Looking back, 2017 in review
By Ed DuBois
Hurricanes in the Caribbean were big news in 2017, and a hurricane of a politician, Donald Trump, made news in November when he was elected President.
Politics didn't make much of a slash at the local level in Wright County, but strange weather happenings were prominent in the area news.
For the second year in a row, the Maple Lake Ice Fishing Derby was canceled due to warmer-than -usual conditions and un-safe ice in February. Since the Ice Fishing Derby was an important fundraiser for the lake association, another way to pay for lake improvements, including the ongoing battle against aquatic invasive species, was needed. A petition for establishing a Lake Improvement District (LID) was successful, and now owners of property around the lake will pay assessments for lake improvements.
The unsafe ice conditions were apparent when vehicles broke through the ice in about the middle of February at both Lake Pulaski, in Buffalo, and Lake Sylvia, near Annandale.
Toward the end of February, a month that is normally known for sub-zero weather, pools of water were seen on the ice surface of Buffalo Lake.
The weather took a violent turn in March. Severe weather dropped large hail in the Cokato area. Meanwhile, the ice on Buffalo Lake was replaced with whitecaps.
A first annual Polar Plunge for Special Olympics was threatened by a possible lack of ice on Buffalo Lake in March. Fortunately, enough ice was present to stage the event and raised around $45,000. Organizers said they would likely schedule the 2018 Polar Plunge earlier in the winter.
When very powerful hurricanes struck in the Houston, Texas area, Florida and Puerto Rico, Wright County volunteers responded quickly. Truckloads of relief supplies were soon on their way to where they were needed.
An Annandale resident, Bill Walker, used his boat to help rescue victims of flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area.
A flood threat developed locally in early October, when about six inches of rain fell in Wright County. The river level in Delano reached its highest October point in history. Fortunately, no serious flooding resulted.
Some of the other news happenings in 2017 included several events and activities of the American Legion veterans' organization.
The National American Legion Commander, Charles Schmidt, visited Buffalo American Legion Post 270 in February and gave a speech that included encouragement for increased membership.
A special Vietnam veterans' event was hosted at the Buffalo post in March, and a large turnout of veterans took place. They were honored and recognized for their service, and they were provided information about applying for veterans' benefits.
Tenth District Commander Bonnie Hanson, a past commander of Post 270, was honored on Memorial Day last May by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. While visiting Post 270, Klobuchar presented Hanson a U.S. flag and commended her service as one of very few women who have held leadership positions in the American Legion.
In June, the National American Legion Auxiliary President, Mary Davis, visits Post 270 in Buffalo.
Activities of the Buffalo post under leadership of Post Commander Bob Larson were noticed at the national level.
Larson introduced Scott Edwards as the new Post 270 Commander in August, and Edwards has continued to work toward keeping the post active and involved with the community.
Downtown Buffalo was in the news last June, when Mayor Teri Lachermeier and the Buffalo City Coucil introduced a new plan for promoting development in the downtown business district. Phase one of the plan mostly involves the area around the former Coborn's building, where the city hopes to encourage both housing and retail development. Phase two involves an area on the side of the downtown business district near Buffalo Lake. To provide more time to search for and work with interested developers, the city plans to buy the former Coborn's building.
MONTH BY MONTH
A rundown on some of the major news happenings each month follows:
In January, Buffalo's new mayor, Teri Lachermeier, was sworn in as the City Council started the New Year. A special gathering of players from the Buffalo High School boys' basketball team that won the 2007 state championship took place before one of the high school games in January. The Wright County Highway Department was getting settled in a brand new building.
In February, the Monticello National Guard unit, the 257th Military Police Company, deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Maple Lake Ice Fishing Derby was called off due to unsafe ice. Wright County Public Health introduced a new Wellness on Wheels (WOW) Van. The voters in the St. Michael-Albertville School District approved a $36 million bond referendum proposal. Vehicles broke through the ice at both Lake Pulaski and Lake Sylvia. National American Legion Commander Charles Schmidt visited Buffalo Post 270. Relief efforts began in Montrose after an apartment building fire. Unusually warm February weather created pools of water on the ice surface of Buffalo Lake.
