BHS students 'walk-in' to commit to connect
By Doug Voerding
At the same time, thousands of students across the nation were walking out to honor the seventeen victims of the Parkland, Flor., high school shootings, Buffalo High School students walked in to pay their respects for those victims and to recommit to connect and contribute.
At 10:00 a.m. on March 14, the one-month anniversary of the Florida tragedy, the students and staff were invited to the gym where Principal Mark Mischke led an emotional program that was planned by Mischke with the help of students and staff, a whole school effort.
In the center of the darkened gym were seventeen empty chairs spotlighted in a circle. On a screen was a clock set for 17 minutes and the words "At the end of the day, at the end of the week, and at the end of my life, I want to be able to say that I contributed more than I criticized," a quotation by Brene Brown.
"We need," said Mischke, "to pay our respects to those who lost their lives and can no longer speak for themselves."
After seventeen seconds of silence, Mischke said, "We can't take school safety for granted. We need to be intentional about connecting. Everyone needs to feel connected."
Mischke reviewed the two major school goals of every student having a staff member they can go to for support and that all students need to feel supported by other students.
Said Mischke, "It is easy to criticize, but we need to be strong and commit to contribute."
Student leaders 2017 Homecoming Queen Danika Tweten and King Alan Hernandez stepped forward and at Mischke's request said they were willing to commit to contribute. Both Hernandez and Tweten then asked all students to stand if they were willing to commit. All 2000 people in the gym stood.
Earlier in the program, community leaders were introduced to the students in silence. They were Buffalo Mayor Teri Lachermeier, Hanover Mayor Chris Kauffman, Montrose Mayor Michelle Otto, Wright County Sheriff Joe Hagerty, Buffalo Police Chief Pat Budke, District 877 Superintendent Dr. Scott Thielman, and School Board members Melissa Brings, Sue Lee, and Dave Wilson.
Later in the day, students were invited to talk to and ask questions of community leaders. About 150 students came to the PAC at 3:00 during the AAA time at the end of the day.
A variety of questions came from the students.
"What are the new plans if there is a shooter in the building?" asked one student.
Thielman said that the district is constantly reviewing procedures to find the best practice for each building in the district.
"One change we may make is to terminate the fire pulls throughout the building," said Thielman. "The state fire marshal has said not all of those are needed since the entire building has sprinklers."
The district, according to Thielman, is also looking into other safety mechanisms for the schools, including bullet-resistant glass.
Another student asked, "How far does this have to go for gun control to move beyond conversation to an action?"
In response, Budke said, "We need to know what becomes a dream for someone to harm someone else? What makes a young person dream to kill? That must be in the conversation, too."
"Mental health," said Lachermeier, "is the number one issue for safe schools. We need to create an environment where school is a safe place. Mental health is the core issue."
"How do we change laws?" asked another student. "How do we get beyond candlelight vigils?"
Several on the panel urged students to contact state and federal legislators.
Said Lachermeier, "You are our strength, and you are our future."
Many students stayed beyond the end of the day school bell to continue the discussions with the community leaders.
