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HEADLINES FOR APRIL 21, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Starry stonewort Summit Saturday in St. Cloud

This photo was taken at Lake Koronis last summer.  The year before, it reportedly showed no sign of a starry stonewort infestation.  Lake Sylvia was found to have it late last fall, and  divers were checking this week to see how far it has spread over the winter.  It reportedly went from Lake Koronis to at least nine lakes in Minnesota last year.  (Photo courtesy of Greater Lake Sylvia Association)

The Greater Lake Sylvia Association, Annandale, in partnership with the Koronis Lake Association, is sponsoring a state-wide summit to draw attention to the near silently expansion of lakes infected with starry stonewort, as well as the most current thinking on the impacts on our lakes.

Starry stonewort poses a serious threat to all lakes in Wright County, and once infected, a lake has never been able to eliminate it, according to a Greater Lake Sylvia Association spokes-person.  Unlike other aquatic invasive species, starry stonewort cannot be well controlled with chemicals.

You are invited to attend and learn more about this threat to all Wright County lakes.  Lake Sylvia was found to be infected last summer, and divers will be utilized to identify existing locations of this macro-algae while trying to design a treatment plan.

The Starry Stonewort Summit is a public information event taking place this Saturday, April 22, 1-3 p.m., at River's Edge Convention Center, 10 4th Ave. S., in St. Could.

This event features keynote speaker Dr. John Rodgers from Clemson University, who is actively working with Lake Sylvia and Lake Koronis to help develop plans to better deal with existing starry stonewort infestations.

County commissioners, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials, the University of Minnesota Invasive Species Lab, the Minnesota Fresh Water Society, the Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations, the Wright County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), the Minnesota Resort Owners Association, city officials, legislators, anglers, and many others are all invited.

The public is warmly welcome to attend.  There is no charge for admission.

Gain an understanding about this new aquatic invader and what it means to our lakes.  Learn about methods to control the spread and the latest science for managing starry stonewort.

Come and hear the latest from experts on what this new Minnesota aquatic invader can mean to the lakes.

 

 

Sheriff's staff change gets approved 4-1

By Ed DuBois

A staff reorganization planned by Sheriff Joe Hagerty was approved 4-1 by the Wright County Board last Tuesday, April 18.  The Board also approved an authorization for County Coordinator Lee Kelly and Human Resources Director Sunny Hesse to draft changes to the position classification and reclassification policy.

Commissioner Darek Vetsch voted against the reorganization, but he spoke in favor of the pending policy change, saying it will hopefully prevent problems in the future.  The policy change could get the County Board involved earlier (at committee of the whole meetings) when reorganizations are proposed.  Commissioner Mike Potter added that the change could also result in letting employees know earlier when a staff reorganization is being considered.

Karen Davis, one of two clerical supervisors whose positions are being eliminated in the Sheriff's Office, spoke to the Board before the 4-1 vote on the reorganization.  She thanked the Board for the time and effort the commissioners devoted to the matter.  Davis said she and the other supervisor whose position is being eliminated have no desire to be vindictive, and they hope reorganizations will be handled better in the future.  Davis said she wishes she had been given more opportunities to tell her side of the story when the reorganization was being considered.

Davis stated there is currently peace in the office, and staff members have remained professional.  She questioned the stated results of the reorganization in terms of saving money or increasing efficiency.  She indicated that whether or not two supervisor positions are eliminated, the reduction of 1.5 staff positions could be realized either way.  She added that the other supervisor whose position is being eliminated is close to retirement, and she suggested the elimination of that position could have waited.

Davis said many questions related to why the reorganization is taking place remain unanswered.  She also said reorganizations in other units of the Sheriff's Office could possibly increase efficiency, but it is harder to eliminate union positions.

As the Board considered a motion to approve the sheriff's reorganization, Commissioner Mike Potter pointed out that procedures and policies in place at the time the reorganization was brought to the Board were followed.  Vetch said it was frustrating that the Board was not involved earlier in the process of proposing the reorganization.

Vetsch added that he hopes reorganizations take place in other units of the Sheriff's Office because they look top heavy.

Vetsch also took a moment to express admiration for Davis in regard to speaking so eloquently to the Board.  He said the way she handled herself reflected well on her character, and he stated she is a wonderful employee.  Husom agreed, saying the group of employees supervised by Davis is "a well run unit."

Vetsch said he was sad that Sheriff Hagerty was not able to be present at a recent committee of the whole meeting and at the board meeting last Tuesday.

