Fire engulfs Monticello barn New Year's Eve
By Miriam Orr
Tragedy is no respecter of persons - or holidays - when it strikes. In the start of 2018, it seems that the Pribyl family of Monticello knows that better than most.
It was frigidly cold Dec. 31, 2017, when the Wright County Sheriff's Department responded to a call on the 1800 block of 85th Street NE in Monticello, which happened to be the boarding stable "Bit of Heaven," owned and operated by Rick and LuAnn Pribyl.
Around 5:00 a.m., the morning of New Year's Eve, was when Rick found himself restless and unable to sleep, and it was moments after that when tragedy would set the course of their New Year's start. Hearing what sounded like two gunshots, Rick got up to investigate the noise, only to find that he and his wife's stable was, as he emotionally described, "a glowing mess."
Immediately, the couple dialed 911, and hurried outside. When they found themselves down by their barn, Rick and LuAnn could only stand by and watch in a muted sense of disbelief.
"Smoke was everywhere," LuAnn recalled. By that time, deputies had arrived on scene and advised the Pribyl's that it wasn't safe to go in and try and rescue anything.
Nine different Fire Department's responded to the Pribyl's fire, including Buffalo and Monticello. The fire spread throughout the entirety of the stable and one of the arenas, ultimately costing the Pribyl's the loss of not only their property, but 5 horses, 2 dogs, and an assortment of farm-cats.
Rick and LuAnn have been operating Bit Of Heaven for a total of seven years; a total stock of 16 horses. 11 of the couple's boarded horses survived the fire, and no injuries were reported.
Rick recalled the event remorsefully. "Our boarders lost the most," he said. "Tack, horses - all those things are expensive, and difficult to replace. Buildings can be rebuilt."
Rick explained that despite the loss of the business itself, the couple's biggest concern was hay, as their investment was entirely engulfed in the hayloft of the stable.
Tracie Bebeau, one of the Pribyl's current boarders, lost one of her horses in the tragedy. She has been commandeering donation efforts to help the Pribyl's recover their losses.
Being affected by the tragedy, she stated that, "Messages, phone calls, the generosity - it all gets you through things of this nature. It gives you hope to go forward and to realize things are going to be okay."
"You can't imagine the generosity," LuAnn said, "We are so grateful for our boarders, and the community, for their support." The quick reaction of the Pribyl's clients, and the community around them, leaves the couple speechless.
"People have really gone above and beyond. Without the support of our boarders and the people surrounding us - family, friends, the community - we wouldn't nearly have the support or experienced the generosity like we have. We are deeply appreciative."
Currently, the Pribyl's are fully expecting to rebuild their operation. Right now, their greatest need is hay, and monetary funds to begin the process of rebuilding. So far the donations they have re-ceived have left them with a deep gratitude, and am-azement, at the surrounding community.
Donation questions or inquiries on how to assist the Pribyl's can be directed to Tracie Bebeau, at 612-805-0433, or online at
The Pribyl's are thankful for the surrounding community, Fire Departments, and Police for their assistance and willingness to service the community, even at the most inconvienient times like New Year's Eve, as Rick pointed out.
"We have an extraordinary community, that is so tight-knit and willing," LuAnn suggested. "I am so grateful for them - this would be a lot more difficult if we had no one to turn to."
Currently, the Monticello Fire Department is investigating the cause of the fire.
Recent vandalism victims
By request of the community, Wright County Journal-Press would like to bring awareness to the Nelsons, a Buffalo family on the 1600 block of Vikings Drive, who were recent victims of Christmas decoration vandalism.
Their decorations, loved by many in the community, are a tribute to lost sons.
The community has surrounded the Nelsons by already taking up small collections near their home. If you would like to make donations, or inquiries on how to help, please contact:
Get ready for a scary night of bizarre ghosts, wicked spirits, and deadly poltergeists. Chad Lewis has been in pursuit of the supernatural and unusual across the globe, and he is coming to present his findings in Minnesota Thursday, Jan. 11.