2018 Township election results
On Tuesday, March 13, townships around Wright County held elections for local government officials. Below are the results for the election:
•Albion Township: (Supervisor, three years) John Uecker (50) and (Clerk, two years) Debbra Uecker (50)
•Buffalo Township: (Supervisor, three years) Terry Weese (106), Joe Coolen (59)
(Clerk/Treasurer, two years) Mark Hoffmann (145)
•Chatham Township: (Supervisor, three years) Thomas Schuveiller (12) and (Clerk, two years) James Bischoff (12)
•Cokato Township: (Supervisor, three years) Dean Mahlstedt (41) and (Clerk, two years) Brad Morris (35) (Supervisor – special, one year) Daniel W. Bravinder (43)
•Corinna Township: (Supervisor, three years) John Dearing (36)
•Franklin Township: (Supervisor, three years) John Czanstkowski, Sr. (71)
French Lake Township: (Supervisor, three years) Patrick Lantto (28)
•Maple Lake Township: (Supervisor, three years) Tom Neumann (53); (Supervisor – special, one year) Tom Otto (declared winner by draw of high card) (20) and Kevin Marquette (20)
•Marysville Township: (Supervisor, three years) Augie Riebel (29)
•`Middleville Township: (Supervisor, three years) Walt Barlow (23), (Clerk, two years) Joey Berg (23)
•Monticello Township: (Supervisor, position A; three years) Pete Stupar (48)
•Rockford Township: (Supervisor, seat D; three years) Karen McDougall (28); (Supervisor, seat E; three years) John Deitering (29)
•Stockholm Township: (Two Supervisors, three years) Keaton Danielson (78) and Greg Howell (64); (Clerk, two years) Jody Selseth (92)
•Victor Township: (Supervisor, three years) David Glessing (40) and (Clerk, two years)
•Michelle Bascom (14), and Sharon Glessing (26)
•Woodland Township: (Supervisor, three years) Dan Domjahn (23) and (Clerk, two years) Gloria Janikula (23)
Buffalo Liquors reports record year for 2017
By Doug Voerding
"We have had a record year," Jason Swanson, Buffalo liquor store manager, told the Buffalo City Council on Monday, March 19.
"And," said Swanson, "Sunday liquor sales have been worth the effort."
The two liquor stores, Highway 55 and Downtown, had, in 2017, net sales of $5 million, with profits of $425,000 transferred to the Parks Department.
According to Swanson, being open on Sundays brought in $320,000 in extra sales, a median of $7050 per Sunday. Swanson said that there has not been an "erosion of revenue."
"We have not experienced significant lowering of sales on Fridays and Saturdays, as some other municipal liquor stores that are open on Sundays have," said Swanson.
Swanson also reported that the 2017 sales were 46 percent beer, 33 percent liquor, 18 percent wine, and three percent miscellaneous.
For 2018, Swanson said the goals were to integrate new and better software customized for liquor stores, to complete work on a new website to go live by May 1, and to eliminate liquor store debt.
The council called for bids for several street projects throughout the city to be completed this summer.
A mill and overlay of the bituminous surface will be done in four areas. The work will include the installation of drain tile in select areas, spot repairs for curb and gutter, and the replacement of manhole adjusting rings.
These four projects include streets in the Northwoods Addition and in the Sturges Addition, both north of 8th Street NW and west of Central Avenue; in the Pine Meadows Addition, south of 8th Street NE and west of Calder Avenue Northeast; and in the Innsbrook and Shonhaugen area near 13th Street South and west of Highway 25.
Older sanitary sewer segments within these projects will be televised to determine if any sanitary sewer repairs are needed before the streets are resurfaced.
The total cost for the four projects is estimated at $640,000.
Streets in three other areas will be sealcoated with a fog seal. The coating is designed to extend the life of the pavement. Such sealcoating is recommended every ten years and has been included in the city's annual budget.
This summer, those projects include Trappers Pond Addition, west of Northwinds Elementary; Hazlewood East Addition, north of 8th Street Northwest; and Whispering Winds Addition, north of 11 Street NE and east of Calder Avenue Northeast.
The total cost for the sealcoating is estimated at $125,000.
City Administrator Mert Auger said that the street repairs are part of the operating budget.
"There is no bonding or borrowing for these projects," said Auger.
The council will make a final decision on the projects once bids have been received in May.
The council extended the conditional use permit (CUP) for Puzzles, a business in the Szarke Building on the corner of First Avenue NE and Central Avenue. Since Puzzles is an entertainment venue, the CUP renewal is required every year. No issues about the business or the parking have been reported to the city.
Puzzles owners Sara and Shane Williams told the council that the business consists of four puzzle rooms, where groups try to solve a complicated puzzle in an hour or less.
Sara Williams said that more than 10,000 people have come to Puzzles over the last two years.
"We have people coming to Buffalo from Brainerd and Duluth, from other states, and even from around the world," said Sara Williams.
The council accepted donations for Flora of Buffalo including Anonymous, $125; Edward and Kathleen Callahan, $20; Adeline and Greg Eckblad, $100; Kenneth Goodale, $20; Robert and Lois Johnson, $65; Ginger Klatt, $100; and John and Bonnie Linde, $25.
