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county newsletter


HEALTHY EMPLOYEES mean tax dollar savings Page 3


PLAN ON IT dates for your diary Page 6


PUT YOUR MARK ON YOUR PARKS make a difference

spring/summer 2014

LEADING THE WAY be the best value in county government Page 26


WASTE DISPOSAL SIMPLIFIED expanded hours at The Recycling Zone Page 23

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PROGRAMS AND EVENTS spring - summer 2014


The Dakota County Board of Commissioners never forgets that the taxes that fund the work we do is your money. So it is no surprise that Dakota County once again cut spending and has the lowest tax rate among metro area counties. But low taxes are only a good thing if we still make the grade in providing services. This newsletter is our report card.

Contents Feature

Be the example Page 26

Tough choices to reduce staff and cut spending by millions during the recession made for an easier decision for the County Board to lower the property tax levy and save taxpayers money in 2014.


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A spring season filled with environmentallyfriendly activities, lively Library programs and an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors? You can plan on it.

Improvements to everything from our roads to our election equipment prove we’re paving the way to a successful future for Dakota County.

Whether collecting opinions and input on important Parks decisions or taking strides to keep children safe, we’re committed to creating great communities.

You won’t be a fish out of water when you try your hand at angling in one of our parks. More than 46 million Americans enjoy this popular pastime.

When your house sees old paint cans piling up and you find other unwanted hazardous waste that simply has to go, The Recycling Zone is the place to take it.

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In Brief Healthy is as healthy does DAKOTA COUNTY MANAGES HEALTH CARE COSTS

EAT WELL, EXERCISE AND DON’T SMOKE and health insurance could cost you less if you work for Dakota County. That’s because the County is providing a results-based monetary incentive for employees who make healthy lifestyle choices. Participation is completely voluntary. No one has to join, but why wouldn’t they? An extensive biometric screening that is offered measures blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, heart rate, body fat and tobacco use. Once employees spring/summer 2014 | |


In Brief | Managing health care costs

go through the screening, they have unlimited access to health advisors, web resources, worksite seminars and activities, recreational and athletic events, and more. Everything they need to live a healthier lifestyle. And then there’s the money. The program allows eligible employees to earn a reduction in their monthly health plan premiums. And the reductions are significant. But while the incentive is intended to encourage healthy choices by employees, the longterm goal is to save money on health care, and that means saving taxpayer dollars. Everyone starts with 100 points. Participants lose points based on controllable health factors. Test positive for nicotine? Lose points. Body fat near 40 percent? Lose more points. Fall into the highest or healthiest score range and an employee can cut $45 a month off of their premiums ($540 a year in savings). Employees earn this incentive by achieving a healthy body fat index, going tobaccofree, or managing their high blood pressure (through healthy living and/or medication) — in other words, by making healthy choices and getting results. The scores are based on standards provided by the National Institutes of Health. At the end of the 2013 biometric screening process, about 61 percent of the eligible Dakota County employees were participating in the program. Again, this is all about saving tax dollars. Our projected cost increase from 2010 to 2016 alone would have been $16 million dollars if

we made no changes. So in the last year, we became self-insured, began offering a wellness program, created higher-deductible plan options, and added single coverage premium contributions. As a result, we are now projected to save about $12 million dollars by 2016.

Managed health care ROI Unmanaged Costs $19 million spent in 2010 $35 million projected for 2016

$16 Million in spending (Projected)

Managed Costs $19 million spent in 2010 $23 million projected for 2016

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$12 Million in savings (Projected)

MNsure, for sure 10,000 Reasons to Use MNsure search MNsure

Finding health coverage in Minnesota just got easier. Back in October, Minnesota’s Department of Commerce launched MNsure, a state-run online health exchange that allows individuals, families and small businesses to find and purchase insurance plans all in one place. MNsure offers  1

Insurance plans that clearly indicate out-of-pocket costs and level of coverage offered.


A website where visitors know their eligibility for tax credits and medical or financial assistance.


Quality ratings for providers offering insurance on the exchange.

All counties play a role in determining eligibility for subsidized coverage through MNsure. But Dakota is the only county to receive a grant that allows our certified MNsure application counselors to partner with nonprofit organizations to help residents navigate the exchange and sign up for health care coverage, whether or not they qualify for any subsidy. The certified counselors also conduct helpful MNsure workshops at Dakota County Library branches. In 2014, businesses, families and individuals must have health insurance or pay a penalty under the Affordable Care Act.

In Brief | An easier commute

The Red Line From frustration to relaxation Icy windshields to scrape. Backed-up traffic to battle. Daily parking fees to pay. It’s all part of commuting in Minnesota. But you have a choice — you can ride transit. Every weekday, customers board the area’s Metro Transit buses and trains an average of 250,000 times. When the METRO Red Line launched June 22, 2013, Dakota County helped make the choice even easier for residents. The Red Line became the second transitway in the METRO system, bringing riders from as far south as Apple Valley to as far north as the Mall of America. At the mall, those people can link to the Blue Line, a light rail service that stretches to Target Field. Local connecting routes complete

this web of transit service, giving riders freedom from parking in crowded garages, coughing up cash for coveted spaces and paying high gas prices. But convenience is only the beginning. The METRO system, including the Red Line, also opens doors to transit-oriented development. As organizations build businesses and create job growth in Dakota County, there is a greater demand for our workforce. And yet again, the Red Line plays an important role. Dakota County residents have increased access to thousands of employment possibilities in cities surrounding the still-growing METRO system. There are about 15,000 people employed at the Mall of America alone, and another 8,000 jobs can be found near the remaining four stops along the Red Line route. Residents have already begun to embrace this new transit option. Ridership data from the first few months of the Ride Line’s existence shows an average of about 800 boardings every weekday in August, September and October, and about 950 boardings every weekend during the same months. It’s projected that the Cedar Avenue transitway will see 3,650 daily weekday riders by 2030. To monitor progress in the coming years, the Board of Commissioners made it a 2014 priority to devise a METRO Red Line Implementation Plan Update that will review ridership, assess needs and current conditions, and take a look at upcoming capital project priorities for the regional transitway. The first identified need was a route adjustment at the Cedar Grove Transit Station that would move the stop from an inconvenient location off of Highway 77

to a spot directly on the highway, shaving up to 8 minutes off of travel time for riders. A pedestrian skyway would ensure Red Line riders get safely from their vehicle in the existing parking lot to the bus they’re trying to board. The Dakota County Regional Railroad Authority approved the design concept earlier this year and is asking the Minnesota Legislature for $6 million in funding to make the concept a reality. It’s all part of ensuring Dakota County continues to be the best at the basics.

All aboard The METRO Red Line has seen steady usage since it launched on June 22. Here’s how the numbers stack up when you look at monthly boardings through October 2013. June (22–30): 8,436

July: 19,336

August: 22,047

September: 21,054

October: 22,240

spring/summer 2014 | |


In Brief | Dates for your diary


APRIL 29–JUNE 3 MASTER RECYCLER/ COMPOSTER Become a recycling leader at this six-week course on waste reduction, recycling, composting and solid waste. Held 6–9 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Galaxie Library, 14955 Galaxie Ave., Apple Valley, the class features hands-on demonstrations, presentations from local and regional experts, and field trips. Cost is $30 and includes field trip transportation. Visit, search Master Recycler.

