New Hope year in review: West Metro Fire and arena ice

Left to right, current NHL hockey player and Armstrong grad Jordan Leopold, Mayor Kathi Hemken, Jim Corbett and Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat officially cut the ribbon signifying the opening of the newly renovated New Hope Ice Arena Aug. 22. (Submitted photo by Jerry Beck)
Left to right, current NHL hockey player and Armstrong grad Jordan Leopold, Mayor Kathi Hemken, Jim Corbett and Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat officially cut the ribbon signifying the opening of the newly renovated New Hope Ice Arena Aug. 22. (Submitted photo by Jerry Beck)

Now that the city is in the grips of winter, ice is nothing out of the ordinary in New Hope.

But ice was a big deal back in August.

The city’s north ice rink opened Aug. 22 after renovations, including energy-efficient equipment funded by a Hennepin County Youth Sports Grant, improvements to the community room and lobby and a new roof over that portion of the building.

Hennepin County awarded a $275,000 grant for the energy-efficient components of the project this year.

“This is a jewel of New Hope and this ice arena has been part of the community for a very long time,” said New Hope Mayor Kathi Hemken. “We’re all pretty excited that this is happening.”

Hemken said the city held numerous meetings for resident input on the project. The north ice rink dates back to 1976.

A few weeks after the reopening, the Armstrong hockey team returned to New Hope ice for the first time in years. John Evans, a Golden Valley resident who has sons involved in the Armstrong hockey association, was part of helping return Armstrong hockey to the New Hope Ice Arena.

“There’s a reason it’s called a home rink advantage,” Evans said. “Plymouth was nothing short of amazing, but it wasn’t home. It’s Wayzata’s home. I think both people in Plymouth and New Hope came together and it was quiet admirable.”

Not only will Armstrong have an arena to call its own, but it also gives the Wayzata team more ice time in the Plymouth Ice Arena. A win-win, said Evans.

The south ice rink remained open to the community during construction.

McKinstry, the contractors on the project, estimate the energy savings for the city will be approximately $57,000 a year. The city funded the new roof through more than $3 million in energy conservation bonds and partially from its own budget.

In addition to open skating for the community, the ice arena is used for practice and games of Cooper High boys’ and girls’ high school hockey, Armstrong High boys’ hockey and Armstrong Cooper youth hockey.

“It will be a good sheet of ice for all ages to skate on,” said Susan Rader, New Hope’s director of parks and recreation. “It’s been a long process, but I think overall everyone will be pleased with the final results.”

Hennepin County’s Youth Sports Program funded 11 projects with $2.2 million in capital grants and 16 equipment grant projects of $105,452 in 2012.

Here are some of the other big stories that happened in New Hope this year:

• Plans for a proposed four-story, 68-unit apartment building at

Overview of proposed Compass Pointe apartments in New Hope.
Overview of proposed Compass Pointe apartments in New Hope.

the southwest corner of 62nd and West Broadway saw unsigned letters circulating through the neighborhood and brought residents to meetings to voice their opposition.

The New Hope City Council took public comments on the issue during its Oct. 8 meeting. While the city had approved preliminary plans and an option agreement for development of the Compass Pointe project, City Manager Kirk McDonald said the city was waiting to see if Ron Clark Construction and Design obtains funding for the project from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.

When time for public comments opened, five residents of the area voiced their concerns regarding the project.

“I heard (Councilmember Dan Stauner) talk (at a recent information meeting) about how the city invested in that property 16 years ago, and now they feel it is time for a return on their investment,” said Jim Siesennop. “I can understand that, but we’ve lived in our house 25 years … poured out hearts into that neighborhood. Frankly, it’s an oversized project on that little corner, and I do not see how that big building in a little space will improve the quality of the neighborhood, or improve the value of my property.”

“It is going to be low cost, eventually, you know that, and we know that,” said Roger Chmielewski. “As an old-timer in the area, 46 years, I can see this changing for all the bad, not the good. I hope it doesn’t go through. I don’t want it there. We have our own neighborhood. Leave it there. If you are so interested in taxes, let’s put in residential houses.”

“What I am trying to get through to you is that this thing is inviting tragedy as far as neighborhood saturation with kids,” said Mauri Mickelson. “If you want to do something with that property, build a bunch of duplexes, triplexes, or fourplexes. You’d get more tax money, and they’d be owner-occupied.”

Councilmembers voiced their opinions later in the meeting.

“We are not the villains in this,” Hemken said. “We are trying to do what’s best for the city as a whole. We are listening as best we can, but it’s hard to listen when someone is pounding your head or calling you names.”

“There’s a myth that this is set in stone,” Lammle said. “Redevelopment is vital to the lifeblood of this city. What is drawn to New Hope when we have a vacant lot or when we have an apartment of this scale, with these amenities in our city? Going forward, it’s important that our residents know we have an open mind.”

In the end, the Minnesota Housing Board put an end to the discussion, at least for now. The board voted Oct. 25 to deny state funding to Compass Pointe and a handful of other projects.

• District 287’s North Education Center opened Aug. 23 at the former Hosterman School site, 5530 Zealand Ave. N., New Hope.