In March, Wright County received an award for excellence in financial reporting. The Buffalo Art Guild provided sun-theme artworks for the CBS Sunday Morning Show. Severe weather arrived early and dropped large hail in the Cokato area. Ice on Buffalo Lake was replaced by whitecaps. A Polar Plunge organized by the Buffalo Police raised about $45,000 for Special Olympics Minnesota. Vietnam veterans were honored during a special event at the Buffalo American Legion Club. The Delano community expressed support for a local family affected by a hate crime, and hundreds of people showed up for a "Delano United" candlelight vigil in the downtown area. Dr. Corey Martin of Buffalo, who was much involved with the local Bounce Back Project for resiliency and happiness, was awarded a Bush Fellowship.
In April, the Wright County Board discussed the restructuring of the sheriff's clerical staff, which included the elimination of two supervisor positions. A Starry Stonewart Summit in St. Cloud was sponsored by the Greater Lake Sylvia Association and the Koronis Lake Association of Paynesville in an effort to stop or slow down the invasive aquatic species. Renovation of the Wright County Public Works Building came to a close.
In May, the criminal justice system in Wright County hosted a Law Day event featuring information for the public. The Twin Cities Live TV show featured the City of Buffalo. U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar arrived at the Buffalo American Legion Club on Memorial Day and honored Bonnie Hanson, the District Tenth Commander and a former Buffalo Post Commander.
In June, Noelle Ziegelmann, 19, of Montrose was sentenced to over three years in prison for criminal vehicular homicide in the death of Justin Harvey, 18, of Montrose on Aug. 16, 2016. The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in Wright County's favor regarding a suit filed by State Auditor Rebecca Otto, who is challenging a new law that allows counties to hire private accounting firms to conduct annual county audits. The City of Buffalo launched a new plan for promoting development in the downtown business district, and phase one of the plan involves the former Coborn's building. National American Legion Auxiliary President Mary Davis visited the Buffalo American Legion Club. The Wright County Farm Family of the Year, Willard Krietlow, his daughter, Marienne, and her husband, Jerry Ford, received recognition.
In July, Wright County's Drive Wright program, which provided training for violators, needed to be discontinued due to new legislation aimed at a problem in another county. Buffalo native Wade Demmer developed one of the smallest pacemakers in history while working for Medtronic. Terry Marsh of Buffalo and Lillian Sukut of Maple Lake were named the Wright County Outstanding Senior Citizens. The Buffalo Community Theater presented "Mary Poppins." Wright County's estimated 2016 population was reported to be 132,598. The new Allina Health Clinic Buffalo Crossroads opened just north of Highway 55 near CSAH (County State Aid Highway) 35.
In August, a new Buffalo American Legion Commander, Scott Edwards, began his duties. A new Mills Fleet Farm store opened in Monticello. A new A&W restaurant was under construction in Buffalo near Cub Foods. A new Highway 24 bridge over the Mississippi River opened at Clearwater. Two solar arrays at Montrose were beginning service.
In September, area volunteers rallied and soon shipped hurricane relief supplies to the Houston, Texas area. Buffalo High School graduate Margaret Socha of Corcoran was crowned a runner-up in the Princess Kay of the Milky Way event at the State Fairgrounds. Terry Marsh of Buffalo was named a Minnesota Outstanding Senior Citizen at the State Fair. Following an independent investigation, allegations against the Wright County Sheriff's Office were found to be unsubstantiated, according to Chief Deputy County Attorney Brian Asleson. Annandale resident Bill Walker used his boat to help rescue flood victims in the Houston, Texas area after Hurricane Harvey. Laura Bihl of Clearwater was named the Wright County Conservationist of the Year.
In October, close to six inches of rain fell in a short time locally. The river level in Delano reached an all-time October high. Buffalo's annual Pink Street Party to support those with cancer featured a laser light show and was another big success.
