County board actions for July 7, 2015: Southwest LRT, child protection

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Carolyn Marinan, Communications, 612-348-5969

County board actions for July 7, 2015: Southwest LRT, child protection

Board approves funding for reduced-scope SWLRT 

Hennepin County leaders Tuesday became the first elected body to offer a formal funding commitment to a Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) plan that reduces the project’s scope by more than a quarter billion dollars and adds other local investments to the funding mix.

The Hennepin County Board approved $5 million from the Environmental Response Fund to address areas of contamination associated with SWLRT.  This is consistent with the funding plan approved last week by the SWLRT Corridor Management Committee.   

Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who chairs Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority, said the approval is the “first down payment on a shared investment by the county and the cities along the corridor,” and that this sort of collaboration and joint problem solving is why this region is highly regarded by the federal government and why we succeed in obtaining federal funding.

More approvals in the works

The Metropolitan Council is expected to vote on the plan later this week. Eden Prairie is expected to donate city-owned land worth $3 million; Minnetonka, St. Louis Park and Hopkins also have indicated a willingness to make a financial investment to allow the project to go forward.

“The success that we have achieved through this collaborative process shows our commitment to improved access to quality transportation for residents and visitors in Hennepin County,” said Board Chair Jan Callison. “I would like to thank the many partners who came together to focus on the well-being and development of the region.”

Commitments to the plan will keep the project’s ranking by the federal government unaffected, and are expected to maintain the project’s forward momentum toward a Full Funding Grant Agreement in late 2016. The line is currently scheduled to open in 2020.

Related board actions

In addition to support for the SWLRT scope reductions, the board also voted Tuesday to submit a $20 million 2016 State Capital Bonding request for the Bottineau Light Rail Transit project and support the Met Council’s request for the balance of the state contribution for SWLRT. 

Funding approved for 98 Child Protection, five County Attorney hires

The board approved a transfer of $429,000 in contingency funds, and accepted a state funding infusion of nearly $2.2 million to increase staffing and enable systems changes in the Child Protection Services unit. 

The additional funding will enable the Human Services and Public Health Department to adopt a series of recommendations put forth by Governor Dayton’s Task Force on the Protection of Children, and a county-initiated comprehensive review of services to county-involved children and youth. 

Changes will include the hire of 60 child protection social workers, and 38 supervisors, legal services staff, case management assistants and support staff. New staff will begin arriving in August, and will continue to start work every four to six weeks through the end of the year. The measure also includes $255,000 to cover five new hires in the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office; new state requirements are increasing both the number of cases Hennepin County must handle and the work done on each case. At least five additional positions will improve legal access for Child Protection staff.

Child protection oversight committee created

The board also voted to establish an oversight committee for child protection services in response to new State of Minnesota child protection requirements and Casey Family Programs report. The committee will consist of 7-11 members including two Hennepin County Commissioners, as well as community members, individuals with professional expertise in child protection, and others. The committee will regularly report to the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners.

Tasks created related to child protection recommendations

The board also voted to assign a series of tasks to county administration and human services leadership. Those tasks were related to the recommendations from the Casey report and the Governor’s Task Force. County administration will report back to the board on their progress by October 1, 2015. The tasks include:

  1. Instituting an impartial data unit to compile statistics on Child Protection Services.
  2. Making operational changes so that child protection calls are received by county staff throughout the day, including after business hours, and make improvements to the manner in which calls are communicated for further action.
  3. Completing a comprehensive workload study for Child Protective Services staff.
  4. Communicating to the County Board the list of social service providers used by Child Protective Services for either Family Assessment cases or traditional Investigative cases, including the most recent annual expenditures available for each agency.
  5. Providing a comprehensive evaluation of the Results Only Work Environment program for Child Protection Services. This evaluation should consider changes at existing facilities as well as spatial planning for future buildings. 
  6.  Improving early intervention responses to cases of neglect, including educational neglect, as well as cases screened out and closed by Child Protection.

