Landfill area residents concerned about detection of contaminant

The Rolling Hills Landfill, shown above in an aerial photo provided by Advanced Disposal, is a concern for residents living in the vicinity of the site.  Advanced Disposal and the MPCA are working on an investigation regarding the low-level detection of a contaminant from the old, un-lined portion of the site.


Advanced Disposal working with MPCA to investigate the matter

By Ed DuBois

Several residents who live in the vicinity of the Rolling Hills Landfill in the southwestern corner of Monticello Township are concerned about information they have received about low-level detections of a contaminant from the older, un-lined portion of the landfill site.

A letter from Neal Wilson, senior hydrogeologist in the Solid Waste Permitting Unit of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), explains what is happening.  Wilson is assigned to the Rolling Hills Landfill.  The owner of the landfill, Advanced Disposal, is in the process of seeking permits for a large expansion of the landfill.

"As was discussed at a public meeting in Buffalo last fall, the existing Rolling Hills Landfill is comprised of an older, covered, un-lined mixed municipal waste (MSW) landfill and a lined industrial waste landfill that is currently being used," Wilson said in his letter.  "It was recently confirmed that low-level detections (around 0.4ug/L) of vinyl chloride above drinking water standards (the drinking water standard for vinyl chloride is 0.2 ug/L) were observed in a monitoring well (MW-10PB) down-gradient of the un-lined MSW landfill."

"Previously due to the difficulty of detecting down to such low levels, the presence of vinyl chloride was not confirmed at this landfill," he continued.  "The MPCA, however, recently required that laboratories use lower detection limits (called reporting limits) to provide better analytic information.  The use of better reporting limits has confirmed that samples from MW-10PB have exceeded the drinking water standard for vinyl chloride."

"Currently the MPCA and Advanced Disposal are in the process of developing a workplan for investigating the extent of any potential off-site groundwater contamination, to include private well sampling," Wilson stated.  "It is anticipated that the workplan, field work and subsequent report should be completed by the end of this summer or possibly into the fall.  Once the workplan is proposed to and is approved by the MPCA, I will be able to provide you with more information about the proposed plan."

Mike Niewind, the general manager at the Rolling Hills Landfill, was contacted for information regarding the matter.  He provided the following statement:

"Advanced Disposal, an integrated environmental services company, owns and operates the Rolling Hills Landfill.  The Rolling Hills Landfill, like all modern landfills in Minnesota, is monitored by the State of Minnesota via its regulatory branch, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

"The property upon which the Rolling Hills Landfill operates today was acquired by an Advanced Disposal affiliate (the "Company") in 1994.  At that time, the land included an older, unlined landfill developed and operated by the former owners (who) accepted waste as early as 1965.  The Company acquired the facility with the vision of closing the old landfill in accordance with applicable regulations and developing a separate and distinct modern state of the art landfill on the property.  Immediately the Company assumed responsibility for the closure and post-closure monitoring of the old landfill pursuant to an MPCA approved monitoring plan.   Pursuant to this plan, the historic groundwater contamination levels associated with the old landfill have steadily decreased. The Company continues to monitor the site and manage the environmental care of the closed landfill, and continually updates the monitoring plan pursuant to MPCA oversight.

"The Company had since developed and operated the Rolling Hills Landfill, which is a separate and distinct modern, state of the art landfill which the company operates at continually high standards, complete with all modern technologies, including a liner and modern environmental protection monitoring systems that provides protection to the groundwater and the environment under the oversight of the MPCA."

Niewind was asked to provide information about vinyl chloride.

He said, "Vinyl chloride can be generated as a degradation product of chlorinated plastics or other chlorinated chemicals.  It is not uncommon to observe localized, low level contamination from an old, unlined landfill in this hydrogeologic environment.  Many of the closed landfills which are now part of the Minnesota Closed Landfill Program have experienced similar situations."

"To put this in a regulatory perspective," he added, "the MCL for vinyl chloride is 2.0 ug/L (parts per billion).  MCL means Maximum Contaminant Level and is the lowest concentration at which that particular contaminant is believed to represent a potential health concern.  The MPCA has established a limit of 0.2 ug/L to prompt additional investigation.  The vinyl chloride readings associated with the old landfill are a mere fraction of the regulatory MCL, namely 0.40 ug/L (parts per billion), but are at a level that additional investigation may be required."