In November, a Pelican Lake drawdown project to improve the water quality was well underway. The winners of the Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose School Board Election were Amanda Reineck, Ken Ogden and Bob Sansevere. Maple Lake High School's volleyball team repeated as a state championship squad. The Wright County Board called for staff to draft findings for the denial of a zoning request that was needed for Advanced Disposal to expand the Rolling Hills Landfill in Monticello Township. Alex Zeiss of Buffalo High School placed fourth in the state diving meet. The first anniversary of Wright County's Drug Court program was celebrated. The Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose School Board received a report about declining enrollment. Wright County received a second consecutive GFOA award for excellent financial reporting.
In December, the Buffalo City Council approved a sale of bonds in the amount of $330,000 for the purchase of the former Coborn's building in the downtown area. The purchase gives the city more time to work with developers. James Striebel, 19, of Howard Lake was sentenced to almost five years in prison for felony manslaughter in the death of Justin Harvey, 18, of Montrose in August 2016. The Friends of the Buffalo Community Center became a nonprofit organization. Advanced Disposal withdrew a request for a zoning change that would have helped allow an expansion of the Rolling Hills Landfill. The Buffalo Police Department executed a search warrant at a massage parlor in town and conducted an investigation into possible human trafficking. Miriam Orr joined the staff at the Journal-Press as a news reporter, succeeding Ed DuBois, who is retiring. The Montrose Days Committee needs more volunteers to continue the annual community celebration.
Montrose year in review, 2017
By Doug Voerding
At the first Montrose City Council meeting of the year on January 9, newly-elected Mayor Michelle Otto and Councilmember Ben Kuehl along with re-elected Councilmember Lloyd Johnson took their seats. The three joined current Councilmembers Melissa Gudvangen and Jill Menard. New water rates were adopted at $5.10 base plus Tier 1 of 0-5,999 gallons: $5.10 per 1,000 gallons; Tier 2 of 6,000-11,999: $5.61 per 1,000 gallons; Tier 3 of 12,000 and above: $6.17 per 1,000 gallons; and outside city limits: $10.00 per 1000 gallons. An amendment to the zoning ordinance to allow parks, playgrounds, and athletic fields as permitted uses in an institutional district was approved. Also approved was another amendment to the zoning ordinance to allow temporary storage units in an institutional district. The council hired Terramark for planning and zoning at an hourly rate of $74.
The council decided to have the community center parking lot repaved and the city's GIS computer mapping system upgraded. The Public Works Department began removing the 22-year-old asphalt of the parking lot in July. Omann Contracting Companies of Albertville, the low bidder at $38,200, did the paving. The software for the mapping system that the city used was twenty-years-old and needed replacement. The new system was connected to the Wright County mapping system. At the request of Fire Chief Kevin Triplett, the council approved the purchase of two new sets of turnout gear and 35 pairs of structure firefighting gloves.
A Capital Improvement Plan that will guide the city's improvements over the next five years was approved by the council. Projects for 2017 included the reconstruction of stormwater drainage and pavement replacement on Garfield Avenue South, work on the Regional Park, repaving the Community Center parking lot, replacing a 2006 pick-up truck, replacing obsolete underground utility locating equipment, replacing obsolete chemical feed pumps at the wastewater treatment plant, establishing a walking trail in Northridge Park, adding solar lighting on a walking trail, and relocating and adding an outdoor warning siren. Projects for 2018 through 2021 include replacing city wells, installing back-up generators, Highway 25 improvements, rehabilitating or replacing water towers, and Highway 12 improvements. The city's Comprehensive Plan, a document that guides the growth of the city to the year 2040 was updated. The detailed plan included chapters on community history and vision, physical profile and natural resources, demographic social profile, economic development, parks and trails, transportation, utilities, housing, municipal and public facilities, and land use.
