Getting to the heart of things: Coborn's redevelopment to bring changes for Buffalo's downtown district, soon
By Miriam Orr
Phones were ringing off the hook at City Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 24. No one at City Hall anticipated the response would be so huge, or so immediate.
"My phone was ringing right after it happened," Mayor Teri Lachermeier explained, "There were people crossing the street and hanging around in the parking lot. The response was just so quick."
Of course, Lachermeier is referring to the large banner, which now covers the storefront's faded remains of what had once read "Coborn's."
If you have not already heard the news, then it might come as a surprise to know that the City of Buffalo has announced plans for the redevelopment of the old Coborn's grocery store building.
"The redevelopment of the building has been in the works for awhile," Laureen Bodin, Assistant Administrator, commented. "We've been talking about it for almost 18 months."
Coborn's corporate office previously announced that the location would close its doors, according to a company press release, in July of 2016. The building, which has served as other marketplaces in its past history, had been operating as a Coborn's for almost 15 years. The building started off as a family-owned business owned by the Holmquist's, a local Buffalo family. From there, the store evolved throughout the years as Coborn's, which ultimately decided in 2016 to not renew the property's lease.
With the closing of the grocery store brought the community's immediate question of what the site would become next. Re-development has been on the city's radar, but nothing is definite yet.
"With the closure of Coborn's, we have possibilities that have opened up for us to revitalize downtown," Lachermeier stated. "We have plans for what to do with the building and site, but at the moment, we're just in the preliminary stages. But, something is coming. Something big. It's only the start!"
Downtown Buffalo has been a topic of interest for 35+ years, and has seen much change throughout the years. What started as a cobblestone path eventually led to a stone walkway around Buffalo Lake, and then evolved into a bandstand in Sturges Park. Lachermeier stated that downtown Buffalo was "the heart of the city," and that developing it and continuing to help it grow is a key mission of the local government.
For City Administrator Merton Auger, however, the mission of downtown Bu-ffalo has been a long time coming. "When I was hired first as planning and development, I had three goals. To build up the Industrial Park sector, get things rolling with the wastewater plant and move it out from Buffalo Lake, and to work with the Chamber of Commerce and retail committees to improve downtown."
Among some of Auger's improvements were working towards putting in updated streets and lights, and establishing a program for businesses to utilize "micro-loans" to assist in the repair of windows, storefront renovations, and other things of the like. In whole, Buffalo's downtown sector has been a project that has been on everyone's mind, and hearts, for many years.
For the City Council, there's a vision in place, says Merton Auger.
"There's been a vision for a long time in Buffalo," he started, "It's like a three-legged stool that sets a precedence and foundation. Different things need to be done eventually, but at the core of our work has been, firstly, to establish a healthy community; two, make sure we have strong education for our children and upcoming generations; and finally, make sure we are a safe city and a safe community. That's been the framework for a lot of years, and that's the same framework we are sticking to as this project develops."
Overall, city government is open to whatever opportunities for development come their way. While there are a few developers that have approached Buffalo about propositions, there hasn't been anything final, yet. Ultimately, however, Mayor Lachermeier remains optimistic that the site will become residential property – whether an apartment complex or what else has yet to be finalized.
"We need to offer places for people to live downtown," Lachermeier hinted. "Eventually we want to get to the point of opening another grocery store, absolutely. However, we need a place for people to grow and expand, first. We want people to come here not just as a "weekend getaway," but we want them to live here and dwell here and make Buffalo their home."
The hope the city holds is that somehow, an apartment complex with a commercial lower level is on the radar – and, whether that leads to a two, three, or five story building has yet to be determined. At the moment, though, the plans rest in whatever a developer envisions and makes feasibly possible.
"This is just the start of change," Planning and Development Coordinator Jennifer Nash said. "We are working with the City Council and Planning and Zoning teams closely. We're all in this together."
Lachermeier stated that there was a lot happening behind the scenes, too, with other projects – a lot of things that the city wants its residents and community to be aware of.
"This is about answering questions," said Mayor Lachermeier "We want this to be open for the people. We're not trying to work around in the shadows – we want them to ask questions and know what's happening. It's their community too, and they deserve to know."