• Saturday, May 3 9 a.m.–2 p.m., Lakeville Central Maintenance Facility, 7570 179th St. W. • Saturday, Sept. 6 9 a.m.–1 p.m., Farmington Maintenance Facility, 19650 Municipal Drive • Saturday, Sept. 27 9 a.m.–2 p.m., Burnsville Maintenance Facility, 13713 Frontier Court


APRIL–SEPT. HHW DROP-OFFS Safely dispose of your household hazardous waste and electronics for free at the following dropoff events: • Saturday, April 26 9 a.m.–1 p.m., Cal Ruedy Public Works Building, 1225 Progress Drive, Hastings

2014–2015 JUNE 8

Reduce congestion and commute efficiently by avoiding these construction projects.

TAKE A KID FISHING Catch some quality time with the kids. Bring a pole or borrow one of ours for hands-on practice tying knots, casting and baiting a hook. Come anytime noon–3 p.m. See Parks Programs & Events guide in this newsletter for more information.

County Road 5 Interchange at Highway 13, Burnsville Construction of the bridge, ramps, and loop, and work on Trunk Highway 13 is scheduled for 2014. Project completion expected summer 2015.

MAY SILVER TEA SERIES Free musical performances especially for folks age 55 and older. Visit www., search Silver Tea.

RHYTHM & WORDS Family music and book festival from 9 a.m.–1:30 p.m. at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center, 12600 Nicollet Ave. — free live music, performances, author appearances, hands-on workshops and fun for kids age 10 and younger. Visit www.dakotacounty. us/library, search Rhythm & Words.

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JUNE 9–AUG. 16 SUMMER READING PROGRAM Babies to teens entering grade 12 can sign up to read books and win prizes at the Dakota County Library’s Summer Reading Program. Visit library, search summer reading.

County Road 50 at County Road 60, Lakeville A multi-lane roundabout will be added. Construction scheduled spring 2014 to fall 2015.

County Road 9, Eureka Township County Road 9 (Dodd Boulevard) from Scott County Road 2 to just south of County Road 70. Paved shoulders will be added and turn lanes or bypass lanes at intersections. Construction is scheduled spring 2014 to fall 2015.

For details and updates, visit, search road construction.


Our Work Accuracy is the best policy


WITH MORE THAN 246,000 registered in 2013, Dakota County has the third largest number of voters out of Minnesota’s 87 counties. Voters head to the polls in 54 precincts to voice their preferences on ballots tailored with the election options specific to each of the 34 municipalities. After the election, when all the votes have been tallied, Dakota County, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State, is doing a good job making sure every vote is counted and reported correctly.

spring/summer 2014 | |


Our Work | Making your vote count

Post-election audits — a hand count of votes comparing paper ballots to Election Day voting machine totals — show the accuracy of the election results we have submitted for the past three major elections were 100 percent in 2010 and 2012 and 99.95 percent in 2008. The audit results are exactly what voters in Dakota County expect, but they’re results that are more difficult to maintain with each election. The 15-yearold equipment that tallies and reports the results is outdated and just can’t keep up with the demands of today’s elections. When it comes to counting your vote, the Dakota County Board of Commissioners knows

there’s no room for errors. That’s why they made it a priority to replace the aging election equipment with up-to-date equipment that will be reliable into the future. The new equipment will have the latest software and use digital technology to help ensure the election results submitted to the State are precise each and every time. A larger screen will display more information that will let you know immediately if you’ve over-voted or if your vote is not legible in any of the election contests. You’ll then have the opportunity to review or change your vote if you wish before it’s tallied. These and other features of the new equipment will also make voting

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easier for people with disabilities. Election equipment is very specialized and not many companies manufacture it — making it very expensive. To help keep costs down for taxpayers, Dakota County applied for and received federal and state grants and will partner with neighboring counties to form a larger buying pool that will save money through a cooperative purchasing agreement. Before it can be used in Dakota County, the new equipment will pass through both federal and state certifications. The new equipment is scheduled to be ready for the 2016 presidential election.

Post-election audit accuracy

99+1+P 100+P 100+P 2008






Our Work | A step ahead in electronic land transfers

Percent of CRVs filed electronically Certificate of Real Estate Value (CRV)

First one on the bandwagon











Revolutionizing real estate transactions Being efficient saves tax dollars and we’re finding more ways to do just that — like revolutionizing real estate transactions. Each year, Dakota County records an average of more than 6,500 real estate transactions requiring a Certificate of Real Estate Value (CRV) — a form required by law for property transfers valued at more than $1,000. So when the state paved the way for electronic recording of land records in 2008, Dakota County jumped at the chance to partner with the Minnesota Department of Revenue, Hennepin County and real estate title companies to develop an electronic filing process. In 2009, Dakota County became

the first county in the state to begin accepting electronic CRVs, and we haven’t looked back. Being the pilot county for the project means that Dakota County is a step ahead in delivering the big benefits that electronic CRV filing will bring — less complicated forms, a secure and convenient online filing process, automatic form checking (for completeness) upon submission, increased accuracy, simplified form tracking and transaction research, and less staff resources devoted to this service. And that saves money. Data from electronic CRVs will be used by counties and by the State of Minnesota to establish and equalize

property assessments across the state, and it can also be used by public and private agencies, tax courts, private appraisers, real estate investors, and taxpayers to get information on real estate and real estate transactions. Once the Minnesota Department of Revenue automates the “back-end” systems and develops the workflow necessary to make the inter-agency process fully electronic (both of which are currently in process), the once complex and labor intensive manual process will become more efficient, more convenient and more cost effective — a big payoff for taxpayers.

spring/summer 2014 | |


Our Work | We get you there

On the road again

Pass the salt 36 percent cut in salt use on winter roads since 2007-08

Maintaining high pavement quality Dakota County has high standards for the highway system — adopting the goal of keeping at least 95 percent of county roads in “good” or “fair” condition, according to the Pavement Quality Index. The Pavement Quality Index is assessed every two years by using specially equipped vans that test the pavement for cracks, ruts and potholes. In 2012, 97.9 percent of county roads were considered “fair” or better. In addition to this testing, roads are evaluated yearly for resurfacing. Budget, roadway condition and strength, condition of the utilities under the roadway, type of

pavement distress and traffic are considered in selecting roadway segments to resurface. Pavement quality dropped in 2012 because the quality is cyclical. It takes time for pavement to deteriorate before it is scheduled to be repaved. Repaving “good” pavement just for the sake of keeping it “good” is not cost effective. This is why percentages fluctuate on a yearly basis. In 2013, we completed more than $3.7 million in pavement preservation projects to maintain the County’s goal.

Pavement quality index








Tons of road salt used per snow event

100 92

% of Total Lane Miles

84 76


Dakota County continues to reduce the amount of road salt used to make winter roads safe for residents. A combination of products to increase the efficiency of road salt, advanced application and snow plowing techniques, and mild late season snow events resulted in a salt usage drop to 268 tons per snow event in 2012-13. Reducing the amount of road salt used during each snow event allows us to maintain the same amount of salt bought each year. Even with the County highway system growing with additional lanes, new alignments and more turn lanes, we’ve kept salt purchases at 13,000 tons since 2009 and held our annual budget to just more than $750,000.

85 73

72 65

2007-08 420




21 3 2 2 1 2 >1 2 Poor Range (0.0 to 2.1)


2009-10 355 2010-11 311

33 25 15

15 6

Fair Range (2.2 to 2.9)

PQI Rating

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Good Range (3.0 to 4.0)

2008-09 405

2011-12 303 2012-13 268




Put your mark on your parks


ALMOST A HALF CENTURY AGO, Dakota County purchased 82.3 acres of undeveloped land in Eagan that would eventually become the nearly 2,000-acre Lebanon Hills Regional Park, the first in the Dakota County park system. Today, three regional parks, two park reserves, a County park, a dog park, and three regional trails serve more than 400,000 Dakota County residents and tens of thousands of others in the Twin Cities metro area. In recent years, annual visitation reached more than 1 million spring/summer 2014 | |


Community | Get involved in your parks

share your thoughts on what you want from your parks by attending open houses, participating in surveys, and submitting online and inperson feedback. The Dakota County Parks system offers 5,200 acres of flexible landscapes that can be adapted to a variety of different uses — fishing, riding a bike, paddling a canoe, walking a dog and snowshoeing — and it can be done in such a way to serve everyone in our communities. It’s up to you to get involved in the future of your parks.