Plans for the summer work at the regional park continued as the council on approved the low bids for supplies and for work on the project. Widmer Construction installed water main and sanitary sewer lines. Fehn Companies provided sand for the sub-base and Class 5 aggregate for the base of the road and parking lot. That work, which included sewer and water extensions, stormwater pond construction, street extension and improvement, as well as grading, was expected to take the month of June. During that time, the Army will be staying in the community center. The U. S. Army Reserve will be excavating the poor soils and applying the sand and Class 5 aggregate. HD Supply provided the drain tile that the Army will install under the sand sub-base on both sides of Arapahoe Lane. Neaton Brothers Erosion prepared the topsoil, seed, mulch, and erosion control after the work of the Army is completed. At the direction of the council's Personnel Committee, City Clerk/Treasurer Margaret McCallum sent out 70 letters primarily concerning the parking of recreational vehicles in residential areas. The audit showed that the general fund balance had increased every year for the last five years and now stands at $946,919. At a special meeting, the council voted to notify the owners of 405 Nelson Boulevard that "they will be on the Planning Commission agenda either for the revocation process to begin or to come back with plans for their CUP update at the next Planning and Zoning meeting."
Wright County Sheriff Joe Hagerty recommended adding two more hours of service, but the council decided to hold a workshop meeting in June to consider its options. Since 2004, the Sheriff's Office has provided eight hours of law enforcement per day. Since then, the population has increased from 2083 to 3046 residents. After discussing the issues that surfaced with the city's recent enforcement of recreational vehicle/equipment parking in residential neighborhoods, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended accommodations for corner lots, grass access to parking pads, defining the standards of a Class 5 gravel parking pad, and defining parking area by using graphics.
The U.S. Army 411th Engineer Company of Iowa City, Iowa, graded the regional park. The work was done at no cost to the city. In addition to improvements on Garfield Avenue, the council approved two other projects: repaving the adjoining streets in Montrose Meadows and installing solar lighting along the path between County Road 12 and Emerson Avenue North. Parking areas for recreational vehicles must now be constructed in accordance with the city's approved driveway details that include the use of concrete, asphalt, concrete pavers, brick set in compacted sand, Class 5 gravel, or other impervious surfaces. Kurt Anderson was appointed to the Park and Recreation Commission.
The council decided to add two hours to the Sheriff's patrol of the city. With neighboring Waverly in-creasing its Sheriff's contract to 6 hours, Montrose now has a Sheriff's deputy either in the city or within two minutes of the city for sixteen hours a day. On the recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission, the council approved an ordinance that requires rental properties to register with the city, giving the city contact information with the property manager. Concerning recreational vehicles, on July 19, the council was voted to allow three vehicles with one allowed in the front driveway, count a boat and trailer as one vehicle, and count all others separately. That action was rescinded on July 24 for reasons of clarification.
After serving nearly two years, City Clerk/Treasurer Margaret McCallum re-signed to take a similar job in Mayer. The council ad-opted a recreational vehicle ordinance that includes: up to three recreational vehicles, with a boat and trailer counted as one, may be stored on any residential property on a parking area in a rear or side yard of the property constructed in accordance with the city's approved driveway details, and one of the permitted recreational vehicles may be stored in the front yard if stored on the designated driveway. Tom Loonan of the law firm Eckberg Lammers was named city attorney. Catherine Neiberger resigned from the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The council approves the purchase of seven-year street reconstruction bond for $366,000 at an interest rate of 2.5 percent with Citizens State Bank, the low bidder. The money will be used as part of the five-year street reconstruction plan. Payments will be approximately $60,000 per year. A variance request for 111 Buffalo Avenue South is approved. A revised orderly annexation agreement was made with Woodland Township, as required by state law. The council adopted the preliminary 2018 tax levy with an increase of 2.5 percent from $1,024,242 in 2017 to $1,126,666 in 2018. The increase was needed for several items, including increased police protections hours, upgraded election equipment, purchase and lease of public works equipment, a back-up generator, and solar lights along the Highway 12 walking trail.
Dale Powers was hired as the city clerk/treasurer. Abigail Myers joined the Parks and Recreation Commission. The council ac-accepted the resignation of Sylvia Henry from the Parks and Recreation Commission. The update to the Alternative Urban Areawide Review (AUAR) opened for public comment. According to City Engineer Justin Cannas, the major change revised the city and adjoining areas growth forecast.