Following the 4-1 vote, Hesse provided some timeline information.  The layoff of the two supervisors is scheduled for May 19.  Two new positions for which the supervisors could apply are being posted internally at the end of this week.  Applicants could be interviewed from May 10-12.  A hiring decision could be made May 19, resulting in no break in service.

In other business:

 

CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT

The Board approved the selection of Contegrity Group, Inc. (CGI) of Little Falls as the construction management firm for the new courts facility project.

Five firms had been considered, and four were interviewed.  Two finalists were named before CGI was selected.

Commissioner Potter said all four of the firms that were interviewed were "top shelf."  A significant cost savings was the deciding factor when CGI was selected, according to Commissioner Mark Daleiden.

 

ROOF

Commissioner Potter said the county is saving about $400,000 on a roof project at the County Public Works Building.  A flat roof was damaged by a windstorm in March, and insurance is covering the replacement cost.

 

ACCOUNTING

Lindsey Meyer, assistant finance director in the Auditor-Treasurer's Office, was commended for saving the county about $10,000.  She has been able to take over the compilation services work started by the CliftonLarsonAllen accounting firm.  The Board approved canceling the compilation services contract with the firm, which has agreed to let the county out of the contract.  The firm remains on contract for working on the county audit over the next four years.

 

BOY/GIRL COUNTY

The annual Boy/Girl County event took place last Tuesday.  High school students from throughout the county attended the board meeting for about half an hour, and then they visited various county departments.  The annual event is organized by the American Legion and Auxiliary to give students an opportunity to learn more about county government.  The commissioners introduced themselves and answered some questions.

 

MISC.

In other actions, the Board:

● authorized attendance at the 46th Annual Washington, D.C. Fly-In June 6-8, where connections and contacts help keep Wright County in consideration for federal transportation funds;

● authorized the transfer of $40,000 from the general fund to the ditch fund for accounting purposes;

● approved the appointments of Steve Berg and Seth Hansen to the Central Minnesota Emergency Services Board's Emergency Management Advisory Committee;

accepted a Planning Commission recommendation to approve a request from Steve Bruggeman to rezone about 6-6.5 acres in Corinna Township from R-1 urban-rural transitional use, agricultural use and S-2 residential-recreational shorelands use to R-2 suburban residential use and S-2 use;

● approved filling a position for an accounting clerk in Health & Human Services;

● rescheduled the 2017 county auction to Thursday, June 22 at 5:30 p.m. and discussed the idea of selling more items online;

● authorized attendance at the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) District 5 meeting on June 12 in Stearns County;

● approved procurement card transactions for a period ending March 31 amounting to $28,685;

● approved fleet card transactions for a period ending March 31 amounting to $14,460; and

● approved $203,820 in claims involving 311 transactions with 147 vendors.

 

 

Council accepts low interest rate for equipment

By Doug Voerding

Every year, the City of Buffalo purchases needed equipment through a lease-purchase agreement.

On Monday, April 17, the Buffalo City Council accepted the low bid from KleinBank for a percentage rate of 1.94 percent on a total lease of $803,536. The monthly payments over the five years of the lease will be $14,073.

The leased equipment includes: video storage units for the police department, mowers for the street department, a mini derrick for the electric department, a core switch and fiber expansion for fiber optics, two pickup trucks for the water and wastewater department, and a rough mower and greens mower for Wild Marsh Golf Course.

The city received three bids for the lease-purchase financing package for first half of 2017 purchases of vehicles and equipment.  One other bid came from Lease Finance Group of Minnetonka with an interest rate of 2.66 percent.  A third bid from Timmerman Leasing, Inc. of Maple Grove did not meet the bidding requirements.

About the low bid, Councilmember Scott Enter said, "Thank you to KleinBank. We appreciate how you are willing to work with the community."

 

FINANCE OFFICER

After more than 33 years, City Finance Officer Mary Jo Stubstad is retiring in 2018.  Prior to her retirement, Stubstad will be working part-time beginning in August of this year.

The council approved the promotion of Ashley Hanson, currently a Finance Officer III in the finance department.  Hanson applied for the job internally.

City Administrator Mert Auger told the council that Hanson had been hired in 2015 and holds a B.S. degree in accounting.  Since 2015, Hanson has been further trained in city finance.

"She has a good core competency," said Auger.

Hanson will be working with Stubstad over the next months to learn how the city's annual audit is managed while transitioning into the lead position.