This presentation takes the audience on a ghostly journey to some of the most haunted places in Minnesota. It covers the entire state of Minnesota from a Witch haunting a cemetery in Jackson, to a haunted B&B in Wabasha, from phantom creatures prowling the woods, to back road creatures. No place in Minnesota is without its own haunting.
Complete with photos, case history, eyewitness accounts, ghost lore, and directions, this unique presentation encourages you to visit these places for your own ghost story.
The presentation is Thursday, Jan. 11, at the Buffalo Public Library, at 6:30 p.m. It is free, and open to the public, with all ages welcome. For more information regarding the event, call 763-682-2753.
2018 picnic and campsite reservations
The Wright County Parks and Recreation department announced their open reservation schedule for 2018.
On Jan. 8, 2018 at 8:00 a.m., Wright County Parks and Recreation will begin accepting picnic shelter reservations for the summer of 2018 through our online line reservation system, or over the phone, 763-682-7894.
Starting March 5, 2018 at 8 a.m. Wright County Parks and Recreation will begin taking campsite reservations for the 2018 season. The camping season will start May 4, 2018 and go through October 7, 2018. You can reserve your campsite online by phone at 763-682-7894
Trees still lit at the Historical Society
The trees at the Wright County Historical Society 's Festival of Trees are not quite ready to say goodbye, yet. The Historical Society still has this dazzling display open for viewing during regular business hours, until Jan. 5. (Photo by Miriam Orr)
Looking for Dubious Distinctions?
With Ed DuBois officially retired as of Dec. 30, 2017, Wright County Journal-Press says goodbye to not only almost four decades of dedicated talent, but also the weekly ponderings found under "Dubious Distinctions".
In place of DuBois' "Distinctions" is Miriam Orr's "Auteur Access", a hybrid twice-a-month movie re-view and weekly happenings column. Find it on the Opinions page.
Silent Run Adventures dog sledding
Join Silent Run Adventures at Ney Park to learn everything you need to know about Dog Sledding. This is a great opportunity to learn from some of the best mushers around. At the end of the presentation you will have a chance to experience the thrill and excitement of being pulled by a team of Siberian Huskies around Ney Park. At the end of your outing warm up with hot cocoa or cider. Space is limited to 25 participants per session.
The evening mush is Friday, Jan. 12, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Daytime mushes are Saturday, Jan. 13, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m., 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.
The fee is $20.00 per person, and the event is open to the public. This adventure is great for all ages, families, and just in time for concluding the holiday season.
To register for Winter Programs, you can call 763-682-7894, or register by email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Journal-Press seeking submissions
The Wright County Journal-Press aims to be engaged with the community, and stay involved with news.
With winter in full swing and ice-fishing season well underway, we know citizens of not only Wright County - but Minnesota in general - are proud of their sportsmanship, and devote time, resources, passion, and energy into making "the catch of a lifetime".
That being said, we want to know what's in your sights, or on your line here in Wright County. The Journal-Press is looking for game submissions to publish weekly, whether it is feathers, fish, or fur, we want to know what you, as citizens, are up to, and where it's at.
To send in submissions, email photos with names and locations to email@example.com, and please include contact information should we have questions regarding your photos.
Be on the look out for updates to contact information as we prepare to make some changes here at Wright County Journal-Press.
Council adopts revised stormwater pollution prevention plan
By Doug Voerding
In 2017, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) audited the City of Buffalo's stormwater pollution prevention plan and recommended strengthening the city's ordinance on illicit discharges.
On Tuesday, January 2, the Buffalo City Council adopted a revised ordinance that addresses any polluting discharge into the storm sewer system.
City Engineer Justin Kannas told the council that the original ordinance "passed the audit by a barebones minimum, but that MPCA suggested more detail."
The ordinance is a small part of the state Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) program required of cities.
"Overall," said Kannas, "the MPCA was very impressed with all of Buffalo's MS4 program."
The city now has an Enforcement Response Procedures document that includes increasing penalties for illicit discharges of pollutants including written notices, citations, cease and desist orders, as well as revocation of permits.