Lachermeier stated that the local government staff is open and willing to answer the community's questions, and they ask that the community get excited about the growing development. Part of the dream is to "build energy and vitality to downtown Buffalo," as Jennifer Nash commented.
"Downtown is the heart of Buffalo," Lachermeier began. "We want to see it grow and pump strong. Downtown Buffalo has so much to offer people and is the framework for what Buffalo is and has become throughout its life as a city. Being a part of bringing positive energy and life to that is an amazing process that takes time and effort. I'm thankful we have people willing to get on board and work so hard to make it happen."
This is our project, Buffalo. Let's get excited about it
A Madagascar adventure coming to Buffalo in Feb.
A "zoo-tastic" adventure is coming to Buffalo!
Young actors playing wild animals will certainly set the stage for a fun Buffalo Community Theater musical, but the scene is set with another kind of art. Set painter Tammy Bryant has a set vision, and a way to share that so everyone can experience it.
When BCT's "Madagascar, A Musical Adventure, Jr." opens February 9, audiences will be transported first to New York's Central Park Zoo and then to the wilds of Madagascar. So is the work of Tammy Bryant.
"Madagascar Jr." is growing into an entertaining musical production. The show runs Feb. 9, 10, 16, and 17 at 7:00 p.m; and Sunday Feb. 11 and 18 shows will begin at 2:00 p.m. A special dance after-party is on Friday, Feb. 16 at the Discovery School Auditorium in Buffalo. Tickets may be purchased at the door, or online at www.bctmn.org.
Production made possible by Minnesota voters, through a grant from the Central Minnesota Arts Board, with legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
Detours ahead, Wright County properties for sale
By Miriam Orr
Wright County Board Commissioners met on Tuesday, Jan. 30, at 9:00 a.m. Among the topics discussed were a series of highway projects presented by Highway Engineer Virgil Hawkins.
The first of such presentations was the request to approve an annual resolution regarding county spring load restrictions. Hawkins commented that Wright County has been proposing load regulations early for a number of years, and that MnDOT mandates restrictions. Wright County complies with the regulations each year and does not set its own load restrictions.
Also approved for the highway department were a number of detour agreements for the summer of 2018, and road construction projects. Among those detours, which were approved, included the use of Highways 30 and 13 as routes during a construction project spanning two months over the summer, where bridge replacement construction and overlay projects will inhibit driving from Montrose to Carver County.
County Road 139 will also serve as a detour route for construction on Highway 55, which will be a full depth reclamation project, from Buffalo to Rockford.
Hawkins also requested approval of a MnDOT request for suggested projects for the Corridors of Commerce Program, on behalf of the I-94 West Corridor Expansion project.
Mention of a potential third lane in St. Michael, and also construction to Highway 19 in Buffalo were among topics discussed as a part of the I-94 expansion.
Commissioner Mike Potter suggested to Hawkins that steps be taken to make sure the public was informed of route changes and detours.
Potter stated, "These roads will be a major upgrade in the future, and will be much better in the long run."
County Attorney's Office:
• Assistant County Attorney Greg Kryzer approached the Board and requested a public hearing be scheduled in regards for ordinance 18-1, Amendments to the Wright County Restated and Revised Code, Article I, which appoints powers of special deputies for the Wright County Sheriff. This was approved for March 13, at 9:30 a.m.
• Bob Hiivala, Auditor and Treasurer, proposed the adoption of a resolution, which would authorize the public sale of tax properties, which were forfeited. They are properties classified as non-conservational land, and are listed for public sale on Feb. 28, 2018 at 1:00 p.m., by the Wright County Auditor/Treasurer. Properties for sale is Lot two, block one of Jefferson Commons (Third Addition) in Monticello, for a minimum bid price of $310,000.00; land (800 Elm St) in Monticello for a price of $99,900.00; the Stockholm Township ad-dress of 14224 85th St SW for $40,000.00.
• Ditch 33, east of Monticello on the north side of I-94, will also undergo a field survey, and engineering services to support the drainage authority's management of the current system. The proposal for the survey and services is $9,500.00, which will include collecting and reviewing data and a memorandum, which summarizes the review, while also offering recommendations. Houston Engineering, Inc. (HEI) will complete the proposed survey and services.
