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Archive | December, 2013

Dec2013BlackBear2

City seeks to oust Black Bear Crossings from Como Pavilion

Posted on 11 December 2013 by robwas66

Black Bear owners counter that they have not breached their contract

Black Bear Crossings owner David Glass chats with a Thursday morning regular, Preston Parker, a staff member from Johnson High School. A class of developmentally disabled students and their teachers visit the coffee shop once a week. "It's a community coffee house. That's really what it is," said Jim Durand, who was sitting near Parker. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Black Bear Crossings owner David Glass chats with a Thursday morning regular, Preston Parker, a staff member from Johnson High School. A class of developmentally disabled students and their teachers visit the coffee shop once a week. “It’s a community coffee house. That’s really what it is,” said Jim Durand, who was sitting near Parker. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)


By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN

The city of St. Paul and Black Bear Crossings on the Lake are embroiled in a legal battle about who should run the Como Lakeside Pavilion.

The owners of Black Bear are determined to stay for another five years, while city officials have begun the process of finding a new vendor to manage the event and restaurant space at the pavilion.

“There is tremendous potential for the Como Lakeside Pavilion,” said Brad Meyer on behalf of the St. Paul Parks Department. “The city is looking for a vendor that can not only manage the highly successful banquet and wedding space in the facility, but could also operate a destination restaurant.”

THE ALLEGATIONS

St. Paul city officials charge that Black Bear violated the terms of its contract.

Specifically, the city charges that Black Bear paid its rent late for the past four years; did not provide the city with three bids for each project it undertook; and submitted receipts two years late.

Additionally, the city charges that Black Bear did not submit its financial records to the city for review in a timely manner. The city requested the records on May 15, 2013 and expected them within 15 days. They were provided in August 2013.

Attorney Ryan Marth is representing David and Pamela Glass, the owners of Black Bear. In a letter to the city, Marth argues that even though the management agreement between Black Bear and the city did not call for a mid-contract evaluation, Black Bear “timely complied with each of the records requests.”

Black Bear counters that the city did not issue correct invoices that factored in the money the Glasses spent on building projects despite being asked repeated times for them. But when given the correct invoices, the rent was paid. “Tellingly, the city never informed Black Bear that it believed that Black Bear’s annual payments were missing or late,” said Marth.

According to Marth, the city did not articulate its concerns to the owners of Black Bear over the last five months. “The purported ‘breaches’ of the management agreement by Black Bear are nothing more than a ruse constructed to allow the city to replace Black Bear with a different vendor,” wrote Marth.

SUCCESSFUL OR NOT?

A statement issued by the city pointed out that there are almost 4.4 million visitors at Como each year. The Como Lakeside Pavilion “is nestled in a highly trafficked area of the park near trails and Como Lake. Similar locations in the region, including in Minneapolis at Minnehaha Falls (Sea Salt) and Lake Calhoun (Tin Fish), have seen great success.”

According to city representatives, “The city continues to be concerned that the cafe has not shown the level of sales that would be expected from a successful establishment in that location.

“The issue is not revenue to the city, as BBC pays a flat fee pursuant to its most recent management agreement, but rather a concern that this publicly-owned facility is not being operated to its highest capacity.”

“We have the responsibility as stewards of public resources and public lands to ensure the types of agreements we enter into are in the best interest of Saint Paul taxpayers,” said Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hahm. “We’re confident that with the right restaurant concept in this space, the public use of the Como Lakeside Pavilion will increase as a local asset and help it become a regional destination.”

“I’m looking forward to working with the community and stakeholders to determine what’s next for this great public space,” said Ward 5 Councilmember Amy Brendmoen. “With the right partner, these types of facilities can provide a very important service to their neighborhoods and communities.”

The Glasses counter that the city’s proposed benchmarks are discriminatory, and pointed out that they are not aware of any other city foodservice vendors whose leases are contingent upon meeting city-imposed benchmarks.

SURPRISED BY CITY

Dec2013BlackBear2Glass, a St. Paul Ward 5 resident, said he was surprised by the city’s decision not to renew their contract “after they came to us in 2009 and asked us to renew for another 10 years.” He and his wife, Pam, had been considering moving on with their lives and leaving the restaurant business, but agreed to stay.

According to Glass, “The city has been telling us how well we have been doing as recent as this past spring when they asked us to look at park property in Phalen to see if we were interested in doing concessions there and handle the wedding business at that site.”