According to the ordinance, the purpose is "to promote, preserve, and enhance the natural resources within the city and protect them from adverse effects occasioned by illicit discharge directly or indirectly into the city stormwater system and to natural water bodies located in and downstream of the city."
Certain discharges, which are not entirely storm water, into the stormwater system will be allowed.
Some examples include a discharge or flow resulting from fire fighting by the fire department, agricultural storm water runoff, discharge or flow from water line flushing or disinfecting, discharge or flow from lawn watering or landscape irrigation, discharge or flow from uncontaminated pumped groundwater or rising groundwater, uncontaminated discharge or flow from a foundation drain or sump pump, discharge or flow from individual residential car washing, and drainage from a private residential swimming pool containing no harmful quantities of chlorine or other chemicals. Drainage from swimming pool filter backwash is prohibited.
Councilmember Steve Downer said that he was a little uneasy with parts of the ordinance.
Downer asked, "What if someone is power washing their house or washing their motorcycle and water and soap is running down the street?"
City Administrator Mert Auger said the ordinance is a local ordinance and an unfunded mandate and will be enforced by the city.
"We have never, had a complaint or an enforcement issue." Auger said.
Said Downer, "I am still a little uncomfortable with this. I have misgivings, but we should not hesitate in the future to amend this, if needed."
There will be no changes in the committee assignments from 2017.
Those assignments are Mayor Teri Lachermeier, Public Safety and Finance; Councilmember Eric Anderson, Liquor, Public Works, Planning Commission, and United for Youth; Downer, Utilities, Finance, Airport, and Golf Course; Councilmember Scott Enter, Safe Schools, WCAT and Trailblazer, and Acting Mayor; and Councilmember Linda Kittock, Parks, Community Education, Library, and Community Center.
The council accepted $125 from an anonymous donor for the Bison Fishing Forever program, $201 from the Square Dance Club for the Community Center Toy Shop, and $50 from Kristina Felbeck in honor of John Hendricks for the Parks Department Tree Reforestation Program.
In other action, the council:
- announced that Christmas trees will be picked up on normal garbage days. Trees should be placed at the edge of the street by 6:00 a.m.
- did not waive the monetary limits on tort liability for the city's insurance renewal with the League of Minnesota Cities. The vote is required at the time of the yearly renewal.
- named the Wright County Journal-Press as official newspaper.
- designated KleinBank as the designated depository,
- adjourned to council workshop to discuss two city department issues and possible changes in the zoning ordinances that affect housing.
With the holidays come and gone, it may be time to think about getting rid of your family's Christmas tree. Trees will be picked up on your regularly scheduled garbage day on January 9, 10, or 11. Please have them by your garbage can by 6:00 a.m.
Daleiden appointed, help for license bureau green-lighted
By Doug Voerding
Problems with the new state vehicle licensing and registration have had a strong effect on the licensing bureau in the Wright County Courthouse - and, not in a good way.
Becky Aanerud, the license bureau supervisor, told the Wright County Board on Tuesday, January 2, that the office has struggled over the last six months with staff working extra hours "just trying to get the dealer work done."
The bureau has had to issue more than 250 temporary vehicle licenses because Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS) is so far behind.
Aanerud estimates that new car owners have to wait 97 days for titles, forcing the need for the temporary licenses, which Aanerud said take about fifteen minutes each with the bureau receiving no compensation.
To help, the county board is calling on the state legislature and governor to "enact legislation in 2018 to provide deputy registrars with proper compensation to ensure their valued service and continued presence remains in our local community to serve our citizens and the state."
County Auditor/Treasurer Bob Hiivala urged Wright County residents to not use mail or online for new or renewing licenses.
Said Hiivala, "People are coming into the bureau here after being locked out of the website for 48 hours. And, here the bureau staff can't unlock the website for them. It's better to buy the licenses here. That keeps the revenue in the county."
Aanerud also said that the staff in Buffalo has been patient and committed to helping the public, "but we can't fix the state's problem. We are lucky that our staff have stayed. In many places around the state, license bureau staff has quit because of the difficulties with the system."