Donations for the Community Center Toy Shop were also accepted from the Hanover Lions Club, $1,000, and the Maple Lake VFW, $250.
In other action, the council
• heard from Wright County Commissioner Christine Husom about work the county will be doing in the future. Husom talked about the new Justice Center that will be attached to the Sheriff's Office on Braddock Avenue NE. The county board is also considering moving Health and Human Services to the current courthouse.
• approved an increase for firefighters of an additional $200 per year for each of the next ten years for their lump sum retirement payments. In 2018, retired members who have reached the age of 50 with at least 20 years of active service will now receive $4,000 per year of active service. For each of the next nine years, the relief association will return to the council for the approval of another $200. The Fire Department Relief Association is currently funded at 135 percent. The Buffalo Fire Department continues to be a volunteer organization. The council also approved a definition for the term "good standing," required by the state.
• accepted the resignation of Buffalo Police Officer Dustyn Bruch. Bruch has been with the department since December, 2012. Police Chief Pat Budke said that due to health issues, Bruch is not able to return to work.
• after a public hearing, certified unpaid utility bills from five properties to the county tax rolls.
• learned that United for Youth will again be sponsoring grants. Information about the grants is available on the District 877 schools website.
• approved the sale of two trucks, a 2001 Ford and a 2001 Chevrolet. Both are no longer in service, and replacement of both is in the 2018 Capital Improvement Plan and budget. The sale will be by Elsenpeter online auction. The city will also be selling old golf course equipment through a regional auction with Fahey Sales.
• learned that the recent Polar Plunge on Buffalo Lake raised $32,000 for Special Olympics Minnesota.
• received a donation of cookies and bars from Buffalo High School students Emily Enter and Shelby Stoll. The donation came as a required leadership activity for the National Honor Society. Enter and Stoll prepared the treats to thank the Buffalo Police Department, city hall staff, and public works for their hard work.
• learned that the Wright County History Center will be hosting a celebration on Friday, March 23, honoring the move of the county seat to Buffalo 150 years ago.
• considered a concept plan for two four-plexes on 6th Avenue NE, north of Highway 55. The apartments will be built by Kent Pfeifer. No action was taken, as the next step is the development stage. The Planning Commission has reviewed the concept plan.
• adjourned to a workshop on Tuesday, March 27, at 5:30 p.m. The meeting was a joint meeting with the Planning Commission and Housing and Redevelopment Authority Board to update the housing component of the city's Comprehensive Plan.
Sheriff's Office awards 27-year dispatch employee
By Miriam Orr
For 27 years, Pam Benson of the Wright County Sheriff's Office has manned the dispatch line, remaining calm during what are, for many, the most terrifying moments of their lives. In recognition of her duty and devotion to the job for Wright County, Sheriff Joe Hagerty presented Benson with a Communication Officer's award on Tuesday, March 20, during the Wright County Board of Commissioners meeting.
"This is not a job many make a career out of," Hagerty stated. "Pam, though, was with us before the Twins had even won the World Series. That was the middle of 1991, and here she is now."
Benson received the award to recognize her service to the community. She was also recognized for her calm demeanor during crisis and emergent calls, and her dedication to the job even through the changing times. Hagerty commented that the position in dispatch is, perhaps, "the toughest job in the Sheriff's office," as it handles emergency calls and requires quick thinking, calm under pressure, and patience.
Receiving the award, Benson said, "This has been a truly interesting experience. As the county changes, you really get to tune into what people are thinking and doing and what's going on, even though it's during the roughest times. People have changed so much – times have changed. I remember first starting with a typewriter."
Benson commented that she and her husband have plans to travel in their retirement, as she steps away from her position at the Sheriff's Office. Benson received compliments from members of the Board, in-cluding Commissioners Christine Husom and Mike Potter for her service, while also receiving a standing ovation for her service.