Auger told the council that the finance work of the city is complicated by the three additional enterprise accounts, water and sewer, electricity, and the liquor store, which some cities do not have.

Auger did say there would be no need for additional staff during the transition period.

 

DONATIONS

The council accepted several donations.

Donations to the Flora of Buffalo program included: $20 from John and Bonnie Linde, $115 from the John Siffert Revenue Trust, $200 from an anonymous donor, $500 from Buffalo American Legion Post 270, and $1,000 from the Buffalo Tourism Bureau.

To date, a total of $6,130 has been received from generous donors.  The city is still accepting donations for the flowers, which are planted around the city and for the pots that are hung on the light poles.

Donations to Bison Fishing Forever for the purchase of a pontoon boat and supplies included: $1,000 from Delano American Legion Post 377, $1,000 from St. Michael-Albertville American Legion Post 567, $250 from Buffalo Knights of Columbus, $200 from Tho-Gen Properties LLC, $10 from Daniel and Christine Husom, and $100 from DL's Radiator and Exhaust.

For Bison Fishing Forever, a total of $33,985 has been received to date, and donations continue to be accepted to reach the needed goal of $50,000.

The city has received a donation of $5,000 from the American Legion for Buffalo Days fireworks.  That donation will be forwarded to the Buffalo Area Chamber of Commerce, the sponsor of the event.

A $100 donation to the Buffalo Community Center Toy Workshop was received from Zion Lutheran Church.

 

OTHER ACTION

In other action, the council:

● after a required public hearing, certified three delinquent utility accounts to the county property tax rolls.

● learned that fire hydrants will be flushed April 24 - 28. The flushing, used to check the function of the hydrants, could cause discolored water for a few hours. Residents may want to avoid washing clothes during the day on those days.

● offered kudos to the Street Department, which was complimented several times by visitors to the city booth at the recent Home and Garden Show.  The council also recognized staff and councilmembers who managed the city booth at the Home and Garden Show.

 

 

St. Cloud nursing students complete health survey in City of Montrose

By Doug Voerding

Montrose residents want a grocery store and would like a family practice medical clinic, according to a recent survey.

Working with the Montrose Healthy Communities Task Force and Wright County Public Health, nine St. Cloud State University nursing science students recently completed a public health survey of Montrose.  The group wanted to find out the health needs of the community and then determine if and how those needs are being met.

The students, Shawna Bemenderfer, Tracy Boyd, Jordan Gruendemann, Kari Hiscock, Michael Jensen, Samantha Killeen, Kelsey Lyman, Sarah Peters, and Hailey Wheeler, shared their work with the Montrose community last Thursday, April 13 in a presentation at the community center.

The Montrose Healthy Communities Task Force of Pastor Kimberly Buffie of House of Grace Lutheran Church, Greg Youmans, and Jill Menard, along with Joel Torkelson of Wright County Health, worked with the students to develop the community assessment.

This past Jan. 24, the students conducted a "windshield" survey of the community and found several strengths, including: Veterans' Memorial Park, religious facilities, local businesses, walking paths, the elementary school, and involved community members.

In areas that need improvement, they found: a lack of health care options, healthy grocery options, and public transportation, as well as limited green space and problems with road safety.

Following that initial assessment, the students developed a community needs survey.  That survey was distributed at a FE+ED food distribution event and door-to-door.  The survey was also available at city hall and could be completed online.

About 5.5 percent of the Montrose community responded to the survey, an acceptable number for evaluating city resident needs.

The survey focused on four areas: safety, transportation, grocery options, and healthcare options.

In answer to the statement, "I feel safe in my neighborhood," 93 percent agreed or strongly agreed, with seven percent disagreeing or strongly disagreeing.

In spite of the strong feeling of safety, 35 percent of the respondents want to see a greater police presence and 28 percent want more street lighting.  Respondents could select more than one option.

On the need for more transportation options, 37 percent agreed or strongly agreed, with 48 percent not seeing a need for additional transportation options.

Several suggestions, all between 11 and 16 percent, included car pools, bus routes, bike routes, taxis, and dial-a-ride.

The need for more grocery options clearly stood out in the survey; 88 percent of respondents strongly agree or agreed with the statement, "I need more grocery options where I live."

Again, with respondents being able to select more than one option, 72 percent want a grocery store, 37 percent want a weekly farmers market and 29 percent want a discount food store.

In terms of health care, 67 percent agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "I need more health care options where I live," and 32 percent disagreed.

