2012: The year that had it all in Crystal, Robbinsdale

YIRCrystal and Robbinsdale residents are lucky in the sense that they live in communities with a small-town feel yet are situated just minutes away from big-city life. The city’s residents are offered a sense of community and small-town pride that they carry with them in efforts to support local businesses, students and residents.

This past year brought changes and improvements to both city’s, and many residents voiced strong opinions.

The past year saw a variety of different news-making events from well-known North Memorial receiving high ranks and prestigious awards, to a new police chief and a duo of residents bringing baseball to Africa, to the much talked about and highly anticipated November elections.

The new year has just begun and what lies ahead is uncertain, though Crystal and Robbinsdale residents are sure to come together in support and passion for what they believe is best for their cities.

In this issue of the Sun Post is a summary of 2012’s stories and newsmakers in Crystal and Robbinsdale.

Bizarre discovery

Human remains found in Crystal backyard – The remains of a 30- to 38-week-old baby girl were found in Duane and Tiffany Clark’s Crystal backyard.  The case came to light after Duane went to Crystal police in February and told officers he had buried a dead baby in the backyard about four years ago.

Because several years had passed since the remains were buried, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office said it was impossible to determine if the baby was born dead or alive or if there had been any injury at the time of the death.

The Clark’s were arrested but not enough evidence was found to move forward with criminal charges. Unless substantial new evidence is developed, the case is considered closed.

Chief Fealy, ma’am

• There’s a new chief in town – Crystal Police Chief John Banick retired in 2012, leaving the spot to be filled by former Deputy Chief Stephanie Fealy. Fealy has been a member of the Crystal Police Department since 1997.

She is the first internally promoted chief within Crystal Police Department and also joined a select group of female police chiefs in Minnesota.

Church turns 90

• Elim Lutheran Church hits a milestone – The Robbinsdale church celebrated its 90th anniversary with a festival worship service and congregation dinner in September.

Elim now has four congregations worshipping under one roof including a Laotian immigrant church, a Pentecostal African church and a non-denominational African church.

At its peak, Elim had 5,000 members. Today that number is 1,400. Rev. Chris Enstad said the church would continue working towards perfection in the years to come.

Alcohol survey

• North Memorial begins nine-city alcohol survey – As many as 2,400 18- to 25-year-olds within a nine-city area assisted North Memorial Medical Center’s Partnership for Change in a survey focusing on how common drinking is among young adults.

With the results, Partnership for Change was able to identify where to focus their efforts and know where people are drinking, where people are drinking in excess and whether it’s in private or at a party.

In addition, North Memorial hit many milestones in 2012 including being listed in the top five percent of hospitals nationwide for clinical performance, top five percent in the nation for excellence in women’s healthcare and was also named one of America’s 50 best hospitals – a first time honor.

Dog in the future

Crystal Police Department will welcome a canine unit – By the spring of 2013, the Crystal Police Department has hopes for a canine unit.

Throughout 2012, the police department set forth with multiple fundraising efforts to make the possibility of a canine unit a reality.

Former Police Chief John Banick said by having their own canine unit, the Crystal Police Department would be able to allow their services to neighboring communities.

The department set a lofty fundraising goal of $50,000 to get the program up and running.

Festival fun

• Whiz Bang Days Honored Senior Volunteers title goes to… – Sharon Laurel and Darlene Johnston were named Robbinsdale’s 2012 Honored Senior Volunteers.

The women were among five nominees and selected for the title that goes to a volunteer who contributes to Robbinsdale after retirement.

Laurel has volunteered with the Robbinsdale Seniors since 2006 and Johnston has volunteered at the North Memorial Chaplain office for more than 40 years.

As part of their title, Laurel and Johnston were honored during the Whiz Bang Days annual parade in July.

Light rail plan

Robbinsdale City Council supports the Bottineau Transitway – the council unanimously supported the D-1 transitway alignment in June.

The proposed alignment will preserve a light rail station at Hubbard Marketplace and will provide access for residents in both directions of the corridor.

The route would be accessible to downtown Minneapolis and would link with the Hiawatha rail line.

After the decision was adopted, the approval was forwarded to the Hennepin Regional Trail Authority.

The proposed goal is to have the Bottineau Transitway opening in 2017-2018.

