City News

Awards

After 17 years as a carpenter and construction firm owner, Randy Neprash, PE, returned to college and launched a second career as a civil engineer at the age of 40. Today, some 22 years later, his tireless work uniting more than 120 communities across Minnesota in their mission to improve water quality has earned him a prestigious national recognition. Neprash has been named the Water Resources Professional Manager of the Year by the American Public Works Association (APWA). Neprash, a project manager and stormwater regulatory specialist with Stantec, was nominated for the award by his peers throughout Minnesota for his exceptional influence on stormwater management, an increasingly regulated field that includes both flood control and water quality protection and restoration.

When nearly 160 small and medium-sized Minnesota cities faced new mandates related to stormwater runoff—the largest single source of water pollution across the nation—Neprash was in the right place at the right time. He quickly saw that there was strength and cost savings in numbers. His role in working with the League of Minnesota Cities to establish and maintain the Minnesota Cities Stormwater Coalition (MCSC) was among the numerous accomplishments cited in the award nomination, submitted by the Minnesota Chapter of the APWA.

For more than a decade, Neprash has worked to unite most of the newly regulated communities, known as MS4 cities, into a single entity with a powerful voice. This unique coalition shared best practices and solutions, easing the impact of the new regulations and permitting requirements on cash-strapped communities. Neprash also serves as the voice of the 120-city coalition and the League of Minnesota Cities dealing with local, state, and federal regulatory agencies, and providing on-the-ground feedback on regulations from public works officials charged with implementing them.

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City Planner Nathan Johnson of Pine City, has been named the 2014 Outstanding Small Town and Rural Planner by the American Planning Association (APA) Small Town & Rural Planning Division. Johnson was honored for his leadership in planning, contributions in providing better access to local government, and collaboration in providing more opportunities for Pine City and its constituency.

Since Johnson’s arrival as city planner in 2005, Pine City has become more open and interactive, and he has helped to secure almost $1 million dollars in state and federal grants. “I am grateful to receive this award on behalf of the City of Pine City. We’ve been able to bring about a community vision and work toward that vision with great levels of involvement of our citizens,” said Johnson.

That involvement would not have been possible if Johnson hadn’t worked with a community group called Horizons to establish a community blog, host annual open houses to engage citizens, and lead over 200 residents through the comprehensive planning process. In addition, Johnson has worked to advance inclusiveness, the arts, and business in Pine City. Johnson is a member of the APA and holds a professional degree in urban studies and city planning from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. In 2012, he was a candidate for Minnesota House of Representatives. He is a native of Pine City and currently resides there.

Grants
The City of Cottage Grove won a $33,000 grant to help pay for the construction of a new bike park. The online voting contest was sponsored by the International Mountain Bicycling Association and Bell Helmets. Four projects in the central region of the country were competing for the grant. The sponsors put information about the projects online and then put them up for a public vote. The project with the most votes would be declared the winner. Voting ran from April 21 to May 4, and Cottage Grove won with 12,322 votes. The other competing projects were from Illinois, Indiana, and Colorado.

The Cottage Grove bike park project is completely volunteer-built and funded and a joint effort with Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC). The grant will help the volunteers tremendously and will be used for a bike skills area. Once completed, the bike park will offer different skill levels ranging from beginner to pro. Chance Glasford has been leading the volunteer efforts at the bike park. During the contest Glasford created a “Voter Incentive Program.” For one incentive, Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey vowed to take a pie in the face if the bike park won. Watch the "Mayor Myron Bailey Gets Pied!" video on YouTube.

The Cottage Grove Bike Park is located at 7050 Meadow Grass Avenue. A grand opening celebration is scheduled for June 26.
Read more about the bike park project

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Grant recipients have been selected for the State Fiscal Year 2014 Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund (ACHF) Competitive Veterans' Memorial Park Grants with the Minnesota Department of Administration.

The Minnesota Department of Administration has selected recipients for the 2014 Competitive Veterans’ Memorial Park Grant awards. A total of $79,200 was awarded to the following recipients: City of Lonsdale, Farmington Area Veterans Memorial, Edina Community Foundation, City of North St. Paul, City of Fosston, City of Wahkon, City of Little Canada, City of Wadena. Each recipient receive $9,900.

