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Stillwater Schools Will Investigate a Complaint Filed Against 2 School Board Members

The Stillwater Area Public Schools Board of Education approved a motion to investigate a complaint filed by a district employee against two Board members during a closed meeting this week. A complaint was filed against Board Members Sarah Stivland and Mike Ptacek, Stillwater Area Schools Executive Director of Administrative Services Cathy Moen confirmed in an email this week. Both Stivland and Ptacek have been vocal critics of the School Board’s decision to close three elementary schools. Stivland was elected to her seat on the Board last November. Ptacek has served on the Stillwater Area Public Schools Board of Education since November 2008. Continue Reading →

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State Patrol: Roseville Teen Dies in Oak Park Heights Crash

A 17-year-old Roseville boy died Thursday afternoon after his motorcycle struck an SUV in Oak Park Heights. The driver of the motorcycle, Declan Ronan Raverty, died in the crash, according to the Minnesota State Patrol. The passenger on the motorcycle, Katie Rose Pagel, 20, of Roseville was transported to Regions Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. According to the Minnesota State Patrol, the fatal crash happened at about 4:45 p.m. on Highway 95, just north of Highway 36. A Harley Davidson was traveling northbound on Highway 95 when a Cadillac Escalade exited the Sunnyside Marina and crossed the highway, according to the State Patrol. The motorcycle struck the rear quarter panel of the SUV. Continue Reading →

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Forest Lake Reaches Tentative Agreement to Keep Police Department

It appears that the Forest Lake Police Department will not be disbanded after all. Days after the Forest Lake City Council voted to dissolve the police force, and contract with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the city of Forest Lake, the Forest Lake Police Department, the police union and Sheriff’s Office issued a joint press release announcing that a tentative agreement had been reached. Forest Lake patrol officers and sergeants unions will each hold a vote on the agreement on Thursday. The agreement will be presented to the council next week. City leaders and union representatives negotiated the agreement at the encouragement of Washington County Sheriff Dan Starry, county commissioners and city council members, the news release said. Continue Reading →

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Two Public Hearings Set for Short-Term Rentals in Stillwater

The Stillwater Planning Commission is hosting a public hearing next week to gather feedback about a proposed ordinance to allow, and regulate, short-term home rentals in town. The public hearing will begin at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 8 at Stillwater City Hall. The city council will consider the same proposal during a public hearing at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 21 at City Hall. If you cannot attend either public hearing, but would still like to participate in the process, you may submit written comments to Community Development Director Bill Turnblad via email at bturnblad@ci.stillwater.mn.us. The proposed ordinance hearing is a response to the popularity of websites such as Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO that enable property owners to rent out space in their home on a short-term basis. Continue Reading →

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First Open House for Osgood Avenue Project in Oak Park Heights, Stillwater Set for Feb. 8

Washington County is hosting an open house next week to present information — and gather feedback — about potential improvements to Osgood Avenue (County Road 24) between 50th Street North in Baytown Township and Oak Park Heights and Orleans Street East in Stillwater. The public meeting will be from from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8, at the Washington County Government Center. The open house will be in the lower level conference room 16. This is the first of two planned public open houses relating to the $2.4 million project. Continue Reading →

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3 Washington County Commissioners Sworn Into Office After Re-Election

Three Washington County commissioners were sworn into office Jan. 3 after being re-elected in November. Commissioners Gary Kriesel (District 3), Fran Miron (District 1) and Lisa Weik (District 5) were sworn into four-year terms.

Commissioner Kriesel was first elected in November 2004 to represent the residents of District 3. He was re-elected in 2008, 2012, and again, in 2016. He retired from Xcel Energy (formerly Northern States Power) after 33 years, and served two years on the Stillwater City Council. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Seeks Community Feedback on Concept Park Plan for the Aiple Property

The City of Stillwater is preparing a Concept Park Plan for the former Aiple property on the north end of downtown Stillwater — and city staff is looking for community feedback. As part of the planning process, city staff is hosting a community meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 3 at City Hall, so community members can review and comment on materials that have been prepared by park planning consultants. The materials include a site evaluation and an analysis of costs and options for potential re-use of the former Aiple Family residence. Community insights and comments will help guide city leaders as they decide on the elements to be included in the Concept Park Plan. Continue Reading →

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4 Stillwater School Board Candidate Forums are Happening this Month

There are four remaining Stillwater School Board Candidate Forums before November’s elections. The Stillwater Gazette sponsored School Board Candidate Forum is happening Monday, Oct. 10 from 7-8:30 p.m. at Stillwater Junior High School. Three more Stillwater School Board candidate forums later this month:

Family Friendly Meet the Candidates for School Board

Hosted by St. Croix Valley Gifted

Sunday, October 16 at 3:30 – 5 p.m.