The council approved a concept plan for the core zone of Highway 12 between Buffalo Avenue and Center Avenue and for the entry zones from the east and west. City staff was authorized to negotiate franchise fees with Xcel Energy and a franchise agreement with Wright-Hennepin Electric. City staff was also authorized to seek outside funding for the regional park. An amended joint powers agreement with Wright County Area Transportation was approved. The proposed 2018 levy shows an increase from $1,024,242 to $1,126,666, an increase of $102,424 or 10 percent. The increase is due to the increase in sheriff patrol hours and Highway 25 improvements. An increase to the city's water rates was discussed.
The council approved the 2018 city budget and tax levy. The tax levy is the same as the levy proposed in November. The final certified levy of $1,126,666 included $440,441 for the general fund; $96,600 for parks; $375,000 for debt service; $100,000 for capital improvement; $29,625 for the community center; $25,000 for the Economic Development Authority; and $60,000 for highways. In order to fund a needed well and wellhouse, council had decided to raise the water rates, but that action was put on hold until January. The council approved the Montrose Fire Department Policies and Standard Operating Guidelines.
Hanover's 2017 in review
By Doug Voerding
Re-elected Mayor Chris Kauffman and Councilmember Doug Hammerseng and newly-elected Councilmember MaryAnn Hallstein were sworn in. They joined Councilmembers Ken Warpula and Jim Zajicek. New firefighters Justin Ray and Ben Scherer recently completed their one-year probationary period. The council accepted a donation of $10,000 from the Hanover Athletic Association for future equipment purchases for the fire department. The year's appointments were Hammerseng as vice-mayor, Hallstein to the EDA, Michelle Armstrong and Stan Kolasa to the Planning Commission, and Mat Boie and Jeff Grupp to the Park Board. The annual solid waste haulers' licenses were approved for ACE Solid Waste, Advanced Disposal, Allied Waste Services, Randy's Sanitation, Richmond Re-fuse, and Waste Management.
The controversial redevelopment of the ball field north of the picnic shelter in Settlers Park was put on hold after a 3 -2 vote by the council was not enough to accept a needed $50,000 donation from the Hanover Athletic Association. A super majority of 4-1 or 5-0 was needed to accept the donation. The council recognized the lease termination with the Hanover Athletic Association for the ball field north of the picnic shelter and east of the fields owned by the athletic association. A request for an additional $240,000 for the preparation of the site of the new public works building was considered. The council appointed Brian Dismang to the EDA.
The construction of a redesigned ball field in Settlers Park in Hanover was back on track after the council voted unanimously to accept the $50,000 donation of the Hanover Athletic Association for the rebuilding of the field that meets the size standards required by 16U baseball. Over the last two months, the Planning Commission and the city council had discussed principal uses and buildings on city lots. On the recommendation of the commission, the council accepted amendments to the zoning ordinance relating to principal uses, principal buildings, and building eligibilities. Now, residential districts can have one principal use and one principal building. Commercial and industrial districts will be allowed to have more than one principal use and more than one principal building and that those principal uses can be the same use occurring in multiple buildings. Deputy Clerk/Treasurer Liz Lindrud resigned.
With the removal of five burr oak trees at the end of March, the construction of the new ball field in Hanover began. The council approved the low bid for the grading and other preparation work on the ball field. That work was done by Miller Trucking and Landscaping of Hanover at a cost of $20,721. The council had accepted $50,000 from the Hanover Athletic Association and another $17,000 from the Minnesota Twins through the Hanover Youth Ball organization, all to be used only for the redesign of the ball field. The council approved a financial accounting services contract with Abdo, Eick, and Meyers. The council agreed to allow the fire department to spend up to $2000 for the repair or replacement of the radiator on the 1927 antique fire truck. The truck is used by the department in numerous summer parades. Jackie Heinz was hired as accountant/deputy clerk. Public Works Supervisor Scott Vogel resigned.