However, he said that things changed earlier this year when council member Brendmoen “suggested I take on Sea Salt as a partner.”

Glass, a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, questions whether it is the Native American influence inside their restaurant that has displeased the city. “Councilmember Amy Brendmoen disparaged the Native American influence in a meeting at the Pavilion with Mr. Glass,” observed Marth.

“Since the year 2000, we’ve built a nice little business and helped to transform the site to the stature it was meant to have,” remarked Glass.

During the Glasses’ tenure, a patio was built on the lake side of the pavilion, and two perennial gardens created. A concession stand was added on the lower lever of the pavilion, and it also handles paddleboats and canoe rentals.

Glass pointed out that they have plans to upgrade the menu and remodel the restaurant.

“We’ve been good stewards of a public building and helped to improve the overall physical presence in the maintenance of the building,” said Glass.

“We’ve been a good partner for the city and are very discouraged by their current actions.”

 

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Dec2013Ally4

Ally People Solutions brings solutions to the disabled while solving business needs too

Posted on 11 December 2013 by robwas66

Dec2013_Feature_Ally

The Ally Business Solutions ribbon cutting and open house ceremony with the Midway Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 28 at their new location at 1885 University Ave. W. in Iris Park Place. The name of the organization changed from Midway Training Services to Ally People Solutions during the last year.

By JAN WILLMS

When Cynthia Gayles was diagnosed with traumatic brain disorder five years ago, she lost her self-esteem as well as her short-term memory.

“With my memory gone, I felt embarrassed and fell into a deep depression,” she recalls. “But I had a great case manager, and she encouraged me to try Ally People Solutions (APS).”

That organization first began in 1965. It was founded by families who had adult children with developmental disabilities and wanted to care for their loved ones at home. APS has evolved through the years from a safe place for people with mental health issues to gather for day activities to offering them job skills training and employment.

Gayles currently works on document preparation at the agency’s new branch at 1885 University Ave., which opened Sept. 16.

Dec2013Ally2

Cynthia Gayles works on documents at Ally’s new Ally Business Solutions location at 1885 University Ave. W. Gayles is only one of the approximately 270 individuals and their families who are currently being served at four branch locations of APS. (Photo by Jan Willms)

“This is our premier site, because it houses many of our emerging programs,” said Erika Hiller, director of development and communications. As well as providing space for arts and cultural and health and wellness programs, the location is dedicated to being a Business Solutions branch.

Timothy Danielson is another participant at the new branch. He was severely injured in a car accident seven years ago, which resulted in a traumatic brain injury.

“I spent time in a coma and then went through rehabilitation,” Danielson explained. “I tried to pick up my life where I left off.” A veteran, he had used his GI benefits to study culinary arts.

“I had a lot of trouble with what I had chosen to study,” Danielson remembers. “Cooking involves a lot of multi-tasking. It’s not so hard to do it at home, but it’s a different thing when you are cooking at a restaurant.”

“It was like death by a thousand cuts,” Danielson said. “There was no one thing that made it impossible, but so many little things that kept adding up until I couldn’t do it anymore.”

He said he gave up. He resides in a group home, and his independent skills worker told him about APS. Although he has only been a part of the program for two weeks, he said he has already seen progress.

“Music was a very deep passion of mine, and here there are musical instruments I can play with. That outlet is worth a lot to me, and it lets me stay confident. I feel like I am a person and able to express myself.”

Gayles and Danielson are only two of the approximately 270 individuals and their families who are currently being served at four branch locations of APS. Other sites are in Vadnais Heights, the Hillcrest area along White Bear Ave. and a location at 1246 University Ave., which houses the corporate offices.

Sen. John Hoffman, the marketing director at Ally Business Solutions (ABS), said the organization started at a time when de-institutionalization was taking place in Minnesota.

“Based on the overpopulation of institutions, local governments pushed to get people back into the community,” Hoffman said.

Dec2013Ally4

Current program activities at Ally People Solutions include employment services, life skills services and Business Solutions, utilizing Ally consumers’ skills in printing and documenting services, office support, document conversion, light maintenance and packaging.

Innovations and services have been steadily growing. In 1985 the organization incorporated as Midway Training Services (MTS) and located along University Ave. Multiple neighborhood branches were established in 2007. With the awareness that MTS participants and their parents needed an ally to navigate the complicated world of services, the name change from MTS to Ally People Solutions took place this year.

“We want to move individuals back into the community, and make everyone realize that disability is as natural as everything else in life,” Hoffman said.