Teddy Bear Park, 207 Nelson St E, Stillwater, MN 55082

League of Women Voters Candidate Forum

Monday, Oct 17, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

First Presbyterian, Fellowship Room, 6201 Osgood Ave N., Stillwater

League of Women Voters Candidate Forum

Thursday, October 20, 6:30 – 8 p.m.

Marine Village Hall, Marine on Saint Croix

Here’s links to more information about the Stillwater School Board candidates (in alphabetical order):

Amy Burback

Jerry Clark

Robert Craggs

Tom DeGree

Michelle Deziel

Chad Gamradt

Donald Hovland

Jennifer Pelletier

Michael Ptacek

Sarah Stivland

Continue Reading →

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Update: On Final Day to File, 11 Candidates Vie for 3 Open Seats on Stillwater School Board

Last updated at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 16:

The filing period for three seats on the Stillwater Area Public Schools Board of Education comes to a close today at 5 p.m.

Seats currently held by Kathy Buchholz, Amy Burback and Mike Ptacek are up for election in November. Entering the final day to file affidavits of candidacy, 11 candidates will run for the three open seats, according to Stillwater Area Public School’s website. The 11 people to file affidavits of candidacy so far are:

Amy Burback, of Stillwater

Chad Gamradt, of Stillwater

Donald G. Hovland, of Oak Park Heights

Sarah Stivland, of Stillwater

Jerry Clark, of Stillwater

Rochelle Quandt, of Lake Elmo

Robert Craggs, of Lakeland

Tom DeGree, of Lake Elmo

Michelle Deziel, of Lake Elmo

Mike Ptacek, of Stillwater

Jennifer Pelletier, of Lake Elmo

Two people —  Sebastian (Sam) Hernandez and Bob Katula, both of Stillwater — withdrew their affidavits of candidacy. Katula said he withdrew from the race to pursue “an unexpected opportunity” outside of the district. Continue Reading →

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New Planning Advisory Committee Seeks Community Feedback About Future of Downtown Stillwater

The city of Stillwater is embarking on a year-long planning process to update the downtown Stillwater framework plan that will guide downtown growth and development for the next couple of decades. The Downtown Planning Advisory Committee — made up of a group of community volunteers — is hosting an event on Thursday, June 23 aimed at getting your feedback about what the future of downtown Stillwater holds. The event is from 6-9 p.m. Thursday, June 23 at the Washington County Historic Courthouse. Members of the advisory committee will conduct several different 45-minute walking tours of downtown, followed by a workshop where community members will be asked to share their thoughts about the future of downtown. The walking tours will begin at about 6:30 p.m. The Stillwater Trolley will shuttle participants to downtown. Continue Reading →

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Elections 2016: Races for Washington County, Stillwater City Council Take Shape

A few local races took shape Tuesday night as candidate filing periods for for state, county and two seats on the Stillwater City Council came to a close. Here’s a quick look at the races:

Stillwater City Council

Brennen Swanson and Dave Junker will vie for a seat to represent Ward 2 on the Stillwater City Council. Tom Weidner will run unopposed to represent Ward 3. Washington County

Former Oak Park Heights Mayor David Beaudet will challenge incumbent Gary Kriesel in a race to represent District 3 on the Washington County Board of Commissioners. Minnesota Senate

Sten Hokanson (D – Stillwater) will challenge incumbent Karin Housley (R – St. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Mountain Bike Team Has New Home at Valley View Park in Oak Park Heights

Valley View Park will soon be home to a new single-track mountain biking trail in Oak Park Heights. The Oak Park Heights City Council in a 4-1 vote — Oak Park Heights Mayor Mary McComber dissenting — approved a new 2.5 mile trail that will be home to the Stillwater Area High School mountain bike team. The trail — located about 3 miles from the high school — will be designed for mountain bikers, walkers, hikers and runners. The trail may also be used for fat tire snow biking and snowshoeing in the winter. The nonprofit group Stillwater Area Scholastic Cycling Advocates (SASCA) will build and maintain the mountain biking trails in support of the Stillwater mountain bike team. Continue Reading →

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Ice Castles Are Coming to Downtown Stillwater This Winter

Lowell Park will be host to an ice castle this winter. The Stillwater City Council has been talking for years about trying to find ways to draw people to Stillwater all year around — the addition of two new, large-scale attractions may do just that. Ice Castles LLC is proposing to build an ice attraction in Lowell Park that will be open from late-December to March. The ice castle crew will grow at least 10,000 icicles every day, and place them throughout the ice castles to provide something for water to freeze to. Over time, the icicles are absorbed into the ice structure. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater City Council Considers The Ponds at Heifort Hills Town Home Development

