Drive Wright discontinued due to new legislation
By Ed DuBois
The Drive Wright program has helped thousands of people, and Wright County has seen benefits from the program, but due to state legislation that was enacted in the 2017 legislative session, the program was ended on June 30.
Anyone scheduled for the program as of that date will be able to go through the program.
Drive Wright was started by the County Attorney's Office and the Sheriff's Office in 2005 to address minor traffic violations. The purpose of the program is to educate individuals and not impact their vehicle insurance. Shortly after Drive Wright was started, a Teen Drive Wright program was also started.
During a committee meeting on June 30, County Attorney Tom Kelly told the county commissioners "bad facts make bad law." He explained that controversy in Wabasha County over a similar diversion program led to legal action against the program.
A difference between the program in Wabasha County and the program in Wright County is that funds from Drive Wright fees are not used to supplement the County Attorney and Sheriff's budgets. In Wright County, these departments contract with two nonprofit entities, the MEADA (Methamphetamine Education and Drug Awareness) Coalition and Safe Communities of Wright County.
There is a $75 fee, which is allocated to the entities for education and training purposes.
Kelly said the county has seen benefits from the program for thousands of people.
The legislation enacted this year calls for local government aid to be reduced to counties with diversion programs that are not authorized under section 169.999. The amount of the reduction would match the amount of the fees that have been collected.
The amount of the fees collected in Wright County since Drive Wright started is close to $900,000.
The county commissioners discussed options that might be available to them. They expressed concern that the legislators might not have considered the costs the programs saved over time, and the large number of people who have who have been helped.
Kelly and Sheriff Joe Hagerty have decided they needed to end the Drive Wright program on June 30.
Meanwhile, county officials will be looking at options for the future.
County Board Chair Charlie Borrell commented that the program is a good one and he hopes the program can be brought back at some point.
In other business:
During a recent Technology Committee meeting, the subject of body cams for deputies was discussed. The cost of body cams would be quite high, and right now, the Sheriff's Office is in the process of gradually upgrading squad car cams. Once the squad car cam upgrade is complete, the Sheriff's Office would have a platform that could support body cams, which could be considered in the future.
NEW ASSISTANT COUNTY ATTORNEY
County Attorney Tom Kelly introduced the Board to Jennifer Hendricks, a new assistant county attorney who started June 19. She lives in Plymouth and has experience working in St. Cloud and Meeker County. The Board welcomed Hendricks and approved signing an approval of appointment and oath.
The Board approved several highway projects, including a rural intersection conflict warning system for two intersections, CSAHs (County State Aid Highway) 35 and 6, and CSAHs 35 and 8. The low bidder for the project is Design Electrical Contractors of St. Cloud. The cost of $254,198 is 90-percent covered by federal funds.
Another project that was approved involves CSAH 3 pavement preservation work by low bidder Knife River Corp. of Sauk Rapids in the amount of $1.62 million, with $1.3 million in federal funds.
A third project that was approved involves work on County Rd. 131 and Briarwood Ave. This Rockford Township state park road account project is being handled by low bidder Knife River Corp. of Sauk Rapids at a cost of $455,971. State park road account funds are covering the work on Briarwood Ave.
In other actions, the Board:
• reviewed a committee discussion about the differences between a county coordinator and a county administrator (The matter was continued to an Aug. 1 committee meeting.);
• scheduled an Aug. 1 public hearing at 9:30 a.m. to discuss the revised Health & Human Services fee schedule;
• accepted a Planning Commission recommendation to approve a request from Richard and Marie Marquette to rezone about 31 acres in Marysville Township from agricultural use to A/R agricultural-residential use;
• approved a City of Rockford tax-forfeited land resolution involving either a future roadway use of the land or an expansion of the city's compost site;
• approved a plat for Registered Land Survey No. 44 in Silver Creek Township;
• approved filling two OT II positions in Health & Human Services;
• authorized county commissioner attendance at a Ditch 10 meeting in the Victor Township Hall on July 19 at 7 p.m.;
• scheduled a Ditch Committee of the Whole meeting regarding County Ditch 36 on July 19, 2 p.m., in the Wright County Highway Building;
• authorized attendance at a Balancing Leadership and Risks Seminar, a training event sponsored by the Association of Minnesota Counties, on Sept. 6 in the MCIT Building, St. Paul; and
• approved $801,819 in claims involving 492 transactions with 303 vendors.
