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Column: Dakota County gears up for spring

By Joe Atkins, Dakota County Commissioner, District 4

I hope you are enjoying the start of spring ... finally. This is a busy time in Dakota County.

First-time Homebuyer Program

Did you know Dakota County has a First-time Homebuyer Program? Celebrating its 35th year, Dakota County's program is administered by the Dakota County Community Development Agency and has helped more than 5,000 Dakota County residents purchase their first homes.

Homebuyers purchasing their first home in Dakota County can access:

• Fixed interest rate mortgage financing

• Mortgage credit certificate

• $8,500 in downpayment and closing cost assistance

• Reduced private mortgage insurance with our conventional HFA preferred mortgage

Find out more at: https://www.dakotacda.org/housing-resources/homeownership/first-time-hom...

Debt-free Dakota County

A recent report confirmed that Dakota County remains the only debt-free county in the metro area. It is quite rare across the state and country for a county government to have no debt.

Countywide values up.

Countywide market values, including new construction, are increasing 8.3 percent to $48.08 billion for 2018.

2018 market value map

The county's market value map is online. You can now view Estimated Market Value changes as percentages on citywide maps at gis.co.dakota.mn.us/content/dakco/PctChange/. After clicking on a link to a city's map it may take a moment to load in Adobe Acrobat Reader as these files may be large.

Talking trash

Dakota County is aiming to meet new state requirements by increasing countywide recycling from 50 percent currently to 75 percent by 2030, under a plan recently adopted. This causes less landfilling, less methane from decomposing garbage, and can save money if done efficiently.

About 60 percent of what goes into garbage is recyclable, with paper and cardboard being the No. 1 target for additional recycling among residents and businesses.

City halls recycle

The Dakota County Community Funding Program provides resources to cities for strategic waste abatement activities, including organics recycling, to help Dakota County achieve the metro-wide 75 percent recycling goal. The local TV news show "Insight 7" recently highlighted a local city hall as a success story.

In 2017, a waste study concluded that up to 97 percent of the total waste stream generated in Mendota Heights City Hall could be diverted by adding organics collection. The city decided to implement organics recycling within the building and installed collection containers, provided staff training, and started using compostable flatware.

The "Insight 7 "report can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/243692708. Mendota Heights is the fourth city hall to implement organics collection, following Eagan, Apple Valley and Lakeville.

Pine Bend Bluffs Trailhead

The Mississippi River Trail has a new trailhead at Pine Bend Bluffs near the Inver Grove-Rosemount border. Amenities include:

• Parking for 15 vehicles

• Access to the Mississippi River Trail

• Restroom building with drinking fountain

• Bike repair station

• Picnic tables and benches

• Interpretation and wayfinding

• Stunning views of the Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area and the Mississippi River

The trail and trailhead are open daily 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.. The restroom building is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. begin, then 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. later this spring.

Thank you to project partners, including the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Refugees

According to a recent report from the Minnesota Department of Health, 3,186 refugees came to Minnesota last year and 60 settled in Dakota County. The largest contingents in Dakota County were from Somalia (18), Ethiopia (13), Ukraine (8), the Democratic Republic of Congo (6), and Burma (6).

Bees and birds

Residents of Dakota County neighborhoods can get assistance with prairie and pollinator plantings by the Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District. Installation of a 2-acre native planting was completed last fall at a local senior housing complex and includes establishment of native perennial vegetation and correction of erosion problems.

For more info on what is available from Dakota County Soil and Water District, go to www.dakotaswcd.org/.

FREE FAMILY FRIDAYS. With spring officially here, check out various activities available through Dakota County: https://www.co.dakota.mn.us/parks/Activities/Pages/default.aspx. For families, I would recommend free family events on the first Friday of each month, including a scavenger hunt, geocaching, and campfire stories, among other activities.

I welcome questions and concerns. I can be reached at 651-438-4430 or Joe.Atkins@co.dakota.mn.us.