by John Gessner
Costco finally came to town. Motorists and businesses struggled through construction season on Burnsville Parkway. The mayor gained national exposure alongside big-city mayors.
2010 was an attention-getting year in Burnsville, one that changed the city’s landscape and promised future change.
Burnsville’s state legislative delegation switched from Democrat back to Republican. A major employer launched an expansion. The Burnsville Bowl, a Highway 13 landmark, was closed but will reopen. The local animal shelter will close and not reopen. The city’s Performing Arts Center had better news to report after a difficult opening in 2009.
Here’s a year-end recap of newsmaking events.
After at least five years of scouting for a south-of-the-river location, Costco Wholesale Corp. opened a membership warehouse in Burnsville on Nov. 23.
The 156,000-square-foot warehouse is at 14050 Burnhaven Drive, two blocks north of Burnsville Center. It’s the former site of Grossman Chevrolet and Cadillac.
The opening was welcomed by area residents who previously drove 18 miles to Eden Prairie or 19 miles to St. Louis Park to get their Costco fix.
Since the company’s initial talks with city officials several years ago, the City Council added more off-sale liquor licenses, which helped pave the way for Costco.
Grossman Chevrolet and Cadillac waged a futile, last-ditch campaign to save its franchise from being terminated by General Motors Corp. Defeated, the dealership completed sale of its property to the retail warehouse giant.
Reconstruction of Burnsville Parkway from Aldrich
Avenue on the west to Parkwood Drive on the east caused traffic delays and took a toll on local businesses.
In August, the contractor, Palda and Sons Inc., qualified for a $100,000 city bonus for finishing most of the work ahead of schedule. The bonus was on top of the company’s $5.8 million base bid.
But work and traffic delays continued into the fall. By then, two businesses – Burnsville Parkway BP and Anthony’s Parkway Grille – had closed, saying that interruption in business traffic caused by the construction finally doomed their already-struggling ventures. Anthony’s quickly reopened, though, as a Carbone’s Pizza and Sports Bar.
Elizabeth Kautz, Burnsville’s mayor since 1995, was inaugurated on Jan. 5 as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The ceremony was at the Performing Arts Center, a project she championed as mayor.
Long active in the Conference of Mayors, Kautz had been in line for the presidency since being elected second vice president in 2008. She was vice president before her inauguration to president.
Her ascendance was hastened by the November 2009 election defeat of Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, who had been president. Kautz will serve the balance of his term, through June, and then serve a full term of her own, through June 2011.
Opened in January 2009, the city’s Performing Arts Center had a tough first year, requiring a city operating subsidy of $553,920, compared with a city budget estimate of only $265,475. Management company VenuWorks had predicted a $346,200 subsidy.
The picture brightened some in 2010. From January through November, Executive Director Jon Elbaum reports, revenue totaled $610,650, compared with $506,290 for all of last year.
The City Council-approved operating budget for the year is $616,610, Elbaum said.
The city budgeted for a 2010 operating loss of $451,870, he said. The actual operating loss through November was $339,585, he said.
In March, the city’s auditor issued a report finding that VenuWorks hadn’t complied with numerous prescribed financial procedures.
Compliance “went up dramatically” after Elbaum – the center’s second executive director, who began work in April – and new Business Manager Jean Martinson arrived, according to Tammy Omdal, Burnsville’s chief financial officer.
The City Council appointed a nine-member Performing Arts Center Advisory Commission, which began meeting in July.
The 42-year-old bowling and nightclub complex at 1200 E. Highway 13, which closed under a cloud on July 6, will reopen under new ownership.
The new owners are Mattie and Chris Ross, who own Mattie’s Lanes, Sports Bar and Grille in South St. Paul. Chris said in early November the couple would rename the place Mattie’s Lanes, Sports Bar and Grille-Burnsville, and hoped to be open by New Year’s Eve.
She said the bowling center is undergoing extensive renovation and will be the focus of the business, not the nightclub that got previous owner Bob Hatten in trouble with police, nearby residents and the City Council.
The 1200 Club nightclub had drawn frequent police calls. Shots were fired in two incidents but no one was injured.
Hatten had tried to sell Burnsville Bowl. His lender, Commercial Bank, took ownership when he couldn’t find a buyer.
A mainstay in Burnsville since 1991, the Minnesota Valley Humane Society animal shelter will close on Dec. 31. Humane Society officials announced the closing earlier this month.
Officials said a bad economy and rising costs are to blame for the closing of the shelter at 1313 E. Highway 13, the old City Hall building.
Some volunteers suspect bad management has much to do with the closing, which comes after suspension of a failed capital campaign to raise money for a new site in Eagan.
But MVHS Executive Director Lynae Gieseke said donations had eroded while the number of animals the organization has taken in has held steady or increased in recent years.
Eden Baptist Church of Savage had already bought the property for its new church home when the capital campaign fizzled.
Democrats who turned traditionally Republican Burnsville-area state legislative seats from red to blue in 2006 were swept from office on the political winds of 2010.
