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  • A seven-member community work group is recommending the Minneapolis firm KKE Architects, Inc.  to lead the process of site selection and building design for new police and fire stations. City Administrator Joel Walinski says that after a detailed scoring and interview process, KKE  was the top choice of every work group member. Walinksi says KKE presented a very good communication plan and expressed a good understanding of the city’s need to demonstrate a clear and open process throughout the project. Walinski also counts KKE’s staff experience in designing police and fire facilities as a reason for their selection. 17 local, regional and national firms submitted proposals. That list of applicants was narrowed down to 5 finalists, interviewed by the work group late last week. The selection work group consists of Walinski, city operations engineer Brian Erickson, Police Chief Mark Taylor, two city council members,  Carleton College facilities director Steve Spehn and local builder, Steve Schmidt.The recommendation will go before the Northfield city council at its April 6th meeting. If the council approves the recommendation, city staff will negotiate a contract with KKE to cover site analysis, design and engineering services. The police and fire facilities are proposed as part of the city’s 5-year capital improvement plan. 
  • Governor Pawlenty yesterday signed a bill cutting around $312 million in state spending, including more than $100 million in cuts to city and county aid. When legislators return from their holiday break, District 25 senator, Kevin Dahle says lawmakers have their work cut out for them. He says 70% of the budget remains to be fixed. The house and senate will look at health and human services and education spending as they try to fix the budget after the break.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau says 60 percent of Minnesota residents have returned their census forms as of Thursday, the soft deadline for mailing back the questionnaire. Nationally, the participation rate is 52 percent. If you’d like to see how Northfield is doing compared to other parts of the country, you can click here. The Census Bureau has spent hundreds of millions of promotional dollars, hoping to boost the mail response. It’s counting on a return rate of at least 67 percent and has based its budget for census takers on that figure. The highest response rate in Minnesota is in Brown County where 74 percent of residents have returned the forms. If you’re having trouble filling out the census form, assistance is available at the NCRC on Mondays and Tuesday from 9:00 to noon and Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.–that service will be available until April 15th. (AP contributed to this story.)

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