Current program activities include employment services, life skills services and Business Solutions, utilizing Ally consumers’ skills in printing and documenting services, office support, document conversion, light maintenance and packaging.

Keith Johnson, community-based employment marketing manager, said ABS uses a program for supportive employment, Discovering Personal Genius, which is very person-centered and focuses on a consumer’s skills and interest.

“We network with people we already know and try to find a supportive environment, where it’s easier for an employee to feel at home,” he said.

Donovan Grajewski, ABS operations manager, said employment in digital imaging is provided primarily at the new site for consumers.

“Some are in the community independently working, some work crews go out and work with a job coach doing cleaning and landscaping,” he said.

He said digital imaging is the bulk of work in-house at three of the four branches.

For in-house employment, APS pays the wage. Consumers working in the community receive direct pay by the employer. APS also can function as a payroll agent for those working independently.

Hoffman emphasized that the wages paid are minimum wage or higher. About 72 per cent of consumers have developmental disabilities and 28 per cent have mental disabilities. Of these, 18 per cent experience medical conditions and 13 per cent have ambulatory difficulties.

Dec2013Ally3

Timothy Danielson plays the piano at Ally People Solutions, 1885 University Ave. W. location. As well as providing space for arts and cultural and health and wellness programs, the location is dedicated to being a Business Solutions branch. (Photo by Jan Willms)

“Ally is committed to hiring veterans,” said Hiller. “There is a great need right now with so many returning vets.”

She said the organization is also focusing on providing musical instruments for consumer use. “When our consumers have down times, they can express themselves through the arts,” she said. Art supplies are provided.

“Cedar Cultural Center has new visiting artists come over and perform, sometimes with our consumers. We also work with McPhail Center for Music on neural motor training, to unlock some of the real abilities our consumers have,” she added.

Hiller said Creative Enterprise Zone and Springboard for the Arts offer structural art classes at the sites. She added that Ally has partnered with the YMCA to provide its consumers opportunities for exercising, learning about healthy eating and community gardening.

“Ally is not only a place to derive a paycheck, but to have a sense of belonging and community,” Johnson added.

Gayles agreed. “I was on the pity pot before, but not anymore,” she reflected.

For Danielson, Ally is a place he looks forward to coming to. “That is something I have not felt in a long time,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you the last time I felt like I wanted to do something useful.”

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Dec2013_Feature_GaltierSch

In search of community: A new principal and new beginnings for Galtier Community School

Posted on 11 December 2013 by robwas66

Dec2013_Feature_GaltierSch

Galtier Principal Shawn Stibbins

By KYLE MIANULLI

Galtier Community School, 1317 Charles Ave., is setting a new course to success. With an innovative building redesign on the way and a new focus on personalized learning, Principal Shawn Stibbins, who started at Galtier this fall, is now looking to the community to help bring the neighborhood school into a new era.

Stibbins was born and raised in St. Paul where he attended St. Paul Public Schools. He comes to Galtier from Meadow Lake Elementary School in Robbinsdale where he was assistant principal.

Coming to Galtier was, in a way, coming home for Stibbins. It was here that he first found his passion for education while working as a mentor for four years while attending Hamline University.

“Having that experience here in the classroom is what gave me the spark to say ‘I want to be in education. I think I can make a difference,’” Stibbins said.

With a career of classroom education and school administration experience behind him, Stibbins is working hard to now make a difference at Galtier.

He recognizes the school has not always been the first choice for neighborhood families, partly due, he says, to it having a “rough reputation.” With a broad range of improvements and changes coming, that’s something the new principal hopes won’t last.

“Galtier is changing. It has had a negative reputation and I think that’s something we are very intentional about getting rid of,” Stibbins says.

When Galtier switched over from a magnet school to a community school, it turned over about two-thirds of its student body, Stibbins said. It remains a racially and ethnically diverse school—something Stibbins says contributes to a rich learning environment.

The student body at Galtier is 60 percent Black, 17 percent Asian, 11 percent Latino, and 10 percent White.

Aligning with the district’s “Strong Schools, Strong Communities” initiative, Stibbins says support from the neighborhood is integral to making Galtier a point of pride for the community.

“For us to really have a strong school, the people in the community and in the neighborhood really have to be behind the school,” Stibbins says.

There are some exciting new reasons to get behind Galtier, too. The school was recently selected to participate in the American Architectural Foundation’s Design for Learning Program, which seeks to advance the value of design in supporting educational innovations, improved learning, and stronger communities.