• Approved was a tobacco license name change from Wal-Mart Stores, Inc DBA #3624 to Walmart Inc. #3624 (Monticello).
•Warrants issued between Jan. 17 to Jan. 23 were acknowledged.
Planning and Zoning:
• Sean Riley, Planning and Zoning Administrator, presented a request to adopt a resolution on a finding regarding the excavation of a "public water source" located in Middleville Township, in which the DNR requires a permit to be granted. In order for the permit to be released, the private party must ask the County for an environmental assessment. Work began on this excavation project in 2011, and the owner of the land in which the ditch resides would like to continue it. The Board adopted a resolution to forgo the environmental assessment, deeming that it was not necessary.
Committee of the Whole Meetings:
• A COTW meeting was set for Feb. 12, at 10:00 a.m., in regards to strategic planning for budget, finance, and capital improvements.
• COTW is scheduled to meet Feb. 13, at 10:30 a.m., as a follow-up to discuss the space study currently underway.
What's going on with Dickinson Spring, Wright County's not entirely sure
By Miriam Orr
Sometime late in 2017, Alicia O'Hare, Water Resource Specialist of Wright Soil and Water Conservation District, remembers getting a call regarding the popular Dickinson Spring, and the fact that it had stopped producing water.
"I tested it one summer, when we got a call about a concerned citizen asking if the water was safe to drink," O'Hare said. "I thought since people were drinking it, it would be a good idea to test it for safety."
O'Hare did test the spring, which is located between Buffalo and Rockford Township on Hwy 55, and found that there was nothing harmful in regards to the standard water tests SWCD performs. The spring tested negative for traces of E. Coli, which is a common pollutant found in water, and it also didn't register any traces of Nitrate, which is an "indicator of risk for human impact," or, an indicator that something isn't quite right and would require more testing.
Alicia is confident the water is safe to drink, as people have been retrieving water from Dickenson Spring for years. However, much to her surprise, Wright County is not responsible for oversight or maintenance regarding the spring, and currently the SWCD has no proposed plan to continue monitoring it closely.
"For right now, we'll continue to test the water annually," O'Hare concluded. "Just to keep an eye on it. But, really, we're not sure whose responsibility the well is. I just tested it the one time to make sure Wright County's people were safe."
Dan Nadeau, a Resource Conservationist for Wright County, concluded that from what he understands, the spring is the result of a pressure build-up in the ground from high levels of groundwater, which, in turn, runs water out through a pipe which citizens have outfitted with a spicket.
In an article by Tim Post published on Minnesota Public Radio, history dictates that the spring is a result of a 1914 farmer's hard work in putting a well at the spot. The well ran dry in the 1930's, though in 1938, a group of road crewmen hit a pipe running from the well, and it's been producing water ever since. The spring gets its name from a "mysterious local ghost town," Dickinson.
In Post's 2007 article, he consults the Minnesota Department of Health's Mike Convery, who stated the water has been tested by the state continually. It is unclear to Wright County if the Department of Health is still currently testing the spring almost 11 years later.
O'Hare stated that she received calls about the spring "running dry" late last year in 2017, around November and December. No one at SWCD is entirely sure what might be the source of the sudden cessation – whether it is a blockage, a broken pipe, or that the spring has gone dry remains a mystery.
Maple Lake Ice Fishing Derby Feb. 3
The Wright Approach
Analyzing the issue of victims in the workplace, and one woman's vision to change business policy
By Miriam Orr
It's 2:00 a.m., and you're not entirely certain why anyone would be pounding on your door at such an hour. You assume it's someone that is lost – or, someone important, for that matter, and hurry downstairs to your front door. Opening the door, you're surprised to see a familiar face, standing there holding the hand of a child.
Before you can even say anything, the child looks up at you and says, "Daddy grabbed Mommy and threw her down the stairs."
It takes you a minute to process the statement, before the reality hits you.
Now what do you do?
