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HEADLINES FOR JANUARY 20, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Buffalo's 2007 state championship celebrated before game last Friday

Ten years ago, the Buffalo High School boys' basketball team was heading toward a state championship, and last Friday, Jan. 13, a celebration of the 2006-07 team's accomplishment took place just before the varsity Bison hosted North Branch.  That's 2007 Bison Coach Nick Guida at the podium, and those standing behind him are members of the state title team, including non-players (from left): Peggy Pasche, Joel Squadroni, Sarah Devore, Jason Sorenson, Ross Mjelde, Luke Costanzi, Brooks Beilke, Aaron Gauthier, Brock Korbel, Erik Olson, Karl Olson, Josh Ortmann, Jake Duske, and Darrin Olmscheid.  Activities Director Tom Bauman provided a recap of the 2006-07 season.  Guida talked about, not only the great experience of going to and winning state, but the great lessons the players learned about caring for each other, which helped them grow up to become solid citizens, workers and parents.  The Bison won the game against North Branch last Friday night 66-59.  You can read more about this in Journal-Press Sports this week.  (Photo by Ed DuBois)

 

 

Charge filed after fatal Howard Lake accident

Kent Mattson

A 59-year-old Waconia man died as a result of being struck by a pickup truck in Howard Lake last Friday evening, Jan. 13, and the driver of the truck is being held at the Wright County Jail.

The State Patrol reports the incident occurred around 6 p.m. at the intersection of Highway 12 and CSAH (County State Aid Highway) 6.  Snow and ice were reportedly on the road at the time.

Kent Mattson, 55, of Howard, the driver of the truck, is facing a charge of criminal vehicular homicide.  He is accused of negligent driving while under the influence of alcohol.

According to a complaint filed in Wright County, Mattson told a state trooper at the accident scene he had just come from the local American Legion, and he admitted drinking three or four whiskey drinks at the Legion.  While driving from CSAH 6 onto Highway 12, he did not see the pedestrian, he reportedly told the trooper.  A preliminary breath test indicated Mattson's alcohol concentration was .065, and he performed poorly during a field sobriety test.

After the pedestrian was struck, Mattson pulled over to the shoulder and called 911.

The pedestrian, Richard Jacobs, 59, of Waconia, was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center, where he died.  Mattson was not injured.

 

 

 

Important land acquisition for Pelican Lake outlet approved

By Ed DuBois

An important land acquisition for the primary Pelican Lake outlet route in St. Michael was approved by the Wright County Board last Tuesday, Jan. 17.

Steve Bot, St. Michael's city administrator, attended the meeting and expressed his support for the acquisition, which was presented by Fred Bengtson, area wildlife manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The purchase of 12 acres was proposed by the DNR for the purpose of establishing the parcel as an addition to the St. Michael Meadows State Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

Because the acquisition involves state funds, approval by the County Board was required.

Work has been underway several years on establishing an outlet to the Crow River for Pelican Lake.  During periods of high water, the lake has at times flooded County Rd. 117.

In other business:

 

DNR ORDER

The Board adopted a resolution to withdraw an appeal of a DNR order.

In May 2016, the Board authorized Woodland Township to replace a failing culvert on Fillmore Ave. at County Ditch 31.  In August 2016, the DNR issued a public waters restoration and replacement order, alleging the culvert replacement constituted work in public waters.  The County Board appealed the order.

Following an investigation regarding the culvert replacement, the county has determined the work did not occur in public waters and has not substantially affected public waters.  Therefore, the County Board withdraws its appeal, and the Board has directed the County Attorney's Office to transmit the resolution to the DNR.

 

CEDS AGREEMENT

Duane Northagen, director of the Wright County Economic Development Partnership, attended the board meeting in regard to a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) agreement.  The Board authorized signatures on the agreement, which includes four counties: Benton, Sherburne, Stearns, and Wright.

The purpose of the agreement involves a grant received by Central Minnesota Jobs & Training Services (CMJTS).  The grant is for the development or update of a CEDS plan.  CMJTS is coordinating the plan with input from the counties.

 

GREATER MSP

While discussing the CEDS agreement, Board Chair Charlie Borrell spoke to Northagen about the Greater MSP economic development partnership.  The City of Minneapolis has questioned the value of remaining a member of Greater MSP, and Wright County commissioners are now wondering what members are getting for money being spent on the partnership.

Borrell mentioned that the high salary of the Greater MSP's leader is a concern.  Borrell said he is not OK with spending public dollars on such a high salary.

