Relief efforts underway after Montrose fire in apartment building

A fire in Montrose resulted in an evacuation of an 18-unit apartment building.  Efforts are underway to find alternative places to live while the building is being restored.  (Photo by Doug Voerding)

By Ed DuBois and Doug Voerding

Efforts are underway to help residents of an 18-unit apartment building in Montrose find places to live after a fire on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

The Montrose Fire Department was called at 10:52 p.m.  Smoke in the apartment building at 330 Garfield Ave. S. was reported.

According to Montrose Fire Chief Kevin Triplett, Wright County deputies were the first to arrive, and they reported heavy smoke.  One deputy rescued an individual who became unconscious while attempting to escape from the fire.

The Sheriff's Office reported Keri Lynn Johnson-Reuben, 43, was transported to HCMC, where she was listed in stable condition.

When Montrose firefighters arrived on scene, they reported flames coming from one apartment and heavy smoke throughout the building.  Firefighters were quickly able to bring the fire under control, Triplett said.

Two residents were transported to appropriate hospitals, while other residents were evaluated on scene but not transported.

"While smoke damage was noticeable throughout the entire property, major damage was able to be contained to one apartment," Triplett said.  "All residents of the 18-unit apartment are unable to reside at the apartment until repairs and cleaning can be completed."

The Montrose Fire Department was assisted by: the Waverly Fire Department, the Delano Fire Department, the Wright County Sheriff's Office, Ridgeview Ambulance, Allina Ambulance, Howard Lake Ambulance, the Minnesota State Fire Marshal's Office, and the Red Cross.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the Montrose Fire Department, the Wright County Sheriff's Office, and the State Fire Marshal's Office.

The building is one of two apartment facilities called Rosehaven Apartments.  The building where the fire took place was constructed in 1982.

Wright County Community Action (WCCC) has been seeking pet foster care information, as well as storage space, housing and funds, to assist those who lived in the apartment building.

A fund has been established by WCCC to help 19 apartment residents.  Many are staying with family and friends, but some are still searching for options in regard to where they will live until the apartment building is restored.

Donations can be mailed to the "Rosehaven Residents" fund at Wright County Community Action, P.O. Box 787, Maple Lake, MN 55358.  Please write "Rosehaven Residents" in the memo space on your check.

The apartment building might not be restored for several weeks.

Love INC - Heartland in Delano is reportedly also helping assist residents.



Sixty degrees in February

Last Friday evening, Feb. 17, the temperature was close to 60 degrees (in February!), and pools of water could be seen on the ice of Buffalo Lake.  This photo was taken from the area near the Buffalo Library and shows Sturges Park in the background.  Some people were ice fishing on the lake, but there were no cars and trucks on the ice.  The warm spell continued into this week.  (Photo by Ed DuBois)


Blessing Closet getting second garage

By Doug Voerding

The Buffalo City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 21 approved a conditional use permit (CUP) for the construction of a second garage at Zion Lutheran Church at 1200 Highway 25 S.

Now, Zion's Blessing Closet can expand.

Blessing Closet, according to Roger Brenny of Zion, provides new and slightly used clothing to families with children. The program asks no questions about income or need and is not tied to any boundaries.

Blessing Closet was started in late 2015, and at the last distribution, said Brenny, "6000 pieces of clothing were distributed to 600 children. The program not only serves Buffalo and Montrose, but also 20 other communities.

A CUP was required for the garage because there is already one detached garage on the property with the church as the principle structure. The second garage will be next to the existing one and will have siding that matches.

In a second planning action, the council approved a CUP for Richard Tiernan to construct a home with an attached garage on a substandard lot at 1449 Pulaski Rd.  The approval requires the city engineer to review the site plans for the retaining wall and the drainage of the site.

The city engineer will also be on site when the retaining wall is being constructed.



In other action, the council:

-  certified 16 delinquent utility accounts to the county for the tax rolls.

-  set a public hearing for March 20 for a proposal by Allina Health System to refinance the acquisition, construction, renovation, remodeling, and equipping by Allina of its several hospitals including Buffalo Hospital. Buffalo will be acting as the host city, and the action will not affect the city's bond rating or its bond limits.

-  learned that the Planning Commission elected Steve Cullinan as chair and Tom Salkowski as vice-chair. The commission also welcomed new member Paul Olson.

-  postponed discussion of the use of land donated to the city until Mayor Teri Lachermeier returns from a business trip.



The council accepted several donations to the 2017 Flora of Buffalo program, including from: Bernice Ann Larson, $5; Roland and Sandra Halsten, $25; David and Judie Rose, $65; Buffalo Eye Clinic, $65; Vivian West, $65; Johanna Bell, $65; Mary Jo and Noel Snare, $100; in memory of Tom Hayes, $100; Evelyn Hegeholz, $175; John Lundsten, $300; and Gale Holmquist, $300. To date, the Flora of Buffalo program has received $1980 in donations.

The Buffalo Community Center received a memorial donation for Harriet Mooney of $615.

Kyle Dinehart donated fans valued at $461.28 for the Toy Shop. Dinehart of TMS Johnson, Inc., will be installing the fans at no additional cost as a donation, as well.

The Bison Fishing Forever Program received the following donations: Richard Miller, $25; Edward and Kathleen Callahan, $25; Phyllis Griffith, $25; Your Time Arts and Crafts Retreat, $50; Joel Wanner, $50; and Kenneth and Sharon Moffett, $100.