Wright Soil and Water Conservation District: Alicia O'Hare, Water Resource Specialist, requested the authorization for a representative to release the North Fork Crow One Wa-tershed One Plan, which is currently under a 60-day public comment period. This period ends in March, and once completed, will lead to a public hearing. Following this public hearing, a 90-day commenting time will be allotted to the issue. Before that public comment period completes, SWCD's Board will act to approve the plan's final stages.
Auditor/Treasurer's Office: Matt Detjen, Wright County Agriculture and Drainage Coordinator, presented minutes from the Wright County Drainage Authority County Ditch 33 meeting. Ascertained was the pursuit of an engineer report regarding Ditch 33's maintenance, per two petitions regarding the outlet of water into the Ditch 33 system.
Wright County Sheriff's Office: Chief Deputy Todd Hoffman requested of the Board to approve a 2018 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Boat and Water Safety Grant, which is annually given to counties. This year's grant total is $17,459.00, which has fluctuated throughout the years. The grant will be invested into assisting deputies as they patrol county waterways.
Hoffman also addressed the issue of the county's 911 Planning Committee, which, as of now, has not been part of county focus for some time. Currently, Husom and Commissioner Charlie Borrell are appointed to that committee, which is mandated to meet quarterly.
Commissioner Darek Vetsch motioned to reinstate the Committee and perhaps reassign staff and Commissioner representatives to put the Committee back on the roster. Hoffman offered a list of potential candidates, should the Board wish to reconsider appointments. Husom stated that it would not be necessary, and the Board appointed Potter as an alternate representative as a unanimous motion.
Tuesday April 10, at 1:00 p.m. will be the 911 Planning Committee meeting.
Information Technology: Adam Tagarro, IT Director, requested the authorization to travel to Toronto, Canada, where he will be attending an InfoTech LIVE conference in May. He stated that the conference's agenda presented items that he feels are proper for Wright County to investigate, and looks forward to submitting a report to present before the Board to go over some of the information he hopes to gain from the trip. Commissioner Potter suggested that since Wright County is steadily pursuing updated technology, the idea of a conference "wasn't a bad one."
Highway Department: Highway Engineer Virgil Hawkins presented the bid amount of $111,355.00 to the Board, regarding the replacement project of Franklin Township's Bridge (No. 86J17). Midwest Contracting won the bid, which began March 2.
Hawkins also presented the request to approve an agreement between Wright County and Otsego regarding CSAH 38. The agreement establishes responsibilities regarding funding participation, construction, and maintenance. Also presented was the approval request for a maintenance agreement between Wright County and Delano, Elk River, Maple Lake, Monticello, Montrose, and Waverly regarding snow removal procedure.
Parks and Recreation: Mark Mattice, Parks and Recreation Director, requested the adoption of three separate resolutions regarding grant applications through the Minn. DNR's Local Grants Program. The first grant would be in regards to potentially purchasing a total of 79 (one 59 section and another 20) acres at Stanley Eddy Park Reserve, through the Natural and Scenic Area Grant, as well as the Outdoor Recreation Grant regarding Montissippi Park's trail pavement overlay.
Attorney's Office: Brian Asleson, Chief Deputy Attorney, presented the request that the Board adopt a resolution to not conduct an environmental worksheet regarding the CSAH project.
The project contained information on a finding regarding CSAH 18's maintenance and construction. The finding stated that an environmental assessment worksheet must be prepared for the proposed work. Staff widely agreed that the worksheet was not necessary, as the project does not meet the expectations necessary to conduct an EAW, and believes the endeavor of CSAH 18 is exempt.
Ways and Means Committee: During the reading of the Ways and Means minutes, Bob Hiivala and Attorney Greg Kryzer presented the request that the Board adopt a resolution to acquire and pursue the standardization of election voting equipment in Wright County, which standardize the available modes of voting within the county. The Board approved the pursuit of this standardization unanimously.
Night out for Music coming March 24
Buffalo High School's Night out for Music jazz concert and silent auction is coming this Saturday, March 24 to the BHS Performing Arts Center. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. with entertainment begining at 7:00 p.m. Featured will be: Jazz Ensemble I, BHS Singers, Treble Singers and Chamber Strings I, as well as the silent auction and dessert tables. See more in School News section on Page 4C.