He further explained that a "Groundwater Investigation Work Plan" is a plan that has been submitted by Advanced Disposal to the MPCA for their review and approval, to continue to assess the contamination.



Township candidates file for election

The filing process for the Tuesday, March 10 township elections was completed recently.  The names of the candidates have been recorded.

Fifteen of the townships in Wright County are conducting their elections in March.  Clearwater, Silver Creek and Southside Townships have been conducting their elections in November.

The list of the March candidates in the townships of Wright County (as recorded in the Wright County Auditor-Treasurer's Office) follows:



Supervisor, John Uecker and Jake Bruns.

Treasurer, Douglas Triplett.



Supervisor, Joe Coolen.



Supervisor, Tom Schuveiller.

Treasurer, Joan Baert-Demarais.



Supervisor, Dean Mahlstedt.

Treasurer, Nancy Dahlman.



Supervisor, John Dearing.



Supervisor, John R. Czanstkowski, Sr. and Darin Orr.



Supervisor, Patrick Lantto.

Treasurer, Lucille Ekholm.



Supervisor, Tom Neumann.



Supervisor (one-year term), Jane Hurley.

Supervisor (three-year term), Augie Riebel.



Supervisor, James Jacobson.

Treasurer, Judy Forst.



Supervisor position A (three-year term), Peter Stupar.

Supervisor position B (two-year term), no one filed.

Treasurer, Marlois Weinand.



Supervisor Seat D, Karen McDougall.

Supervisor Seat E, John Deitering.



Supervisor (three-year term), Keith Evenski.

Supervisor (three-year term), Dave Jorgensen.

Treasurer (two-year term), Cecilie Sangren.



Supervisor, Ryan G. Bakeberg and David Glessing.

Treasurer, Sean Groos.



Supervisor, Dan Domjahn.

Treasurer, Paula LaVigne.



County gets closer to finalizing sheriff's impound lot plans

The pinkish area shows the planned location for a new sheriff's impound facility.  The site is north of the Law Enforcement Center, which is in the center of this aerial image.  Highway 25 is the diagonal line on the right side of the image.  Lake Pulaski can be seen in the lower right corner.  The county public works site is in the lower area just left of center.  (Image courtesy of Wright County)


By Ed DuBois

With planning underway for a major public works site improvement project, the Wright County Board is also addressing a sheriff's impound facility project, which was one of the primary topics at the board meeting last Tuesday, Jan. 20.

During a review of a Jan. 14 Building Committee meeting, the Board went over planning for a building that will shelter equipment, vehicles and squad car conversions.  The size of the building is expected to be 17,550 square feet, or roughly 225 by 78 feet.  The site for the building and an impound lot with a fence is located just north of the Law Enforcement Center.  The total cost of the impound facility project is not yet final, but it could be in the neighborhood of $760,000, and the facility is expected to meet the sheriff's needs for many years into the future, noted Board Chair Mike Potter.

He mentioned that plans for lighting at the site have not been settled yet, and the lighting cost could significantly impact the total cost.  Therefore, various options are being considered to both provide adequate lighting and keep the cost at an acceptable level.

The size of the current building that will be replaced by the new building is around 11,000 square feet.

It is hoped the construction of the outdoor impound lot with a fence will be completed this spring, and the new building could be completed in the summertime.  Potter told the Journal-Press that removing the current impound lot (located near the public works site) in the springtime should help as the public works project gets underway.

Commissioner Charlie Borrell asked if the new impound lot facility might be in the way of a future courts building near the Law Enforcement Center.  A new courts building is a possible project many years down the road.  The other commissioners pointed out that space for a new courts building is available in others directions from the Law Enforcement Center.

In other business:



The Board authorized signatures for an easement requested by the City of Buffalo, which offered $5,500 for the easement.

The matter involves a major Highway 25 improvement project that is expected to take place this spring and summer.  The easement will help improve the northwest corner of the Highway 25 and CSAH 35 intersection near the County Government Center's eastern parking lot.

An agreement with the city will provide temporary access to the Peterson Chapel Funeral Home lot from the county's lot while access to the funeral home lot from Highway 25 is not available during construction activities.



The Board approved a $30,000 loan through the Wright County Economic Development Partnership to Wolf Auto Parts, which is moving from Montrose to a larger facility in Waverly.  The business expects to add more jobs as it expands.