The beginning of a journey
The above story is not all that unfamiliar to Judy Fadden, owner and operator of Fadden Analytical Security, LLC in Buffalo. Actually, it's very real, though situations and circumstances have been left out to protect the respected individuals whom were involved.
Judy remembers that fateful 2:00 a.m. morning when she got a knock on her door; one that would set the tone of the rest of her life – and, her career. She remembers the look on the child's face the most, and then the pang of hurt that hit her upon realizing that those people had come to her for help.
"It's really a wake-up call, for sure," Fadden stated. "I suppose that's when my heart really broke for victims of domestic violence. It became real at that moment for me, and I haven't forgotten it, since."
While Judy is a woman of many facets and much experience, she has spent most of her career working in business security, and more recently within the last five years, helping companies prevent workplace incidents by identifying employees that are victims and abusers of domestic violence.
After spending her career working in security, Judy discovered a local outreach program, known to Wright County as Rivers of Hope. The organization, founded in Sherburne County in 1989 by members of a community who were concerned about victims of domestic violence, has grown to serve both Wright and Sherburne's people.
Comprised of a Board of Directors ranging from law enforcement backgrounds to CEO's and attorneys, the organization is a non-profit, 501(c)(3). Rivers of Hope has expanded to its current status as the adult advocacy and support resource for victims of domestic violence. They offer legal advocacy, education, information, referrals, and an array of other resources for those in crisis.
"It's a fantastic domestic violence advocacy organization," Fadden began. "They do a remarkable job of serving such a large number of people without a lot of government assistance or recognition."
Fadden explained that some of the resources that Rivers of Hope offer are a 24/7 crisis hotline, court advocates, safehouses, and "provisions to help victims be safe and ensure safety of their loves ones and families."
The organization is entirely run on donations, and maintains a staff of six people who "move mountains" for the abused. It's entirely financed by volunteer time and effort, and receives no government or state funding. They are even involved with the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.
As of now, Fadden states that Rivers of Hope is the only shelter of its kind in the area.
The path to passion
Fadden grew up in Lacquireparle County, and "married into" Wright County's Buffalo. However, while she's a local resident, she's been everywhere. Her experiences in security have fueled her passion to help victims, and abusers, and provided her many opportunities to go overseas and work globally.
For 30+ years, Fadden worked with major corporations in providing security to not only brands, but also workers and spokespeople. Her job eventually shifted into providing resources for domestic violence victims at a corporate level, and examining policies within organizations to see how they handle individuals in crisis.
In the past five years since her retirement, however, her skills have brought Fadden into her own company – Fadden Analytical Security, in which she consults with local, small and mid-size businesses to discuss plans of action and policies regarding employees that may be victims, or abusers, of domestic violence. It is a service that, by her own claim, is not very popular, but very, very necessary.
"You have victims of domestic abuse working for you, if you're a business owner," Fadden explained. "You even have abusers working for you. They are everywhere, and they wear the skin of normal, everyday people, like you and me. No one wants to be identified as a victim or an abuser, and most are very good at hiding it. But, they're out there."
Domestic violence at work?
The reality is that one in four women are victims of abuse, whether that be sexual, verbal, physical, or emotional – and they work for you. "What that means, really, is that one in four women in a working lifetime are abused."
"Abusers are just as predominate." Fadden added. "Habits of an abuser don't change just because they work for you and your company."
In small communities, where Fadden specializes, it is difficult for abuse victims to find work – and for businesses to keep victims and abusers employed.
"Put it this way," Fadden started, "A victim that goes home and is abused by a household member, spouse, or other individual, calls in sick more frequently. They go home early, whether they are afraid of consequences or they have to, and they are afraid of coming to work due to bruises and other bodily signs."
Fadden stated that it becomes difficult for victims to be employed, because they face home-life consequences for what may happen at the workplace. For instance, Fadden stated a woman in the workplace whom lacks in productivity due to depression, or some other side-effect of abuse, may face demotion or even termination – in which they will go home and have to face an abuser.
The company suffers, too. "When businesses have the abused, or the abusers, working for them, it gets costly. Productivity goes down, medical premiums may spike, work scheduling becomes hectic when someone misses work because they've been beaten in the face, etc. Anyone with an abusive history – whether a victim or perpetrator – becomes a liability, and a risk factor, for a business."