United for Youth now accepting grant applications for funding
United for Youth is now accepting grant applications for funding with money received through the Wright County Family Services Collaborative.
Programs eligible for funding must meet the following criteria: be collaborative in nature, meet the needs of Buffalo, Hanover or Montrose communities and their citizens, provide or enhance an early intervention and prevention service, and address the Search Institutes' 40 assets.
Grants must fit into at least one of the following categories established by the Wright County Family Services Collaborative: Community Connection, Mentoring and Early Childhood, Parent Education and Family Support, Constructive Use of Time, Health Issues, or Transportation.
A Grant request cannot be more than $4,000. The deadline for applications is May 1.
To obtain United for Youth's grant application, visit: www.bhmschools.org/community-ed.
Community Health Fair March 24 at Buffalo Community Middle School
See all our community has to offer! Buffalo Chiropractic and Crow River Food Council, along with Stellis Health, are proud to offer you the opportunity to explore the family-friendly Buffalo Community Health Fair.
This event features vendors for you mind, body, and spirit. While visiting each of the selected vendors to learn more on how to stay healthy, grow your mind, and nurture your spirit. Chat with vendors, and you'll be eligible to win one of three grand prizes, including a three-month gym membership with 12 personal training sessions at Fitness Evolution, an Apple Watch, or a cooking class for two at The Abundant Kitchen.
Also included during the event will be fun events for kids, including a yoga class, live music, story time, and more. This event is free and open to the public, and takes place Saturday, March 24, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Buffalo Community Middle School.
Maple Lake's St. Patrick's Grande Day Parade – success
St. Patrick's Day in Maple Lake was a smashing success on Saturday, March 17. Crowds were gathered to participate in the annual Grande Day Parade, where this year's Grand Marshal, John Northenscold Sr., and his wife Carole, waved to observers and enthusiasts from the Clan of Galway float. Featured at the parade also were the Irish Women Washers, and a commemoration of P.O.W.'s. Representative Marion O'Neill was also present in the parade, sporting her green colors. See more photos inside. (Photo by Miriam Orr)
A brief look at Buffalo history, in celebration
By Miriam Orr
A stream of vehicles, coming from each direction, slowly stops at what is now a controlled intersection on Hwy. 55. Headlights and brake lights flash and stop, and across the intersection, an eighteen-wheeler's brakes release a pop of pressurized air. In the distance, the Highway 55 strip is illuminated with business lights and signage, as cars continue to pass to and fro.
For generations, this is the Buffalo citizens have known, and it is easy to assume that the concept of present-day society is how it has always been – booming, expanding, and modernized. It's difficult to think back to the foundations of a society, and imagine its grass roots beginning as little more than a posted sign and a dirt road.
But everything has a beginning. Buffalo was not always the seat of Wright County, and it was not always its bustling society that it is today.
Once, it was a quiet little place with the vision of grandeur.
Buffalo, Minn., circa 1800s.
Before Buffalo was a modernized, buzzing metro area, it was the Buffalo of the "Big Woods," a lake area populated by new settlers and Native Americans. For 130 years, Buffalo had seen farming and settlement.
The area, known once as the "Big Woods," was covered with a myriad of trees, so thick that visibility was nearly impossible.
Not far in any direction, a spattering of lakes and dense forests promised fishing and prosperity for settlers, until trees began thinning near Cokato, as settlers desired open farmland and leveled everything in less than fifty years.
As white men moved in, the native Indians of the area slowly began to abandon the county after almost 300 years of hunting, fishing, and establishing life. The Dakota, known then as the Sioux, worked the land between Pulaski and Buffalo first. In a documentary, one Fred Bjork claimed there was an Indian cemetery at Mink lake, and that Indians traveled to the area until at least the 1890s.
Eventually the Chippewa pushed the Dakota Indians out of the area, and the two tribes battled for a number of years, which eventually ushered in government involvement. To buffer the continuous warfare between the Chippewa and Dakota, the U.S. signed a treaty with the Winnebago, who were transferred from settling in Iowa, instead to be re-routed in-between the two tribes in 1848.
