Hopkins, Minnetonka 2012 Year in Review
A look back at the stories that shaped Minnetonka, Hopkins the past year
Congratulations! You made it through a fake apocalypse and another holiday season to reach 2013. No one can predict what is in store for the coming year, but we can recap the events that shaped 2012.
Here are 10 of the top stories from the previous 365 days.
DFLers exert control in 2012 election
Voters in Hopkins and Minnetonka came to the polls in nearly record numbers for this year’s general election Nov. 6.
In Minnetonka, voters cast 34,382 ballots, or 89 percent of all eligible voters in the city. During the last presidential election in 2008, 33,558 voters cast ballots, or 82 percent of all eligible voters. In 2004, voter turnout in Minnetonka was 92 percent. This year, the city accepted 5,102 absentee ballots – nearly 15 percent of all ballots cast.
This year in Hopkins, 85 percent of all eligible voters – 9,130 – came out to the polls. The city received 993 absentee ballots, which accounted for 12 percent of all ballots cast.
Senate District 44:
Incumbent DFL Sen. Terri Bonoff returned to the State Senate after defeating Republican challenger David Gaither in the race for the District 44 seat.
Bonoff won with 27,204 votes – nearly 56 percent – to Gaither’s 21,464 votes, which accounted for 44 percent of the vote. Seventy-five write-in votes were cast – accounting for .15 percent of the total vote.
Senate District 46:
Senate District 46 legislators returned to the state Capitol as members of the majority party in both chambers.
Sen. Ron Latz won about 67 percent of the Senate District 46 vote while Republican challenger Paul Scofield received about 33 percent of the vote. Latz took in 29,755 votes compared to Scofield’s 14,680 votes. Voters cast 93 write-in votes in the race.
Senate District 48:
Minnesota State Sen. David Hann, District 48, is an Eden Prairie elected official who held strong on Election Day. Hann, a Republican, won 53 percent of the votes compared to Democratic challenger Laurie McKendry, who received 46.7 percent of votes. The vote total was 33,104, including 41 write-in votes.
Senate District 49:
Target attorney Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina, won the Senate District 49 seat in a race against two-term Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina. The Senate race was incumbent-free after Sen. Geoff Michel decided not to run for re-election.
House District 44B:
Incumbent DFLer Rep. John Benson returned to the Minnesota House of Representatives after defeating Republican challenger Mark Stefan in the race for his House District 44B seat.
Benson won with nearly 56 percent of the vote to Stefan’s 44 percent of the vote.
Voters cast 13,754 votes for Benson, 10,848 for Stefan and 36 write-in votes, which accounted for .15 percent of the remaining votes.
House District 46B:
In House District 46B, incumbent Steve Simon won nearly 70 percent of the vote, or 14,956 votes. Republican David Arvidson received about 30 percent of the votes, or 6,372 votes. Voters cast 45 write-in votes.
House District 48A:
Democratic challenger Yvonne Selcer won the Minnesota House District 48A race against incumbent Kirk Stensrud in a close race.
Selcer won by 202 votes or .82 percent more that than Stensrud. The total vote counts: Selcer: 12,458; Stensrud: 12,256; Write-in: 34.
House District 49B:
Paul Rosenthal, a one-time state representative, defeated his GOP challenger by 1,700 votes to win the Minnesota House District 49B election.
Rosenthal received 13,560 votes, besting Jacobson’s 11,840 votes, according to Hennepin County’s election results.
Hennepin County Board, District 6:
Incumbent Hennepin County Commissioner Jan Callison returned to the Hennepin County Board after defeating challenger Dave Wahlstedt. Callison won with nearly 58 percent of the vote to Wahlstedt’s 41.6 percent.
Voters cast 40,904 votes for Callison, 29,420 for Wahlstedt, and 369 write-ins, accounting for .52 percent of the vote.
Three Rivers Park District 3:
Daniel Freeman won with 68.56 percent (36,760 votes) from all 52 precincts in District 3. Matthew Laue lost with 30.25 percent (16,217 votes), and 642 write-in votes were cast, accounting for the remaining 1.20 percent.
