Reconstruction of Como Ave. is unearthing rails, ties, and other remnants from Saint Paul's streetcar era that have been buried for nearly 70 years. Buses replaced the electric trolleys in 1954. Photo: Regina McCullough
Board Takes on Big (and Bigger) Topics
Recommending new, revised, and updated conditions for Half Time Rec's liquor licenses; establishing absentee voting for a special election in Sub-District 4; and opposing permission for Xcel Energy to build a new gas-fueled power plant are among topics the Como Community Council expects to vote on this week.
  • Half Time Rec: The proposed conditions were developed by District 10's Land Use Committee through two months of discussion among bar owner Scott Mars, nearby neighbors, and district council board members. Most notably, the bar would stay open until 2 a.m. only from Oct. 15-April 15; the rest of the year, it would close at 1 a.m. Additional conditions address security, training, and other issues. The licenses are up for renewal next Friday, Aug. 21.
  • Special election: The board is expected to allow absentee voting from Sept. 8-15 to fill a vacancy from South Como and Energy Park (see details below).
  • Xcel Energy: District 10's Environment Committee is recommending that the board urge the state's Public Utilities Commission to deny Xcel's request to build a new gas power plant, and instead invest more in renewable energy and storage technology. The recommendation comes after three months of discussion with community members who are part of Saint Paul 350, a presentation from Xcel on its electrical power generation plans for the next 15 years, and a presentation from the independent Citizens' Utility Board, which monitors the effect of utility investments on consumer rates.
The district council board meets at 7 p.m. this Tuesday, Aug. 18. While pandemic restrictions remain in place, the discussion takes place by video conferencing or telephone, rather than in-person. All renters, homeowners, and other District 10 community members are welcome to participate. To join, email the District 10 office; staff will send access information. You can find the preliminary agenda and related documents online.
Special Election Gives You a Chance
Live in South Como or Energy Park? Want to have more influence in your neighborhood? Here's your chance: Run in next month's special election to fill a vacancy on the District 10 Como Community Council board.

Community members in Sub-District 4 can file as a candidate until Monday Sept. 7. (The boundaries for Sub-District 4 are Dale on the east, Snelling on the west, and the two sets of BNSF railroad tracks on the north and south.)

The winning candidate will serve until April 2021, filling the remainder of the term being left vacant by Bob Jacobson, who is moving out of District 10.
You Can Help Us Do Even More
Do you value this weekly newsletter and other ways the Como Community Council helps you connect with our neighbors and beyond? This newsletter is just one way we stay in touch. It demonstrates our work to keep everyone in the loop; our belief in supplying reliable, factual information; and our commitment to accessible, transparent, and two-way conversation. We do all this because it makes us a stronger neighborhood.

You can express your appreciation by supporting the time and effort it takes us to deliver these results. If you have the means, please contribute financially toward a better community. You can donate easily online. Or bypass the service fees and send your contribution directly to: Como Community Council, 1224 Lexington Parkway N, Saint Paul, MN 55103. We deeply appreciate it.
Make It More Than Words on Paper
Saint Paul is seeking members for its new Tenant Protections Implementation Committee. Members will work from September through March 2021 to create education and engagement tools to spread the word about the city's new rental ordinance. The ordinance takes effect March 1, 2021. The implementation committee is reserving seats for renters, landlords or managers of different-size properties, and business and advocacy representatives. Applications are due by next Friday, Aug. 21, at 5 p.m.
Hmong Academy's Construction Bonds Advance
City Council on Aug. 12 approved $7 million in conduit bonds, through the Saint Paul Port Authority, to help finance construction of a new middle school building and other facilities on Hmong College Prep Academy's Brewster St. campus. In addition, on the same day, the city's Housing and Redevelopment Authority recommended $36 million in conduit bonds for the charter school. Of that amount, about $19.2 million is for the new construction; the remainder refinances bonds the school took out in 2012. City Council expects to vote on the HRA bonds Aug. 26.

Conduit bonds are a tax-free form of financing sold to investors on the private market. The city issues the bonds and collects an administrative fee; the school is entirely responsible for paying the debt obligation.
Woodland Puts Out the Welcome Mat
Discover one of our neighborhood's overlooked treasures -- or discover more of it -- when Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom holds a "summer open house" next Saturday, Aug. 22. Guides who really know their stuff will help you discover more about the woodland's distinct plant communities, animal residents, and human history. Plus, you'll get tips on making the most of the woodland's trail system and using the iNaturalist citizen science app to help track what you discover.