Three Rivers

2012 Metro County Park Visits







In Millions

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How to get involved Sign up for the Parks' e-newsletter by clicking on E-News.

Attend open houses. Open houses are open to the public and promoted on the County website, in local newspapers, in the Parks' e-newsletter, and on Facebook. Information about the current project is offered at the open house and staff are available to answer questions and take your input.

Take surveys. Project specific surveys are conducted periodically depending on the size of the project. Surveys are advertised on the County website and in the Parks' e-newsletter. Scientific sample surveys are also conducted on some projects by telephone or other random sample methods. In addition, a Residential Survey is conducted bi-annually to gather views on a variety of topics, including parks. The survey is mailed to random households in Dakota County, and those residents are asked to complete the survey and return it.

Provide feedback. Residents and stakeholders Ramsey



system-wide — a sure sign we’re on the right path to offering people attractive and inviting places to experience the outdoors. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve got a long way to go. According to a report released last year by the Metropolitan Council, Dakota County has 13 percent of the Twin Cities population, but only 5 percent of its regional park visits. That means, we’re not drawing Twin Cities area residents to use our parks, and our residents are going elsewhere to recreate. Fewer people in our parks may seem like a good thing to those who love going to the park and not seeing anyone else all afternoon, but the relatively low attendance (compared to Anoka, Ramsey, Hennepin and Washington counties) means our parks are serving only a fraction of those whose tax dollars support them. It is part of the Dakota County Parks mission to meet the outdoor and recreational needs of as many people as possible. As decisions are made about the improvement of our parks, diverse public input is crucial. The Dakota County Board of Commissioners wants to hear from those families who love to picnic, mountain bikers looking for the next wild ride, bird-watchers, casual strollers, runners, campers, boaters, skiers and more. You can

can have their say on park projects by providing feedback in written letters or emails sent to the Parks or Planning departments or to their County Commissioner. Feedback is also collected by talking to staff at open houses or by filling out a comment card.

Answer the call. Periodically, residents are randomly invited to participate in focus group discussions about a particular park project or on an array of park endeavors before they’re launched. Stakeholders with an individual interest or expertise on a specific topic or who have a stake in the overall project are, at times, asked to provide input on the project.

Community | Getting residents back to work

How we compare Diversionary Work Program percent of cases closed in four months State vs. Dakota County

Apr. 2011

All in a day's work

60% vs 77%

Aug. 2011

62% vs 93%

Dakota County sets the stage for success Dakota County knows the best way to get residents off of public assistance is to help them get the education and training they need to find jobs that can make them independent. Expecting, supporting and rewarding work are what the Diversionary Work Program and the Minnesota Family Investment Program are all about. Both programs help low-income families with children find the work they need to get back on their feet. They each provide cash and food assistance as well as employment services. When families need assistance, they may first enter the Diversionary Work Program, a 4-month program that provides services designed to get them back to work as soon as possible. All adults in the family are considered job seekers (with a few exceptions) and must work with a job counselor to develop and sign an employment plan before they can receive benefits.

In April 2012, the last published measures of the Diversionary Work Program, the state average for cases closed before advancing to the Minnesota Family Investment Program was 62 percent. Dakota County closed 90 percent of its cases and has exceeded state averages for getting people back to work through the work program every month since February 2006. If the family doesn’t become self-sufficient during the 4-month Diversionary Work Program, they may qualify for the Minnesota Family Investment Program in which families continue to receive cash and food assistance for up to 60 months. The state requires that at least 50 percent of families in the investment program are working or in work or training-related activities. Dakota County had a participation rate of 64.9 percent in September 2013 — the highest rate among metro counties.

Dec. 2011

62% vs 74%

Apr. 2012

62% vs 90%

MFIP participation rate Metro vs. Dakota County

Jan. 2013

48% vs 53%

Apr. 2013

54% vs 59%

Jun. 2013

53% vs 64%

Sep. 2013

52% vs 65%

spring/summer 2014 | |


Community | A matter of life or death

Feel free search Sleep On It

Every time you lay an infant down to sleep, make sure: The crib is free of loose sheets, blankets and pillows.

Sleep on it

One simple decision can mean the difference between an afternoon nap and the loss of a life When three infants died in just more than a year after being placed in unsafe sleeping positions in licensed Dakota County child care homes, we knew we had to do something. What we did was launch Sleep On It, a campaign to save babies’ lives. Hundreds of providers voluntarily attended optional training sessions centered on preventing infant deaths. Continued interest means Dakota County will provide more opportunities for this training in the future, educating providers on the best ways to put infants to sleep and the consequences when a child dies as a result of unsafe sleep practices. Since Sleep On It launched in April 2013, the entire state has taken notice.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner visited one of our licensed child care homes last fall to commend us for proactively working to prevent infant deaths, and the governor showed support by declaring an Infant Safe Sleep Week in Minnesota. Sleep On It has also affected more than 20 other counties across the state that have started utilizing the campaign materials in their own communities. Still, the success of Sleep On It is most evident not by its widespread reach, but by the statistics themselves. Since the campaign launched, there have been no infant deaths reported at licensed Dakota County child care homes.

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The crib is free of toys and stuffed animals.

The infant is positioned face up, so they’re free to breathe.



find us on facebook









BOOK CLUB It’s one of America’s most popular and laid-back outdoor sports search fishing

According to a report published in 2013 by the Outdoor Foundation, more people fish in the U.S. than bike, camp or hike — a whopping 46 million Americans age 6 and older. There are lots of reasons to fish. There’s no pressure, no deadlines and no stress. If you’re looking for a good cardio workout or a way to build muscles, fishing isn’t it. But your fishing trip probably will include lots of fresh air and sunshine, some walking, and exercising the upper arm, shoulder and back with every cast — still very respectable physical health benefits. Fishing also offers great mental health benefits. Depending on the type of fishing and whether or not you're competing, fishing requires relatively little effort — attach the bait to a hook, cast it into the water and wait. Invite a friend or two and your trip becomes a fun and relaxing hobby — and therapy session — to share.

Fishing has a pretty good rep as a relaxing pastime, but it’s a lot more than that. A 2009 study conducted by the University of Southern Maine, the University of Utah and the Salt Lake City VA found fishing provided significant improvement in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder symptoms and sleep quality for veterans — a benefit that might be valuable for many others as well. And let’s not forget, fishing is also great for families. Kids, moms, dads, grandparents and friends will learn to unwind and value their time away from computer screens, video games and hectic calendars. This newfound time away can bring much needed balance to a child’s development by stimulating their imagination and sharpening their senses, paving the way to an appreciation and respect for wildlife and all the great outdoors has to offer.

Learning to fish is easy and doesn’t have to be costly. Dakota County Parks offers fishing programs to help adults and kids learn the basics and the use of all the fishing equipment you need for free at the Lebanon Hills Visitor Center and at the Lake Byllesby and Lebanon Hills campgrounds during the summer months. And you don’t need an expensive boat. You can fish for free from the piers at Holland and McDonough lakes in Lebanon Hills Regional Park and at Thompson Lake in Thompson County Park, or from the shore at Lake Byllesby in Lake Byllesby Regional Park. All you need is a Minnesota fishing license — unless, of course, you’re a kid.