A public hearing for a development of 48-detached town homes on Neal Avenue North —  just south of Highway 96 — is set for Tuesday night at the Stillwater City Council meeting. The Ponds at Heifort Hills is a proposal to build 48 detached townhomes on about 25 acres of Kenneth and Geraldine Heifort’s property located at 8753 and 8911 Neal Ave. N. Each of the two phases of the project will include 24-detached town homes. According to planning documents, the estimated home price is $450,000. On Tuesday night, the council will consider approving a conceptual shoreland PUD for both phases of The Ponds at Heifort Hills project, rezone the land and consider approval of the preliminary plat for the first phase of the project. Continue Reading →

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Washington County Seeks Election Judges for Primary, General Election

 

Washington County is seeking election judges for the 2016 primary and general elections. During the this year’s primary and general elections, about 2,000 election judges will be needed to staff polling locations throughout Washington County. Election judges and election judge trainees are the officials who staff the polling location and ensure that the rights of voters are protected on Election Day. Required qualifications for an election judge are:

U.S. citizen eligible to vote in Minnesota;

at least 18 years of age (if you are 16 or 17 years old, see information on the Washington County website and search “election judge;”

Able to read, write and speak English; and

Complete a two-hour training, which can be done online. Required qualifications for a student election judge are:

must be at least 16 years old;

have approval from parents and school’s principal;

must submit a written request to principal at least 10 days before Election Day; and

must complete an application that is to be signed by parents/guardians and school’s principal. Continue Reading →

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Public Hearing Set for Proposed Mountain Biking Trail in Oak Park Heights

The Oak Park Heights Parks Commission is holding a public hearing tonight for a revised proposal of a mountain biking trail at Valley View Park. The nonprofit group Stillwater Area Scholastic Cycling Advocates (SASCA) are proposing 2.5 miles of single-track mountain biking trails at Valley View Park in support of the Stillwater Area High School Mountain Biking Team. The public hearing will be held on Monday, May 16 at 6 p.m. at Oak Park Heights City Hall. View the proposal

The trail, located about 3 miles from the high school, would be designed primarily for mountain bikers, walkers, hikers and runners, according to city documents. The trail may also be used for fat tire snow biking and snowshoeing in the winter. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater City Council Approves Senior Living Facility Concept, But Says It’s Too Big

The Stillwater City Council approved the conceptual plan for Croix Bay senior living facility on Long Lake Tuesday night, but denied the zoning amendment requests for a taller development than is currently allowed. The original Croix Bay plans called for construction of one building to be about six inches taller than the 35 feet currently allowed for approval of special use permits for senior living projects. After hearing more than four hours of public comments in the past two weeks about the proposed $60 million development, the council appeared to favor the idea of a senior living facility at the location, but had reservations about the height and the density of the current proposal. “I have a concern with height. I also have a concern of density,” Council Member Mike Polehna said. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Zephyr Theatre Project Moves Forward on North End of Downtown

 

The Stillwater Zephyr Theatre project moved forward Tuesday night. The Stillwater City Council on a 3-2 vote — Tom Weidner and Dave Junker dissenting — approved a 7 foot height variance for the construction of a fly loft on the Stillwater Depot building on the north end of Main Street. Several residents of nearby condos oppose the project saying that granting a height variance will destroy their view of the St. Croix River. Only a Dim Image Productions has proposed renovating the Stillwater Depot building into a 332-seat professional theatre and bakery/coffee shop. Continue Reading →

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Public Hearing on Proposed $60 Million Senior Living Facility in Stillwater is Tonight

A public hearing for the proposed development of a $60 million senior living facility on Long Lake is happening at 7 p.m. tonight at Stillwater City Hall. The Stillwater City Council continued last month’s public hearing to give residents who were out of town for spring break an opportunity to comment about the proposed Croix Bay development, a 50-acre senior living facility on County Road 12 between Rutherford Elementary School and Grace Baptist Church. The development plans are still in the early stages. There will be at least five more public hearings before the council makes a decision. Following Tuesday’s hearing, the council will consider:

Granting Northland Real Estate Group conceptual approval for a Planned Unit Development;

Discuss possible zoning amendments that would allow the developer to construct one building to be about six inches taller than the 35 feet currently allowed for approval of special use permits for senior living projects;

Discuss rezoning three of the development’s six parcels from “Agricultural Preservation” to “Lakeshore Residential” and the other three to “Parks, Recreation and Open Space.”