The board, as a group, was appreciative of the work of the bureau employees.
Said Commissioner Mike Potter, "We all need to remember that they are in the front line, and that they have no control over what the state is doing. We all need to be patient."
In late November, the board met in closed session to hear a presentation from two law firms that are working on behalf of Minnesota counties to start civil litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors.
At Tuesday's meeting, the board, on a 4-1 vote decided to retain Lockridge Grindahl Nauen and Gustafson Glueck, authorizing the two firms to proceed with civil lawsuits on Wright County's behalf.
For the retainer, there is no cost to the county. The law firms will be paid only if there is a monetary settlement from the opioid manufacturers and distributors to the county. The only cost to the county will be research information about the effects of opioids on the county residents.
"In our litigious society," said Commissioner Charlie Borrell, "this avenue must come from the legislature, not from lawsuits. This is the wrong way of fixing a problem that I don't even know is a problem."
County Attorney Tom Kelly said, "There have been five deaths in the county. When opioids are not available, users go to street drugs. It's up to the board to decide, but it's insane the money that is all for profit in drugs. We do have an issue, but it is up to you."
Commissioner Darek Vetsch said, "It is amazingly egregious. I wish it was criminal, not civil. Even so, I support civil suits. Something has to be done, and collectively we have to go on a large scale."
"It may not be the best way," said Commissioner Christine Husom. "But it sends a message. We need to do something. It's frightening what's happening."
Said Borrell, "I'm not saying we don't have a drug problem, but this is not the way to do it. These law firms just want to make money."
Borrell was the only board member who voted against retaining the law firms.
Meeting for the first time in 2018, the Wright County Board reorganized and elected Commissioner Mark Daleiden as board chair. Vetsch will serve as vice-chair.
All other committee assignments and advisory board members will remain the same as 2017 with the addition of Borrell and alternate Potter to the Minnesota Rural Counties, Vetsch to the Trailblazer Joint Powers Board, and Vetsch and alternate Potter to the Wright County Area Transit Joint Powers Board.
The county board also appointed Patrick Mahlberg of the Second District and David Thompson of the Third District to the Planning Commission and Charlotte Quiggle of the First District and John Jones of the Third District to the Board of Adjustment. The appointments are for two years.
Erik Heuring was appointed as the County Agricultural Inspector for 2018 and Michael Young as the County Drainage Inspector for 2018.
In other action, the county board:
- appointed Brian Nord and Steve Berg as alternate to the Central Minnesota EMS Advisory Committee for a two-year term.
- hired Kevin Casserly to appraise three commercial lots in the City of Otsego and Paul Bakken to appraise the strip mall commercial property in Delano. Apparently, owners of the properties are questioning the county's assessment.
- agreed to hire a replacement sheriff's deputy due to the retirement of Richard Salveson.
- agreed to hire a replacement social worker and a replacement office technician both due to resignations.
- agreed to hire a replacement Information Technology senior developer and a Telecom specialist both due to resignations.
- on the recommendation of the Planning Commission, approved the rezoning of approximately 50 acres owned by Jim Sexton in Buffalo Township from AG General Agriculture and S-2 Residential-Recreational Shorelands to A/R Agricultural-Residential and S-2.
- named the Herald Journal as the official newspaper. The Herald Journal was the low bidder at $0.27 per column inch.
- set the per diem meeting rate at $50 for all committees and advisory boards. Should a meeting go over four hours, the per diem will be $100, except for elected officials.
- set the minimum salary for the elected department heads, auditor/treasurer, sheriff, and attorney, at $91,541. The minimum must be set in January of every election year.
Crash claims one life, two injuries in Hanover
By Miriam Orr
On. Dec. 27, around noon, Hennepin and Wright County deputies responded to an emergency call stating that a two-car accident had blocked traffic at the intersection of 109th and Rosedale Aves. in Hanover on the Crow River bridge.
