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Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Monitor In A Minute

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE

Gun violence in St. Paulgenerates concern
Gun violence is a “public health crisis,” according to St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell. Upticks in 911 and gun violence calls are stretching the city’s police resources. Strategies to address the trends were discussed by Axtell and St. Paul City Council members during two presentations in June.

The sessions provided a one-year update of Axtell’s tenure as police chief and gave an overview of what has already been a violent 2017. It also gave council members an idea of what they might see from the Police Department regarding a 2018 city budget request. Budgets for all city departments are in the works and will be released in August.

Shots-fired reports are up 67 percent from last year. While Axtell tries to focus his department on more community engagement, his officers are also trying to handle more and more calls. Axtell described the situation as a “simple math problem,” where the number of officers on the street is outstripped by the number of 911 calls coming in.

The city’s 911 calls are at the highest level in the history of the police department, with 70,713 calls last year. That compares to 53,803 calls in 2013. Council members acknowledged that part of the trend reflects the growth in the city’s population over the past decade. But other factors are troubling

Ward Five Council Member Amy Brendmoen asked Axtell if he’d be requesting additional officer in the 2018 budget. Axtell noted that at 620 authorized personnel, the department has the most officers it has had in its history. But the department and city administration are discussing staff levels.

Axtell told council members that the police and city face difficult challenges with gun and gang violence. “Yesterday’s fistfights are today’s gun fights,” said Axtell. “Young people in this community are settling their disputes and their differences with guns.”

More than 80 people have been shot in St. Paul in 2017. About 80 percent of the victims are African-Americans. Most are young people.
St. Paul has had 12 homicides this year, with 11 involving guns. Major crime in St. Paul this year was up almost 17 percent through the first half of June, compared with 2016.

City Council President Russ Stark asked if the increase in shots fired calls is a result of more guns on the street or an uptick in gang activity. Axtell responded that it is both.

Great River School plans forexpansion and reconstruction
Great River School, 1326-1336 Energy Park Dr., has spent much time in the past few weeks at City Hall, over its expansion plans.
The K-12 charter school provides a Montessori-based education. On June 5, the school obtained a front setback variance to expand its surface parking. The setback is to be 25 feet; the variance is for 19.9 feet. The St. Paul Board of Zoning Appeals approved that request.

Also in June meetings, the St. Paul City Council and Housing and Redevelopment Authority approved a request for up to $18.5 million in conduit charter school lease revenue bonds. The school currently leases its space. The pass-through bonds would allow Great River to buy its buildings and grounds. The funds would also assist with an addition and renovation to create more classrooms.

Great River began in 2003. The current enrollment is 428 students, and the school plans to expand to 690 by the year 2022. Novation Education Opportunities is the authorizer for the school. That company oversees more than 20 other charter schools in Minnesota.

The Charter School Development Corporation owns the east building at 1326 Energy Park Drive. The School occupies this entire building. Energy Park LLC/Wellington owns the west building at 1336 Energy Park Drive. The School occupies half of this building, with the other half leased by another charter school whose lease expires at the end of November. The purchase agreements require closings no later than the end of September 2017. The

Construction will start in August of 2017, and be complete before the commencement of the 2018-2019 school year.

Patrons will climb the walls
Vertical Endeavors, which operates indoor climbing facilities, will open its doors in a former Westgate area warehouse at 2550 Wabash Ave., at the intersection with Emerald Ave. The company was awarded a conditional use permit June 15 by the St. Paul Planning Commission.
The commission’s decision is final as no appeal was filed.

Indoor recreational uses in St. Paul are required to have conditional use permits. The property is zoned for traditional neighborhoods use. While the property zoning has been changed in recent years from industrial to traditional neighborhoods, the rock-climbing facility is seen by city staff as an appropriate interim use.

The project faced no opposition. District 12 St. Anthony Park Community Council didn’t submit a position for a Planning Commission Zoning Committee meeting. City staff recommended approval with provisions for future sidewalks and connections to a proposed trail along a nearby rail corridor.

Rock climbing is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, and Vertical Endeavors is one of the recognized leaders in the industry, according to the Vertical Endeavors website. The company was founded in 1992 and has locations in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Bloomington, Duluth, and Illinois.

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