Losing DFL legislators whose districts include parts of Burnsville were District 40 Sen. John Doll of Burnsville, District 40A Rep. Will Morgan of Burnsville, District 38 Sen. Jim Carlson of Eagan and District 38A Rep. Sandra Masin of Eagan.
Their replacements are Sen.-elect Dan Hall of Burnsville in District 40, Rep.-elect Pam Myhra of Burnsville in District 40A, Sen.-elect Ted Daley of Eagan in District 38 and Rep.-elect Diane Anderson of Eagan in District 38A.
In city politics, incumbent City Council members Charlie Crichton and Dan Kealey were easy winners in a four-way race for two council seats. Also running were Greg Tomlinson and Paul Mudge.
Jobs, jobs, jobs
Aided by a state tax exemption approved by the 2010 Legislature, Burnsville’s third-largest employer planned an expansion slated to add at least 250 jobs.
Goodrich Sensors and Integrated Systems planned a first-phase, 50,000-square-foot expansion at the global company’s 240,000-square-foot Burnsville plant. The Goodrich campus south of County Road 42 at 14300 Judicial Road is also the company headquarters.
Further expansion plans for 2012 and beyond were still in the works, the company said in June.
A provision for Goodrich in Minnesota’s 2010 omnibus tax bill granted a sales-tax exemption on construction materials and equipment once the company invests $60 million of its own money in the expansion.
The provision, which is expected to generate $4 million or $5 million in aid, also requires that the company add 250 jobs to the 1,100 it provides in Burnsville and the 300 it provides at a smaller plant in Eagan.
Formerly Rosemount Aerospace, the company has been in Burnsville since 1978 and was bought by Goodrich Corp. in 1994.
Valley Ridge Shopping Center near Burnsville Parkway and County Road 5 will finally be redeveloped.
This month the City Council approved plans for 140 senior apartment units and future commercial development on the property. The CDA has an agreement to buy the property from Engelsma Limited Partnership.
Now 50 percent vacant, the mall, part of which dates back to 1963, has had a white-elephant reputation for years. A 2004 city study tagged it as a prime candidate for redevelopment.
The redevelopment is a partnership between the Dakota County Community Development Agency and Presbyterian Homes.
A Minneapolis man was sentenced to six years in prison in November for assaulting a youth sports director and a parent at a sixth-grade basketball game in Burnsville.
Robin Johnson, 49, pleaded guilty in June to one count each of first-degree and third-degree assault, both felonies, and one count each of interfering with a 911 call (a gross misdemeanor) and disorderly conduct (a misdemeanor).
Johnson was a spectator at a Burnsville Athletic Club boys basketball game on Feb. 13 at Burnsville High School. Upset by a referee’s call that led to a game-winning free throw in overtime, Johnson punched a Burnsville Athletic Club commissioner and a player’s father when he tried to intervene. The commissioner was knocked unconscious and suffered three cracked molars, one of which had to be extracted.
A Burnsville man was acquitted of manslaughter last month in the November 2009 shooting death of his best friend.
Michael Cody Schwartz, 26, was instead sentenced to 90 days in jail on a misdemeanor charge of recklessly handling a gun. Half the sentence was stayed for one year.
Schwartz’s friend, 25-year-old Logan Daniel Ehlers of Burnsville, died of a gunshot wound the morning of Nov. 21, 2009, at Schwartz’s apartment. They had wrestled over Schwartz’s loaded Glock handgun after a night of heavy drinking at a local bar.
The community rallied around the Balistreri family of Burnsville after 11-year-old Joey was killed in a head-on collision on Highway 13 that seriously injured his father, Geoffrey.
Joey, a baseball and hockey player, was mourned by his school, St. John the Baptist in Savage, and teammates and coaches with the Burnsville Athletic Club and Burnsville Hockey Club.
Leah Christina Graeber, 28, of Savage, was charged Dec. 6 with felony criminal vehicular homicide, criminal vehicular operation and a controlled-substance crime.
She was driving southbound in the left lane when her Buick LeSabre crossed the grass median near Washburn Avenue in Burnsville and vaulted into opposing traffic, striking the Balistreri family’s GMC Yukon.
More young lives lost
Friends, family and schoolmates at Metcalf Junior High mourned the death of 15-year-old Tejas Malakapalli of Burnsville, who was bicycling when he was hit by a car May 13 at the intersection of Cliff Road and River Hills Drive. He died two days later of head injuries.
Alexander Maslow, 16, of Burnsville, died on July 4 of injuries suffered in a single-car crash early that morning in Star Prairie, Wis. A student at Trinity School at River Ridge in Eagan, he was driving to the cabin of a classmate’s family to spend the holiday.
Kallie Palmer, 6, of Burnsville, was struck and killed March 5 after running onto Interstate 35W. She and a group of friends climbed a 5-foot chain-link fence along the freeway right-of-way. The children were playing in the snow at the freeway’s edge, a State Patrol spokesman said.
John Gessner is at firstname.lastname@example.org.