Three Rivers Park District 4:
Former Minnetonka City Manager John Gunyou won the board seat in the Fourth District with 53.55 percent (31,507 votes) of the 67 precincts in District 4. Leigh Harrod received 45.69 percent (26,883 votes), and 446 write-in votes were counted.
Hopkins board denies Unite Edina detachment request
An attempt by a group of Edina residents to secede from the Hopkins school district is over – for now.
Hopkins School Board voted unanimously Dec. 20 to deny a request for 467 northwest Edina properties to leave the school district with the intent of annexing into the Edina school district.
After a presentation of the timeline of the request, the history of the Hopkins school district’s formation and the financial impacts of the detachment, Supt. John Schultz told the board the recommendation was to deny the request because it wasn’t in the best interest of the Hopkins school district.
Alan Koehler, chair of the Parkwood Knolls neighborhood’s Unite Edina 273 group, encouraged the board during his public comments prior to the vote to approve the detachment request, even if they personally opposed it, to allow the Edina residents to continue with the process. If the board had approved the request, it would have gone to the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners for approval.
The detachment area would take $557,000 in revenue out of the district, Business Services Director John Toop said. The detachment would cause an increase of $13 annually in Hopkins school district property taxes for a $200,000 home, and a decrease of $19 annually in Edina school district property taxes for a $200,000 home, he said.
The next step for the group is to share this two year-long experience with the Legislature in January and ask them if that’s how the statute should work on detachment and annexation between school districts, Koehler said.
Legislation changing the statute passed the Minnesota House and was introduced in the Senate during the 2012 session. The change would have allowed detaching property owners to work through the process without the approval of the district school board from which they are detaching.
Unite Edina 273’s request to join the district began in October 2010 when Edina residents presented Schultz with a request to detach from the school district. The process began to ramp up, however, when the neighborhood delivered 425 petitions to Schultz’s office requesting detachment on Sept. 28, 2012.
The Hopkins School Board received a total 448 petitions, two of which were unable to be legally verified, from 467 parcels in the detachment area, Voss said. Nineteen didn’t submit petitions.
Two Hopkins School Board committee meetings were held prior to the Dec. 20 school board meeting, where Unite Edina 273 laid out its case for detachment.
Minnetonka man killed in collision with squad car
A Minnetonka man was killed Dec. 4 when he drove into the path of a Minnetonka police car responding to a 911 call.
The crash occurred at the intersection of Excelsior Boulevard and Woodland Road in Minnetonka around 9:30 p.m.
Sean Kian, 52, was pronounced dead at the scene after being ejected from his vehicle, a 1988 BMW 325I convertible.
The driver of the squad car, Minnetonka Police Officer Daniel Aschenbrener, 28, suffered non-life threatening injuries and was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center and was later released.
Aschenbrener, heading west in his squad car on Excelsior Boulevard with his lights on and sirens engaged, was responding to a report of a 17-year-old male who was threatening his family and searching his house for a weapon with the intent of harming himself. The call was not compromised because of the crash.
Kian was northbound on Woodland Road approaching Excelsior Boulevard, when Kian reportedly drove into the oncoming officer’s path.
“Any time a life is lost, it’s a heartbreaking, heart-wrenching situation for all involved, especially the family,” said Minnesota State Patrol Officer Eric Roeske.
Roeske said the state patrol’s crash reconstruction team began working at the site immediately to determine how and why the crash occurred.
Yet to be determined are the speed of both vehicles at the time of the crash, the status of the traffic lights at the intersection and the status of the Opticom System, which preempts the normal operation of traffic lights, typically to assist emergency vehicles.
Minnetonka Police Chief Mark Raquet said Aschenbrener has been placed on administrative leave while more information is gathered.
Alcohol and text messaging did not appear to be factors in the accident, Roeske said, and the investigation will determine if there is video surveillance of the collision.
Kian was not wearing his seat belt at the time of the crash.