Lions turn 50

• Crystal Lions celebrates 50 years – the organization hosted a celebratory anniversary party in July as a way to let people in the community know about the Lions and to expand their membership.

The Lions continue to support the community as they have since their inaugural year.

They are known in Crystal for their contribution to helping fit individuals with eye glasses and their monthly steak fry’s at the VFW.

Parole denied

• Parole denied for man who killed Officer John Scanlon – The Minnesota Department of Corrections denied parole for Ronald Schneider, the man who killed Robbinsdale Police Officer John Scanlon in 1985.

According to the Department of Corrections, Schneider’s parole request was denied because he had not proved he had met the criteria required for release.

The April parole hearing was closed except to immediate members of Scanlon’s family who had a chance to speak on the possibility of being paroled.

Before the hearing members of Crystal and Robbinsdale Police Departments along with statewide law enforcement agencies contacted the Department of Corrections asking that Schneider remain in prison.

He was first denied for parole in 2002. Schneider is eligible to apply for parole every five years.

Going places

Crystal Lake Regional Trail gains ground – the area received a $55,928 grant from a Federal Recreational Trail Program reimbursement in June for a portion of the Three Rivers Park District trail that will run from 47th Avenue to Victory Memorial Parkway in Robbinsdale.

The grant will help ensure a part of the 11-mile project is ready for completion in 2014. Eventually the trail will connect with the current two-tenths of a mile trail near Highway 100.

District doings

• West Metro stays intact – After seven months of uncertainty regarding the future of the West Metro-Fire Rescue District, the cities of New Hope and Crystal voted to continue the shared department on June 11.

The disagreement came from concerns each city had over the West Metro fire budget. The two councils entered into a series of mediation meetings to help iron out the issues over a sixth-month period before the vote.

Liquor store upgraded

• Robbinsdale municipal liquor store relocates and changes its name – Robbinsdale Wine & Spirits, the liquor store formerly known as RC Liquors opened for business at its new Robbin Center location in June.

The new store allows product to be stocked in the basement allowing for customers to see a wide variety of merchandise in the new building.

Robbinsdale Wine & Spirits also has large coolers, a designated area for product sampling and special events and a larger variety of wine.

Because it is a municipal liquor store, the profits Robbinsdale Wine & Spirits brings in are put directly back in to the city and pays for park and recreation programs.

Crime report

• Robbinsdale man charged in cab driver’s murder – The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office convened the grand jury and also obtained an indictment for second-degree murder against Samuel Johosephat Taylor, 20.

He has been held on a criminal complaint for the second-degree murder charge.

The Robbinsdale man was charged with killing William Harper, 56, of Roseville while committing an aggravated robbery.

The cab driver was shot and killed in Minneapolis while working on March 14.

Osterhus turns 100

• Osterhus Bookstore and Printing celebrates its 100th anniversary – 2012 marked a century of production for the Robbinsdale business whose roots are deeply embedded in the town.

Dan Osterhus and his wife, Susie, now run the West Broadway business, just as his grandfather did in 1912. The Osterhus team print for 30-50 churches in the area and are also in charge of printing the annual Whiz Bang Clipper.

Play ball

• Robbinsdale residents bring Baseball to Benin – Gary Tonsager and Wally Langellow spent the year bringing Little League baseball to Benin, a French-speaking country in West Africa.

After traveling to Benin with OneSight, an organization that serves countires in need with free eye care and eye wear, Tonsager, an optician, called up Langfellow.

The duo has worked to send batches of equipment to Benin that included gloves, baseballs, gear and uniforms.

Tonsager and Langfellow have targeted 2014 to officially get Benin teams up and running but the West African Little Leaguers have already begun to play the game.

A few coaches have been named in Benin and are learning baseball basics with help from the Internet.

By setting up free clinics, the Little League players were able to learn how to play baseball and receive a T-shirt for their participation.

Registries enacted

Robbinsdale and Crystal adopt Domestic Partnership Registry ordinances – the registry is a legal document between two individuals who reside together and share a common domestic life but aren’t joined by marriage or a civil union.

Though the ordinance does not evoke legal rights, it gives couples private rights. With the registry in each city, a couple now has the opportunities to pick up a child from school, be included on family rates from insurance companies and possible health benefits.