Croix Bay is a proposed 4-story, 234-unit, multiple-building project that would offer a range of living options, including independent living, senior cooperatives, assisted living and memory care units. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater City Council Strikes Down Amendment to Regulate Yard Parking

Stillwater will not regulate yard parking after all. After nearly a year of discussions about a possible ban on yard parking in Stillwater residential neighborhoods, the City Council on a 3-2 vote — Tom Weidner and Mike Polehna dissenting — denied the first reading of the yard parking ordinance amendment, leaving the ordinance as it reads. Last spring, a resident asked the council to consider regulating the parking of vehicles on unimproved surfaces in the front yard of homes, saying it is a “public nuisance of visual blight,” and reduces property values in Stillwater. As a result, a survey was conducted and the council directed the Planning Commission to look into drafting regulations for a yard parking ordinance. Read the public comments and view results of the city’s online yard parking survey

Nov. Continue Reading →

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Sen. Housley Wins Unanimous Endorsement for Re-election Campaign

Senator Karin Housley on Saturday announced her intent to run for re-election and was unanimously endorsed at the Senate District 39 Republican Convention. She has served Stillwater and the St. Croix Valley area since she was first elected in 2012. Senator Housley’s first-term accomplishments include facilitating the public acquisition of the Aiple estate on the St. Croix River, which will be transformed into a 15-acre public park. Continue Reading →

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Washington County Commissioner Ted Bearth Dies at 77

It is with great sorrow that we share the news of the passing of County Commissioner Ted Bearth this morning, March 10, 2016. He was 77. Commissioner Bearth was first elected to the County Board in 2012 and was re-elected in 2014.  Commissioner Bearth was elected Chair of the County Board in 2016. Commissioner Bearth represented the Second District of Washington County. Ted’s family is making funeral arrangements.  His obituary, along with information on visitation and funeral services will be available on the Maple Oaks Funeral Home website at http://mapleoaksfuneralhome.com/. Continue Reading →

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Nonprofit Group Aims to Turn Depot Builing into Stillwater Zephyr Theatre

A local nonprofit group is hoping to renovate the Stillwater Depot building on North Main Street into a theatre. Stillwater Zephyr Theatre has launched a $6.5 million capital campaign to buy the Minnesota Zephyr train depot and renovate it into a professional theatre. The hope is to begin construction later this year, and to open the new Stillwater Zephyr Theatre in November 2017. The 324-seat theatre would specialize in musicals from the 1920s to ’50s, according to Stillwater Zephyr Theater’s website. “The Zephyr Theatre will be a professional theatre providing live performances, music, dance, education and artistic opportunities for all ages.”

Plans for Only a Dim Image Productions’ proposed theatre call for a large meeting hall and rehearsal space, a dance rehearsal studio, scene, costume and prop shops, and a bakery and coffee shop. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Parking Commission Continues Yard Parking Discussion Tonight

The Stillwater Planning Commission will continue discussions about regulating the parking of vehicles on unimproved surfaces in front and side yards of residential homes Wednesday night at City Hall. Last spring, a resident asked the council to consider regulating the parking of vehicles on unimproved surfaces in the front yard of homes, saying it is a “public nuisance of visual blight,” and reduces property values in Stillwater. As a result, the council directed the Planning Commission to look into drafting regulations for a yard parking ordinance. The possible amendments to the city’s off-street parking code would regulate parking vehicles, snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, boats, golf carts, and the like, on “unimproved” surfaces in front and side yards of homes. Yard Parking Discussions

Read the public comments and view results of the city’s online yard parking survey

Nov. Continue Reading →

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Update: Parent Group Opposed to Stillwater Area School’s BOLD Proposal Intends to File Lawsuit

A group of parents and residents who live in communities served by Stillwater Area Public Schools plan to bring a lawsuit against the district in an attempt to block a proposal to close three elementary schools. 834 VOICE (VOters Invested in our Children’s Education), a nonprofit organization of Stillwater school district parents and residents announced on Tuesday that it had retained Fritz Knaak as legal counsel and formally notified Stillwater Area Public Schools of its intention to bring a lawsuit against the school district. Stillwater Area Public Schools did not comment on the threat of litigation. According to the announcement, Knaak served 834 VOICE’s formal Notice of Claim on the district in a letter to Superintendent Denise Pontrelli on Tuesday afternoon. “This is a required first step before anyone can take a legal action against a school district,” Knaak said in a prepared statement. Continue Reading →

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Update: Oak Park Heights City Council Unanimously Approves Resolution Asking Stillwater Schools to Put BOLD on Hold