Three Rivers Park Police, Hanover firefighters and paramedics all responded to the scene, where three adult victims were found to be injured upon arrival to the scene.
One of the victims, 36-year-old Waylon Vaughn, was transported to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead. Hennepin County's Medical Examiner's Office released a report saying that Vaughn died due to multiple blunt force injuries. The other two victims were also transported with minor, non-life-threatening injuries.
Currently, the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office is investigating the crash.
Throwing the switch
Working to bring awareness to the trade industry
Already a decade ago, The Great Recession of 2007 affected countries across the globe. Politicians are still picking up the pieces of debt accumulated, while the economy is working to make a strong comeback. Many businesses - both small and large - still feel the lasting sting, however.
While countries such as the U.S., Europe, and Russia suffered the most economic decline, the affect of the recession was almost worldwide. The International Monetary Fund concluded that this decline was "worst global recession since the 1930's."
However grand a scale, big economy was not the only victim.
Realizing the issue
The year 2007 brought not only the economic decline that would set the country up for a long recovery, but it also began the end of what had once been deemed the prestigious title of "The Industrial Revolution," and is now, a decade later, almost entirely obsolete.
Little talk has been made about the trade industry and its "tradesmen," or workers who specialize in a particular occupation that requires work experience, on-the-job training, and often an informal, vocational education - not always requiring a college degree. Many people may not even be aware of what exactly the trade industry is, or its prominent role in society.
Courtney Lotzer, however, is fully aware.
Mother of two, businesswoman, and a child of a blue-collar upbringing, Courtney Lotzer has made Buffalo her home for almost seven years. Her involvement in the community varies depending on her vocational hat - she has been active in representing the community before city government, and in online promotion for Buffalo events through Facebook and also word-of-mouth. Though born and raised in De Smet, S.D., Lotzer is proud to call Buffalo her home.
In all actuality, Courtney is a "jack-of-all-trades," and puts a healthy amount of energy, passion, and dedication into everything she sets her mind to. So much so, that her network of contacts has reached so far as iHeartMedia in the Metro, where she made connections.
One such contact is Dean Peterson, the VP of Sales, who has partnered with Lotzer to "throw the switch" on an issue that is slowly creeping over society.
For Courtney, the issue of the trade industry and its lack of awareness came to a head one day while Lotzer was talking with Peterson at iHeartMedia.
"Dean and I started talking," Lotzer said, "and it snowballed from there. It's something I am passionate about and will invest my heart and soul into, though there's a growing lack of [trades] in our society."
Much to society's surprise, the workforce took an unprecedented hit in 2007. It seemed that now, there wasn't much of a pipeline for tradesmen jobs, and that the majority of individuals of working age were now college educated with degrees and moving to "higher-end professional" jobs, with debts from high tuition rates to match.
Research quickly went underway, and the results were alarming - over 50% of those involved in trade jobs - tradesmen - were 55 years old, or older. There was little variation between ages, and research showed that hardly any millennial "up-and-comings" were working towards entering the trade industries such as carpentry, welding, electricity, and others.
Lotzer conducted her own research once the spark of curiosity was lit, and her study yielded the same results. That's when she got really busy and found that a lot of the problem lies in properly educating those preparing to enter the workforce, high school upperclassmen, and parents.
"What people don't understand is that it only takes roughly 8,000 hours of paid training on the job with a professional electrician, and a little bit of schooling, before one can take a journeyman's test to become a certified electrician." Lotzer said. "Then, from there, someone can make up to $80,000 some even $140,000 a year - and that's just starting out. But people don't know that. No one really talks about it."
Throwing the switch
Together, Lotzer and Peterson decided to start a campaign that would educate those entering the workforce about trades. To do that, they started pulling together resources to really get things rolling.
Courtney, owner and operator of West Side Electricians, in Buffalo, works with homeowners as a liaison between compaies to set up repairs and home-visits. Her experience and involvement with the trade industry - in the form of plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etcetera - has made her even more passionate regarding the trade industry. Those companies in the Metro, Wright County area, and others are interested in her effort, and are coming on board. Those involved in the industry can see the effect this issue will have on society, and they see the coming challenges.