“With the impact of the crash on the passenger side of the vehicle, the actual area where the driver sits was largely unaffected by the crash,” Roeske said at a press conference this afternoon in the Minnetonka City Council Chambers. “It’s our belief that there’s a very, very high likelihood that he would have survived this crash had he been wearing a seat belt.”
Roeske said that reconstruction reports are typically very involved processes, which affect when investigations are complete.
“There’s a lot of things that are yet to be determined that can either accelerate or cause the investigation to take more time,” he said. “I couldn’t put a real solid timetable on it right now.”
Hopkins Library celebrates 100 years
The Hopkins Library celebrated its centennial this past spring.
Though the actually building that has housed the Hopkins Library has changed over the years, the spirit of providing information and being a community-gathering place remains unchanged.
This May and June, the library offered a plethora of activities for its patrons in commemoration of its 100-year anniversary.
The library had exhibits that included historical stories and photos, some of which are on loan from the Hopkins Historical Society.
The library also displayed an exhibit of the 100 best children’s and 100 best adult books from the past 100 years and a display of photos of community families entitled “Portraits of Us.”
As part of the celebration, kids, teens and adults were invited to draw or tell their favorite library memory or story. These entries were displayed throughout the library this spring.
The library hosted its centennial open house celebration “Happy 100th: Then, Today, Tomorrow” on June 3, which featured authors Anne Ursu, former Hopkins children’s librarian Maryann Weidt, and JoAnn Bren Guernsey.
Hopkins resident Kristin Kaspar researched and compiled a Hopkins Library history for the centennial celebration.
In 1910, West Minneapolis (as Hopkins was known at the time) businesses, housing, churches and other buildings sprang up and the Women’s Improvement League convinced city officials the village needed a library.
In 1912, a library was organized and housed in three rooms in city hall at the intersection of 8th Avenue and Excelsior Avenue, now Mainstreet. The library was stocked with books provided by the league and high school alumni. Its first librarian was Lillian Wheeler.
By 1915, the library’s book collection reached 800, with about 450 checked out each month. By that time, there were 1,050 issued library cards.
Nearly two decades later in 1931, the village discussed merging its library with the Hennepin County Library System to improve access to resources, but the village council voted in favor of the library remaining independent.
The next year, Bloomie Mountain began her 30-year tenure as the village librarian. Under her leadership, the library’s collection expanded from 3,600 volumes to more than 28,000.
In 1948, the library moved to the Dow House to house the ever-expanding volume collection. The Dow House was a Victorian brick mansion built in 1894 at Ninth Avenue and First Street South, now home to the city’s post office.
Fifteen years later in 1963, the library made a temporary move to a location at 9th Street North and Mainstreet to improve public access to its collection.
After five years at its temporary digs, the current library was built in 1968 at 22 11th Ave. N.
In 1973, the library merged with the Hennepin County Library system.
Two years ago, an early literacy play area called “Main Street Hopkins” was created near the children’s collection, said Bjerken.
5. SWLRT – Seth handling copy
Marketplace & Main opens in Hopkins
The Marketplace & Main development in Hopkins opened for business in September.
The project, which includes 53 luxury rental apartments, 6,000 square- feet of retail space and seven townhouse units, was completed on schedule.
This project has been one the city and multiple developers have worked on for many years and began the early planning stages when Hopkins Honda Body Shop relocated its operations to Excelsior Boulevard.
The first project developer, the Cornerstone Group, initially planned for a condominium development at the site and later sold the land and project to the Beard Group.
After the condo market collapsed in 2008, The Beard Group switched gears from a condo-exclusive project to one that included apartments, retail space and townhomes.
The Beard Group broke ground in the fall of 2011 on the $13.5 million project, which spans 6th to 8th avenues on Mainstreet.
Before new construction could begin on the site, the old Hopkins Honda Body Shop had to be demolished.
The project slowed when a major phone line had to be re-routed, but the mild winter and spring allowed workers to catch up on the project.