Funding for homelessness prevention, rehousing

The Hennepin County Board has agreed to accept more than $4.2 million in state funding for the Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program. Services are aimed at preventing homelessness and quickly re-housing people who become homeless. Interventions include:

  • Financial assistance to pay rent
  • Legal services to negotiate tenancy and eviction issues
  • Rapid re-housing services to resettle homeless families and singles staying in county-paid shelters
  • Youth services to either reunify families or stabilize youth housing
  • Transitional housing for families at high risk of homelessness recidivism

Community partners include Community Action Partnership of Suburban Hennepin, Catholic Charities Community Emergency Assistance Program, Lutheran Social Services, People Responding in Social Ministry, Mid-MN Legal Assistance, Simpson Housing, Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People (VEAP), St. Stephen's, YMCA, YouthLink, Oasis and The Link.

Committing to justice for people with mental illnesses

The Hennepin County Board voted to endorse the Stepping Up initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in our county jail, commit to sharing lessons learned with other counties in Minnesota and across the country to support a national initiative and encourage all county officials, employees and residents to participate in Stepping Up.

Some measures could include:

  • Convening a diverse team of leaders and decision makers from multiple agencies, who are committed to safely reducing the number of people with mental illnesses in jails
  • Studying the problem to better identify those who enter jails with mental illnesses and assess their recidivism risk, then using that baseline information to guide decision-making at every level
  • Examining treatment and service capacity and access to determine which county programs and services are available for people with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders
  • Developing a research-based plan with measurable
  • Creating a process to track progress, and report successes

New Facility Services director appointed

The county board voted to confirm the appointment of Michael Sable to the position of Facility Services director. Mike holds a MBA from the University of St. Thomas and brings many years of local government leadership experience. He most recently served as Interim City Manager for the City of Brooklyn Park, where his duties have included oversight of the city's communications, human resources and information technology services. Mike will begin his new role in early August.

Environmental Response Fund projects approved

The board voted to approve Environmental Response Fund requests for 10 remediation projects. These grant awards will preserve or support development of 799 affordable housing units, enhance green space, significantly increase tax base, and provide new construction and permanent jobs.

Projects include:


  • 4041 Hiawatha Avenue—$130,135 to the City of Minneapolis/Hiawatha Partners LLC to assist with contaminated soil cleanup and soil gas vapor mitigation associated with development of affordable housing units
  • 700 Central —$140,620 to the City of Minneapolis/Nolan Properties Group for contaminated soil cleanup and soil gas vapor mitigation associated with renovation of vacant buildings into market rate apartments and new commercial space
  • Former Superior Plating— $118,233 to the City of Minneapolis/Lennar Multifamily Communities for operation of a remediation system in preparation for the development of a mixed-use commercial and multifamily residential redevelopment
  • Minneapolis Sculpture Gardens—$209,500 to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for contaminated soil cleanup during park renovations
  • North Loop Commons—$61,123 to the City of Minneapolis/NHH Olson Memorial, LLC for contaminated soil cleanup and soil vapor mitigation to renovate a vacant building for future charter school, commercial use, and office use
  • Seward Towers East and West—$221,250 to the City of Minneapolis/Seward Towers Corporation for asbestos abatement as part of their renovation of two existing low income/section 8 residential buildings


  • Oxford Village—$167,385 to Project for Pride in Living Inc. (PPL) for contaminated soil cleanup, asbestos abatement, and vapor mitigation associated with development of affordable rental housing units

St. Louis Park

  • The Shoreham—$200,000 to the City of Saint Louis Park EDA/Bader Development for contaminated soil cleanup associated with development of market-rate and affordable housing and office space


  • VEAP-Former Viking Foods—$75,334 to Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People, Inc. (VEAP) for soil vapor mitigation in a food production and distribution center and office space for the Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health team


  • Hamel Road stormwater infiltration pond—$62,500 for asbestos waste removal costs, associated with pond construction

Measure approved to explore joint youth treatment center with Ramsey County

Staff will move ahead to develop recommendations for principles, terms, practices and policies relating to a new joint Hennepin County-Ramsey County residential treatment center for youth in both counties.

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