As part of the program, the school building is undergoing a major redesign with a focus on innovative flexible spaces for learning. The plans will completely overhaul the typical classroom structure.

Instead of a single static classroom, the new “learning studios” will have a spacious center area with movable partitions and garage door-like walls that will allow teachers to hand tailor unique learning spaces and allow students to freely move between different rooms and specialized areas. Movable ergonomic furniture will further provide flexibility in setting up personalized space for different projects and focus areas.

A new media center will also allow students to explore and interact freely with a variety of different technologies on their own terms, Stibbins said.

A greater emphasis on technology integration in classrooms is also planned. An early manifestation of this is a project Fourth and Fifth graders have just finished. Each student created a piece of art, then recorded a Podcast talking about their inspiration.

The pieces will be on display at Groundswell coffee shop, 1340 West Thomas Ave., through the end of the year. On each work will be a QR code that customers can scan and listen to each student talk about their work.

Groundswell has been an early leader in setting a trend of community support for Galtier. The school was made a major focus of their Grounds and Sounds festival last summer. A silent auction at the event helped raise money to support arts programming at the school.

Stibbins knows that part of building community around Galtier means heading out and connecting with people directly. This year, Galtier teachers are participating in the St. Paul Parent-Teacher Home Visit Project. Sans paper and pencils, teachers are regularly making home visits, talking directly with families.

“It gives the teachers a chance to learn about the families and about the students on a different level,” Stibbins says.

Stibbins himself is starting a new program to get out in the community as well and champion the school. Starting in December, he will be hosting Coffee with the Principal events—a series of informal conversations with community members and families.

The new Galtier, including plans for the renovation, will be on full display at this year’s School Choice Day in January. Stibbins encourages community members to attend, and to stop by for a chat or personal tour of the school.

 

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Dec2013Frogtown

Frogtown Park deal finalized

Posted on 11 December 2013 by robwas66

Dec2013_Feature_Frogtown

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced recently that it had closed on a deal to create a new park and urban demonstration farm in the Frogtown neighborhood, one of Saint Paul’s most park-lacking areas. The site has long been a favorite of area children as a sledding venue.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced recently that it had closed on a deal to create a new park and urban demonstration farm in the Frogtown neighborhood, one of Saint Paul’s most park-lacking areas.

The park will be located on land formally owned by the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. The 12.7 acres is an oddly shaped parcel occupying about one-half the 6-square-block area bounded by Minnehaha Ave. on the north, N. Victoria St. on the east, W. Lafond Ave. on the south, and N. Chatsworth St. on the west. The land abutting Minnehaha will be the nature part of the proposed development, while recreation will be the focus on the part abutting N. Victoria. The “Frogtown Farm” (see article below) will occupy approximately 5 acres that connects the other two parts of the park.

“Saint Paul has some of the best green spaces in the country, and it is crucial that every family deserves to have easy access to parks,” said Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. “I am thrilled that we are adding a natural area in this historic neighborhood. For far too long, Frogtown has gone without enough parkland. Today’s announcement is truly a celebration for one of Saint Paul iconic neighborhoods.”

Frogtown has the lowest amount of green space per child in all of Saint Paul, .006 acres per child. The new Frogtown Park and Farm will offer a safe place for neighborhood children to play and experience nature. The 12.7-acre park will feature dozens of 50- to 100-year old trees, a recreation area, a sliding hill, an urban demonstration farm and beautiful hilltop views of the city.

“This was an underused, vacant space that will now be converted it into an easily accessible park,” said Susan Schmidt, Director of the Minnesota Office of The Trust for Public Land. “This new green space will benefit the current generation of Minnesotans, and many generations of Minnesotans to come.”

TPL paid $2.20 million for the property, which has a fair market value of $4.7 million. TPL immediately conveyed the land to the City of Saint Paul who will own and operate the park.

Dec2013Frogtown

While the site had been used by area children in the past, the new Frogtown Park and Farm will offer a safe place for neighborhood children to play and experience nature. The 12.7-acre park will feature dozens of 50- to 100-year old trees, a recreation area, a sliding hill, an urban demonstration farm and beautiful hilltop views of the city.

The Wilder Foundation agreed to sell the property at a substantial discount to further its charitable mission and serve the Frogtown neighborhood. Wilder is a non-profit community organization that had owned this property since 1969.