A family practice clinic would be most beneficial to 42 percent of the respondents.  Again, selecting more than one option, 24 percent of the respondents would like a pharmacy, 23 percent an urgent care facility and 21 percent dental care.

After the student presentation, community members talked about the many community resources available to meet some of the needs found by the survey.

NAPS, a nutrition assistance program for seniors, provides food boxes for 60 and over seniors who income qualify.

The last Tuesday of the month, the Montrose churches sponsor FE+ED (For Each and Every Day) food distribution through Second Harvest.  That program has been in operation since July 2015 and has provided 140,000 pounds of food to area residents.  There are no income requirements for FE+ED.

Also mentioned were: the WOW van visits in neighboring Delano, the Crow River Food Council, 60+ and Healthy Clinics, Wright County Community Action in Waverly, the availability of Trailblazer transportation, and special services for area veterans provided by the Montrose Beyond the Yellow Ribbon committee.

Work will continue on developing a health improvement plan.  Collaboration between Wright County Public Health, St. Cloud Nursing and the Montrose Healthy Communities Task Force will continue.  A survey of Montrose Elementary students will be completed and assessed, and a $10,000 grant from Allina will be used for crock-pot cooking classes at Grace Place.

According to 2014 census information, Montrose has a population of 2,847 with a median age of 29.2.  The median household income is $63,485.  Individuals below the poverty level is 5.4 percent.  92.7 percent are high school graduates or higher, and the average lifespan is 78.4 years.

 

Police and Crime Stoppers let you provide information while staying anonymous

The Buffalo Police Department has partnered with Crime Stoppers of Minnesota to proactively increase ways that citizens can pass on information about crimes or fugitives while remaining anonymous.  In addition to staying anonymous, persons giving tips may be eligible to collect up to $1,000 in reward paid by Crime Stoppers.

By partnering with Crime Stoppers, the Police Department is supporting additional ways that citizens can turn in information that may save thousands of dollars of investigators' time and speed the solving of cases.  Information that anyone may have about felony crimes and fugitives can be submitted using various methods of communications technology, which also accommodate multiple languages.  Because of Crime Stoppers' technological presence, the Police Department is in effect increasing its reach for investigative information to be statewide and worldwide.

Through this partnership, the Buffalo Police Department receives tips that Crime Stoppers collects because citizens may be reluctant to "get involved" directly with the authorities but who still want to "do the right thing."

People with knowledge about a crime or a fugitive in the Buffalo area can provide information to Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), going online at www.crimestoppersmn.org, by texting on a cell phone TIP674, plus the message, and then sending it to CRIMES (274637), or by adding the free Submit a Tip APP to a smartphone.  If the tip leads to a felony arrest, the tipster may qualify to receive a reward of up to $1,000 and still remain anonymous.

Crime Stoppers of Minnesota is a nonprofit organization operating separate and independent of law enforcement and government, funded by tax-deductible donations.  It has been in Minnesota since 1979 and is one of over 500 Crime Stoppers programs around the United States that offer the same commitment to anonymity and offer of a reward to help solve crimes.  Citizens can visit the website, www.crimestoppersmn.org, to learn more.

 

 

D-C referendum proposal denied

A referendum proposal was voted down, 725 yes to

739 no, in the Dassel-Cokato School District last Tuesday, April 18.

Bonds worth almost $7 million would have been used to improve facilities and technology.  The School Board will canvas election results on Monday, April 24.

 

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feature photos

Brighter, roomier change for better

Remodeling project at Wright County Public Works Building finished for Parks Department, Surveyor's Office and Extension Service

By Ed DuBois

From about December to February, employees in the Wright County Public Works Building were working around (and sometimes dodging) construction workers during a major remodeling project.  Now that the dust has settled, the place is looking brighter, fresher and roomier.

The Highway Department has moved out and has settled into the newly constructed Highway Department Building just down the road.  Meanwhile, the Extension Service has moved from the County Government Center to the Public Works Building, which now includes the Parks Department, the County Surveyor's Office and the Extension Service.

 

Partners put together

Placing the Parks Department and the Extension Service so close together in one facility has advantages.

"The Parks Department and the Extension Service often coordinate on many programs and activities offered by the Extension Service," said Mark Mattice, the county's parks and recreation administrator.  "Many counties have their Parks Department and their Extension Service office together in the same place."