The council promoted Jason Doboszenski to Public Works Supervisor. Doboszenski had previously been the city's public works maintenance worker. The council heard a presentation from a developer interested in completing the Crow River Heights development over the next several years. The council reviewed the city's action plan, mission statement, and vision statement developed at a recent goal-setting retreat. The suggested mission statement is "The mission of Hanover is to maintain fiscal responsibility while providing high quality amenities and services. This is done to retain the small town atmosphere while offering a desirable community to live, work, and play." The suggested vision statement is "Hanover is a historic Crow River city valuing small town tradition, while embracing both business and residential growth opportunities."
The construction of a new public works facility was expected to begin in July after the council approved several changes to the original site plan to improve water drainage on the site. Jason Ramthun was hired as a full-time maintenance worker. The council accepted $1000 from the Hanover Lions Club for the purchase of medical equipment for a Hanover Fire Department vehicle. Annual liquor license renewals were approved for River Inn Bar and Grill, Chops Bar and Grill, Hanover Wine and Spirits, Hanover Lions Club, and Hanover Athletic Association. The council accepted several low bids for work on the public works building. The building was expected to cost $2,209,837. The city had previously decided to use a $1,500,000 bond for the project. The remaining costs will be paid from the city's capital funds, $55,000 from facility capital and $654,837 from the general capital fund. Carol Dixon, representing the Zion United Methodist Church, asked the council to consider taking over the one-acre church cemetery next to the church on River Road NE. With declining membership, the congregation voted to close at the end of July. Dixon told the council that the cemetery records are accurate and that some burial plots are still available. Dixon also said that the cemetery perpetual fund of $35,000 would be given to the city for the maintenance of the cemetery.
The council approved an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan to allow 30 single family lots in the Crow River Heights West Third Addition with the maintenance of the stormwater ponds remaining the same. The council also approved eight-foot side setbacks for the planned unit development and the preliminary and final plats. The council agreed by consensus to take over the Zion United Methodist Church cemetery. The council was asked to consider assuming ownership of both the cemetery and the church building for use by the city and the Hanover Historical Society.
Recognizing an increasing work load in the Public Works Department, the council hired Carl Olson as a third city maintenance worker. Firefighters received an increase of $200 per year of service to $1775 per year of service in contribution to Hanover Fire Relief Association pension plan.
The council discussed a 2018 preliminary levy of $1,544,817, a $58,531 or 3.9 percent increase over the actual 2017 levy. The 2018 tax rate would be reduced about 3.5 percent down to a tax rate of 46.15 percent. For the last three years, the tax rate has remained steady at 49.5 percent. The council approved hiring WSB, the city's engineering firm, to update the city's Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan under the city's Municipal Storm Sewer System (MS4) general permit. Ryan Jacobson completed the Firefighter I and Firefighter II courses. Dylan Freund is hired as a probationary firefighter. The council accepted the resignation of Lucas Pollock from the fire department.
By consensus, the council said they were not at this time willing to move forward as owners of the Zion United Methodist church building, but asked more supporting documents from the Hanover Historical Society before considering any action. Ted Giese, owner of GP Welding of Albertville, asked the council for a conditional use permit (CUP) to allow him to move his welding business into the building at 11238 River Road NE, just north of the EDA property that is expected to become a parking lot. The council discussed raising the water and sewer rates by four percent. City Administrator Brian Hagen told the council that Hanover has not raised utility rates in recent years and that the auditors have found every year that the city is not fully funding the depreciation of the utility systems. The increase will begin in 2018. On the recommendation of the Economic Development Authority, the council agreed to the demolition of the house at 11234 River Road NE. The Public Works Department will demolish the house, and the site will eventually be used for downtown parking. The council accepted a donation of $2500 to the Hanover Fire Department from the Hanover Lions Club for fire prevention week activities.