In other actions, the Board:

* congratulated Lori Thingvold of the County Assessor's Office for attaining the designation of Senior Accredited Minnesota Assessor, the highest level of competency attainment in her profession;

* rescheduled a Jan. 27 closed session on a court security report from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.;

* scheduled a March 10 employee recognition ceremony at 10 a.m.;

* approved a property tax abatement involving a special ag homestead classification for a property in Silver Creek Township;

* approved a local options abatement that reduces the value of a property in the Cokato area, where the owners lost their home due to a fire;

* approved filling a child support officer position and an information systems specialist position in Human Services; and

* approved $197,714 in claims involving 293 transactions with 232 vendors.



Council refinances utility bonds to save $93,000

Lt. Rachel Pearson


New police lieutenant introduced

By Doug Voerding

The City of Buffalo will be saving $93,000 by refinancing electric revenue bonds to a lower interest rate. The original bonds were issued in 2006 and are becoming callable on March 1.

Since the new interest rate of 1.85 percent is much lower, the refinancing will save the city the money that would have been spent with the higher interest rate. The amount refinanced is $1,185,000. The low bidder was D.A. Davidson of Denver, Colorado. Two other companies submitted bids.

In a separate action, the council opened bids on the sale of $4,045,000 in general obligation bonds for street reconstruction projects. The council accepted the low bid of 2.23 percent from Raymond James and Associates of St. Petersburg, Florida. Five other companies bid on the bonds.

The projects include the city's portion of improvements to Highway 25 (Central Avenue) and Settlers Parkway. The bonds will also fund Phase II of the southeast reconstruction; retaining wall projects at Hillside Lane, Lake Boulevard, and Buffalo Library; and reconstruction of Bellavista Trail.

After the bids were accepted, Mayor Brad Nauman noted that the efforts of the city staff to maintain a favorable A+ credit rating were instrumental in gaining the lower interest rates.



Along with the sale of the needed bonds, other preparation work is continuing for the Central Avenue project.

The council agreed to administrative settlements for the purchase of rights-of-way at 701 and 901 Central Avenue.

At the end, the council meeting was closed to consider purchase offers for rights-of-way and temporary easements on eight properties on Central Avenue and one property on 8th Ave.



The council promoted Rachel Pearson to the currently vacant position of lieutenant.

Pearson started in Buffalo as a police officer in 2004. In 2007, she was promoted to sergeant. Pearson holds a bachelor's degree in law enforcement and a master's degree in public administration with emphasis in law enforcement.

In proposing the promotion, Police Chief Pat Budke told the council, "Rachel's character speaks for itself and some times even shouts for itself. She has experience, a cool head, and the best interest of the people."

In a letter that was part of the meeting packet, Budke wrote that Pearson "currently oversees the Field Training Program, the Crime Free Multi-housing Program, and coordinates the police department's role in numerous community events."

Budke also wrote, "Rachel provides key supervision and support in her role as a sergeant and has the respect of those she supervises, of our community partners, and of the community as a whole."

When asked what she saw as community challenges, Pearson said, "Drug use and mental health, the same issues being addressed throughout the county."

In an unrelated action, the council approved the 2015 union contract with the sergeants.

The contract will have a cost-of-living adjustment of three percent. Increases in the cost of insurance will be divided equally between the city and the employee.

The base pay for a police sergeant will be $25.35 per hour, and the base pay for a senior sergeant will be $25.60. On-call duties will be compensated when a sergeant serves on-call after working hours and on weekends. The previous contract paid on-call hours only on weekends.



Councilmember Paul Olson said that while the emerald ash borer is not in Buffalo yet, residents should be careful with transporting firewood.

"Know where your firewood comes from," said Olson. "and burn it where you bought it."

The ash borer is easily transported under the bark of ash logs, and the larvae are dormant until spring. Olson suggested checking the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website for more details.



In other action, the council:

- learned that RAVE, Respect and Value Everyone, Week will be celebrated next week at Buffalo High School. Representatives of the Buffalo High School Student Council told the council that this year's central focus will be on mental health awareness. Activities are planned each day.

- approved an on-sale and Sunday liquor license for Carlos Aguirre of Hernandez Enterprise, Inc., for Bugambilias Mexican Restaurant at 610 Crossroads Campus Drive, the former site of Coffee Connection.