 

New role

When the Extension Service staff arrived at the remodeled Public Works Building, they took on the role of providing support staff services for all three departments in the building, Parks, Surveyor and Extension.  When you walk into the main entrance of the Public Works Building, you are greeted by Extension staff members in the reception area.

Mattice appreciates the staff support services.

"Neither of us, the Parks Department and the Surveyor's Office, had support staff, and now the Extension staff are providing support for all of us," he said.

He pointed to a new Parks Department summer programs pamphlet and said such publications were not available in the past (before Extension staff arrived at the Public Works Building).

 

Same services

Meanwhile, all the activities and services the public has always received from the Extension Service continue.  Research at the University of Minnesota is disseminated to the public by the Extension Service.  Agriculture and Horticulture Educator Rod Greder works with farmers and sets up informative workshops.  He also helps provide gardening information through the Master Gardener program.  The Extension Service helps answer questions about plant identifications and insect issues.  They help diagnose issues and suggest possible solutions.

Andrew Doherty, nutrition educator, works with people helped by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  He is involved with assisting people through Public Health, Wright County Community Action and Head Start, as well.

Extension staff members coordinate 4-H events while working with 22 4-H clubs, which include about 600 members.

 

Building segments

The Extension Service offices and meeting rooms are generally located in the southern end of the Public Works Building, where the Highway Department offices were formerly located.

The Surveyor's Office is on the eastern side of the building, which faces Highway 25.  The remodeling project vastly increased the space available for County Surveyor Steve Jobe and his staff.   A small service window in the main hallway is gone, and now you enter a door and speak to engineers at a large service counter.

Jobe said he and staff now have enough space to spread out large documents and maps for visitors.  His office and staff offices surround a large open area, where several people can gather and talk over various matters.

"We used to squeeze into one office.  Now we can come out and not have to be on top of each other as we meet," Jobe said.

 

Former cube space

The open area had formerly been occupied by a large group of office cubicles.

The former "cube farm" is partly used by the Extension Service for storing materials.  Mattice commented that the new arrangement is a better use of space.

A former meeting room just north of the Surveyor's Office is now a lunch/break room, and it also serves as a place for food preparation for nutrition education provided by the Extension Service.

The Highway Department's former sign shop is now the Surveyor's shop area.  A vehicle can be driven into the shop area for loading or unloading materials and equipment.

Located nearby is a storage area for Extension Service programs.  Mattice commented that having this space available so close to the Extension offices is big improvement.  When the Extension Office was in the County Government Center, the storage space was way down in a far corner of the downstairs parking garage.

 

More space, less time

Mattice now has much more space in the Parks Department shop, which is connected by a new opening in a wall to a fabrication/welder shop.

The main shop, which includes a new dust collection system, is used for making or working on picnic tables, benches, archery stands, park signs, and more.

Mattice said the fabrication shop is big enough to bring in an entire fishing pier section.  He mentioned the Beebe Lake fishing pier was recently prepared for the summer season in record time.

"It was a three-week project in the past, and now we can do it in about four days," he said.

On the northern end of the Public Works Building, the former Highway Department maintenance shop is now used for Parks Department vehicles and equipment.

 

LED lights throughout

The lights in the vehicle and equipment shop have been replaced with bright, efficient LED lights.

If fact, LED lights are now being used throughout the building.

Mattice and Jobe said every department now has work/meeting rooms.

The main hallway down the center of the building is completely open.  Three doors have been removed.

Mattice likes having his office next door to a new office for Brad Harrington, parks coordinator.  He had formerly worked way over in the "cube space," Mattice said.  Now they don't have to walk so far to consult with each other.

 

New address

Yes, many changes for the better have occurred during the remodeling of the Public Works Building.

Even the address has changed.  The old address was 1901 Highway 25 N.  But the main entrance faces Braddock Ave., and the new Highway Department Building and the Law Enforcement Center both have Braddock Ave. addresses.  So now, the new address for the Public Works Building is 3500 Braddock Ave. NE.

 

June 9 open house

Incidentally, an open house event on June 9 (9 a.m. to noon) will include all three facilities, the Public Works Building, the Highway Department Building and the Law Enforcement Center.  More details are being provided in the coming weeks.

While the Public Works remodeling is complete, some finishing touches, such as new signs, were still being installed recently.  Also, work on the roof was starting soon.

The bulk of the transformation of the facility has concluded.  After about three months of working around (and sometimes dodging) construction workers, the dust has settled.  Many areas have fresh paint, and the place is looking much brighter and roomier.