County Board will discuss land offer

By Ed DuBois

The Wright County Board met last Tuesday, Feb. 21 and scheduled a closed session on Monday, Feb. 27 at 12:30 p.m. to discuss a land purchase offer.

The county is planning to construct a new courts facility near the Law Enforcement Center (LEC), and the owner of a few acres in the vicinity of the LEC has offered to sell a parcel to the county.

The commissioners are meeting in a closed session to discuss the offer and determine whether or not the county is interested in purchasing the property.

In other business:



The Board canceled the Aug. 22 board meeting.

The commissioners regularly cancel one meeting in each month with five Tuesdays.



In other actions, the Board:

-  scheduled a March 14 public hearing at 9:30 a.m. to discuss proposed changes to the county's fees schedule;

-  approved change funds in the County Recorder's Office and the County Attorney's Office;

-  approved filling two positions, information systems specialist and social worker, both in Health & Human Services; and

- approved $299,575 in claims involving 338 transactions with 188 vendors.



Pedestrian hit by train Monday in Waverly

By Ed DuBois

An 18-year-old pedestrian from Litchfield was struck by a train in Waverly last Monday evening, Feb. 20.

Wright County Sheriff Joe Hagerty reported the Wright County Communications Center received a report at approximately 7:30 p.m. that a pedestrian had been struck by a train near 4th St. in Waverly.  Responding deputies, Waverly Rescue and Allina Ambulance found an adult male on the north side of the tracks just east of the city limits.

An initial investigation indicated a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train was eastbound when a male was seen walking on the tracks.  The train's horn was activated, and the train's brakes were applied, but striking the pedestrian could not be prevented.

The pedestrian was identified as Tre Ertl, 18, of Litchfield.  He was transported to a metro hospital in critical condition.

The accident remains under investigation by the Wright County Sheriff's Office.


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Rewarding mix of farm, school

Buffalo High School graduate Larry Marquette nominated for state agriculture teacher of the year honor

By Ed DuBois

Staying busy can sometimes lead to unexpected rewards.  For Larry Marquette, staying busy includes teaching science, chemistry, agriculture food chemistry, college chemistry, physics, and agriculture horticulture at Dassel-Cokato High School.  He is also an FFA co-adviser at DCHS.

Larry, the youngest of six, lives on his parents' farm just west of Buffalo, and he said his farm activities play into what he teaches.  He shares his farm experiences with the students, and he tells them about his community-supported agriculture activities.  People sign up each season to buy garden produce from the farm.  He also tells about selling produce, goat cheese and sauerkraut at the Buffalo Farmers Market.

He has about 30 goats, and they give birth to about 20 kids (baby goats) a year.

"I have them for show, mainly," Larry said.

He regularly takes part in the National Goat Show in Madison, Wis., which takes place on the Saturday after the Fourth of July.

"I try to get there," he commented.

This summer, he is also planning to chaperone 14 FFA students on a trip to South Africa.

On top of everything else, he plays the bassoon and performs with the Buffalo Community Orchestra.  He also plays the piano at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Buffalo.


'I like to do stuff'

Asked if staying so busy is a problem at times, Larry said, "I like being busy.  I like to try different things.  It takes up time, but I like to do stuff."

His multi-faceted life and the way he has shared his experiences with his students has been noticed by his agriculture teacher colleagues.  Larry was honored recently at the regional level as a top agriculture teacher in his first year of eligibility, and he was nominated at the regional level for the state agriculture teacher of year honor.

Interestingly, Larry had planned to go into research after studying agricultural biotechnology at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

"I am glad I am in teaching.  It's fun to look back and realize how much the students have learned," said the 1998 Buffalo High School graduate.


Good 4-H background

While growing up on the farm near Buffalo, his involvement with 4-H helped prepare him.

"I am comfortable in the role as a teacher.  I did a lot of leadership stuff in 4-H," Larry commented.

His duties as an FFA adviser allow him to get better acquainted with the students beyond the classes he teaches.

"I get to know the kids at a different level (through FFA activities), and that makes it more meaningful," Larry said.

He has been involved with organizing FFA career development events and contests.


Big undertaking

The trip to South Africa came about through connections Larry made during a previous trip two years ago.  He enjoyed learning about the culture of South Africa, as well as learning about agriculture in that part of the world.  He saw how culture and climate impact agriculture, he said.

The trip two years ago was made with fellow FFA co-adviser Eric Sawatzke and other agriculture teachers.  Larry said they now have a good contact in South Africa and are looking forward to taking students there this summer.  The trip is a big undertaking, but it is expected to be very worthwhile.


Teaching since 2005

Meanwhile, Larry continues teaching at DCHS and commuting home to the family farm each day.

His parents are Gordon and Shirley Marquette.  His brother, Dave, has been doing most of the farming in recent years.  Larry said he helps with baling hay in the summertime.

He started teaching in 2005 at Annandale High School.  In 2008, he began working at Dassel-Cokato High School.

Larry stays so busy, he hasn't had much time to think about the prospect of being named the State Agriculture Teacher of the Year.  When he was asked about it, the subject served as a reminder he needs to submit information to the state organization, the Minnesota Association of Agricultural Educators, by March 15.

But what's one more task for someone who is accustomed to staying so busy?

Sometimes staying busy can lead to unexpected rewards.