- approved vacating a sanitary sewer easement at 609 Lake Boulevard. Several years ago, the easement had been changed, but the original easement was never vacated.

- approved the attendance of Wild Marsh Superintendent Eric Ritter at the Golf Industry Show and Education Conference in San Antonio, Texas, February 23 - 26. The city will pay the conference registration fee of $195, and Ritter will pay his own travel expenses.

- accepted donations to the 2015 Flora of Buffalo from Karen Colleran, $5; Adeline Eckblad, $25; Evelyn Hegeholz, $150; Suzanne Kaiser, $15; Debra Kosciolek, $65; and Bernice Larson, $10.

- accepted $250 from CentraSota for the Buffalo Fire Department. That donation was matched by Land O'Lakes.

- approved indoor fireworks sales at SuperAmerica from January to June.



Wright County fatals hold steady

The Wright County Fatal Review Committee met recently to review all of the fatal vehicle-related crashes on roads within Wright County during 2014.  There were a total of 14 crashes resulting in 15 fatalities.  This is the same number of lives that were lost on the roads in 2013, when there were 12 crashes resulting in 15 fatalities.

Five out of the six fatalities that occurred before May were the result of poor road conditions and weather.  This is an unusual pattern, as alcohol, speed and distraction are the top causes cited for crashes statewide, not weather conditions.  The other unusual pattern is the second contributing cause of local crashes was failure to yield.  This involves drivers who are not coming to complete stops, looking left-right-left and ensuring the roadway is clear before proceeding.

Alcohol played a part in over 30 percent of the crash fatalities.

"While this is unacceptable since these crashes are 100 percent avoidable, we do know that this number has been as high as 60 percent just a few years ago," a spokesperson said.  "While the Fatal Review Committee is pleased with the decline in this area, they agree there is still much work to be done in reducing impaired driving."

The Fatal Review Committee encourages drivers to follow four simple actions to increase their safety when they are behind the wheel: always wear a seat belt, drive at safe speeds, drive sober, and pay attention.  In poor weather conditions, these actions become even more important.

The Wright County Fatal Review Committee is made up of professionals from law enforcement, emergency response, engineering, and education.  Participants include the Wright County Sheriff's Office, the Minnesota State Patrol, Allina Medical Transportation, Wright County Highway Department, Wright County Public Health, and Safe Communities of Wright County.  The goal of this group is to review fatal crashes that happen in Wright County and identify commonalities, patterns and trends that could be addressed to prevent future crashes.



Celebrity guests coming to Local Foods event

In response to heightened interest in healthy local food, the Crow River Sustainable Farming Association (SFA) presents another in their series of educational - and delicious - events, Local Foods - The Journey Continues.  Crow River SFA President Nick Neaton says this program intends to focus on local foods education.  The conversation will bring together farmers, food advocates, chefs, and more to expand the breadth and depth of eating local.

The Local Foods event is taking place on Saturday, Jan 31, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Buffalo United Methodist Church, 609 8th St. NW.

Regional food celebrities and others will discuss food education issues with the attendees.  Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, Twin Cities' premier expert on food, is a food writer at Minneapolis/St.Paul Magazine and a WCCO radio personality.  Jenny Breen, a preeminent Minnesota chef and educator, is co-author of "Cooking Up the Good Life."  Beth Dooley, a Twin Cities food writer and educator, is author of "Minnesota's Bounty: The Farmers Market Cookbook."  They will be joined by Buffalo-based food consultant and TV personality Mary Jane Miller, who will prepare the main dish and beverages for the included lunch (which is also a potluck for side dishes).

The event will explore such topics as reforming culinary education in public schools, innovative approaches to local foods education and whether we have reached "peak local."

The cost for the event is $10 and includes lunch.  All proceeds are supporting education programs of the Crow River Chapter of Sustainable Farming Association, a Minnesota nonprofit organization.

This event is funded by the Minnesota Garlic Festival and generous donations from members and supporters.

More information, see or contact Jerry Ford, 763-244-6659,



Bravo Strings Spaghetti Dinner Jan. 30 at MES

A Bravo Strings of Montrose Spaghetti Dinner is taking place on Friday, Jan. 30 from 5-7:30 p.m. in the Montrose Elementary School cafeteria.