Commissioner Mike Potter mentioned that the City of St. Paul is now also talking about whether or not to remain a member of Greater MSP.  He added a concern about having no representation on the Greater MSP Board, and he repeated Borrell's concern about whether or not the county is getting an adequate return on investment from Greater MSP.

Northagen said the matter will be discussed soon by the Wright County Economic Development Partnership Board.

 

CRIME LAB

Commissioner Chris Husom, Sheriff Joe Hagerty and Chief Deputy Todd Hoffman were named negotiators for the funding formula of the regional crime lab in Anoka County.  Husom mentioned that Isanti County is joining the group of counties in the crime lab membership.  She said the name of the lab could be changed from the Tri County Regional Forensic Laboratory to the Midwest Regional Forensic Laboratory.

 

MISC.

In other actions, the Board:

- scheduled a Feb. 7 committee of the whole meeting at 10:30 a.m. to determine a process for selection of a firm to complete a budgeted master space study for county facilities;

- authorized Commissioner Darek Vetsch to attend an Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) conference for new commissioners Jan. 25-26 in St. Paul;

- authorized all commissioners to attend an AMC legislative conference in St. Paul Feb. 16-17;

- adopted a resolution to allow a repurchase of tax-forfeited property in Monticello;

- approved a precious metal dealer license for Shapan Kirkpatrick of National Gold Consultants, Inc. in Monticello;

- approved filling a position for a social worker in Health & Human Services;

- approved procurement card transactions for the period ending Dec. 25 with a total of $12,109, and approved fleet card transactions for the period ending Dec. 25 with a total of $14,800;

- approved $204,346 in claims involving 269 transactions with 168 vendors.

 

 

Masons' Annual Food Shelf Drive now underway through February

On Jan. 1, 2017, the Buffalo area Masonic Lodge, Nelson Lodge No. 135 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons (AF & AM), began the 6th Annual Food Shelf Matching Funds Drive program.

This year's food drive will end on Feb. 28, 2017.  As in years past, the Lodge is focusing its efforts on the Buffalo and Annandale/ Maple Lake area food shelves.  Nelson Lodge is partnering with the Order of the Eastern Star (OES), Galilee Chapter No. 53, which is a Masonic appended body, in this year's funding drive.

How can you help donate to the food shelf in your community?

The matching funds program increases your opportunity to extend your hand and reach out to help those in your community who are hungry.  This program has assisted the local food shelves with the opportunity to lean on other state programs to maximize the efforts of everyone who gives.

Make your donation by writing a check payable to: Nelson Masonic Lodge No. 135, or Galilee Chapter No. 53.  Please do not make your check payable to the food shelf, as it will not qualify for matching funds.

In the memo area of your check, write the name of the food shelf to which you want your contribution to be donated - Annandale/Maple Lake or Buffalo.  The food shelf that is designated will receive that amount and the matching funds.  Deposit your donation at any KleinBank branch or mail it to KleinBank, attn. Mason's Food Shelf Drive, PO Box 40, Buffalo, MN. 55313.

One-hundred percent of all donations are given directly to the food shelf; there are no administrative expenses taken out.  All funds are given to the food shelves in March, allowing them the opportunity to take advantage of the Minnesota Food Share Program for further benefits.  It's a bonus on top of a bonus.

Galilee Chapter No. 53, OES, is located at 122 Central Ave. in Buffalo.  They received their charter from the Grand Chapter of Minnesota on June 6, 1893.  The stated meetings of the chapter are on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month at 7:30 p.m.

To find more information about the Order of the Eastern Star, please visit the main page of the Grand Chapter of Minnesota's website at www.mnoes.com, or call 651-260-6414.

Nelson Lodge No. 135 AF AM, is located at 122 Central Ave. in Buffalo.  They received their charter from the Grand Lodge of Minnesota on Jan. 15, 1879 and hold their stated meetings on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month at 7:00 p.m.

To find more information about the Masons, or to learn how to become a Mason, please visit the Nelson Lodge No. 135 website at www.nelson135.org or the Grand Lodge of Minnesota's website at www.mn-masons.org, or contact Jason Lang at secretary@nelson135.org.

 

 

KleinBank being sued by Justice Department

By Ed DuBois

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit this week against KleinBank.  According to a Justice Department news release, the suit alleges the bank engaged in unlawful "redlining" of majority-minority neighborhoods in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.

Redlining is the discriminatory practice by banks or other financial institutions of denying or avoiding providing credit services to consumers because of the racial or ethnic demographics of the neighborhood in which the consumer lives.

