Off-leash permit enforcement could increase in 2010

Dog owners shouldn’t be surprised to soon see more enforcement of off-leash dog permits.

Starting in 2010, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is expected to take over issuance and enforcement of the permits, which lets dogs roam free at dog parks. The city’s Animal Care and Control Unit has been in charge since 2000, but expected upgrades to its permitting system were set to cost the Park Board $40,000 in 2010.

That led parks staff to investigate what it would take to bring the permits, the $40 fee of which already were being set by the Park Board, in-house. Apparently, not much: Annie Olson, Support Services manager, said the board is looking at about $30,000 in savings.

“It’s quite a difference,” she said.

Part of the savings come from no longer having to pay a portion of netted fees to Animal Care. But Olson said she also expects an increase in licenses in 2010 because the Park Board could boost enforcement. While developing the ordinance to put the Park Board in charge, Olson said she talked to Park Police to find ways to dedicate officers to ensuring people have permits.

Of the many people who use dog parks today, “I can’t imagine that a large percentage are licensed,” Olson said. “The enforcement just isn’t there. Animal Care and Control doesn’t have the bodies to go out there and do the enforcement.”

When the Park Board takes over, there also will be a new rule: If people get ticketed for not having permits, they’d have the option to waive the fee by buying a permit. The Park Board already has a similar rule for parking tickets.

The board’s Administration and Finance Committee approved the ordinance Nov. 18. It’s expected to be in front of the full board at its Dec. 2 meeting.

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Public ownership of hydropower plant intrigues some, worries many, study finds

Community response to potential public ownership of a proposed hydropower facility at St. Anthony Falls was the core discussion item at the Nov. 18 Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board meeting.  

Most responses from an online survey conducted in mid-October by Park Board planning staff indicated that the facility is generally not supported, said Judd Rietkerk, director of citywide planning and project management.

Private company Crown Hydro introduced the controversial topic in the late 1980s. The potential for a facility that draws power from St. Anthony Falls appeals to some commissioners while concerning others.

Addressing the issue of public ownership, there is concern that a municipal utility is outside of the Park Board’s expertise. The board would be responsible for controlling the flow rate over the falls and would have professionals ensure adequate flow while preserving the historic area, Commissioner Jon Olson said.

Damage to Mill Ruins Park is a significant concern of residents, adjacent property owners, commissioners and the city, according to survey responses. Commissioner Tracy Nordstrum said she likes the idea of sustainability, but encourages discussion.

“Hydro is going to happen in other venues,” Commissioner Annie Young said in reference to other hydropower facilities utilizing the Mississippi River.

Currently, Brookfield Power is working on installing six small “run-of-the-river” turbines in lower St. Anthony Falls. The turbines didn’t require a new dam and don’t interfere with river navigation.

Though the board does not have a lot of information from stakeholder input, the information they do have is that public ownership does not resolve the issue, Vreeland said.

Board General Manager Don Siggelkow said he began looking into public ownership after hearing from commissioners that they weren’t necessarily against building a power plant at St. Anthony Falls, just that it would be a privately owned. If the board were to continue down the public ownership path, it would be its first municipal utility.

Stakeholders, adjacent residents and members of the community are encouraged to take part in the ongoing discussion. The next Park Board meeting is at 5 p.m. Dec. 2 at 2117 W. River Road.

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Lake Harriet concessions report tentatively set for Dec. 16 unveiling

A report on the future of concessions at Lake Harriet will tentatively be presented to the Park Board at its planning committee’s Dec. 16 meeting.

A citizens’ advisory committee currently is in the process of preparing the report and is set to meet one final time on Nov. 30. The group is expected to recommend that the Park Board consider expanding food options at the lake but without the addition of a new building.

The Nov. 30 meeting is open to the public. It will be held from 7–9 p.m. at the Linden Hills Recreation Center, 3100 W. 43rd St.

For more information, go to lakeharrietcac.ning.com.