Your guides include Britt Forsberg, Minnesota Bee Atlas coordinator for the University of Minnesota Extension; Teri Heyer, Urban Connections program specialist for the U.S. Forest Service; and Joan McKearnan, professor of biology and environmental science at Anoka-Ramsey College.

Activities run Aug. 22 from 9:30-11 a.m., beginning at the Kilmer Memorial Fireplace, 1221 Wynne Ave. The event is free but email reservations are required. Participants are expected to embrace social distancing and masks.
Help Teens Feel at Home
This month's way to demonstrate Como Kindness: The Booth Brown House is looking for volunteers or partners to breathe new life into their residents' community space. This Salvation Army program, at Como and Pascal, provides emergency and supportive housing for teens and young adults. It is looking for:
  • Replacement carpet
  • Paint supplies for 2 murals
  • A snack machine
  • 2 old-school arcade games
  • 3 new couches or sectionals
  • Bean bag chairs (new chairs in retro colors such as black, grey, turquoise, teal, and aqua)
  • New board games
  • $25 Target gift cards
If you can buy an item, donate an item, or donate money, contact Erin Foss by email or by calling 651-251-3502 x105. If you can donate time or want more information, contact Steven Godfrey by email or by calling 651-251-3502 x102.
Don't Forget Your Money
Renters and homeowners often overlook the nice chunk of change they can get from the State of Minnesota this time of year. Don't miss your opportunity this year: The initial filing deadline is this Saturday, Aug. 15 (though the state will accept paperwork for an additional year).

For renters, it's the Renter's Property Tax Refund. The program is based on the fact that some of your rent helps your landlord pay property taxes. State residents can qualify if they have a household income of less than $62,340. For a Como resident with a median household income and a median rent, the refund would be about $400. 

For homeowners who live in their house, Minnesota offers the Homestead Credit Refund, based on property taxes paid in 2019. There are two kinds of refunds; it is possible to get both: 
  • The basic refund is available to homeowners with a 2019 income of less than $115,020; the refund amount is based on the property taxes paid. 
  • The special refund is available to homeowners whose net property tax in 2019 increased at least 12 percent and at least $100. 
Keeping Track of City Hall
  • 2021 Budget: Mayor Melvin Carter unveil his 2021 budget this Thursday, Aug. 20, at 11 a.m. You can watch it live on the city's Facebook page, or on cable channels Comcast 859 and CenturyLink 1234. At some point, details will be available on the city's Open Budget Saint Paul website.
  • 899 Parkview: The property owner is seeking a zoning variance to replace a second-story deck. Zoning requires a 9-foot setback from the west property line; the variance would allow construction 18 inches closer, resulting in a setback of 7.5 feet. The city's Board of Zoning Appeals holds a public hearing on Monday Aug. 24 at 3 p.m. Community members can listen into the hearing on a computer or by phone (651-267-3988 / conference ID: 598238). Statements of support, opposition, or other comments should be emailed to staff members Matthew Graybar and YaYa Diatta no later than next Friday, Aug. 21, at 2 p.m.
  • Chicken permits: Residents at 908 W. Nebraska and 1435 McKinley St. have applied for one-year licenses to house up to six chickens on their properties.
  • Zoning revisions: City Council changed the date of its public hearing on proposed revisions to allow more density in the city's multi-family zoning districts. The new date is Wednesday Sept. 2. If you've got comments, email them no later than noon Tuesday Sept. 1.
Previously reported:
  • Climate Justice Advisory Board: Saint Paul is seeking residents to serve on this new board. Among members will be representatives from each ward and two youth positions. The board expects to meet 4-12 times a year; members serve two-year terms. Applications are due by Monday Aug. 31.
  • Duke's Car and Towing: The license for this auto repair garage at 977 Front is up for renewal on Oct. 18. Anyone with concerns should email District 10 or contact the office of Ward 5 Council Member Amy Brendmoen.
Traffic Hassles Shift Around
  • Como Ave.: In our neighborhood, Como is still dug up and shut down completely from Hamline west to Arona. But lots of pieces are moving. 
    • Public Works has put up more barricades on the east and west ends of Breda, Albany, and Almond, essentially cutting off those streets in an attempt to block drivers who refuse to use the official Midway Parkway detour. Residents will have to use Pascal or Albert to get home. 
    • Como itself remains open in each direction between Arona and Snelling; however, traffic now shifts to the south side of the street, not the north. 
    • West of Snelling, things get more complicated. Beginning this Wednesday, Aug. 19, westbound Como is shut down from Snelling to Caithlin; westbound traffic (in theory) is being detoured to Energy Park Drive. From Caithlin to the Cleveland/Raymond intersection, the street remains restricted to one lane in each direction. 
    • An eastbound lane remains open from Caithlin to Snelling. 
    • At the western city border: Como remains closed at Hunting Valley Road. 
  • Dale St.: The road remains restricted to one lane in each direction between University and Carroll, as Ramsey County continues building a new bridge over Interstate 94. Ramps to and from I-94 are closed. Access from Dale to the Uni-Dale Mall and to some nearby east-west streets is cut off.
  • Highway 5/Interstate 494: Construction to, from, and around the airport is supposed to shift to a new phase today, Friday Aug. 14. Among the no-go zones: Westbound Highway 5 is closed entirely from the Highway 55/62 interchange to 494. That means a bunch of ramps are closed, including westbound Highway 5 to and from Terminal 1, westbound ramps from 494 and Highway 5 to 34th Ave. (the Terminal 2 exit), westbound Highway 5 to 494 in either direction, and Highway 55/62 from either direction to westbound Highway 5. The airport has a website devoted exclusively to navigating this mess.
  • Highway 280: At least some lanes will be closed nearly every night through this Monday, Aug. 17, as MnDOT does bridge work over the highway at Wabash Ave., University Ave., and the 280/I-35W/Highway 36 commons. Crews will work from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m.
  • Interstate 94: Lanes are closed in both directions between Interstate 35W and Interstate 394, beginning at 10 o'clock tonight, Friday Aug. 14, through 5 a.m. this Monday, Aug. 17.  Ramps close at 8 o'clock tonight.
  • Larpenteur Ave.: Expect only one lane in each direction as work continues to permanently convert Larpenteur from 4 lanes to 3 between Dale Street and Interstate 35E. The complete repaving includes installing designated bike lanes and upgrading crosswalks, pedestrian islands, the railroad crossing, and some traffic signals. Construction lasts into September.
Pronto Pups are on the Food Parade menu.
Some Things Never Change
The State Fairgrounds close to the public beginning this Monday, Aug. 17, so vendors can set up for the sold-out Minnesota State Fair Food ParadeThe Fairgrounds expect to re-open to the public on Thursday Sept. 10.