The apartments feature 17 different floor plans of one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom layouts and cost $1,000 to $2,100 per month to rent.
The units feature wood cabinets, wood floors, stainless steel appliances and a washer and dryer unit in the apartment – typical of a condo-style layout.
The new development will add to the city’s goal of making the heart of Hopkins a destination for business owners and shoppers, as well as a vibrant place to live, according to Hopkins officials.
After years in the making, the finish line is near for the Marketplace & Main development.
“Sometimes these projects take a lot of patience,” said Hopkins Director of Economic Development & Planning Kersten Elverum. “Thankfully we’re at the point where we can celebrate.”
Shady Oak Road development on schedule
Hopkins and Minnetonka are one step closer to final approval of the Shady Oak Road Reconstruction project.
Both city councils approved a redevelopment plan and acquisition and right of way agreements necessary to keep the project rolling this October.
The Hopkins council had previously approved a preliminary roadway layout for the Shady Oak Road project March 20 and the Minnetonka council followed suit March 26.
The project is a joint partnership between both cities and Hennepin County.
The estimated cost to acquire the right of way and temporary easements within Hopkins for this project is $5.3 million. This does not include costs for security, maintenance, structure removals or environmental assessments or cleanup required for the project.
Hopkins will reimburse Hennepin County 50 percent of the total costs, $2.68 million.
The estimated cost to acquire the right of way and temporary easements within Minnetonka for this project is $5 million. Minnetonka will reimburse the county 50 percent, $2.5 million.
As part of the project, Hennepin County will provide $3 million to assist in redevelopment and other needed improvements for the businesses located on the west side of Shady Oak Road between Oak Drive Lane and Bradford Road.
These funds will be used to acquire property, build new parking lots, repair existing parking lots, make façade improvements and for other public amenities.
To be eligible for these county funds, the projects must be located within a redevelopment project area, which has been created for the roadway improvements.
The right of way agreement leaves remaining parcels of land both east and west of Shady Oak Road. Under this agreement, there are conditions for how these parcels will be maintained.
The east remnant parcels can be used by the city of Hopkins as open spaces to create buffer areas between Shady Oak Road and nearby residences, Stadler said. The city will also be able to build a public trail and sidewalk and install underground utilities on these remnant parcels.
Minnetonka can use its west remnant parcels to create a new residential cul-de-sac and to maintain the adjacent open space.
Some of the existing business parking spaces along Shady Oak Road are within the right of way and will need to be removed. Project planners are working with the property owners on future parking area options for their properties, according to county officials.
A cooperative agreement will still need to be executed by both cities and the county before construction can begin.
Construction is expected to begin in spring 2014 and be finished by the fall 2015. The total project cost is a little more than $21 million.
Minnetonka couple killed in house fire
A house fire Nov. 23 in Minnetonka claimed the lives of the married couple who resided in the home, located at 19 Westwood Road.
Brian Neil Humphrey, 78, and his wife, Mary Sandra Humphrey, 76, were pronounced at 12:20 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, and the Medical Examiner confirmed the cause of death for both were injuries sustained as a result of the fire.
At 10:39 p.m. Friday night, Minnetonka police and fire department officials were dispatched to a report of a structure fire on Westwood Road. When officers arrived on the scene, the house had already been engulfed in flames, according to Minnetonka police officials.
After the fire was extinguished, the bodies of the Humphreys were located inside the home and later were released into the custody of the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office.
The cause of the fire is being investigated by the Minnetonka Police Department, in cooperation with the state fire marshal.
“We’re not sure how it happened,” said Minnetonka Police Capt. Scott Boerboom.
At this point in the investigation, the cause of the fire is believed to be accidental.
“We’re not expecting arson or anything like that,” Boerboom said.
Firefighters from Eden Prairie, Golden Valley, Hopkins, Plymouth and St. Louis Park responded and assisted with the fire.
Brian Humphrey was heavily involved in the Intercongregation Communities Association Food Shelf in Minnetonka, said ICA Executive Director Cathy Maes.
“He was a great volunteer for over 10 years,” she said.