As the controversial plan to close three elementary schools nears a vote this week, the list of public officials asking Stillwater Area Public Schools to slow down the BOLD proposal and engage in a better process for public feedback is growing. In the last couple of weeks, the Hugo and Marine on St. Croix city councils each passed resolutions asking the school district to reconsider the timeline, process and community impacts the BOLD proposal will have if it is passed on Thursday, Feb. 11. The Oak Park Heights City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution asking the district to reset the timeline, properly involve the public in the process and consider the impact the proposal may have on communities and partnerships, among other things. Continue Reading →

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Public Hearings for Stillwater’s Controversial BOLD Proposal Start Tonight at Oak-Land Junior High

The first of three what are sure to be heated public hearings this week about Stillwater Area Public Schools’ controversial BOLD proposal will begin at 5 p.m., Tuesday in the auditorium of Oak-Land Junior High School in Lake Elmo. The other two are slated to begin at 5 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday at the same location. The Stillwater Area school district first unveiled their BOLD plan to close Withrow, Marine and Oak Park elementary schools during a board workshop on Dec. 17. A formal proposal to close Withrow, Marine and Oak Park elementary schools was brought forth on Jan. Continue Reading →

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Local Views: Disgusted By Lake Elmo City Council’s Ongoing Spectacle

Given newspaper stories over the last year, I have been drawn into watching the Lake Elmo Council meetings. In my opinion, and in the opinion of many I talk to, the council majority made up of Smith, Fliflet and Lundgren have shown themselves incapable of reaching sound decisions. I assume they are reasonably intelligent, but it appears their contempt for either Mayor Pearson, council member Bloyer and/or previous members of staff is impacting their ability to make sound decisions. They have caused a mass exodus of staff with their overbearing behavior and anyone who has paid even a modest interest in these proceedings understands this. Unfortunately, when council member Bloyer makes a few curt comments at a midnight council meeting, they seize on this episode as a way to explain those same staff departures on anyone but themselves. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Considers Regulating Yard Parking, Seeks Public Input

The city of Stillwater is considering an ordinance that would regulate the parking of vehicles on front and side lawns of residential homes — and is seeking your input. Last spring, a resident asked the council to consider regulating the parking of vehicles on unimproved surfaces in the front yard of homes, saying it is a “public nuisance of visual blight,” and reduces property values in Stillwater. Now city staff is asking the public to complete a short survey about parking vehicles in front and side yards. The potential ordinance would regulate parking vehicles, snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, boats, golf carts, and the like, on “unimproved” surfaces in front and side yards of homes.  

The tentative schedule of events for the development of an ordinance addressing yard parking is:

Nov. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Considers Adding Pickleball Courts at Staples Field, Lily Lake and Northland Park

The Stillwater Parks and Recreation Commission will continue discussions about accommodating Pickleball on the tennis courts in Stillwater. Since discussions began this summer to look into transforming the Staples Field tennis courts for Pickleball, city staff has looked at the possibility of creating Pickleball courts at Lily Lake or Northland Park, where there is better parking, lighting and the noise would impact fewer neighbors. City staff has discussed dual-purpose courts with the city of Roseville, where the courts are dual-purpose, and the city provides nets, standards, balls and paddles for public use in a storage box outside the courts that requires access from the city. The process of repairing the courts, and transitioning them into dual purpose courts for tennis and Pickleball will cost between $25,000 – $35,000. Parks and Recreation has budgeted $25,000 for tennis court repairs in 2016. Continue Reading →

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Lumberjack Days Will Return to Downtown Stillwater in 2016

A Lumberjack Demonstration during Stillwater Log jam 2015. (Photo by Joe Isaacs)

Lumberjack Days will return to downtown Stillwater in 2016. The Stillwater City Council on Tuesday night amended the city’s contract with The Locals to allow them to use the name and logo for Lumberjack Days for the city’s summer celebration. The Locals brought a summer festival back to Stillwater two summers ago. When The Locals were awarded the contract to put on Stillwater’s community festival, they entered into negotiations to use the name Lumberjack Days, but couldn’t come to an agreement. Continue Reading →

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Expansion of Stillwater’s Water Street Inn is Still in the Works

A conceptual drawing of the Water Street Inn addition, which includes 20 new rooms, a clock tower and a rooftop patio. The Water Street Inn’s 20-room expansion — including a rooftop patio and signature clock tower — is still in the works. The Stillwater City Council on Tuesday granted an extension to St. Croix Preservation Co. for the special use permit (SUP) to construct an addition onto the north side of Water Street Inn. Continue Reading →

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