The $35 million custom-designed building is designed to meet the education needs of a variety of students from 12 school districts. Intermediate District 287 had leased the Hosterman site for the past 10 years for special education students. After the district purchased the 10-acre site from Robbinsdale School District for $1.175 million, the Hosterman building was demolished and construction began.

The new facility serves between 350 and 400 special needs students up to 21 years old. The student body includes some in special education classes, as well as others from Area Learning Centers who are at risk of not graduating.

In addition to current students, the new 122,000 square-foot building will house the area learning center for pregnant and parenting teens, formerly located in a converted commercial building near North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, and some high schoolers who receive services in a commercial building near the Northland Hotel at Boone Avenue North and Interstate 494.

The program for pregnant and parenting teens includes an onsite daycare for 50 children operated in conjunction with Hennepin County.

Between 200 and 250 staff members will be employed in the NEC.

The 40-year-old Intermediate District 287 is a consortium of 12 Hennepin County public school districts, including Brooklyn Center, Eden Prairie, Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka, Orono, Osseo, Richfield, Robbinsdale, St. Louis Park, Wayzata and Westonka.

The district was one of 10 Minnesota school districts to receive Qualified School Construction Bond authority from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The interest-free, federal stimulus bonds helped pay for the project.

West Metro
West Metro

• The West Metro Fire-Rescue District survived after New Hope and Crystal reached consensus to continue the shared department.

The Crystal and New Hope City Council votes (June 19 and June 11, respectively) stemmed from seven months of uncertainty regarding the future of the West Metro-Fire Rescue District. The two city councils met in a series of seven joint, facilitated meetings following Crystal’s announcement in November 2011 of its intent to withdraw from the joint fire service operation. The dispute stemmed from a budget disagreement.

The councils agreed in November 2011 to pass identical resolutions reaffirming that the joint powers agreement would be maintained, subject to joint meetings to be held prior to June 1, 2012, to address the issues. At the beginning of the process, the councils agreed that if the issues were not resolved to the satisfaction of both councils by June 1, they would begin dissolution of the fire district by Aug. 1, 2012.

Frustrations reached a head during a June 6 joint meeting. Before that meeting even began, it was learned that Fire Chief Scott Crandall was on a 30-day medical leave. Minutes after the June 6 meeting was called to order, a visibly angry New Hope City Councilmember Dan Stauner moved for adjournment.

“I made the mistake of watching the Crystal City Council meeting [June 5], and I am quite upset,” Stauner said. “I can’t justify putting any more of my time on this.”

He referred to the Crystal City Council’s decision to postpone until June 19 its decision on whether to continue the joint fire district, as well as Crystal Councilmember Joe Selton’s comment about harassment by West Metro leadership of a firefighter who spoke at a May 17 open forum.

An hour-long parking lot discussion between Stauner and Crystal Mayor ReNae Bowman ended with what Stauner said June 7 was a tentative agreement between the two that the Crystal and New Hope city councils would consider a two-year extension of their pact for a joint fire department.

“We have some pretty solid areas of agreement,” Stauner said in a telephone interview June 7, four days before New Hope voted to continue the partnership. “There are lots of substantive issues that need to be addressed.”

Deputy Chief Sarah Larson was named interim chief after Crandall officially resigned later in the fall.

• A request to establish a domestic partnership registry in New Hope has was left standing at the altar Nov. 19.

The New Hope City Council briefly discussed the proposed domestic partnership registration ordinance during its Nov. 19 work session. The city’s Human Rights Commission first presented the ordinance in May. The council twice requested additional time for deliberation, once in August and once in September.

Domestic partners, as defined by the wording of the proposed ordinance, are any two adults not related by blood or marriage who are competent to enter into a contract, are jointly responsible for necessities of life, are committed to each other and do not have any other domestic partners.

“I think this should be left to state law,” Council Member Dan Stauner said. “Whatever you call it, it is a city-sanctioned form of marriage. I don’t believe cities should pass ordinances that do end-runs around state law.”

We take the definition of marriage, put it into our ordinance, then slap ‘domestic partnership’ in its place,” said Council Member Eric Lammle. “My intent in supporting a domestic partnership registry was that we support something where a couple that, regardless of orientation, wants to take advantage of certain benefits. A simple registry, not a redefinition.”

“This is not a place where the city should be involved in at all,” said Mayor Kathi Hemken. “Our job is to represent 100 percent of the people as best we can. By doing this I think we represent a portion of the citizens rather than all of them.”

Police Chief Tim Fournier, the staff liaison with the Human Rights Commission, said that the commission’s goal was to get the proposal in front of the council.

“They have accomplished one of their goals for 2012,” he said. “We have already talked about that. They know they have no control over the decisions.”

The council reached consensus to take no further action on the registry proposal.

“Our legislature and courts will resolve this satisfactorily,” Lammle said. “It may take a while.”

Had the proposed ordinance passed, couples would have been able to register at city hall, receiving an application and certificate in exchange for an unspecified fee. The partnership could terminate when one of the partners died or 45 days after one partner sent written notice to the other expressing a desire to terminate the partnership.