Take A Kid Fishing Weekend Fish for free in Minnesota June 6–8, 2014 Take the kids fishing for free — no Minnesota fishing license needed — during Take A Kid Fishing Weekend. Anglers 16 years and older can fish for free when accompanying an angler 15 years old or younger. Fish for the day or make a weekend of it.


Where to catch fish in Dakota County Parks

How to take a kid fishing PLAN AHEAD. Let your kids help plan the trip and pack supplies. CATCH YOUR BAIT. Buy minnows or night crawlers or let the kids dig for worms or use pieces of hot dogs or corn kernels. USE SIMPLE TACKLE. Buy a good, ultra-light rod and reel with a spool of 2–4-pound test line and small hooks (size 10 or smaller). DRESS RIGHT. Be prepared to go from shorts to a wind-breaker or rain jacket and back again. Wear sunglasses and a hat for sun protection. BRING THE BASICS. Pack snacks like pretzels, fruit, sandwiches and water; bug-spray; sunscreen; towelettes; and a small first aid kit. PREPARE FOR NATURE’S CALL. Know where the nearest restroom or outdoor toilet is.

ss Ba ite Wh ye lle Wa ut Tro sh nfi Su ss Ba th ou e em Pik rg n La her rt fish t No a lC ne pie p Cra an


Lake Byllesby

Lake Byllesby Regional Park, Cannon Falls

Holland Lake

Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Eagan

Schulze Lake

Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Eagan

McDonough Lake

Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Eagan

Thompson Lake

Thompson County Park, West St. Paul

Trout Brook & Cannon River

Miesville Ravine Park Reserve, Miesville

MAKE IT FUN. Allow time and give permission for wading in the water, skipping stones or catching frogs, so they’ll want to go “fishing" again. BE SAFE. Remind kids to check behind them before casting, how to properly bait a hook and about safety rules around water. MAKE MEMORIES. Most kids are satisfied catching lots of smaller fish rather than fewer, bigger fish. Target areas with a high likelihood of success. Take pictures!


click Programs & Events

North Urban Regional Trail Thompson County Park LILYDALE

BigRivers RiversRegional RegionalTrail Trail Big







Lebanon Hills Regional Park 13










Spring Lake Park Reserve








Mississippi River Regional Trail














Dakota Woods Dog Park














Miesville Ravine Park Reserve


Whitetail Woods Regional Park



— Opening Summer 2014 —


















Archery Biking Boating Camping Canoeing/Kayaking Cross-country skiing Dog on-leash




Lake Byllesby Regional Park



Dogsledding Fishing Gardening Geocaching Hiking Horseback riding Horseshoes

Ice skating Kicksledding Model airplane flying Mountain biking Picnicking Play area Recreational bonfire

Rollerblading Ski skating Sledding Snowshoeing Swimming

Call 952-891-7000 Monday through Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

PADDLING PROGRAMS SEA KAYAKING Learn the basics of sea kayaking, including strokes, wet exits and rescues. Ages: 16 and older. Fee: $50/person. Schulze Lake Beach Lebanon Hills Regional Park Sat, June 21; 8–11 am Course Number: 4927 Thu, June 26; 6–9 pm Course Number: 4929 Thu, July 24; 6–9 pm Course Number: 4930 PARENT CHILD KAYAK Spend an evening with your child learning the basics of kayaking and having fun with games and activities on the water. Ages: 5 and older. Fee: $10/person. Schulze Lake Beach Lebanon Hills Regional Park Tue, June 24; 6–8 pm Course Number: 4918 Tue, July 22; 6–8 pm Course Number: 4919 Tue, Aug. 19; 6–8 pm Course Number: 4920 PARENT CHILD CANOE Enjoy one-on-one time with your child in a canoe. Learn paddling techniques and practice your skills with fun games and activities on the water. Ages: 5 and older. Fee: $10/person. Schulze Lake Beach Lebanon Hills Regional Park Tue, July 8; 6–8 pm Course Number: 4915 Tue, Aug. 5; 6–8 pm Course Number: 4916 SEA KAYAKING FOR WOMEN Master the basics of sea kayaking, including paddling techniques, wet exits and rescues. Ages: 16 and older. Fee: $50/person. Schulze Lake Beach Lebanon Hills Regional Park Sat, July 19; 8–11 am Course Number: 4928

ADULT PROGRAMS YOGA FOR BEGINNERS Join an all-level class that focuses on breathing in each pose and listening to your body. Ages: 10 and older. Fee: $48/session (6 classes per session). Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Wed, April 2–May 7; 6:30– 7:30 pm Course Number: 4939 Wed, June 25–July 30; 6:30– 7:30 pm Course Number: 4941 FLY FISHING WORKSHOP Get an in-depth introduction to fly fishing, including casting techniques and fly tying from the Fly Fishing Women of Minnesota. Ages: 16 and older. Fee: $30/person. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Tue, April 8 & 15; 6–8 pm Course Number: 4888 BACKYARD AGRICULTURE: BEEKEEPING Learn the basics of beekeeping including behavior, apiary site characteristics, essential equipment, and time and cost considerations. Presented by JoAnne Sabin, beekeeper and member of the Minnesota Hobby Beekeepers Association. Ages: 16 and older. Fee: $10/person. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Fri, April 11; 7–9 pm Course Number: 4959 INTRODUCTION TO FLY FISHING FOR WOMEN Get a hands-on introduction to the sport of fly fishing with the Fly Fishing Women of Minnesota. Ages: 16 and older. Fee: $15/person. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Sat, May 10; 10 am–noon Course Number: 4889 YOGA FOR INTERMEDIATES Take the next step and focus on correct alignment and strength in this intermediate class. Ages: 10 and older. Fee: $48/session (6 classes per session). Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Wed, May 14–June 18; 6:30–7:45 pm Course Number: 4940 Wed, Aug. 6–Sept. 10; 6:30–7:45 pm Course Number: 4942

FOREVER WILD BOOK CLUB Read and discuss great books that provide a deeper understanding of nature. Book not provided. Ages: 16 and older. Fee: Free; registration requested. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard Discuss this collection of essays on author Annie Dillard's year of exploration in the Roanoke Valley. Thu, May 15; 6:30–8 pm Course Number: 4952 Summer World: A Season of Bounty by Bernd Heinrich Learn about and discuss the amazing ways that animals survive and thrive the extremes of summer. Thu, July 17; 6:30–8 pm Course Number: 4953 Lost in the Wild: Danger and Survival in the North Woods by Cary Griffith Explore the riveting survival stories of two hikers lost in the Minnesota and Ontario wilderness. Thu, Sept. 18; 6:30–8 pm Course Number: 4954 WILD FOOD FORAGING Learn how to identify and gather in-season wild edibles and enjoy a cooking demonstration with a chef from Valley Natural Foods. Ages: 16 and older. Fee: $15/person. Schaar's Bluff Gathering Center Spring Lake Park Reserve Sat, May 17; 1–5 pm Course Number: 4960 Sat, Sept. 6; 1–5 pm Course Number: 4961 BEGINNER ARCHERY Learn proper shooting technique and range safety and hone your new skills with field target practice. Ages: 16 and older. Fee: $15/person. Archery Trail Shelter Lower Spring Lake Park Reserve Sat, June 14; 10 am–noon Course Number: 4839 Sat, Aug. 16; 2–4 pm Course Number: 4840 FULL MOON HIKE FOR ADULTS Take a guided moonlit hike through the woods and hear fascinating lunar myths and legends. Ages: 16 and older. Fee: $8/person. Holland Lake Shelter Lebanon Hills Regional Park Sat, July 12; 8–10 pm Course Number: 4951