Energetic giant wasps seen in Buffalo lately
Maybe you have seen these very large wasps near the big flower pots along Widestreet in downtown Buffalo this month. A newspaper photographer found information on the Web that indicates they are called sphecius speciosus, and they are also called cicada killer. The nickname is more ominous than the one-and-a-half-inch wasps deserve. The energetic males are aggressive fliers, but they have no stinger. The female has a stinger but does not tend to use it on humans unless she feels threatened. She uses cicadas to feed her young. (Photo by Ed DuBois)
Statewide search for starry stonewort planned on Aug. 5
Volunteers from across Minnesota are needed on Saturday, Aug. 5 to participate in a statewide search for starry stonewort, Minnesota's newest aquatic invasive species (AIS).
Hundreds of volunteers will gather at rendezvous sites statewide to learn how to identify starry stonewort and search for it in area lakes.
Starry stonewort is an invasive algae that was first found in Lake Koronis in 2015 and has since spread to nine Minnesota lakes, including Lake Sylvia in Wright County.
Early detection of this species is critical for control.
"This event is a terrific way for local community members to get outdoors, learn more about starry stonewort and other aquatic invasive species, and truly make a difference in the health of their area lakes," said Megan Weber, Extension educator with the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. "The information we gain at this event will help researchers and managers understand its current distribution and potentially take action if new infestations are found."
No experience or equipment is necessary to participate in the event, which is dubbed Starry Trek. Expert training on monitoring protocols and starry stonewort identification will be provided on-site. This event is free, but registration is requested. Children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
"We're delighted to be partnering with the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center for this event," said Alicia O'Hare, water resource specialist, Wright Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). "Protecting our lakes for future generations is really important to us all, and we want to do make sure we're doing the best we can to prevent the introduction and spread of AIS."
There will be over a dozen rendezvous sites around the state, including Ney Nature Center in Maple Lake, Minn. Volunteers will meet at their local rendezvous site for training, and then they will be sent to nearby lakes to check for starry stonewort. At the end of the day, they'll return to the rendezvous site to report their findings.
For a full list of the sites and other FAQs, please visit www.StarryTrek.org.
The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center works across the state to develop research-based solutions that can reduce the impacts of aquatic invasive species in Minnesota by preventing spread, controlling populations, and managing ecosystems, as well as to advance knowledge to inspire action by others. A portion of the funding for this program is provided by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Learn more at www.maisrc.umn.edu.
For statewide information, contact Weber by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 763-767-3874.
For local information, contact O'Hare by email at Alicia.email@example.com or by phone at 763-682-1933, ext. 3.
Montrose City Council decides to add two hours of police patrol
By Doug Voerding
After serious discussion on the issue for the past two months, the Montrose City Council decided on Monday, July 10 to add two hours to the sheriff's patrol of the city.
With Waverly increasing its sheriff's contract to six hours, Montrose will have a sheriff's deputy either in the city or within two minutes of the city for sixteen hours a day.
The additional two hours is the first increase since 2004, when the council moved to eight hours of service every day. In 2004, the population in Montrose was 1,800, and it is now 3,300.
At a workshop meeting on June 21, the council examined the feasibility of starting the city's own police department as an alternative to contracting with the Wright County Sheriff's Department. At that meeting, Deputy Clerk Wendy Manson provided the council with figures from Annandale and Howard Lake, two cities in Wright County with their own police departments.
According to Manson, for Annandale the 2016 budget for the police department was $552,000, and the 2017 budget for Howard Lake is $365,000. Starting a police department with all of the required equipment was estimated at over $1 million.
The 2017 police budget for Montrose is $202,940. Adding the two hours in 2018 will increase that budget to $263,000.