Cars filled with people stuffing their faces with Fair favorites crawl through a 1.5-mile route the next three weekends: Aug. 20-23, Aug. 27-30, and Sept. 3-7. Most days, gates open at 9 a.m. at Hoyt and Snelling. Gates remain open past 5 p.m.

Until then, it's the final weekend of Dinosaur Adventure Drive-Thru. The not-quite-Jurassic Park event runs in the Grandstand through this Sunday, Aug. 16, from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. $40 for a carload of up to seven.
Got a Gap on Your Calendar?
  • This Saturday, Aug. 15: Free Covid-19 testing, Aldrich Arena, 1850 White Bear Ave., Maplewood. 2-6 p.m. Registration is recommended, but not required.
  • This Sunday, Aug. 16: Free Covid-19 testing, Washington Technology Magnet School, 1495 Rice St. 2-6 p.m. Registration is recommended, but not required.
  • This Tuesday, Aug. 18: Electric Lawn Care 101, 6-7:15 p.m. Fresh Energy co-sponsors this overview of electric lawn mowers and whether they're right for you. The webinar is free but you must register in advance.
  • This Tuesday, Aug. 18: Climate Generation continues its Eyewitness workshop series with "Dismantling the Old: Shifting the Narrative," noon-1 p.m. Free, but you must register in advance.
  • Monday Aug. 24: Saint Paul's Heritage Preservation Commission holds a discussion on how historic designation can be a modern form of bias, redlining, and economic exclusion. The discussion begins at 3:30 p.m. Members of the public can listen in: call 651-266-5767; the Conference ID is 6669672. You can email comments before 1:30 p.m. Aug. 24.
Police Hold Community Meetings Tuesday
The Saint Paul Police Department's Western District holds its monthly community meetings this Tuesday, Aug. 18, at 9:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. at Western District headquarters, 389 N. Hamline. Masks and social distancing will be required. Attendance is limited to 20.

If you go, you'll meet command staff, hear about crime trends in the city, be able to raise individual concerns, be able to grab all the crime prevention fliers you can use, and be able to take home gun locks and "20 is Plenty" lawn signs. 

Spread the Word
District 10 is one of Saint Paul's 17 citizen participation districts. The District 10 Como Community Council is a nonprofit organization, governed by a Board of Directors who are elected by members of the community. The Council's mission is to inform, educate, and connect the neighborhood to increase community pride and confidence. 
You are receiving this email because you expressed interest in District 10 activities.