BEGINNER ARCHERY FOR WOMEN Learn proper shooting technique and range safety and sharpen your new skills with field target practice. Ages: 16 and older. Fee: $15/person. Archery Trail Shelter Lower Spring Lake Park Reserve Sun, July 13; 2–4 pm Course Number: 4841 SUNSET HIKE FOR ADULTS Join us on a guided hike around Jensen Lake at one of the best times of day. Learn about and search for signs of animals that come out at dusk and relax around the campfire. Ages: 16 and older. Fee: $8/person. Jensen Lake Shelter Lebanon Hills Regional Park Sat, Aug. 2; 7–9 pm Course Number: 4963 MOUNTAIN BIKE WORKSHOP FOR WOMEN Learn mountain biking skills for women, by women from Valley Bike and Ski. Topics include bike handling skills, equipment, safety, trails and more. For all skill levels. Limited number of demo bikes available for use. Ages: 14 and older. Fee: $30/person. West Trailhead Shelter Lebanon Hills Regional Park Fri & Sat, Aug. 15 & 16; 6–8 pm & 9 am–noon Course Number: 4910

PROGRAMS FOR FAMILIES FOREVER WILD FAMILY FRIDAY Join us for family fun on the first Friday of every month. Ages: All ages. Fee: Free; registration requested. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Russian Spring Festival with Russian Soul Enjoy a lively performance of Russian folk songs and dances celebrating spring with the ensemble Russian Soul. Fri, April 4; 7–8:30 pm Course Number: 4890 Treasure Hunt Find treasures hidden in the park using GPS units. Bring your own unit or borrow one of ours. Limited number available. Fri, May 2; 7–8:30 pm Course Number: 4891


40 Shades of Green Band Tap your toes to the Irish tunes of 40 Shades of Green in our outdoor amphitheater. Fri, June 6; 7–8:30 pm Course Number: 4892 Picnic in the Park Bring a blanket and a picnic dinner and play backyard lawn games and fun Fourth of July activities. Fri, July 4; 7–8:30 pm Course Number: 4893 Storytelling with Roy Edward Power Enjoy stories around the campfire with the whole family and Roy Edward Power. Fri, Aug. 1; 7–8:30 pm Course Number: 4894 Ketzal, Aztec and Nahuatl Dance and Culture Join us for this dazzling display of drums, costumes and dances from Aztec culture. Fri, Sept. 5; 7–8:30 pm Course Number: 4895 MINNESOTA STARWATCH WITH MIKE LYNCH See the constellations through large telescopes and learn the mythical legends of the night skies with Mike Lynch of WCCO Radio. Ages: 5 and older. Fee: $8/person. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Sat, April 12; 8–10 pm Course Number: 4943 WASTE TO WONDER Meet sculptor and artist Christopher Lutter-Gardella who will help you create your own mask from household "waste." A Minnesota Legacy program. Ages: All ages. Fee: Free; registration requested. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Sat, April 26; 2–4 pm Course Number: 4966 STORYWALK® Take a self-guided walk in the park and read from picture book pages displayed along the trail. A Minnesota Legacy program. Ages: All ages. Fee: Free. Visitor Center Trailhead Lebanon Hills Regional Park Thu–Sun, May 29–June 1; 8 am–8 pm click Programs & Events FIND MINNESOTA'S HIDDEN ALPHABET Bring your family on an exploritory hunt through the woods in search of ABCs with Minnesota's Hidden Alphabet author David LaRochelle and photographer Joe Rossi. Hear the stories of what inspired the book. Bring your camera. A Minnesota Legacy program. Ages: All ages. Fee: Free; registration requested. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Sat, May 31; 10 am–noon Course Number: 4958 PARENT CHILD ARCHERY Learn proper shooting technique and range safety through fun games and activities in this introductory program for parents and kids. Ages: 10 and older. Fee: $10/person. Archery Trail Shelter Lower Spring Lake Park Reserve Sat, June 7; 2–4 pm Course Number: 4911 Sun, July 20; 2–4 pm Course Number: 4912 Sat, Aug. 23; 2–4 pm Course Number: 4957 SUNSET HIKE FOR FAMILIES Bring the whole family on a guided hike at one of the best times of day. Learn about and search for signs of animals that come out at dusk and relax around the campfire. Ages: 5 and older. Fee: $8/person. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Sat, June 7; 7:30–9 pm Course Number: 4962 PARENT CHILD FISHING What better way to spend time together. Learn about Minnesota fish, how to cast, and practice catch and release fishing from the pier. Ages: 5 and older. Fee: $10/person. Holland Lake Shelter Lebanon Hills Regional Park Sat, June 28; 2–4 pm Course Number: 4913 Sat, July 26; 2–4 pm Course Number: 4914 FULL MOON HIKE FOR FAMILIES Bring the kids to explore the park by moonlight and hear lunar stories and folklore on this guided hike for families. Ages: 5 and older. Fee: $8/person. Holland Lake Shelter Lebanon Hills Regional Park Sat, Sept. 6; 6:30–8 pm Course Number: 4950

PROGRAMS FOR YOUTH KNEE–HIGH NATURALISTS Discover nature with a child through hands-on activities, outdoor exploration, art projects and storytime. Ages: 3–6. Fee: $8 /youth; adults free. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Leap Frog Fun Discover songs about Minnesota frogs and learn about frog life cycles. Make a “toad abode” to take home. Thu, April 10; 10–11:30 am Course Number: 4896 Sat, April 12; 10–11:30 am Course Number: 4897 Wildflowers and Pollinators Learn about wildflowers and pollinators through playacting, watercolor painting and exploring the park. Thu, May 8; 10–11:30 am Course Number: 4898 Sat, May 17; 10–11:30 am Course Number: 4899 Castles and Dragonflies Dress up as a dragonfly, go on a dragonfly hunt and explore the world of these amazing creatures. Make a dragonfly to take home. Thu, June 12; 10–11:30 am Course Number: 4900 Sat, June 28; 10–11:30 am Course Number: 4901 Fabulous Fish Learn about Minnesota fish and their habitats and make your own fish prints to take home. Thu, July 10; 10–11:30 am Course Number: 4902 Sat, July 26; 10–11:30 am Course Number: 4903 Busy Bees Learn about bees through playacting, dance and exploring the park. Thu, Aug. 7; 10–11:30 am Course Number: 4904 Sat, Aug. 23; 10–11:30 am Course Number: 4905 Nature's Produce Find out what's in season at nature's grocery store. Learn about types of seeds and make your own apple stamp art. Thu, Sept. 11; 10–11:30 am Course Number: 4906 Sat, Sept. 27; 10–11:30 am Course Number: 4907

HOMESCHOOL LAB Use the park as your lab for hands-on study and scientific experimentation. Ages: 6–12. Fee: $8/youth. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Science of Phenology Learn what phenology is, search for phenological events in the park, and create your own journal to record seasonal observations. Wed, April 2; 1–3 pm Course Number: 4944 Science of Snakes Learn the characteristics of and how to identify common Minnesota snakes. Explore the park on foot to look for snakes and their habitat. Wed, May 7; 1–3 pm Course Number: 4945 Science of Wetlands Discover the importance of wetlands through exploration of aquatic invertebrates, water quality and watershed movement. Wed, June 4; 1–3 pm Course Number: 4946 HOMESCHOOL RECREATION Learn and practice new recreation skills. Ages: 6–12. Fee: $8/youth. Wilderness Survival Discover how to survive in the wild by constructing a make-shift shelter, building a fire, tying knots and more. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Wed, July 2; 1–3 pm Course Number: 4947 Geocaching Learn how to use a GPS unit to find hidden treasures in the park. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Wed, Aug. 6; 1–3 pm Course Number: 4948 Archery Learn proper technique and range safety and spend time with field target practice at this archery basics course. Camp Sacajawea Retreat Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Wed, Sept. 3; 1–3 pm Course Number: 4949

