The Eastview High School theater was packed Monday night, Dec. 18, for two winter choir concerts. The events were an impressive display of the power of voices joined together. A series of chorale groups performed a broad range of holiday songs, from Jingle Bells to Chapua Kali Desemba to the rousing finale Ose Shalom.

City Council to vote on new city hall plans

The Eagan City Council is scheduled to approve plans tonight for a $17 million city hall and police department renovation that will increase the size of city offices while sealing much of the day-to-day workings of city government  from public view.
   City councilors reviewed plans at a presentation by the city’s architect at a special city council meeting on Dec. 12. The presentation discussed plans to shift much of the public access to the city hall to an open lobby, similar in appearance to a hospital lobby, where city taxpayers would wait for service and fill out forms. City councilors are slated to vote on the plans tonight as part of its consent agenda at the Dec. 19 city council meeting. The city council’s consent agenda is approved summarily, without public discussion of the items on that agenda.
   City officials hope to start construction May 1.
   The project will increase city office space from 45,800 to 74,000 square feet. The renovation will include lockdown gates and doors to seal sections of city hall from public access, according to the presentation, as well as new break rooms and meeting spaces for staff. The planned renovation will also move service counters closer to the lobby.
   Eagan Mayor Mike Maguire noted the need for public space in the renovation. “One thing that I don’t see in these guiding principles and that I see this space being able to serve on some level, is a notion of how does this building serve the public as well,” Maguire said. “Almost all these principles have to do with how this serves our purposes and our efficiencies as staff. I want to suggest that as we look at designing the interior we look at how the public can use this space.”
   The police department, which currently parks cruisers and staff vehicles in an open parking lot, will be renovated extensively to include an enclosed garage and fenced-off areas. Inside the building, the department will be locked down at the lobby and interview rooms will be added to cease the current practice of police talking to people in the lobby. The renovations will also move the area where people are released after arrest so they don’t cross into public areas of city hall.
   An evidence garage will be added, in addition to a new garage to house 31 patrol vehicles. A new squad room will be added and mud room. The upper level of the police station will be renovated to include a break room.
   City officials are now grappling with where to put staff and public services during the construction, expected to take about 18 months. Current plans include moving about 30 staff members to the Fire Safety Center on Yankee Doodle Road, creating an issue if the city were to experience a major emergency during the transition period. The staff would be operating from what is now the emergency command center used for major disasters. In the event of a disaster during the day, city staff would need to vacate their temporary quarters.
   The renovation plans come as the city is preparing to sell off two more of its vacant buildings. Critics have questioned the recent sale of a former fire department administration building, across the street from the soon-to-be-renovated city hall, for $468,000. The city has been preparing to sell two more buildings formerly used by the fire department for an estimated $450,000. City officials have declined to comment publicly about the sales price or impending sales, citing ongoing negotiations.

Eagan High brings a joyous White Christmas

   The hottest ticket in town this weekend was for Eagan High School’s production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.
   In what we hope will be an annual tradition, audiences packed sold-out shows at the school’s theater to see it transformed into a 1950s Broadway-style musical review. So complete and detailed was the Eagan High School production that somehow, for the Friday night show, they even managed to make it snow outside the theater. It’s amazing what a good director can accomplish.
   The two-act musical is based on the 1954 Paramount Pictures film starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen. It’s the story of a group of performers who put on a show to try to save a retired World War II general’s inn in Vermont. There’s not a lot of plot to tamp down the show, but it’s full of classic songs, including the title song, White Christmas, as well as Blue Skies, and Happy Holidays.
   The Eagan production was simply joyous -- a brilliant holiday gift to the community. It was a great showcase for the talented ensemble cast of actors, singers, dancers, musicians, and crew. What a great celebration of the holiday season!   
Five Money Hacks for A Happy New Year 
                                                                
Courtesy of DaveRamsey.com

   Do you ever feel like you’re in a chronic cash crunch? That can put a real damper on your days, and take the hope and expectation out of a new year.
But if money tops your list of New Year’s resolutions, you’re in luck! Research shows you’re on the road to success. According to Fidelity Investments, 56 percent of people who resolved to improve their finances last year did just that.   Better yet, 83 percent said last year’s financial resolution is an ongoing event instead of a one-time goal. Who knew change could be so exciting?
   Put those resolutions into action — and get a leg up on your happy New Year — with these five money hacks.

1. Use Cold, Hard Cash
   Lots of folks choose plastic over cash for everyday purchases, and research shows that can lead you to spend more. Why? According to a Journal of Experimental Psychology study, parting with cash really is sweet sorrow. Plastic simply doesn’t tug at your emotional strings in quite the same way.
   So, put a little more pain back into your purchases. Use envelopes to divvy your dollars up across everyday budget categories. You might have one for groceries, restaurants, entertainment, clothing, and pocket money.
   On payday, fill your envelopes with the cash you budgeted for each category. When an envelope’s empty, the spending stops for that category until your next paycheck. It’s that simple!

2. Give Impulse Buys a 30-day Notice
   You went to the store for one thing, and somehow ended up with a cart full of stuff. Sound familiar? If so, join the crowd. A recent study found five in six Americans are impulse shoppers.
   We all know it pays to sleep on a big money decision overnight. But what about smaller purchases that crop up throughout the month? Why not add them to your wish list and wait 30 days? That gives you a chance to work them into next month’s budget. And who knows? That can’t-live-without item you had your eye on just might be on sale by then.

3. Ignore Interest Rates when Paying Down Debt
   Want to put a big dent in your debt this year? You might be tempted to grab debt by the jugular, and attack the biggest interest rate first. But it takes more than math to win. According to Fidelity, the number one reason people stick to a money resolution is because they’re encouraged by their progress.
   That’s where the debt snowball comes in. Here’s how it works: List your debts in order by outstanding balance, and attack the smallest one first. Once you knock it out, roll that cash over to your next debt, working your way up to the biggest of the bunch. You’ll build momentum — and motivation—as you watch your debts disappear and your cash grow!

4. Go Roth with Your 401(k)
   These days, most full-time workers have access to a 401(k) through their employer. This is a great way to save for retirement, because it enables you to make pre-tax contributions for your future.
   What you may not know is many employers offer a Roth 401(k) option, too. According to a Willis Towers Watson study, 54 percent of large and midsize companies do, yet only 10 percent of employees take advantage. That means lots of folks are missing out on tax-free growth.
   And now, any pretax match dollars your employer puts in can be converted to a Roth. That’s means even more opportunity for tax-free growth. Just keep in mind that you do have to pay taxes on any money you convert. An investing professional can show you how it works, so you can weigh your options and choose the strategy that’s right for you.

5. Take Advantage of Free Financial Education
   It’s no secret that money issues can cause big-time stress. According to the American Psychological Association, 72 percent of adults worry about money, and 32 percent say money woes stand between them and a healthy lifestyle.
This stress can distract you on the job, too. It’s hard to get work done when you’re preoccupied with money problems. No wonder almost 90 percent of employers surveyed by Aon Hewitt had considered implementing a financial wellness program.
   If your company offers this benefit, don’t miss out. It’s a great way to learn how to manage your money, and plan for the future. That’s something everyone can feel good about!