Someone that is an abuser, for instance, runs a higher risk of harming others or adulterating property when they are unhappy about how a business handles them individually, or they have disagreements with fellow employees.
Additionally, one in 10 women, and one in 25 men, miss work because of domestic violence, which the company ends up paying for. Approximately $36 to $120 billion is lost in increased insurance on individuals with a higher risk factor, loss of wages, etc. According to OSHA reports, almost two million people identified as victims of workplace violence in recent years, meaning they were subject to an outburst or physical harm by another.
Fadden commented that this was not unusual. "If people take the time to observe, and employers train their workers to identify signs of abuse or characteristic traits common to those of abusers, workplace violence would drop."
"Training is huge." Judy continued. "To stop the cycle of abuse, everyone needs to work at it – friends, relatives, community members, and specifically, employers. We spend such a large amount of time at work, that our coworkers are likely to notice when things aren't normal. Identification of issues - that is a huge step in helping someone to get on the road to recovery, whether they are a victim or a perpetrator."
Breaking the cycle
Judy says that to break the cycle of abuse, and help individuals be safe, starts with training.
"A lot of times it's education and letting employers know that there are resources available for their employees."
Many times, victims of domestic abuse have approached Judy, and many times she's seen and heard of companies that have failed to provide help to those who open up about the dangers of their situation.
"Employers don't want that on their conscious, having someone come up to them and ask for help and not knowing how to do so properly and in a safe way. How employers and supervisors and fellow workers handle that moment is critical."
Programs that put in place policies and practices in which employers consult in the event of a situation is what Judy specializes in, while also helping companies find training in what to look for. She examines policies and procedures for anything that may present liability to a company, and analyzes their protocols. Her extensive education and training stemmed from Dr. Larry Barton and Dr. Park Dietz, two of the foremost minds in psychology.
"Learning to identify abusers is one of the biggest things," she said. "By understanding when someone is on the verge of breaking, and knowing the signs leading to that point, we can reduce the risk of workplace violence, and perhaps save people's lives at home, too. As a majority, companies lack this type of training and policy."
However, Judy says that companies that have adopted domestic abuse awareness policies have seen wonderful results – and, their workforce has been sustained. Those who have approached employers about victimization or concerns about anger management have gone through company-resourced treatment and have come out on top.
"It's really very sustainable," Fadden said. "It costs so much less than having to worry about liabilities and insurance premiums in the event something does happen with employees. It's feasible, and you show people that you respect and care about them enough to help."
It's not possible, however, if it doesn't "trickle down from the top." Fadden concluded that these policies and this approach to individuals affected by domestic violence does not work if it not sustained by upper management and demonstrated throughout the ranks.
"We need support from the top to trickle down to the rest of the employees." Judy stated. "If a payroll accountant watches her supervisor reach out and help a victim of abuse, that accountant is going to be more influenced to help another, and know that there's some way they can help."
So far, Judy Fadden has been busy getting Wright County and Sherburne County involved with her passion. In an effort to promote the extensive reach of domestic abuse, Fadden has presented flags showcasing domestic abuse awareness to entities such as Buffalo Police Department, Wright County Sheriff, and others around the area.
The flags are flown whenever a victim of domestic abuse is killed in Minnesota. They do not require regulations to fly them, only an investment of around $50 dollars to purchase one.
"My goal is to see every flagpole flying a flag," she stated. It is her hope that every small– and someday, large – company in the area will revise their policies and include a domestic abuse resource plan.
"It's about having a passion for people, as employees and individuals of a community. It's about understanding them as victims and people, and not just numbers on your payroll. That's why it's important for companies to invest in this for their workers."
Judy made it more than clear that this is an issue we can help prevent.
"This is not incurable," she stated. "We can get to a better place as individuals involved in professional economy, and we can get to a better place as members of a community. All it takes is respect."
Last year, Rivers of Hope provided support to 1,200 individuals though 5,000 contacts. Contacts can be direct, with the youth advocates at schools or via telephone.