Leadership
Mayor Jo Emerson of White Bear Lake has been elected by her colleagues to serve as the 2014-2015 president of the Minnesota Mayors Association (MMA). The election took place at the MMA’s annual conference and meeting held in Fergus Falls on April 26.

Emerson was first elected as mayor in 2009, and previously served as the vice chair for the White Bear Lake Planning Commission. She was also a member of the city’s Variance Board and Environmental Advisory Commission. Mayor Emerson currently serves as a member of the League Board of Directors.

Staff News
The Eden Prairie Fire Department has named Rik Berkbigler assistant chief of hazardous materials and emergency preparedness.

Berkbigler joined the Eden Prairie Fire Department in 2006 and served as an emergency medical technician, fire apparatus operator, HazMAt technician, and core instructor for the Community Emergency Response Team program. In 2010 he was promoted to lieutenant.
Read more about Assistant Chief Berkbigler.

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Paul Bilotta has been selected as the new community development director for the City of Roseville. Bilotta currently works at Stantec, a professional consulting business in planning, engineering, architecture, landscape architecture, and environmental science located in Roseville. He replaces Patrick Trudgeon, who was appointed as Roseville’s city manager in February.

“Paul has over 25 years of planning and economic development experience with municipalities, consulting companies, and private development firms,” Trudgeon said. “It was clear throughout the search process that he had the breadth of experience the City was looking for, especially in economic development activities.”

Bilotta holds a bachelor’s degree in urban planning from the University of Illinois and an MBA from the University of Michigan. He is a certified planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners and a Licensed Real Estate Broker in Minnesota and North Dakota. Prior to his work at Stantec, Bilotta worked for several real estate development companies and also served as community development director in Shakopee.

“I am very excited to be able to work in such a great community with its diversified economy, strong neighborhoods, and an advantageous location in the region,” said Bilotta.

In Memory
Former Golden Valley Councilmember Gloria Johnson died on April 23 at the age of 87. She served on the council for 26 years ending in 2003. She spent her career teaching English at St. Louis Park High School and Benilde-St.Margaret’s, and continued as a substitute teacher in the Robbinsdale until 2007.

Johnson is remembered by city colleagues as a caring and giving person. “She never got angry, she was always respectful, and she was empathetic,” said former City Manager Bill Joynes. “She had feelings for the residents.”

Johnson also played a big role in the redevelopment of Golden Valley’s downtown area in the mid-1990s. She disagreed with a proposal to build a Cub Foods store on the corner of Winnetka Avenue and Highway 55, organized a citizens group to campaign against it, and distributed flyers in the city. The resulting development—Golden Valley Commons and Town Square—has won awards for innovative and pedestrian-friendly design.

Johnson was named Golden Valley Rotary’s Citizen of the Year for 2003-2004. She did volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity and worked to advance a shelter for battered women. She was also part of a group that founded the Golden Valley Human Services Foundation. She was chair of the Golden Valley Housing and Redevelopment Authority from 1996 to 2001. She served on the Envision Golden Valley 2014 Steering Committee, and was at one time a member of the Golden Valley Board of Zoning Appeals. She was a member of the Golden Valley League of Women Voters, and a long-time member of Calvary Lutheran Church, where she sang in the choir.

Johnson was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Lawrence, in 1994; son Daniel, in 2007; and sister Marguerite Larsen. She is survived by seven children, 11 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and a sister.
(Source: Sun Post)

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Doug Peterson, mayor of Bemidji for 25 years, died on May 6 at the age of 75. Peterson served as mayor from 1975 to 2000, and also was a past City Council member.

During Peterson’s tenure as mayor, the west side of Bemidji was developed from plain forest into a wide swath of retail stores and restaurants. He also forged a connection between Bemidji and the city of New Orleans, signing a proclamation declaring the two as “sister cities” with then-New Orleans Mayor Ernest Morial in 1986.

In addition to his service on the council, Peterson was a volunteer firefighter for many years, a Mason, and a member of the board of directors for the American Red Cross.

Peterson is survived by his wife Darlene, nine children and stepchildren, 29 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, a brother, and a sister.
(Sources: Bemidji Pioneer and Inforum.com)