Enjoy a delicious spaghetti dinner with or without meatballs.  The dinner includes garlic bread, a tossed salad and a beverage.  You can choose from a variety of desserts, as well.

Door prizes will be given away.

The cost is $6 for adults, $4 for students and no charge for children under four years old.  You can buy tickets at the door or in advance from Bravo musicians.

Bravo Strings of Montrose is a nonprofit string music instruction program at Montrose Elementary School.



Arctic Plunge and Maple Lake Ice Fishing Derby Jan. 31

The annual Arctic Plunge and the 40th annual Maple Lake Ice Fishing Derby are taking place on Saturday, Jan. 31.

The Maple Lake Property Owners Association (MLPOA) invites you to enjoy the day.  The Maple Lake Ice Fishing Derby is a fundraiser for the preservation of the lake.

The Arctic Plunge, which is in its sixth year, involves brave jumpers, plus donors, who will help provide life-changing experiences for campers with disabilities at True Friends (Camp Courage).

The Arctic Plunge is held in conjunction with the Maple Lake Ice Fishing Derby.  Registration begins at 9:30 a.m., and the first jump is planned at 10:30 a.m.  Cash prizes are being awarded for the top three costumes.  The site for the Arctic Plunge is on the south side of Maple Lake along Highway 55.

For the Ice Fishing Derby, area businesses have tickets ($5), which will also be available on the ice the day of the contest.

The event schedule includes a vintage snowmobile show from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., plus: the Arctic Plunge at 10:30 a.m., the official Ice Fishing Derby from 1-3 p.m., an ice auger drilling contest from 3-3:30 p.m., an awards ceremony at 3:30 p.m., and an After Party on the ice with music by the Naked Cowboys from 4-8:30 p.m.

The grand prize for the 40th northern pike is an Ice Castle Fish House.  Many other prizes will be given away, including prizes for the largest northern pike, the largest walleye, the largest bass, and the largest pan fish.

Activities for children include kids' games and Take a Kid Fishing (sponsored by the Maple Lake/ Annandale Knights of Columbus).

You can find more information at

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feature photos

Kemil's American Idol experience

Out of about 2,000 contestants, BHS grad advances to more auditions with a shrinking group of Golden Ticket holders

By Ed DuBois

Something about Kemil Casey gets your attention right away.  It might be his energy and the way he speaks.  He seems to have so much going on in his mind, simple speech just can't keep up with it.  At the same time, he has a very positive and friendly manner that immediately makes him endearing to others.

These qualities might help explain why, out of about 2,000 very talented singers who gathered for an American Idol TV show tryout at Mariucci Arena last June, he was one of only 200 given "Golden Tickets" to advance to the next round of auditions in September.

Simply lining up in front of seated judges after hours of waiting, he stood out.  He was holding a top-quality golden Sennheiser SKM 5200 - II microphone, a prized possession.  He said after his initial audition while holding his microphone, he became known as "the boy with the golden microphone."


Got their attention

Kemil, 19, had noticed that when others sang that day, the judges were usually looking down.  They rarely looked at the performer.

He had decided to sing a Beyonce tune, "One Plus One," when his turn to sing finally arrived.  Lifting up his microphone, he expected to see the judges look down.  Maybe it was the song he chose.  Maybe it was his vocal quality or energy.  Maybe it was a combination of all those things.  But when he began singing, "their heads did not go down," Kemil recalled.

One judge stared at him intently.  Another one was laughing.

"Oh great, I'm a joke," Kemil thought to himself.

They stopped him after only about ten seconds.  He was asked to step back as the judges conferred.  He said they talked and wrote things down for about half a minute.

"They looked like they were arguing," Kemil recalled.

When asked to step forward, he was told, "We think you are good."  They liked the song, and they liked the way Kemil made it look like he was singing to an audience.  One judge said he did not expect "that voice" while singing "that song."

Given his Golden Ticket to the next round, he was told, "Bring that microphone."

Kemil's reaction was hard to contain.  "No way!" he blurted.  "Seriously?"

He hugged the Golden Ticket. People were cheering.  A fellow singer he met while waiting, Katie from Cleveland, was spotted in the audience and she was pumping her fist for him.

Just before singing, he said he felt the most pressure he ever experienced in his life.  After receiving the Golden Ticket, he was very excited, to say the least.


