Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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Bison came out to roam at their new home on June 13 when they were released out into the Belwin Conservancy prairies. That day also marked the unveiling of the new observation tower overlooking the prairies. The new 20-foot tall tower, which gives spectators a panoramic view of the 150-acres of prairie, was constructed with the support and funding from Kowalski's Markets, the James Ford Bell Foundation, the Ten by Ten Foundation and members of the Belwin Conservancy.
Some people cook to relax after a long day at work, others may work out in the garden or go to their craft corner, but for Afton resident Ross Sveback these stress relievers are his job. Sveback's business Kon-tent encompasses all of these things and more -- cooking classes, party planning, crafts and gardening among others. Sveback has a daily blog that offers daily tips of the trade, but he also travels around the cities offering cooking classes.
It wasn't the two lawsuits on the June 16 Afton City Council agenda that received the most debate and emotions, it was Afton's roads that took center stage. During the meeting, council members Joe Richter and Randy Nelson had a lengthy discussion over the road reconstruction standards that were passed on Jan. 15. Richter proposed to eliminate the standards, whereas Nelson thought they should remain in place. Richter said he felt that in order to save money they should look at each project individually and address the need rather than reconstructing them to the same standard.
The Afton Planning Commission finally has all of its pieces in place now that the city council has appointed the final commissioner -- Tom Nolz. It has been some time since the planning commission has had a full nine-person status, because there were no applicants for the business member seat. The council approved a change to the makeup of the planning commission at its April 21 meeting when they approved an amendment to the ordinance to change the requirement for a member of the business community to simply an "at-large" representative.
The Afton City Council has taken hold of the reins to combat Washington County's discussion over horse boarding classifications. Council member Peg Nolz advised the council to jump on the wagon with this issue after the Washington County assessor's office reclassified properties where horse boarding and training occur from agricultural to commercial. This reclassification has resulted in significant increases in property taxes for those properties and could ultimately run horse boarders out of business.
The Afton City Council is one step closer to eliminating the lawsuit with FOC, LLC and Atomic Properties now that the settlement agreement has reached its final stages. At its June 16 meeting, the council approved the necessary ordinance amendments relating to impervious surface area, uses and architectural standards, despite the planning commission's recommendation for denial.
People who grew up with the "Chronicles of Narnia" books by C.S. Lewis know about the Pevensie children, Mr. Tumnus and the great Lion "Aslan." Now fans of this fantastical world will be able to meet these characters in the Woodbury Community Theater's production of "Narnia: The Musical" when it opens for the general public on July 8. "Narnia" relates the beloved classic "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" through the addition of music.
It was a Relay to remember on June 19 for the Relay for Life of Woodbury at Ojibway Park.
There will be another new face at Afton City Hall -- an "assistant administrator" has been hired. Sara Irvine of Mound, Minn. will take up the responsibilities of the assistant administrator, pending a background and reference check. The council first began discussing the possibility of hiring an assistant administrator at its May 26 workshop as a way to save on services that get sent out of house. Irvine received a 3-2 approval vote from the council. Council members Randy Nelson and Bill Palmquist dissented.
Ever had a rock collection? How about a leaf collection? Are you interested in fossils or insects? Well the R.H. Stafford Library has the place for you this summer -- the Collectors' Corner. In cooperation with the Science Museum of Minnesota, the library will be the first to bring a satellite location of the Collectors' Corner Trading Post outside the museum. Library manager Chad Lubbers said he hopes to instill a love of science in young readers. "We wanted to set up a program to encourage work in the natural world for kids," library manager Chad Lubbers said.