The KleinBank branch in Buffalo is one of 21 locations in Minnesota.  Randy Haskins, the Buffalo branch president, said the suit does not necessarily directly affect his bank.  The suit is being addressed by the corporate office in Chaska.  He declined to talk about the suit, other than to say KleinBank has been working with the Justice Department for over a year and denies the allegations of the suit.

Filed in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, the suit alleges that KleinBank violated the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which prohibit financial institutions from discriminating on the basis of race and color in their mortgage lending practices.  The complaint alleges that from 2010 to at least 2015, KleinBank structured its residential mortgage lending business in such a way as to avoid serving the credit needs of neighborhoods where a majority of residents are racial and ethnic minorities.

The bank's alleged redlining practices include: excluding majority-minority neighborhoods from the area it serves; locating branch offices and mortgage loan officers in majority-white neighborhoods, but not in majority-minority neighborhoods; and targeting marketing and advertising exclusively toward residents of majority-white neighborhoods.  From 2010 to 2015, comparable lenders generated applications in majority-minority neighborhoods at over five times the rate of KleinBank and made loans in majority-minority neighborhoods at over four times the rate of KleinBank.

"Redlining produces an unequal and unlevel playing field for borrowers in minority neighborhoods, " said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division.  "Cases like this one demonstrate the Justice Department's strong commitment to hold banks accountable for continuing and perpetuating historic trends of inequality in residential mortgage lending."

Doug Hile, KleinBank's chief executive, told the media the government's claim has absolutely no basis, according to CBS Minnesota.  He said KleinBank has established a history of responding to all credit requests with a commitment to fairness and equal opportunity.

In a story by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Hile said the government's argument that KleinBank has the proactive duty to expand into Minneapolis and St. Paul by opening new branches in minority neighborhoods is a baseless and unprecedented reach by the government.  Hile added that Minneapolis and St. Paul are not part of KleinBank's market.  The two large cities are highly competitive markets, which are served by well-established financial institutions with numerous branches and many years of history, he stated.

The Justice Department's enforcement of fair lending laws is conducted by the Civil Rights Division's Housing and Civil Enforcement Section.  Since 2010, the division has provided over $1.6 billion in monetary relief for individual borrowers and impacted communities through its enforcement of the Fair Housing Act, ECOA and the Service-members Civil Relief Act.  The Attorney General's annual reports to Congress on ECOA enforcement highlight the department's accomplishments in fair lending and are available at http://www.justice.gov/crt/publications/.

The Civil Rights Division is a member of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources.  The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.  For more information on the task force, visit www.StopFraud.gov.

Additional information about fair lending enforcement by the Justice Department can be found on the department's website at www.justice.gov/fairhousing.

 

 

Wild Marsh fees adopted by City Council

By Doug Voerding

Many actions by city councils in January are to set fees and policies for the year. The Buffalo City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 17 approved some increases in golf course fees, set two policies and extended a conditional use permit for a substandard lot.

 

GOLF COURSE

Eric Ritter, Wild Marsh General Manager, recommended no change in the daily fee rates but slight increases in the season pass rates.

A single season pass will increase from $950 to $1,050, and a couple season pass will increase from $1,425 to $1,495.

Three new season pass options will be added.  A young adult couple (18-35) will be $895, an unlimited senior single (55 and older) will be $1350 and an unlimited senior couple (55 and older) will be $1,850.

Generally, all of the Wild Marsh season passes are lower than those at other areas courses.

The daily rates this year will be: 18-holes, $42; 9-holes, $24; 18-hole cart, $18; 9-hole cart, $9; 18-hole senior and cart, $35; 18-hole senior walk, $27; 9-hole senior ride, $27; and 9-hole senior walk, $22.

Special twilight greens fees begin at 3:00 p.m.

"I know," said Ritter, "that the course takes a lot of scrutiny on its financial performance, but since 2012, Wild Marsh has had in increase in revenue of $70,000."

Ritter stated the golf course staff continues to work at improving the income.

 

POLICIES

The first policy adopted was the Federal Procurement Standards, a policy that guides the city in the use of any federal funds received by the city.  The policy also defines conflict of interest issues with the awarding of contracts or the purchase of equipment using federal money.

The second policy concerns the acceptance of vendor gifts, primarily at Buffalo Wine and Spirits, but applicable to all departments. This policy will guide the city in accepting donations or vendor incentives provided through the purchase of inventory. The policy also dictates what the city will do with the incentives.