"This is a tough decision," said Mayor Michelle Otto. "I did a ride-along and an average ticket does take twenty to thirty minutes to complete. That's why people sometimes see the deputies sitting in their cars."
Otto also said she had talked to a number of residents about the need for increasing the hours. Otto said most did not see a need and that patrolling had increased.
Councilmember Jill Menard said there is a need for the increase.
"The number of calls between 2:00 and 6:00 p.m. seem to be higher during that time. With the increase, that time would be better covered," said Menard.
The council also looked at some estimates that show the increase will cost homeowners about $40 to $50 more in taxes a year.
"But," said Menard, "there is wiggle room in other areas of the budget, so that the added cost may not be that high."
The increased hours were approved on a 3 - 2 vote with Menard and Councilmembers Ben Kuehl and Melissa Gudvangen in favor and Councilmember Lloyd Johnson and Otto opposed.
PLANNING AND ZONING
At its June 21 meeting, the Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing for comments about a residential rental ordinance.
According to City Planner Mark Kaltsas, the commission recommended approval of an ordinance that requires rental properties to register with the city.
"The purpose of the registration," said Kaltsas, "is to initiate contact with rental property owners and find out who the property manager is. That property manager would be the primary contact with the city."
Added Kaltsas, "This process would provide the city with a platform to start educating rental property owners about maintenance and upkeep and about adding a crime and drug free addendum to their leases."
The ordinance, passed by the council, does not require inspections of any kind.
The council could later add an inspection component to the residential rental ordinance.
The council, also on the recommendation of the commission, approved amendments to a conditional use permit (CUP) allowing auto sales at 405 Nelson Boulevard.
Property owners Travis and Lisa Milhausen requested the changes after determining that one building and part of another were in better shape than previously thought and were useful for the auto sales site.
A condition of the CUP amendment requires the applicant to have both buildings inspected and to obtain building permits for work already completed and for any work still required to bring the buildings into compliance with city codes.
Another change allows the parking of nine vehicles facing Highway 12. The original CUP had that row of vehicles further back on the site.
PARK AND REC
The council discussed the current city policy concerning reserving city parks by individuals and groups. Parks may be reserved at city hall and the use of the park is free with a stipulation that any damage will be paid by the reserving party.
Of concern was the $25 charge if the group wants to use electricity. That charge is not applied to non-profit groups.
While the charge may be appropriate when a group wants to use the ball field lights, the charge may be unreasonable for the amount of electricity used at one of the picnic shelters.
According to Deputy Clerk Manson, when a group uses electricity in a park, it is not noticeable on the city's monthly bill.
The council decided to leave the policy the same and consider changes for next year.
At the request of Chair Bru Ploog, the council approved moving ahead with a Movie in the Park event.
Ploog also reminded the council of the Summer Splash event at Northridge Park on Saturday, July 15, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
During the open forum, Shelby Pawelk and Dylan Skilling talked to the council about speeding on Dillon Avenue North.
Said Skilling, "There have been some close calls with the children trying to cross the street to play with friends. We put up a slow traffic sign in the middle of the street, and drivers just knocked it over."
The residents on Dillon asked the council to help by reducing the speed, adding speed signs, or installing speed bumps.
The council agreed to install signs and asked the residents to call city hall if license plate numbers or individuals and vehicles are known. The city passes that information on to the sheriff's deputy without identifying the informant.
Fire Chief Kevin Triplett reported that during June the department responded to nine emergency medical calls and eight other calls including two motor vehicle accidents. The total fire department calls is now at 79 compared to 102 last year.
The monthly report also showed that the fire department has become a Wright County Community Action (WCCA) emergency food tote storage location. Two food totes, maintained by WCCA, are kept at the fire station and may be given out to those in need in times of emergency.
The department acknowledged Matt Menard for his availability to assist the Army Reserve during the month of June and Mike Marketon for repairing the air conditioning unit and relief valve on one of the fire trucks.