Brian Humphrey was a congregation partner with ICA, working to benefit the Oak Knoll Lutheran Church in Minnetonka. He organized food drives for the homeless and assisted ICA during its quarterly meetings among his many community service actitives.
“There was never a day that he didn’t care about helping people with need and helping our organization move forward,” Maes said.
Mary Humphrey helped Brian run the food drives and was a constant presence at ICA community events, Maes said.
“They were continual givers,” recalled Maes. “They always gave.”
Cutline: Minnetonka fire and police officials were dispatched to a report of a house fire in Minnetonka Nov. 23. After the fire was extinguished, emergency personnel located two bodies in the home, later identified as Brian and Sandra Humphrey (Photo by Matthew Hankey – Sun Newspapers)
Minnetonka man killed in business shooting
Minnetonka resident Rami Cooks, 62, was one of five people killed during a workplace shooting at Accent Signage Systems in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood of Minneapolis on Sept. 27.
“He was a great man,” a male employee of Accent Signage Systems said of Cooks.
Cooks, a native of Israel, was a production manager at Accent Signage Systems, according to The American Jewish World website.
Alleged shooter, Andres Engeldinger, 36, of Minneapolis, shot and killed four people after learning his employment was being terminated at Accent Signage Systems. Engeldinger later took his own life by gunshot, according to a Minneapolis Police Department statement.
Cooks was shot at 4:35 p.m. and transported to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. He was later pronounced dead of a gunshot wound to the head at 11:18 p.m., according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.
Services for Cooks were held Sept. 30 at Bet Shalom Congregation in Minnetonka where he was a member.
The other shooting victims were Keith Basinski, 50, of Spring Lake Park; Jacob Bruce Beneke, 34, of Maple Grove; Ronald Edberg, 58, of Brooklyn Center and Reuven Rahamim, 61, of St. Louis Park.
Hopkins bans ‘airsoft’ BB guns
Hopkins outlawed Airsoft guns, BB guns and all other replica firearms usage in public places.
The city council unanimously voted in favor of prohibiting the carrying or displaying these types of weapons in a public space.
Public places are defined as areas around homes and businesses that can be viewed from nearby buildings and from the street or sidewalk.
“These replicas firearms have really become realistic looking,” said Hopkins Police Chief Mike Reynolds said.
Federal regulations call for replica guns to have an orange tip, but Reynolds said determining whether a weapon is real or fake can be difficult given the distance involved and low lighting situations.
“And, we’re asking our officers to make a split-second decision,” Reynolds said. “Not even a second. It’s a split-second decision.”
Reynolds noted that a middle-school student in Texas was shot and killed earlier last year due to circumstances confusing a replica gun for a genuine weapon.
“I do not want something like this to happen here in Hopkins,” he said. “I don’t want this tragedy happening to any of our families here. I don’t want any of our officers’ lives destroyed because they shot and killed someone who had a toy gun but it looked real. I don’t want any of our officers shot and killed because they thought the gun that killed them was a fake gun when it actually was a real gun.”
“By passing this ordinance, we’re taking the necessary steps from not allowing a senseless tragedy occurring in our community,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds said he received a letter of support from the Minnesota Airsoft Association regarding this ordinance and displayed this letter at the meeting.
“I’m not here to spoil any fun for our kids,” Reynolds said. “I believe that by not having these displayed, or carried in public, will provide more safety in our community.”
One resident spoke at the meeting regarding this situation.
“I would support this a thousand percent,” said Hopkins resident Don Roesner. “We’ve had a couple of incidents down in south Hopkins and there’s going to be a fatality if we don’t get those off the streets because they look real.”
The penalty for carrying a replica gun in a public place is a maximum of 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
Reynolds said he trusts his officers to make the right decisions with regards to who to charge with violating the ordinance, should it be approved next month.
“Every situation is different,” he said. “If these are just kids that didn’t understand the gravity of what could happen here, I know our officers can make those decisions – having that discretion to not always be charging someone with this.”