“The Wilder Foundation Board agreed that dramatically decreasing the asking price would enable the neighborhood, the City and The Trust for Public Land to use this property in way that we could all be proud of as a community. We are thrilled that this park will be a reality for Frogtown residents,” said MayKao Hang President and CEO of the Foundation.

Funding for this project comes from state lottery funds (the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources), the City of Saint Paul and many individuals and foundations. In addition to funding for purchasing the land, The Trust for Public Land is also raising funds for initial improvements at the park, community engagement, and capacity building for Frogtown Farm, the nonprofit that will lease a portion of the land to operate a demonstration farm.

“This deal is exactly the type of partnership that makes Ward 1 great, and will bring our diverse community together to create positive change,” said Dai Thao, newly elected Councilmember representing this area of the city. “Too often we see roadblocks for these types of initiatives, but having all of these partners coming together to address a community need, is exactly the type of progress we need for Frogtown and the City of Saint Paul.” The urban demonstration farm is one of the more unique aspects of the park. The farm will grow a variety of crops, and will also serve as a tool for teaching about environmental stewardship, community self-sufficiency, healthy living and community collaboration.

TPL closed on the transaction on Dec. 4 after working on the project for many years. The Trust for Public Land is a national, nonprofit land-conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Established in 1972, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than 90,000 acres of important lands for conservation in Minnesota.

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Dec2013_Feature_ComoSrHigh

Como Park hockey players score well on the ice and in the classroom

Posted on 11 December 2013 by robwas66

Dec2013_Feature_ComoSrHigh

Como Park Cougar’s Max Inskeep scores against Richfield. The Cougars have done well on the ice but they also take great pride in the fact that the team is the highest scoring boys hockey team in the state – academically.

Como Park may have the highest scoring boys hockey team in the state – academically.

“Our focus in hockey is to work hard, improve everyday, but family and school work comes first,” Cougars coach Dave Bakken said.

The Cougars as a team have a grade point average of 3.98, and they have four student athletes earning more than a 4.0. Three of those four rank in the top 10 of their class.

“Our group of friends really pushes each other,” Elliot Moorman said.

Moorman has achieved quite a bit in his academic career and on the ice too. The senior forward takes all of his classes at the University of Minnesota and holds a 4.72 GPA, ranked sixth in his class. He also plays club soccer and trains for a club rowing team.

All of the Cougars who earn over a 4.0 take mostly advance placement (AP) courses, and they set an example for the rest of the team by working hard at practice and cracking open the books when there’s an opportunity on team road trips. Bakken often gets a classroom reserved at the opponent’s school for his varsity players to study during the junior varsity game.

Tor Will, Moorman, Zach Lee and Rawley Crow all earn over 4.0 in school and play varsity hockey for the Cougars. Lee and Will also are two of the team’s leading scorers.

“He has a great shot and is a good decision maker,” Bakken said of Will.

Lee plays defenseman and can play physical on the defensive end, and he can find the right guy to shoot the puck to. He is one of the team’s leading scorers.

“He’s real efficient,” Bakken said. “His timing on defense as far as breaking up the other team’s plays is as good as I’ve ever seen in high school hockey. On the offensive end, he always makes the smart play.”

Will played on the Cougars soccer team, which won the state title in the fall when he scored the game-winning goal. He also plays on the baseball team in the spring. He has a 4.60 GPA, ranked eighth in his graduating class.

“It’s balancing, making sure you’re managing your time,” Will said.

Lee also played on the soccer team in fall, and he plays on the tennis team in the spring. He plays forward for the hockey team. Lee has a 4.84 GPA, ranked second in his class, and he takes all AP classes.

Crow, a senior forward with the Cougars, also has a 4.15 in the classroom.

Out of all their academic and athletic achievements, Moorman certainly would win the award for most traveled. He worked at a Hospital in Kenya over the summer after raising money to go. The year before, he played for a U.S. select hockey team to represent the country in Russia for an ambassador youth program.

“They picked the team based on leadership skills,” Moorman said. “They needed to look at hockey skill insofar as you could at least play well.”

The Cougars may not pile up all the accolades other programs do with the conference titles, section titles, state appearances; they come out to compete hard each game and display good sportsmanship. Bakken wants them to come away with building character and building for the future more so than filling up the win column.

“I just hope that we get better every day,” Lee said. “I understand we’re not going to win every game, but as long as we keep pushing forward and improving and staying positive with each other, then it will be a great season no matter what the results are.”

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