In other action, the council:
• decided to post all Montrose Days Committee meetings as three or more city councilmembers participate in the planning of the Montrose Days celebration. The Montrose Days Committee is not a city organization, nor does it accept any direct city contributions, but the council wanted to make sure there could be no open meeting complaints. Under the state open meeting law, governing groups must post all meetings when a quorum of the group may be present. Menard said that the councilmembers on the Montrose Days Committee never discuss city business but that they want to be sure they are following the law.
• announced that the Montrose Days Committee is still looking for volunteers. Interested people can find more information on the Montrose Days website montrosedayscelebration.yolasite.com or on Facebook.
• approved a three-day gambling license for the Montrose Lions Club to conduct bingo during the Montrose Days Celebration.
• learned that Trailblazer Transit has provided rides for an increasing number of Montrose residents. In 2015, there were 1126 rides provided, and 1565 in 2016. For the first half of 2017, Trailblazer has provided 1258 rides.
The council acknowledged:
• the Army Reserve for their work on the regional park.
• the volunteers with the FE+ED program.
• the fire department for the use of the washer and dryer by the Army Reserve.
• Public Works Director Sean Diercks and City Engineer Justin Kannas for their work with the regional park.
• Casey's for donating 15 pizzas for the Army Reserve.
• Jason Hilgers of the Public Works Department for mosquito spraying.
On Tuesday, July 18, the council will be hosting an open house to present information about street improvements on Garfield Avenue and in the Montrose Meadows subdivision. The meeting will be at the community center from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
On Wednesday, July 19, the council will meet with the Planning and Zoning Commission to discuss ordinance changes to allow three recreational vehicles to be parked on residential properties. The meeting will be at the community center at 7:00 p.m.
On Monday, July 24, the council will hold a special meeting to award the bids for street improvements and to approve preliminary funding plans for street improvements over the next five years.
Wright County Fair family fun July 26-30
The 2017 Wright County Fair is offering family fun for everyone from Wednesday, July 26 through Sunday, July 30.
Those entering exhibits should bring them on Tuesday, July 25.
The 2017 Fair will feature action-packed grandstand shows, beginning with the Combine Derby on Wednesday at 7 p.m. This event also features a Lawn Mower Derby and a Power Wheels Derby for the kids to participate.
On Thursday night, the Grandstand will be rocking with the Bull Riding Competition, which begins at 7 p.m. There will also be some fun competitions for the kids to participate in from the audience. This is a very high-energy show of non-stop bull riding.
Friday night will feature the 49th Annual Demolition Derby. Beginning at 7 p.m., this popular event draws record-setting capacity crowds. A high-energy event, as well, the Derby will entertain young and old as local contestants attempt to destroy their competition for cash and trophies. Be sure to get your tickets early as this event normally sells out prior to the start.
On Saturday, if you love motors, you will want to be at the Wright County Fair, a spokesperson said. The Tractor & Truck Pull begins in the Grandstand at 2 p.m. and runs continuously until all classes of out-of-field, stock, open, and street modified, as well as semis, are completed. Also running at the same time in the Mud Pit area is the Mud Racing with many classes, as well. There is a combo pass available that will grant admission to both the Tractor and Truck Pull and the Mud Racing, so fans can enjoy a variety of motor sports all day long.
Sunday features the second round of Demo Derby action. This popular derby has added classes of pickups and minis. The entire family will enjoy the non-stop, high-energy variety of contests this unique derby has to offer.
Tickets for all Grandstand events can be purchased in advance through the fair website, www. wrightcountyfair.org, or by calling 320-543-3119. Tickets will also be available at the fairgrounds beginning Monday, July 24. All shows are $10 per person of any age. Children, 12 and under, are $5 for the Tractor Pull and Mud Racing events only. Combo passes for Saturday Tractor and Truck Pull and Mud Racing are $15. All events are reserved seating, except the Saturday events, Tractor and Truck Pull and Mud Racing, which are general admission seating.
Entertainment will be offered each night at no charge in the Entertainment Tent. Weekend Entertainment bands will feature Red Dot Garage, the local party band playing a mix of classic rock, newer rock and country on Friday night. On Saturday night, don't miss Crazy Larry as they also turn up the party atmosphere playing a mix of rock and country. Both of these bands feature local musicians and will be on stage from 8 p.m. to midnight.