Likes technology and music

Life for Kemil had started in Bulgaria.  An orphan, he was adopted at the age of five by an American couple, Dave and Denise Casey.  They are both teachers in Buffalo.  Kemil's brother, Andrei, is also adopted.

A 2014 Buffalo High School graduate, Kemil had a reputation in school as someone who had unique abilities with computers and sound systems.  He said he learned much from BHS auditorium specialist Pat Pawelk.  Another person Kemil learned from was his Uncle Vic, who had a recording studio at his Alexandria home.  Kemil said sometimes he was able to visit Uncle Vic for a whole week in the summertime.

Kemil has saved up and collected sound equipment, including his golden microphone, in recent years.  He likes to record songs.  In fact, he has recorded so many songs (and multiple versions of songs), he is running out of space on his computer hard drive.  He has lost track of how many songs he has stored on the computer.

Meanwhile, he has enjoyed singing with friends, as well as with some of the children in the neighborhood.  They organized a talent show for a neighborhood block party, and Kemil mentioned enjoying a karaoke night a while back.


You should be on TV

Kemil works as a nanny for a family in the neighborhood, and one day the children's mother suggested Kemil should try out for The Voice TV program.

"That got me thinking, and then I thought, "Why not American Idol?" Kemil recalled.

An audition event for The Voice had recently taken place at the Mall of America.  Kemil then learned about an audition event for American Idol on June 18 at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.  He soon registered online and began considering songs.

"I looked up the best of American Idol on You Tube (to get ideas)," he said.

It was not long before he settled on three songs, "One Plus One" by Beyoncˇ, "There Goes My Baby" by Usher and "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" by Michael Jackson.  He practiced those songs until the big day arrived.


Thousands of people

A friend drove him down to Mariucci before the sun came up.  Nonetheless, thousands of people were gathered outside the arena.  Kemil waited in a very long line to check in and get admitted.  While waiting in the line, he met Katie from Cleveland and her mom.  They talked about what they were going to sing.

When American Idol host Ryan Seacrest arrived, people screamed with excitement.  Kemil said he had never before heard such an extremely loud crowd reaction.

Inside the arena, there was more waiting, and people found places to practice their songs.  Kemil and Katie found an upstairs area with rooms, and they practice there for a while.  Kemil didn't want to sing too much before performing.  He wanted to save his voice for his moment in front of the judges.

Most of the other contestants he met were very friendly.

"There was so much positivity.  Everyone was so excited.  Even if someone sounded bad, people did not say anything (negative)," Kemil said.

Even so, "I kept telling myself, 'Bad mistake, Kemil.'"

He tried to put his doubts out of his mind and focus on just being himself.  "Just be normal," he told himself.


A few familiar faces

The concession stands in the arena were tempting, but he was afraid he might be too nervous to keep his food down.  He mentioned that as audition time approached, many people did lose there lunch.

Kemil saw a few people from Buffalo High School among the contestants.

"I didn't know you sing," one of them said.

"Yeah, nobody does," Kemil replied.

Talking to people he knew helped him relax, he recalled.

When not talking to people, he listened to music on his smartphone.  A technology buff, Kemil kept the phone charged with both a docking system and a solar charger.


A few seconds to impress

Finally around 6 p.m., Kemil's turn in front of the judges was approaching.  About 11 tables with 3 judges each were set up on the arena floor.  Groups of 3 or 4 contestants were walking up to the tables.  Each contestant had a chance to perform for about 15 seconds.

Every once in a while, someone was given a Golden Ticket, but most of the time, contestants were told they were not ready for American Idol.  They were invited to try again next year.

Kemil was in a group with a "country guy" and a girl.  The country guy went first, Kemil recalled.

He was extremely nervous at this point.

"I am spazzing out.  That is the most pressure I ever felt," Kemil said.

When his turn came, he was asked to step forward, and then he was asked what artists he likes.  He named a few, and one of the judges said, "Interesting."

When Kemil said he was going to sing "One Plus One" by Beyonce, a judge asked, "Are you sure you want to sing that song?"

Kemil said, "Yes," and then he asked if it would be OK to skip to the part he likes best.  That was fine, he was told.

"Why do you have a microphone?" a judge asked.

"I like to hold it when I sing.  It's kind of like a security blanket," Kemil explained.


A ticket to September

He was elated when he was given a Golden Ticket.  At the same time, he felt bad that Katie from Cleveland and fellow BHS alumni did not receive Golden Tickets.

