The stories told at Southwest News Media are often centered around what’s unique in our local communities.
Yet, the past year brought local residents together around so many issues that extend far beyond Savage.
Looking back, 2021 brought a year of challenges and “new-normals.” It also brought innovation, discovery and new foundations that will shape the new year and beyond.
Here are some of the top stories from Savage this past year.
Local vaccination clinics begin for local responders, other front-line personnel
The beginning of the year brought news of the COVID-19 vaccine being shipped to local public health departments, including Scott County Public Health.
Around 300 Moderna doses per week were arriving to Scott County Public Health in the first weeks of January. On Jan. 5, the first vaccination clinic for local police and fire personnel took place at Belle Plaine City Hall.
At the time, the Minnesota Department of Health reported more than 82,000 vaccines had been administered to Minnesotans. The state had also begun detecting the B.1.1.529 variant in our local communities.
Those eligible for the vaccine at the time included hospital staff, vaccinators, testers, residents or employees of skilled-nursing facilities and first responders.
Around one year later, over 3.73 million Minnesotans have been vaccinated against COVID-19, including over 101,500 Scott County residents.
Savage lawmaker introduces historic recreational marijuana legislation
On Feb. 1, 2021, State Rep. Jess Hanson (DFL-Burnsville) stepped out at a news conference to announce the introduction of a bill to legalize recreational, adult-use cannabis in Minnesota.
Hanson, a freshman lawmaker sworn-in to represent Savage the month prior, spoke about her hope of establishing a well-regulated industry aimed at providing safe, legal access to marijuana while addressing racial injustices found in the current system of criminalization.
In May, the Minnesota House passed the legislation with a 72-61 vote, marking the first time a recreational marijuana bill passed a branch of the Minnesota Legislature.
Today, Hanson is continuing to advocate for Minnesota to pass legalization alongside Sen. Lindsay Port (DFL-Burnsville), whose district also covers Savage.
In recent months, local city, county and law enforcement officials have met to discuss legalization in other states, which is likely to reach Minnesota in the future.
Hanson continues presenting to local cities and counties in efforts to promote legalization and hear the concerns of local officials.
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency releases report on “forever chemicals” tied to landfills
The pandemic is far from the only challenge faced in 2021 that will continue to make headlines in the new year and beyond.
Increasing concern about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS or “forever chemicals,” have brought some state environmental investigations to our local communities.
In March, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency released findings detailing how 59 of Minnesota’s closed landfills are leaking high levels of these chemicals into the groundwater.
Some of the most significant findings were recorded at the Freeway Landfill in Burnsville and Louisville Sanitary Landfill near Shakopee.
At the Freeway Landfill in Burnsville, the levels tested 714 times higher than the state’s health-based values.
As more studies reveal the impact of PFAS across the country, state and federal approaches to mitigation and clean-up are likely to continue evolving in 2022.
Savage Fire Department goes full-time
The Savage Fire Department had a historic year in 2021 with a staffing model change that brought 24/7 station coverage to Savage for the first time in the department’s history.
The change took effect in July alongside the departure of former Savage Fire Chief Andrew Slama, who left to lead Edina’s fire department.
Slama was credited with leading the department through critical changes, including a shift away from the paid-on-call model.
In August, Jeremie Bresnahan officially became the leader of the Savage Fire Department after a stint as the department’s assistant fire chief.
In November, the department welcomed Kathy Peil as the department’s new assistant fire chief.
Savage City Council establishes racial equity task force
The Savage City Council voted unanimously this summer to convene a racial equity task force to guide the city’s work in addressing issues of race, equity, diversity and inclusion.
The task force is working with a consultant to evaluate city policies and develop an action plan in regards to racial equity.
The Race, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) Task Force meets on the second Tuesday of every month from 5-7 p.m.
Tornado touches down in Savage
Many neighborhoods in Savage were changed this year when a tornado touched down around 3 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 17 during an intense storm.
The tornado in Savage touched down near Highway 13 and Connelly Parkway and traveled east for approximately two minutes, according to Caleb Grunzke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The tornado traveled approximately 2.1 miles.
Homes were damaged, hundreds of trees were destroyed and the clean-up lasted several days.
Youth baseball organization plans future in Savage
Development plans came into focus this year for a sprawling hilltop overlooking a rare wetland in Savage.
The land is now set to be transformed into the flagship facility of a youth baseball training club.
MN MASH plans to build a roughly 68,000-square-foot indoor training complex and two outdoor ballfields on a 13-acre property located to the west of Savage’s city campus, bordering the Savage Fen Scientific and Natural Area.
Multi-phase construction on the site is expected to stretch into 2023.
Voters reject PLSAS tech levy by narrow margin
After more than a year of discussion and planning, Prior Lake-Savage Area School District residents voted to reject a $35 million technology levy request, leaving PLSAS as one of the only neighboring and comparable school districts without a voter-approved technology levy.
Results from the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office showed that voters narrowly rejected the referendum with 49.3% voting yes and 50.7% voting no. The results were 3,496 yes versus 3,602 no — a 106-vote difference.
Voters rejected the request for a $3.5 million technology levy per year for the next 10 years. The technology levy funding would have helped PLSAS maintain and enhance technology learning, safety and support, according to the district.
Racist viral video sparks calls for action
Nationwide calls for change were directed at Prior Lake High School this year when a racist video made by a student went viral on social media.
The video sparked demands for justice for the victim, who later identified herself as Nya Sigin, a 14-year-old PLHS student.
The video, which features a now former PLHS student, shows her repeatedly saying racial slurs and encouraging the target of the video to take her own life.
The video sparked a peaceful protest of hundreds of students, activists and community members at the high school’s campus in support of Sigin. The video also lead to community unrest as racial tensions grew.
During a PLSAS board meeting, Twin Cities activist Lavish Mack confronted the board and demanded the public comment portion of the meeting continue, leading some board members to step out.
School and public officials have since condemned the video and the student who made the video is no longer enrolled at the school.
According to a press release from Savage Police, the Scott County Attorney’s Office, who recently received the investigation report, will review the findings and decide whether or not to move forward with criminal charges.
The year ahead
The upcoming year brings many unknowns, but ongoing changes in our local communities are certain.
As political campaigns pick-up speed, we’ll be preparing to bring you coverage of the 2022 election, where our region is set for some rematches and highly competitive races.
We’ll keep you posted on development and new business, such as the Caribou Cabin being built by Buffalo Tap and the senior living under construction at the former Loftus farm.
And, we’ll continuing meeting interesting people and sharing their stories and perspective with you.
Thank you for being a reader and Happy New Year.