Friday afternoon will feature the Ukulele Club of Wright County from 4-6 p.m., and Saturday will feature the River Canyon Band playing country hits from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Mark Stone and the Dirty Country Band will perform from 6:30 to 10:30 Thursday night. Wednesday night will feature DJ music from 6:30 to 10:30. On Sunday night, the Entertainment Tent will host the Annual Wright County Karaoke Contest from 5-9. Local singers will compete for cash prizes. Don't miss the best singers Wright County has to offer. All entertainment in the Entertainment Tent is free; there is never a cover charge. Come on in and enjoy some great music and a beverage while at the fair.
Other free events not to miss are The BMX Bicycle Thrill shows on Friday and Saturday. Also see the Antique Tractor Pull on Thursday evening, Lumber Jack Championships held every day throughout the fair, and the Talent Show in the Hoop Barn on Thursday evening.
There will be a Classic Car Show on Saturday and a Motorcycle Show on Sunday. Other events include: horse shows, Muttin' Bustin' where kids try to stay on sheep, Free Stage entertainment, including Military Day events on Saturday, and Senior Citizen events on Friday, followed by the Wagon Wheelers performing from 4-8 p.m. on Friday. The popular Kids Pedal Pull will be held Saturday, along with the Diaper Derby.
There's more, including: animal exhibits, a petting zoo, the Agricultural Education Center, general exhibits, crop exhibits, historical exhibits, commercial exhibits, and other events for young and old.
The Wright County Fair is truly "Family Fun for Everyone."
Todd Armstrong Carnival will be back this year with fun rides for all ages. There will be armbands sold Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. On each of those days, two bikes will be given away in a drawing for those with armbands.
There are numerous other events and contests going on every day of the fair.
Check the fair's website, www.wrightcountyfair.org, or see the Guidebook that was sent out earlier and is available at most Wright County banks and some other businesses.
Royalty from this area soon taking part in Queen of the Lakes event
Among royalty from Wright County taking part in the Queen of the Lakes program are 2016-17 Miss Buffalo Danielle Norton, Miss Hanover Belle Wanke, Montrose Ambassador Kayla Clark, and Wright County Fairest of the Fair Ambassador Brianna Ye of Monticello.
They are participating in the Minneapolis Aquatennial Queen of the Lakes program during the "Best Days of Summer" celebration, July 19-22.
Candidates will arrive at the Mariott City Center for a Welcome Reception and will participate in a week full of Aquatennial events and interviews. Public events include Meet the Candidates and the Torchlight Parade on Wednesday, July 19. The Coronation of the 2017 Queen of the Lakes Ambassadors will take place on Saturday, July 22, 4-6 p.m., in the University of Minnesota Ted Mann Concert Hall.
Level 3 offender meeting July 19 in Silver Creek Township Hall
According to Minnesota Statute 244.052, the Wright County Sheriff's Office is releasing information regarding Antonio Harris, a Level 3 registrant subject to public notification.
Harris is moving to the north half of Silver Creek Township, on or after July 12, 2017. He has served the sentence imposed on him by the court and is transitioning within the community with a GPS tracking system and DOC supervision.
A Community Notification Meeting has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 at the Silver Creek Township Hall, 3827 134th St. NW, in Silver Creek Township. Representatives from the Department of Corrections and the Wright County Sheriff's Office will be available to provide useful information on public safety.
Be aware that this notification is meant to provide information and alleviate fear, not create it, according to the Sheriff's Office. The most important factor to consider is that people who commit sex crimes have always lived in our communities. The difference is that since the 1990s, Minnesota statutes allow local law enforcement to inform citizens of certain offenders' general whereabouts.
For more information, please contact Sgt. Eric Leander at the Wright County Sheriff's Office, 763-682-7645.