Call 952-891-7000 Monday through Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

SCOUT BADGES Earn your scout badges in these twohour programs. Fee: $8/youth. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Tiger Cubs – Let's Go Outdoors Earn your achievement by observing the weather, making leaf rubbings and exploring the park on a fun nature hike. Ages: 6–7. Sat, April 5; 2–4 pm Course Number: 4921 Wolf Cubs – Birds Learn how to identify birds in the field while earning your elective. Ages: 7–8. Sun, April 6; 2–4 pm Course Number: 4922 Daisies – Rosie Petal Explore ways to make the park and your world a better place while earning your petal. Ages: 5–6. Sat, April 12; 2–4 pm Course Number: 4923 Bear Cubs – Sharing Your World with Wildlife Earn your achievement by learning about Minnesota plants and animals and their habitats, and taking a hike in the park to observe wildlife. Ages: 8–10. Sat, May 3; 2–4 pm Course Number: 4924 Brownies – Bugs Explore the world of bugs and their habitats and earn your Bugs badge. Ages: 6–9. Sat, May 10; 2–4 pm Course Number: 4925 Webelos – Naturalist Explore the park with a naturalist and discover how to identify animals and make observations as well as learn how humans and animals interact while earning your badge. Ages: 9–11. Sat, Sept. 6; 2–4 pm Course Number: 4926 Junior Girl Scouts – Animal Habitats Learn about wildlife and their habitats and explore the park with a naturalist while earning your badge. Ages: 8–11. Sat, Sept. 13; 2–4 pm Course Number: 4955

CAMPS FOR KIDS Fish Camp Learn about Minnesota fish with hands-on games and activities and spend your afternoons learning to cast and catch and release. Ages: 8–12. Fee: $75/youth. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Wed–Fri, June 18–20; 9 am–3 pm Course Number: 4885 Mountain Bike Camp Grab your bike and helmet and come to learn bike handling skills, bike and trail maintenance and more from experts at Valley Bike and Ski, Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists and ISD 196. No mountain bike experience required. Limited rental bikes available. Ages: 10–15. Fee: $90/youth. West Trailhead Shelter Lebanon Hills Regional Park Mon–Fri, July 14–18; 9 am–noon Course Number: 4908 Mon–Fri, Aug. 11–15; 9 am–noon Course Number: 4956 Mountain Bike Camp for Girls Learn bike handling skills, bike and trail maintenance and more from experts at Valley Bike and Ski, Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists and ISD 196. No mountain bike experience required. Limited rental bikes available. Ages: 10–15. Fee: $90/youth. West Trailhead Shelter Lebanon Hills Regional Park Mon–Fri, July 14–18; 9 am–noon Course Number: 4909 Archery Camp Learn proper technique and range safety through fun activities and practice target shooting at this unique field archery trail. Ages: 8–12. Fee: $75/youth. Archery Trail Shelter Lower Spring Lake Park Reserve Wed–Fri, July 16–18; 9 am–3 pm Course Number: 4964 Wilderness Survival Camp Discover how to survive in the woods by constructing survival shelters, building fires, and learning how to tie knots and find your way. Ages: 8–12. Fee: $75/youth. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Wed–Fri, Aug. 13–15; 9 am–3 pm Course Number: 4965

WILDERNESS DAY CAMPS Spend a day learning new skills and exploring nature. Ages: 8–12. Fee: $30/youth. Backwoods Recreation Learn the basics of archery and how to find your way through the woods using a GPS unit. Camp Sacajawea Retreat Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Mon, June 23; 9 am–3 pm Course Number: 4936 Wild Water Spend a day on the water examining aquatic life and pond ecology and learning how to paddle a canoe. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Mon, July 21; 9 am–3 pm Course Number: 4937 Lost in the Woods Learn survival skills including orienteering, constructing survival shelters and building fires. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Mon, Aug. 18; 9 am–3 pm Course Number: 4938

EVENTS EARTH DAY FUN FEST Earth Day means doing something to help keep our planet healthy. Make your something our annual park clean-up. Compete for weirdest found item; get resources for green living; take a Storywalk through the park; and enjoy an afternoon of food, fun and live music. Ages: All ages. Fee: Free; registration requested. Visitor Center Lebanon Hills Regional Park Sun, April 27; noon–4 pm Course Number: 4883 TAKE A KID FISHING Catch some quality time with a child in your life. Bring your pole or borrow one of ours. Visit our hands-on fishing stations to practice knot tying, casting, baiting a hook and more. Ages: All ages. Fee: Free; registration requested. Dakota Lodge Thompson County Park Sun, June 8; noon–3 pm Course Number: 4934


SPRING LAKE PARK RESERVE MUSIC FESTIVAL Enjoy beautiful views from atop the Mississippi River bluffs and live music from local community bands. Ages: All ages. Fee: Free; registration requested. Schaar's Bluff Gathering Center Spring Lake Park Reserve Sun, Aug. 17; 5–8 pm Course Number: 4931

INFORMATION REGISTRATION Not required for free programs unless noted. Satisfaction is guaranteed. PAYMENT Payment is due at registration. All major credit cards are accepted. IF WE NEED TO CANCEL Cancellations posted at IF YOU NEED TO CANCEL Refund policy posted at, click Programs & Events. SCHOLARSHIPS Call 952-891-7000. ACCESSIBILITY At least three weeks before the program, tell us what accommodation would make the program accessible to you or your family. EQUIPMENT Provided unless specified.


Rent canoes, kayaks and paddleboards at the Lebanon Hills Visitor Center. search equipment rental

find us on facebook

Wild Birthday Parties Celebrate your child’s big day in the wild. click children’s birthday parties


Go Green Hazardous waste is not to be wasted


YOU’RE FACED WITH SPRING CLEANING, and that means going through everything from long untouched cupboards to junk-filled corners of the garage. A new start is nice, but you’re left with an old dilemma: It’s Friday afternoon, and you’ve created a pile the size of a small country out of outdated cleaning products, pesticides, propane tanks, paint, electronics and more, and you don’t know what to do with them. You’ve probably been here before, but this is a problem you can now say spring/summer 2014 | |


Go Green | Simplifying hazardous waste disposal

goodbye to for good. It’s important to get rid of household hazardous waste without adversely affecting the environment, so Dakota County has made it even easier for you. The Recycling Zone recently expanded its hours of hazardous waste drop-off to better fit your schedule. That means every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday — with the exception of holidays — you can get harmful products out of your home at no cost. As the spring season encourages you to get rid of the old, we encourage you to do away with the dangerous. Look closely at hazardous products lying around. Those labeled “flammable,” “combustible” or “corrosive” are examples of things that need to be carefully controlled. Hazardous waste threatens your health and the environment if not properly discarded. It includes everything from antifreeze to aerosol cans and flammable liquids to fluorescent light bulbs. The Environmental Protection Agency reports Americans generate about 1.6 million tons of household hazardous waste every year. To ensure that waste doesn’t end up in landfills, Dakota County makes every effort to ease your burden and make disposal a breeze. That’s where expanded hours come into play. In 2013, more than 3.8 million pounds of household hazardous waste and electronics were collected at The Recycling Zone, but extra hours allow us to collect even more in 2014. Remember, The Recycling Zone is a year-round option where you can wipe your hands clean of chemicals, mercury thermometers, motor oil and

more. Those wobbly stacks of decadeold paint cans taking up your valuable storage space can not only be disposed of for free, but possibly put to good use by somebody looking for just the right color to brighten their bedroom. Paint is the second most common waste (after electronics) brought to The Recycling Zone, and any of it that’s still usable is given away free. So not only will you be able to purge your house of outdated paint, you may find something to help you update the look of your living room without spending a single cent. Talk about putting a positive spin on spring cleaning.