Crystal residents may register for the Domestic Partnership Registry for a $40 fee and Robbinsdale residents may register for a $20 fee.

Top honors

• Robbinsdale resident receives Walt Whitman Award – Matt Rasmussen was the 2012 recipient of the Walt Whitman Award, one of the most esteemed recognitions among poets in the country.

The Whitman Award grants the winner the honor of publishing the individual’s first book. Rasmussen’s first book, “Black Aperture,” will be available in 2013.

Rasmussen was selected to receive the award among nearly 1,200 entries. He teaches creative writing at Gustavus Adolphus College.

Facebook criminal

• Man sentenced after targeting Crystal Little League players – Michael Hamer, 44, of Minneapolis was sentenced in November to 120 days in the workhouse, probation and sexual offender treatment after he pled guilty to solicitation of a child to engage in sexual conduct after contacting Crystal Little League players via Facebook in July.

Conditions of Hamer’s five-year probation include that he register as a sex offender for the next 10 years, could not have any contact with minors, could not loiter around ballparks, swimming pools, schools, amusement parks or other places where young children gather and could not use a computer or the internet without the approval of his probation officer, who could then search the computer to see what Hamer was doing.

Hamer was charged with two felony counts of solicitation of a child to engage in sexual conduct and possession of pornographic work involving a minor.

More residences

Cavanagh School to be replaced with senior housing – a Met Council grant awarded to Crystal and District 281 allowed the city to move forward with a redevelopment project that will feature senior housing and preserved park land.

The school on Corvallis Avenue will be replaced with a 130-unit independent, affordable senior rental building.

The City of Crystal is hopeful the housing development will begin in mid-2013 for a completion of no later than 2014.

Homes coming

• Habitat for Humanity will build in Crystal – a set of vacant lots that once housed seven foreclosed, blighted homes in Crystal will be home to single-family residences built by Habitat for Humanity.

The first three of five houses will be started in 2013 and complted in 2014 and the other two will be started in 2014 and be completedy by early 2015 said Crystal City Planner John Sutter.

The Habitat for Humanity homes may include three bedrooms and one bathroom on the main floor, a partially finished basement with a bedroom and bathroom and a two-car garage.

The homes will be constructed on Noble, Brunswick, 35th, Perry and 60th avenues.

Election notes

• A changing of the guard – Crystal and Robbinsdale residents voted in new mayors for each respective city in November.

In Crystal, Jim Adams defeated incumbent candidate ReNae Bowman to become mayor of Crystal.

Adams is the owner and operator of RAE Enterprises and is also the president and charitable gambling CEO for the West Metro Fire-Rescue District Firefighters Relief Association.

City residents also voted in Laura Libby and Casey Peak. Julie Deshler remains Ward 4 representative after running unopposed.

Libby is currently a stay-at-home mom and is the vice president of the New Hope, Robbinsdale, Crystal MOM’S Club. She also is a member of the Northwest Hennepin Human Services Council.

Peak has been a Crystal resident for 10 years and works in technical support for a network manufacturer.

A Crystal resident for eight years, Deshler is the manager at Uniforms Unlimited in Minneapolis and a member of the Women’s Auxiliary VFW and American Legion. She also serves on the Crystal Frolics Committee and Parks and Recreation Commission.

In Robbinsdale, Regan Murphy was elected mayor of Robbinsdale over councilmember George Selton.

Murphy was born and raised in Robbinsdale and returned to the area in 2005. He is employed at Stryker Orthopedics in medical device sales.

He is a member of the Robbinsdale Planning Commission, Robbinsdale Park, Recreation and Forestry Commission and a founding member and chairman of the Heart of Robbinsdale Community Foundation.

Voters gave a nod of approval and reinstated Bill Blonigan and Dan Rogan.

Blonigan has been councilmember for Ward 1 since 1981. He is a private practice attorney and is a founding member of Heart of Robbinsdale Community Foundation and a member of Sacred Heart Parish. Blonigan also serves on the Robbinsdale Housing and Redevelopment Authority. He is the current president.

Rogan has represented Ward 2 since 2005. He is the senior assistant Hennepin County attorney and is involved on the Robbinsdale School District Government Advisory Committee.