring other library systems statewide and nationally, the Dakota County Library system plans to waive overdue material fines during an eight-day period in April. The library has about 10,000 active users blocked, those who have been to the library within two years, and 23,000 total users blocked. The fee waiving effort has a projected loss of $30,000 for the system, but officials hope it will be worth it through encouraging blocked users to return and stick around, while attracting newcomers.
Dakota County legislators have education and gun control at the top of their legislative priorities for the 2019 session. At a town hall Jan. 14 in Apple Valley's Falcon Ridge Middle School, Sen. Greg Clausen, DFL-Apple Valley, Rep. John Huot, DFL-Rosemount, and Rep. Robert Bierman, DFL-Apple Valley, heard from Dakota County residents who shared those priorities and more. Residents voiced concerns ranging from health policy and environmental policy to 2018's last-minute omnibus budget bill.
A roughly $13 million Dakota County police training center is on pace to move forward in 2019, after receiving state funding this year. The Safety and Mental Health Alternative Response Training Center, known as the SMART Center, will give Dakota County Sheriff's Office and other regional law enforcement offices training in growing areas of emphasis for police — things like de-escalation, crisis intervention training and others.
In February, Dakota County was the first county to adopt an app that aimed to improve interactions between law enforcement and vulnerable county residents.
A Washington County trail was officially completed in 2018, with the August opening of a new bridge that takes trail-goers over Highway 61 and into Dakota County trails. The Point Douglas Regional Trail follows Highway 10 and connects downtown Prescott, Wis., to a trail that connects to Hastings. A 2.5-mile section of the trail originally opened in February 2017, but abruptly ended at Highway 61, before it could connect to Hastings.