New hours search Recycling Zone

The Recycling Zone, 3365 Dodd Road, Eagan, has expanded household hazardous waste dropoff hours. With the exception of holidays, residents can now get hazardous materials off of their hands at the following times: • Wednesdays, 9 a.m.–8 p.m. • Thursdays, Noon–8 p.m. • Fridays, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. • Saturdays, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Small household electronics, assorted paper, scrap metal, mixed plastics and cartons, and many more recyclable items can also be dropped off for free during these hours.

24 | | spring/summer 2014

Ditch your hazardous waste Dakota County organized several one-day collection events last year to give residents more local disposal options for their household hazardous waste and electronics. Nearly 4,400 people drove to Burnsville, Farmington, Hastings and Lakeville to get rid of items. In addition to the almost 200,000 pounds of household hazardous waste that residents dropped off, they also recycled more than 289,000 pounds of electronics. Don’t worry if you missed the drop-offs last year. More are planned in the coming months: • Saturday, April 26 9 a.m.–1 p.m. at the Cal Ruedy Public Works Building, 1225 Progress Drive, Hastings • Saturday, May 3 9 a.m.–2 p.m. at the Lakeville Central Maintenance Facility, 7570 179th St. W., Lakeville • Saturday, Sept. 6 9 a.m.–1 p.m. at the Farmington Maintenance Facility, 19650 Municipal Drive, Farmington • Saturday, Sept. 27 9 a.m.–2 p.m. at the Burnsville Maintenance Facility, 13713 Frontier Court, Burnsville

Go Green | Test the Waters

Testing the waters search Test the Waters

According to the threshold set by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, an area is considered to be high-nitrate if a minimum of 5 percent of private wells tested exceed the safe drinking water standard of 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L).

All’s well that ends well

Of the wells sampled in each area, here’s how many reached unsafe levels throughout Dakota County last year:

If you’re concerned your private well may be contaminated, it’s time to Test the Waters When Dakota County’s 2013 nitrate sampling project, “Targeted Townships,” produced upsetting results, County staff saw a chance to encourage change. Through Test the Waters — a campaign for clean drinking water — Dakota County is helping residents reduce their risk from one of the country’s most common forms of groundwater contamination. We are one of the first in the state to participate in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s ambitious statewide plan, funded by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, to test as many as 70,000 private wells at risk of high levels of nitrate. Nitrate is a common byproduct of fertilizers used because of their benefit to plants, but when an excess is used, the surplus leaches into groundwater and potentially into the water supply. Water

with a nitrate concentration of more than 10 milligrams per liter can pose a health risk to fetuses and infants. But contaminated water doesn’t have to be a lost cause. Residents with private wells can reduce nitrate levels by installing a reverse osmosis treatment system. However, even with a home treatment system, the Minnesota Department of Health recommends that infants younger than six months not drink well water or formula made with well water that has tested high for nitrate. Through our campaign, residents will have an opportunity this year to get their water tested at no cost. As individuals take steps to improve their private wells, we'll take steps to mitigate the overall problem through outreach to farmers and farming organizations.

Castle Rock Township City of Coates


































Douglas Township Hampton Township and the city of Hampton City of Hastings Marshan Township Nininger Township Randolph Township Sciota Township Vermillion Township Waterford Township

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quality of life good or excellent*



fair to good value for tax dollar*




approve of the job the County Board is doing*

*2013 Dakota County Residential Survey

Be the

XAMPLE “If   you live in Dakota County, congratulations.”

Be the best value in county government Fourth lowest tax rate in the state 2014 county tax rate equivalent to what it was in 2009

Median-priced home will see more than $11 decrease in County taxes in 2014

Lowest tax rate in the metro


f you live in Dakota County, congratulations." That was the first line of an editorial published in the Nov. 30, 2013 Pioneer Press. The writers went on to explain exactly why they think Dakota County residents are so lucky. “Your county government not only is delivering on the...promise of tax relief, but has been focused on fiscal restraint for years.” It isn’t just the editorial staff at the newspaper that recognizes the able budget management by the Dakota County Board of Commissioners. The Minnesota Revenue Commissioner made a personal visit to congratulate the County for being one of a very few local governments in the state to reduce the levy for 2014. The County Board ended the year by voting unanimously to decrease the levy for 2014 by 0.6 percent, taking it back to the 2009 level. This is despite the fact that the consumer inflation rate was more than 8 percent for that same period of time. Among metro counties, Dakota — on a per capita basis — has traditionally had fewer employees and maintained the lowest county tax levy. In fact, in 2014 Dakota County has the same number of employees per capita as it had a decade ago. So why have we been able to do this while others have not?

Planning for the long haul When the economy began to sink into recession a few years ago, the County Board took immediate action, making tough decisions about reducing staffing and eliminating services that simply were not as high a priority as others. Staff identified about 350 separate services and programs provided by the county. These were then ranked based on legal requirements (by the state and federal government) to provide the service, importance to the public and cost. For example, protecting children from abuse and neglect scored very high in the ratings. The library bookmobile did not. It’s not that the bookmobile didn’t have value, but this was a process of deciding between programs that are “need to have” rather than “nice to have.” We ultimately eliminated the bookmobile from the budget. The County Board never automatically looks to property tax increases to offset revenue losses from other sources (like state and federal funding). Less money coming in means less money to spend. In the end, this important principle of financial management resulted in net reductions between 2009 and 2013 of nearly $40 million in budgeted operating spending and about 130 workforce positions.

A flexible budget Of course it’s more complicated than it sounds. During a tough economy, demand increases for

It’s no get out of jail free card Dakota County helps offenders overcome the odds Too many people who get out of jail will be back behind bars because they struggle to fit back into the community. Dakota County’s Re-Entry Assistance Program (RAP), now in its second year, aims to break that cycle. The program identifies the needs of the offender — such as treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, and housing and employment services. Community Corrections staff develop a re-entry case plan and help offenders find the resources they need, and follow-up with the RAP offenders for up to 90 days after their release to ease the transition back to everyday life. To measure the success of the program, we track the number of charges and convictions of program participants for the three years before they entered the program and the three years after they complete the program. So far, 18 participants have completed the second year of the program. These offenders experienced 84 charges and 53 convictions in the three years prior to entering the program. After the first year, they experienced seven charges and five convictions. They added nine charges and two convictions in the second year.

3 Years Prior to RAP

84 Charges 53 Convictions

RAP 2-Year Totals*

16 Charges 8 Convictions

*Originally, the County tracked all offenses. Now, only misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors and felonies are tracked.

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Scaling down costs Dakota County is first Minnesota government to reward healthy employee lifestyles — weight, cholesterol, body fat, tobacco, 61% of eligible employees are part

blood pressure, heart rate, glucose 42% of them have high-risk body fat

of wellness plan


7% of them use tobacco which is under the national CDC occurance

$12 million projected in savings

Healthy employees are good business

many of the services that counties provide, and we have to respond to that demand. During the recession more residents needed financial assistance and help finding jobs. But when additional needs arise, it’s standard for Dakota County to look for internal resources that can be reallocated rather than look for new funding. So to meet increased demand, we used existing staff differently to meet the need. Another example — when the county realized it needed to replace outdated election equipment, no one suggested raising taxes to pay for it. Instead, we reallocated money that had been saved in the Transportation Department’s salt budget to Public Services and Revenue to help buy equipment. Collaboration with other counties will also save money on this purchase. Dakota County staff finds every opportunity to save money. There are examples of this from improving gas mileage on fleet vehicles, to simply finding ways to reduce the number of miles employees drive on the job (video conferencing, carpooling); from encouraging residents to sign up for electronic tax statements (saves postage and staff time), to reducing the cost of jail inmate meals.