The council approved engineering services for three 2018 street repair and improvement projects. WSB and Associates, the city's engineer, will provide the services that include the final design, permits, construction administration, and neighborhood meetings. The three projects include, first, River Road NE from 8th Street NE to 15th Street NE and second Lady Slipper Lane and 10th Street NE. The third area is the Pheasant Run neighborhood including Riverview Road NE, Overlook Circle, Meander Road, Meadowlark Lane, 8th Street NE, and 9th Street NE. All three projects will cost an estimated $1 million. The council agreed to increase utility rates four percent. Water distribution rates will be $1.41 base fee per month and $1.01 per 1000 gallons. Sewer rates will be $30.85 minimum per month up to 7000 gallons and $6.13 per 1000 gallons over 7000 gallons.
The council approved staff reviews and approved salary increases for all city staff. Audit preparation and training services from AEM Financial Solutions were approved. Ryan Melchior is hired as a probationary firefighter. The council approved the 2018 levy and budget. The property tax levy will be $1,544,804, an increase of $58,518 or four percent over last year. The tax rate will decrease from 49.5 percent in 2017 to 46.5 percent in 2018. The final levy showed $881,449 for the general fund, $129,904 for fire protection, $280,571 for debt service, and $252,880 for capital improvement. The contract with Veolia Water was extended to December 2020. The council approved a phone system upgrade that includes phone and internet services for both city hall and the new public works building.
Fire deaths spike during holiday season
By Miriam Orr
With Christmas coming to a close and the New Year right around the corner, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety released a study regarding the current spike in fire-related fatalities.
The study concluded that 56 people have suffered fire-related deaths in the state in 2017, a 30% increase over 2016's total of 43. Additionally, there were 42 fire-related deaths at this time last year, during the holidays. For Nov., Dec., and Jan. 2016, fires took the lives of 12 individuals. Within the last two years, numbers have stayed consistently high regarding fire-related fatalities, with 2015 totaling a massive 57, which is close to the highest recorded death total of 64 fire-related deaths back in 2002.
Why Minnesotans alike need this shared knowledge now, of all times, is because this time of year is historically dangerous for fires across the board. The usual holiday activities currently top the charts in leading causes of fires: cooking, heating, and open flame, all of which are common themes during the holiday season.
The DPA's study showed that the number one cause for fatalities related to fire is careless smoking, as the open flame is often forgotten by individuals who find themselves busy or commonly, forgetful. Minnesota's DPA suggests that smokers make sure they smoke outside, away from oxygen, and completely extinguish cigarettes upon disposal.
The leading cause of residential fire is cooking, according to the DPA. Safest techniques denote that individuals should remain in the kitchen while cooking, keep little ones clear of the kitchen, and make sure that no loose items - such as towels or aprons - are anywhere near open flame.
As heating sources are one of the leading causes for fire-related deaths in the state, the DPA suggests that alternative heating sources, such as space heaters, pose a fire-hazard. Space heaters should always be attended, and never plugged into an extension cord - and, that flammable items should be kept at least three feet from the heater itself.
"We don't want anyone to suffer the loss of a loved one in a fire. Following some simple tips can help prevent a tragedy." Minnesota State Fire Marshal Bruce West states from the study.
Resources regarding life saving information on fire hazards can be found at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division, here: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/sfm/Pages/default.asp
Wright County Board considers technology improvements
By Doug Voerding
The Wright County Board on Tuesday, Dec. 26, discussed the need for upgrades to the information technology now in use. The discussion came as the board reviewed the minutes of the Dec. 13 Wright County Technology Committee.
The discussion focused on an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, a comprehensive accounting system that would be used by all departments, and how such a system could benefit the county with better, faster, and cheaper data.
Currently, in some cases, three different systems are used for tracking data, none of which work together and requiring entering the same data multiple times.
Depending on the number of modules the county would decide to use, the cost for the upgrade could be between $500,000 and $4 million.
Commissioner Mark Daleiden, who sits on the Technology Committee, said "It's very expensive depending on the modules needed, but it will be a cost savings in the future."
Commissioner Mike Potter asked for a Committee of the Whole meeting to "get a little more detail. If I'm asked about this, I want to have some reasonable intelligence on the project."
The recommendation for the Technology Committee and acceptance by the board is to begin the steps to developing a request for proposal.