In the policy, an example was given of a vendor incentive of a television set worth $100 given to the liquor store with the purchase of 100 cases of liquor.

Store management can ask for a reduced price on the liquor rather than receive the television. If the liquor distributor won't reduce the price, management can accept the television, which will then be used by the city in some manner that could include donating it to a local charity or non-profit.  Documentation of any donation would be required.

 

PERMIT EXTENSION

In March, 2016, a conditional use permit (CUP) was approved for the construction of a home by Brian and Kristen Nord on the substandard lot at 1465 Pulaski Road.  The lot is smaller than current lot standards.

In late 2016, the lot was purchased by Jill and Bart Bjornson.  Since the Buffalo city code allows one year from the time of issuance of a CUP for the start of construction, the Bjornsons have submitted a request for an extension of the CUP for one year to allow the construction of the home this summer.

The council agreed to the extension of the CUP.

 

DONATIONS

The council accepted several donations, including $50 from the Montrose United Methodist Church for the Community Center Toy Shop.

The Bison Fishing Forever program received $50 from the Woman's Club of Buffalo and $10 from Valeda Gabbert.

Donations for the 2017 Flora of Buffalo are now being accepted.  Donations for the beautification program include: Patrick Smyth, $175; Ruth Ackmann, $65; Adeline Eckblad; $30; Bernice Larson, $10; and Suzanne Kaiser, $10.

The goal this year is again $10,000 to cover all of the materials for the many planters and gardens around the city.  That amount also covers some of the maintenance costs during the summer.  Donors can sponsor a hanging basket for $65, and donations can be made at city hall.

 

OTHER ACTION

In other action, the council:

- certified two delinquent utility accounts to the property tax rolls.

- adopted the annual IRS reimbursement resolution that allows project expenses incurred prior to the sale of bonds to be reimbursed from the bond proceeds once a bond sale has taken place.

- approved a property assessment agreement with Wright County for 2018 and 2019.  The new rates will be $11.50 per parcel in 2018 and $12 per parcel in 2019.  The rate had not been increased in more than ten years.  In the City of Buffalo parcels include 5979 taxable, 533 exempt, 304 mobile home, and 32 personal property parcels.  City Administrator Merton Auger told the council, "Using the county assessor is more efficient and cost-effective than having an assessor on city staff.

- approved an annual license for inside sales of fireworks at SuperAmerica, 301 10th Avenue South.

- heard from Councilmember Linda Kittock that Buffalo Fishing Forever has received donations of $21,500 toward the purchase of a pontoon boat. More donations are needed to reach the goal of $50,000.

- complimented the Buffalo Street Department for the clearing of the roundabouts of snow. Said Mayor Teri Lachermeier, "They did a beautiful job."

 

 

Beach house proposal wanted

Wright County Parks is soliciting design and build proposals for the design and construction of a beach house and restroom facility at the Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park near Monticello.

The county envisions a one-story, stick-build structure with a gabled roof, between 1,800 and 1,900 square feet, including restrooms (men's, women's and family), six changing rooms (2 ADA compliant), storage area, and maintenance area.

 

 

Owl perched 'right by the house'

A barred owl had been flying around the yard for a couple of weeks, but Bob Adams of Buffalo never saw it until he spotted the owl perched in a birch tree "right by my house" on Sunday, Jan. 15.  "It appears to me that it was taking a nap during the day and waiting for the evening," Adams said.  Thanks for sharing the photo with our readers, Bob.

 

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feature photos

Smooth operation with new facility

Benefits of bigger, better Wright County Highway Department building showing up on the county's wintertime roadways

By Ed DuBois

Before the new Wright County Highway Department Building was constructed, there was not enough room for all the trucks and other vehicles.  Some of them had to be parked outside with engine heaters plugged in during the cold winter nights.

"We had seasonal stuff parked at the Compost Facility.  But we have all the vehicles home now," said Highway Maintenance Supt. Steve Meyer.

Being able to keep everything in one place makes operations run smoother.

Wright County Highway Engineer Virgil Hawkins said the new facility offers many efficiencies.

"We don't have to move things around all the time," Meyer commented.  "I didn't realize how much we struggled with stuff now that it is all inside."

Shop Maintenance Supt. Brian Jans said the new facility has much more room, and it is employee friendly.  Besides having more space in which to work, they have better equipment.  For example, a pair of drive-on platform hoists can each lift 78,000 pounds, and mechanics can now stand while working under trucks instead of lying on their backs beneath the huge vehicles.  The fleet maintenance shop also includes a three-post hoist that can lift 90,000 pounds.