Following congratulations from other contestants, he was led to an area beneath the arena seats and was given contact information of TV show producers, and he was given instructions about the next round of auditions at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Sept. 22.  He agreed to not tell anyone about the show and his involvement.  He was required to wait until the new season of American Idol started.

"No one would watch if they already knew what was going to happen," the shows producer explained.

The event on Sept. 22 involved 240 contestants.  They were each allowed to sing entire songs, and those who received Golden Tickets at the end of the day were invited to return on Sept. 24 to perform in front of the three on-air judges, Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr.


Camera and boom microphone

Kemil remembers entering a room with four other contestants.  They performed in front of judges, who were each seated behind laptop computers.

They liked his rendition of "Human Nature" by Michael Jackson, and when he was asked if he would like to sing an additional song, he performed "One Plus One."

"Alright, here's your Golden Ticket," one of the judges said.  He was invited to another audition later in the day.

For the second audition, he was in a dark room with 15 people listening to him perform.  There was also a camera and boom microphone.

He learned there were some songs for which the TV show did not have rights and could not be performed on American Idol.  "Shake Your Body" by Michael Jackson was not approved for the show.  However, "Human Nature" was approved.


Meets producer, musical director

American Idol Producer Patrick Lynn introduced himself to Kemil and said, "Nice job."  He invited Kemil to spend a little time with Musical Director Michael Orland.  Kemil said he learned later that such an invitation is rare.

He was led to a nearby room in which Orland was waiting near a grand piano.  He indicated he was impressed with Kemil's handling of "Human Nature."  "That's a tough song to do," he said.

With Orland at the piano, Kemil sang "Human Nature" a few times.

"That sounds really good.  I think you should sing that for the judges (in the next audition)," Orland said.

Kemil was thinking he wanted to sing "One Plus One."  He had a feeling "Human Nature" might not get him to Hollywood.


Down to 30 out of 2,000

On Sept. 24, 30 contestants sang for Lopez, Urban and Connick Jr. at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  The contestants were invited to bring along a few family members.  Everyone had a chance to meet Seacrest and the three judges during a gathering before the singing began.  Kemil's aunt and his dad were there.

Kemil mentioned security was very tight.  He and his family members had to fill out long forms upon entering that day.

Some of the contestants, including Kemil, were interviewed by Fox 9 TV.

Later as Kemil stood outside a door leading to the judging area, he was interviewed by Seacrest in front of a camera.  Kemil was asked to tell a little about himself and his golden microphone.

Following the interview, Kemil stepped into a small booth, which had a mirror for checking his appearance before proceeding into the judging area.  Upon seeing a green light, he entered a TV set and stood upon an X on the floor.  He was facing Lopez, Urban and Connick Jr.



Kemil remembers Lopez referring to him as "Sweety," which he found a little annoying.

He was asked for his name and the song he was about to sing.  When he was questioned about his golden microphone, one of the judges asked, "Where can I get one of those?"  Kemil remembers Urban joking, "I get mine at the golden microphone store."

As Kemil sang "Human Nature," he performed a few dance steps, and Connick Jr. called out, "Yes, get it!  Move around the stage!"

Kemil remembers thinking he should have sung 'One Plus One.'

"I had a feeling going into the audition that he should have gone with 'One Plus One' instead of 'Human Nature.'"

"Can I sing another song?" he asked the judges.

Connick Jr. replied, "Like, I wanna hear another song, but I don't."

That was it, no Golden Ticket to Hollywood for Kemil.

Patrick Lynn, the American Idol producer, had told Kemil not to ask to sing another song.  Instead, he suggested stating, "I have another song."

"That's my one regret," Kemil said.  "I should have said, "I have another song.  I am going to sing 'One Plus One.'"

"Now I know what to do next year," he added.


Next up, The Voice

The episode of American Idol with Kemil's segment was scheduled to air on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 7 p.m., on KMSP-TV, Fox 9.

He said he definitely plans to try American Idol again next year.

In the meantime, he is going along with his neighbor's initial suggestion.  He has already sent a video to The Voice, and he is scheduled to travel to Chicago for an audition on Feb. 21 and 22.

Something about Kemil gets your attention right away.  Maybe it will be enough to get on The Voice.

If nothing else, trying out for The Voice will help him continue to pursuit his passion for singing.