A healthy workforce for a healthy budget outlook At the end of 2010, when the Dakota County Commissioners saw insurance for its workforce was going to cost an additional

$1.8 million (or nearly 12 percent more) in 2011, they knew they had to do something. If the trend had been allowed to continue, the cost was on track to double every six years. Health insurance is more expensive for all employers, but tax dollars fund most of the benefits for government employees. That makes it even more important to contain costs. So the Board approved a new, more cost-effective health care plan to be offered to the workforce. The new plan put more responsibility on employees for the cost of their health care, with co-insurance and deductibles. Studies show that having workers paying part of the cost helps reduce overuse and misuse of health care services and encourages people to be more engaged in their care decisions. Another key step, becoming self-funded for health care, has reduced costs. Instead of paying an outside company to assume the risk associated with health insurance, the County takes on the risk and cuts out the middle man. Savings from the selfinsurance translates from future cost avoidance. Premium costs stayed flat for 2013 and that coupled with some relatively good claims history last year means that the “profits” that would have gone to an outside insurance company in the past remain with Dakota County. As we build up these reserves, we are able to mitigate future risk without realizing as much of an increase

Crime and crashes Believe it or not, there is a link between where traffic crashes happen and crimes are committed The fact is that the bad guys are usually driving or riding in cars when they commit crimes. As one police commander observed, you don’t often hear about walk-by shootings. So it just makes sense that if you figure out where crashes and crime come together, and you put extra police in those places, both will decrease. Since 2009, select law enforcement agencies across the country have been utilizing DataDriven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS) — a program that uses locationbased crash and crime data and mapping technologies to pinpoint “hot spots” in communities. The results have shown decreases in robberies, vandalism, theft and crashes. Reducing the number of fatal and injury crashes has long been a priority for Dakota County. And until spring 2013, when late season snow created unusually tough driving conditions, the numbers were declining. So now our Sheriff’s Office is partnering with several other local law enforcement agencies to implement DDACTS in Dakota County in 2014, hopefully cutting crime and crashes at the same time. The difference between DDACTS and other crime reduction programs is that it doesn’t have a start and end date — it’s about a long-term change in the way departments think about enforcement. And because it is about putting efforts where the data says they are needed, it is a more efficient way to manage scarce resources — and that helps save tax dollars.

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Tell our story You deserve to know how we both spend and save money We prioritize services, pay down debt and keep a good credit rating

Physical Development

$39.8 (m), 17.1% Human Services

Courts & Public Defenders

$106.4 (m), 45.6%

$0.4 (m), 0.2% Operations, Management & Budget

$16.3 (m), 7% Administrative Departments

$5.5 (m), 2.4% Public Safety

$19.6 (m), 8.4%

County Attorney

$7.3 (m), 3.1%

Public Services & Revenue


$22.2 (m), 9.5%

$15.7 (m), 6.7%

We prioritize what’s important to the public

in costs to Dakota County and its employees. Dakota County also introduced an outcome-based incentive to help the workforce stay healthy. When employees make good lifestyle choices — eat healthy, quit smoking, exercise, manage chronic conditions — they reduce their health plan premiums. Dakota is the first public agency in Minnesota to provide an outcome-based wellness incentive. In the long run, this means the County will save money as well. We know all of this is working because we’ve cut the growth of health care costs by more than half in the past four years.

To our credit The Board of Commissioners is also proud that due to good fiscal management Dakota County is one of only 30 or so counties out of about 3,000 nationally that has earned and kept Aaa bond ratings from both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s. This is an important financial stamp of approval that is recognized around the world. Just one more example of good financial management, Dakota County plans on using financial reserves to pay down debt. Why do this? The less debt the county has the less we pay in interest. The County will begin to realize that savings in 2015, and that will equate to $349,495 that year. Of course none of this would matter if Dakota County saved money by cutting service. But

we don’t. Instead, we continue to deliver a full menu of important services.

In 2014 the Board of Commissioners and staff will: • Manage a 5,500 acre regional park system • Run nine premier libraries • Help people find jobs • Make county road improvements • Prosecute crime • Manage elections • Issue marriage licenses • Keep property records • Protect children from abuse • Provide veterans services

Drive it home Being named one of the best government vehicle fleets in the U.S. and Canada for three straight years doesn’t happen by accident — no pun intended Dakota County has been named to the 100 Best Fleets every year since 2011 (and third overall in 2013) because it has found ways to cut fuel costs and reduce wear and tear on County vehicles. One of the ways we do this is by using telematics to capture driver data on more than 180 vehicles in the County’s fleet. With employees knowing that driver information is being captured, there is an incentive for improved driving behavior. For example, the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office has decreased idling costs, harsh driving and speed over 70 miles per hour.

Oct. 2012 vs. Oct. 2013

• Support people with disabilities • Supervise released offenders

Idling cost

• Regulate landfills

in idling cost per vehicle

7.2 percent decrease

• Oversee foster care • Build bridges • Collect child support

Harsh braking 28.6 percent decrease in harsh braking per vehicle

• Run a jail • And so much more. It’s not always easy, and it’s definitely not simple. But this is county government that leads the way.

Harsh acceleration 56.5 percent decrease in harsh acceleration per vehicle

Speeding over 70 miles per hour 22.8 percent decrease in speeding per vehicle

spring/summer 2014 | |


Community | Last look

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go." — Dr. Seuss

The Dakota County Board of Commissioners encourages you to use your library to raise a reader. search raise a reader

Community | Your Commissioners

Mike Slavik District 1

T: 651-438-4427 Includes the cities of Coates, Farmington, Hampton, Hastings, Miesville, New Trier, Randolph, Vermillion, Northfield Precinct 2; townships of Castle Rock, Douglas, Empire, Eureka, Greenvale, Hampton, Marshan, Nininger, Randolph, Ravenna, Sciota, Vermillion and Waterford.

Kathleen A. Gaylord District 2

Liz Workman District 5

T: 651-438-4431 Includes the city of Burnsville.

Paul J. Krause

District 6 T: 651-438-4243 Includes the city of Lakeville.

Chris Gerlach

District 7 T: 651-438-4411 Includes the cities of Rosemount Precincts 3 and 5, and Apple Valley.

T: 651-438-4428 Includes the cities of South St. Paul, West St. Paul, Sunfish Lake, and Inver Grove Heights Precincts 1 and 8–10.

Thomas A. Egan District 3

T: 651-438-4429 Includes the cities of Lilydale, Mendota, Mendota Heights, and Eagan Precincts 1–7 and 9–12.

Nancy Schouweiler

Back row: Chris Gerlach, Liz Workman (Chair), Paul J. Krause, Thomas A. Egan Front row: Mike Slavik, Kathleen A. Gaylord, Nancy Schouweiler





















District 4

T: 651-438-4430 Includes the cities of Inver Grove Heights Precincts 2–7; Eagan Precincts 8 and 13– 17; and Rosemount Precincts 1–2, 4, and 6–7.










spring/summer 2014 | |


Dakota County Board of Commissioners Administration Center, 1590 Highway 55 Hastings, MN 55033-2372

ECRWSS ECRWSS Postal Customer


Postal Customer

What’s new?

New hours

New hours. New materials. New reasons to recycle. The Recycling Zone in Dakota County is

New materials

turning 20 years old — but it’s still as good as new! See for yourself when you drop off your recyclables, electronics and household hazardous waste. search Recycling Zone

New reasons to recycle

Dakota County Newsletter - Winter/Spring 2014  
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