 

Getting trucks on routes

Activity in the shop area this time of year is primarily determined by the weather.  A series of snowfalls last week called for the snowplow trucks to be out on their routes, and the shop was relatively quiet.  Jans said some early morning activities involved fixing mechanical problems on some of the trucks and replacing some parts, such as the snowplow edge that makes contact with the road.  As soon as the work was finished, the trucks were back out on their routes.

Even after the snowfalls, the trucks were busy clearing snowdrifts that were formed on the roads by blowing snow.

Meyer said the county has 23 snowplow trucks altogether, and 20 routes.  Many of the trucks are kept at out-shops across the county.  These out-shops include: four trucks in Maple Lake Township, one in French Lake Township, three in the Cokato area, three near Waverly, and four in Otsego.  Five routes originate at the County Highway Department Building.

 

Growth created need

The new building was needed because equipment and operations had out-grown the County Public Works Building, which included the Highway Department, the Parks Department and the Surveyor's Office.  The county grew, and the need for more equipment to provide services also grew.  Both a space shortage and safety concerns resulted in planning a new facility.

Meyer said planning began about three years ago, and then construction was completed last summer.  A long process of moving into the new building is still underway, but it is almost complete.  Hawkins said a spring open house to show the building to the public is now being planned.

The original shop/garage (in the Public Works Building) is over 41 years old, and the office portion of the facility is about 17 years old.  Needs for major repair projects, such as re-roofing, mechanical improvements and utility upgrades, are now being addressed in the old facility.

In a report, Hawkins said the Public Works Building is being repurposed to bring the facility up to code, and spaces inside the facility are being remodeled to accommodate the Parks Department, the Surveyor's Office and the Extension Service (which is being relocated from the County Government Center).

 

Space increase

Hawkins provided some space comparisons between the Highway Department's former home in the Public Works Building and the new home in the Highway Department Building.  The office area increased from 6,236 square feet to 8,400 square feet.  The sign shop area went from 1,507 to 3,000 (The county has over 15,000 signs along the roads.).  The fleet services and parts space increased from 12,096 to 25,000.  The vehicle and equipment space went up from 10,172 to 54,000.  The mezzanine/mechanical space increased from 4,633 to 6,000.

Altogether, the total amount of space increased from 34,644 to 94,400.

A place where you can notice the change the most is in the new 52,000-square-foot vehicle tempered storage area.  Standing inside this area, you get the feeling that if all the vehicles were removed, you could fit a high school football stadium in there.

The temperature in the vehicle storage area is kept at 55 degrees in the wintertime to save energy.  LED lighting illuminates the area, as well as the others sections of the overall facility.

 

Construction completed in July

Construction of the facility took place from August 2015 to July 2016.  Approximately 30 construction companies were involved with the construction project.  The construction cost was $12.7 million.  The design, construction management and site-work cost was $1.8 million.  The cost of furniture, technology, etc. was around $600,000.  The expected grand total was $15.1 million, which is under budget.

Hawkins said, currently the project is tracking at about $15.4 million dollars, which is approximately 9% under the $17 million dollar budget.

HCM Architects performed a space needs study and provided design services.  Kraus/Anderson, Inc. provided construction management services.

 

Several departments

Meyer pointed out that the new facility provides vehicle maintenance services for several departments of the county, besides the Highway Department.  For example, over 100 sheriff's vehicles are maintained.  He added that the new wash bay in the Highway Department Building is used by several departments to keep county vehicles clean.  Some of the other departments with county vehicles include the Parks Department, Planning & Zoning and Health & Human Services.

A vehicle tag system is being used to keep the facility secure.  Each county vehicle will have a tag, which can be monitored electronically.  The tags will literally open doors.  They work similarly to security key cards worn by county employees.

The Highway Department includes 52 full-time employees.  Various groups of employees include: administration, engineers, fleet services, highway maintenance, the sign shop, and accounting.

The new Highway Department Building is located north of Buffalo along Braddock Ave. NE between the Public Works Building and the Law Enforcement Center.

 

Smooth operation

Last week, snowplow trucks were coming and going quite a bit as snow fell several days in a row.  Thanks to the efficiencies of the new facility, less time was needed to get the trucks on their routes.

There was a time not so long ago when space was very tight and vehicles and equipment had to be moved around often to make room for operations.  Now, as Meyer said, everything is home and has a place.

"It makes the operation smooth," Meyer commented.

That helps translate to smooth sailing on the county highways by the traveling public.