A workshop is expected in late January or early February to determine the actual needs of the county.
In related matters, the board agreed to move forward with a goal of May 3, 2018, for the completion of a crop productivity index project for the assessor's office, and to extend the read-only email retention with Netmail to June 2019. The county is moving from Netmail to Office 365 Outlook for email. That move will be completed by March 2018.
In other action, the county board:
- Approved a memorandum of agreement between Teamsters Local 320 and the county concerning compensation for property appraisers who are now required to have two licenses.
- Approved two letters of support for grant applications by Community Adult Mental Health Initiative and Central Minnesota Health Center.
-Added Richard Kvols as an alternate viewer for the re-determination process on County Ditch 10.
-Approved the replacement of two social workers.
-Approved the 2018 parks maintenance agreement with Green View, Inc. Green View will provide workers for 8,686 hours, primarily at Beebe Lake, Bertram, Pleasant Lake, and Otsego Parks throughout the summer at a cost to the county of $16.08 per hour.
-Appointed Brad Danielson of Rockford as District 4 Commissioner for the Parks Commission. The appointment is until Dec. 31, 2018.
Christmas memories vandalized in Buffalo
By Miriam Orr
On Dec. 24, the Wright County Sheriff's Department and Buffalo PD started an investigation regarding Christmas decoration vandalism to the Buffalo Community.
One such family is a victim - not only to the destruction of their yard decorations, but also to their memories of cherished loved ones.
Kare 11 news reported on the Nelsons, a family in Buffalo, who have traditionally decorated their yard with a colorfully attractive display of decorations in honor of two sons, which the Nelson's tragically lost a number of years ago.
The vandalism reported was to a number of their displayed Christmas decorations, which dampened not only the Nelson's Christmas spirit, but also that of their neighbors.
It's been observed that neighbors have started a small collection in hopes of replacing the decorations, so that the display will continue to bring joy to the community, while also keeping alive the memory of their two children.
Wright County seeks proposals
Wright County is seeking proposals to provide consulting services for feasibility, concept review, schematic design, and construction documents of a campground and support facilities at Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park.
Also, the county is seeking proposals to provide consulting services for the creation of a Master Plan for Stanley Eddy Park Reserve in accordance with the Greater MN Regional Parks and Trails Commission. Proposals need to be submitted by Jan. 19, 2018.
Lantern lit cross-country ski Jan. 6
The Wright County Parks and Recreation is thrilled to announce a host of upcoming events for the start of 2018.
Kicking off the events planned is the Lantern Cross-Country Ski event, taking place Jan. 6 from 6 -9 p.m. at Ney Park in Maple Lake.
Planned for the night are groomed trails, lit with lanterns to help guide skiers through the winter wonderland of Ney Park.
Inside the Nature Center sweet treats and warm drinks will await participants, and the outdoors will provide the opportunity to sit fireside and enjoy the winter night.
The event is free to the public, and if you don't have your own equipment, rentals are available for $5 a person.
For any questions, call Robert Ney Memorial Park Reserve at 1-763-682-7894.
Pulaski frozen for season
It took some time coming, but winter has finally arrived.
With snowfall on Dec. 20, and the season-appropriate chill arriving, it is no longer a question of winter's arrival.
Buffalo residents know it's truly winter when the city's two lakes - Buffalo and Pulaski - have fully frozen for the season. As of Dec. 15, Lake Pulaski has fully frozen over, making it optimal for ice fishing.
Don't be fooled, however - ice is always unpredictable, so be careful out there.
Early copy request for New Year's
Newspaper office closed Jan. 1, 2018
Christmas has come and gone, but New Year's is a lot closer than you think. To ring in the New Year, the Journal-Press office will be closed Monday, Jan. 1, 2018.
Wright County Journal-Press and The Drummer requests that those who provide news and advertising copy to do so a day early, or sooner if time permits, as this will help us prepare for our return Tuesday, Jan. 2.
We at the Wright County Journal-Press and The Drummer wish you a Happy New Year, and a safe rest of 2017.
The year in pictures