The Winnebago inhabited what is now the downtown Buffalo business district until 1855, until their treaty with the U.S. was redacted. They settled near the Blue Earth River, which paved the way for white settlers to move into the area.
The Dakota continued to move around the Wright County area, until Sept. of 1858, where they were ordered to a reservation near Redwood Falls. When they refused to go, white settlers moved to extricate them. Upon realization that the white settlers would no longer trade or divide game any longer, and that they would come with sophisticated weapons, they left of their own accord to move farther west.
And there the history of Buffalo begins.
The first permanent Yankee to settle in the township was Augustus Prime, who settled in April of 1855. He died in Monticello in 1870. Following Prime, Soloman Hatch of Maine came in May of that same year. His family followed in October, and they resided in the township until their deaths in 1874.
Amasa Ackley and George A.J. Overton followed later in 1855, coming to the shores of Buffalo and finding land near what was known as Section 30, and Ackley was known to have built the first settlement in Buffalo at that site. The name would live through infamy, as their home was the first to be used for a township election site. With the Ackley's came James Griffin, the first black man to move into Buffalo. In February of 1856, he located permanently in Buffalo's Section 32.
Society lifestyle was quite different for early settlers in Buffalo, and the 1915 Wright County History records that the settlement, beginning in 1855, was very small, and that groups would cluster in populations, with large distances separating clusters throughout the area.
Buffalo officially became a founded village on December 27, 1856 by Amasa Ackely, George A.J. Overton, Moses A. Calkins, and William J. Feuseca. Surveys of the land were written and recorded with the county in January of 1857. Most of these settlers had streets named after them, though the north and south streets were named after trees surrounding the area.
Buffalo and Pulaski lakes attracted many of the settlers to the area, which would eventually provide industry in fishing. From 1890 through 1920, Pulaski and Buffalo brought tourists who would resort in the area on the water. Summer populations would almost double with added tourist population.
In September of 1986, the city was awarded with the Star City designation. The Minnesota Department of Energy and Economic Development presented the award to those cities with an exceptional level of services to the public, and high levels of quality of life.
Buffalo and Monticello's history
Buffalo and Monticello have both shared the title of the county seat in Wright County history. Monticello was first selected as the seat, due mostly to the fact that the city, at the time, was considered an early center of the county's population.
When populations began to expand throughout the county, it became a concern for citizens that it was not a central location for services, as many officials and offices were scattered throughout the city and not in one centralized locale. Monticello did not consider building a structure that would tie county services together, so the consideration to move the county seat grew.
Jackson Taylor and James Sturges spearheaded the movement to localize county services in Buffalo. Taylor, at the time, would canvass the entire area to discuss with voters the idea of the movement as a Buffalo Commissioner. Eventually, Sturges, Taylor, and O.L. Dubley would present an offer to the county – they would build the first courthouse and offer it free of charge for a five-year term, if only the county should move to Buffalo. The Wright County would later purchase the building from the three for $900, in 1873.
Considering the concern of the people, and the fact that Buffalo had won the popular vote on ballot in 1867, Wright County decided to relocate to Buffalo from Monticello, and would host the first Wright County Board of Commissioners meeting on March 23, 1868.
Buffalo, circa 2018
One hundred and fifty years after that first County Commissioners meeting, Buffalo is still hosting County Board meetings at its modern Government Center downtown. With discussion in the works of a new government building and a jail slated for construction at the Law Enforcement Center, Buffalo is continuing to deepen its roots and expand its horizons as more and more people come to call our city home.
What's more, our historic downtown is stretching as well. What was once an old Coborn's grocery store is facing development as a residential apartment complex, as well as other changes that are in discussion among city officials.
While times have certainly shifted between generations, time cannot erase the fortitude and stability Buffalo has provided communities of people throughout the years. The city has hosted changes, expansion, and trial, but it has proven true in the test of time. One hundred and fifty years of holding the county seat, and things are still looking up. Here's to Buffalo, and many more years to come.