World's smallest pacemaker
Buffalo native with computer engineering degree helps create device tiny enough to place inside the heart
By Ed DuBois
An activity called Odyssey of the Mind is fondly remembered by Wade Demmer, who grew up while attending school in Buffalo. The creative thinking and problem-solving challenges of Odyssey of the Mind are closely related to what he has been doing at the huge medical technology company, Medtronic, he said.
Demmer, 39, a 1996 Buffalo High School graduate, studied computer engineering in college. He now has 35 patents in the medical device field, and he has been a leader in the development of Micra, the world's smallest pacemaker.
Micra is about the size of a vitamin capsule, and it has no lead wire to connect with the heart. Instead of being attached outside the body, Micra is placed directly inside the heart. It monitors the heart, and when the heart needs help, Micra delivers a tiny shock, which is similar to the electrical signal the heart generates on its own.
Micra is a very small computer, and its tiny battery is designed to last 10-15 years.
Demmer, who has worked with physicians while developing Micra, said the device is placed in the right ventricle through the femoral vein.
Through his work, Demmer has traveled all over the world, but one of his most exciting trips was to a flight facility in Virginia not very long ago. A high school student in Nebraska came up with an idea for the Cubes in Space Program offered in partnership with NASA. Small experiments in cubes are launched in a 36-foot-long NASA rocket.
The launch that carried a cube with Micra inside it took place on June 22. During a ride 73 miles high, Micra was subjected to more than 20 times the force of gravity, plus vibrations worse than a paint shaker, temperatures reaching 140 degrees Fahrenheit, radiation from space, and a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. Afterward, Demmer reported great news. Micra was still functioning the way it was designed to perform.
The student from Nebraska, Shelbi Klingsporn, wants to be a physician's assistant. Demmer suggested that might just be the beginning.
"Once you have shot something outside the Earth, it's hard to say the sky is the limit," he commented.
Quoted in Fortune
As for his own career, Demmer has been quoted in Fortune magazine and has been named to the Medical Technical Fellows at his company, which means he is now considered a mentor for younger engineers.
Demmer has suddenly realized he is no longer one of the newcomers.
"I was nominated because of my technical expertise and excellence by people I respect very much. They were saying I now belong in their club," he said. "Now I am one of the go-to people for information in a particular area."
Physicians see him for technical information about Micra. He has been educating doctors about the technical aspects, and they have been educating him about the medical aspects. Perhaps borrowing from his mother's experience as a longtime teacher in Buffalo, Wade tries to make the information he provides as interesting as he can.
"I make it more fun than the standard college lecture," he said.
Wade's mother is Barb Demmer, and his father is Mike Demmer, a former Buffalo City Council member.
Wade and his brother, Cole, both earned master's degrees from the University of Minnesota at the same time. Cole works in marketing for the Keurig coffee brewing system company and lives in Boston.
Serves on city council
Now living in Coon Rapids with his wife, Stacee, and their three children, Lachlan, 10, Ruby, 8, and Felix, 1, Wade was elected to the Coon Rapids City Council in 2014.
Wade had been a Hall of Fame Award recipient at Buffalo High School. Besides Odyssey of the Mind, his school activities included track and field, cross country, student council, an inventors' program, and Knowledge Bowl.
He has continued to be active in running. In fact, he has run in three Boston Marathons, including the one in which a terrible bombing took place.
Through work, he has visited cities all over the U.S. and beyond. Countries he has visited include: India, China, Australia, Israel, and several in Europe. Wade mentioned he has also enjoyed traveling with his family on vacations. Destinations have included Peru and Caribbean islands.
Next generation Micra
Wade and Stacee met in college when they were studying at Iowa St. University. Stacee was from New Ulm, where they were married in 2002.
When Wade was considering a career path, he might have been influenced by the fact that his grandmother had a pacemaker. He saw a future in writing bio-medical computer code.
Today, he has been promoted to a management position. His office is in the impressive-looking Medtronic building in Mounds View.
"I will be the lead for our next generation of lead-less pacemakers," he said.
Creative thinking and problem solving, just like in Odyssey of the Mind when he was going to school in Buffalo, should continue to serve him well.