"These jobs are jobs we are going to need," Lotzer affirmed. "Where are we going to be in 10 or so years when these jobs are obsolete because there's no one working them? Where are our kids going to be?"
Lotzer continued. "Everything around us, in our homes, offices, communities, is built by someone with a skill they've learned on the job - your pipes have water, your homes have electricity. Just ask yourself - do you know how to install a light-switch? Or put in a breaker box? Where will you or your families be when the 55+ generation of men and women in this industry are gone and there's no one coming down the pipeline, so to speak?"
Courtney concludes that if people were active in high schools and middle schools in communicating their jobs, making them known in communities, and educating families as to how one gets on a tradesmen's career path, the issue might improve.
So far, Lotzer and Peterson have been coordinating an effort for a planning and launch, where they will really sit down and examine resources and start pitching a presentation to propose partnerships between them and industry professionals who want to help bring awareness to the community.
To start, iHeartMedia's Peterson has been researching and putting together a presentation for the campaign, which they have named "#TradingUp," which highlights the facts of the issue spreading across the nation. In the start of the New Year, Lotzer hopes to have a full 3-year plan in place to give the campaign some solidarity.
"I love this industry," Lotzer explained, "and I want to educate our society. My son's in college, and he had scary questions with no one to answer them regarding this industry. I've also got a 10-year-old boy that I can see becoming a tradesmen someday, so making this information accessible to him is huge. Getting the facts right, and making sure he - and I - are educated about this spectrum of work is crucial."
The vision is to begin awareness in Wright County, and stem outward from there. So far, Buffalo companies have partnered with Lotzer in her vision to bring awareness to the community, and Dunwoody College in Minneapolis is in the works of coming on board with the operation. Someday, if all goes as planned, Lotzer hopes that iHeartMedia's involvement will bring the campaign national.
Lotzer's wish is that people in Wright County would educate themselves regarding the trade industry, and ask questions of those professionals within it.
Speculation among individuals whether the trade industry lacks glamour and recognition has risen during Lotzer's research, and whether the lack of employees in the industry is because of poor marketing, or poor recognition, has yet to be fully determined.
"They aren't glamorous jobs," Lotzer said. "In fact, many times, people like welders or plumbers often get the shaft because they're 'shop people' or come home dirty. The fact of the matter is these jobs are necessary - and the people within the industry know it, and they are determined to get it done. The importance is no different than a doctor, or a lawyer, or a marketing specialist, only in the sense that one gets positive recognition and a cubicle, and the other navigates a shop floor, or the basement of a house."
2018 holds a great deal of work and promise for Courtney, as she begins to plan her campaign. Right now, she is working closely with partners to compile data and really get industry professionals on board.
Part of her plan to launch the operation and bring awareness to the community is getting schools involved. Courtney commented that high school seniors and juniors, those in technical schools, and men and women in need of vocational training could greatly benefit from programs like job-shadowing, where individuals would go with professionals and see their "day-to-day routine" and what exactly it is like being a professional on the job.
What's more, she hopes to get city government involved by presenting the campaign to county boards and city councils to spark involvement and get people thinking on the matter. She hopes that from that, initiative will snowball and programs will launch - whether through her campaign, or the resources of someone else is to be determined.
For now, the effort is purely focused on educating the public, until more resources fall in place. So far the #TradingUp presentation is still in progress, and an official statement and launch from iHeartMedia has yet to be announced. With the New Year just kicking off, Lotzer hopes the cards will fall into place soon, so the "official part" of the work can begin. As of the moment, she is pitching the idea to professionals in industry, companies - anyone who will really just listen and give her a "soapbox."
"Blue-collar work has so much potential," she explained. "There's just so much there for people. So much know-how to be learned - so much room to expand and grow. The only thing that's not there is the hands to make it happen. We need to throw the switch and get people educated."
After all, you can't throw a switch if there's no one to install it to begin with.