RiverRider funds going to county

Application for OSHA safety grant approved

By Ed DuBois

A long-awaited River Rider bus service dissolution agreement was finalized at the Wright County Board meeting last Tuesday, Nov. 29.

RiverRider buses stopped service about two years ago, and then Trailblazer Transit took over.

The RiverRider dissolution agreement includes sums of money being paid to Wright County.  A payment of $36,670 is being received for buses sold on June 30, 2014.  Also, a payment of $220,938 is being received from RiverRider bank accounts.

Sherburne County, whose withdrawal from the RiverRider Joint Powers Board led to the dissolution of RiverRider, is receiving $110,469 from the bank accounts.

In other business:



The Board authorized an application for an OSHA Safety Grant, which would be used to purchase moveable stands for the safe installation and removal of Highway Department sander boxes.

In April 2016, an employee was severely injured when removing a sander box from a plow truck.  The injury occurred when chains were unhooked from a hoist, and then the sander fell.

The Public Works Safety Committee, along with MCIT (Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust) Loss Control, recommended moveable stands to hold sander boxes in place during the installation and removal processes.  Since the stands are portable, they will be used to store sander boxes between seasons.

The Safety Grant is a dollar-for-dollar match up to $10,000.  The county has a need for 23 stands at $800 each for a total expense of $18,400.  The county is seeking a $9,200 grant.



The Board will not have a meeting next Tuesday, Dec. 6.  The Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) Annual Conference is taking place in Minneapolis on Dec. 5 and 6.



The Board approved an AIA Document Contract with BKV Group, Inc., the architectural firm selected for the design of a new courts facility.

The scope of the project, which was included in the RFP (request for proposal), is being attached to the contract.

A Courts Facility Kickoff Meeting is scheduled on Dec. 15 to go over goals, expectations and processes for making decisions.

The new facility is planned for a site next to the Law Enforcement Center.



Sheriff Joe Hagerty presented a retirement plaque to Communications Officer Judie Brown for over 25 years of service.  Hagerty said the Communications Center is one of the most difficult places to work, and Brown handled 911 calls and other matters very well.  Hagerty said she was caring and a good person with whom to work.  Brown said she was honored to serve, and she expressed thanks to fellow county employees and county officials.  The County Board wished her well.



In other actions, the Board:

* approved Everbridge contracts for a notifications system that is replacing a system called CodeRed;

* scheduled a public hearing for proposed assessments on Dec. 20 at 9:30 a.m.;

* approved two resolutions related to a grant application for phase one of a Crow River Regional Trail project involving CSAH 17 in the Delano area;

* adopted a resolution authorizing the parks and recreation director to sign an agreement with the state for the reconstruction of the fishing pier in Beebe Lake County Park;

* approved filling a sheriff's deputy position;

* accepted a Planning Commission recommendation to approve a request from Tom and Barbara Elletson to rezone about 31 acres in Buffalo Township from agriculture use to A/R agricultural-residential use;

* canceled the December Technology Committee meeting;

* scheduled a Dec. 20 bid opening at 9:30 a.m. for the replacement of the roof on the Public Works Building;

* set the Dec. 27 county board meeting as a "claims only" meeting;

* approved a request to hire a temporary employee for 67 days in Social Services while two child protection intake social workers undergo required training;

* approved procurement card transactions for the period ending Oct. 25 with a total of $24,985;

* approved fleet card transactions for the period ending Oct. 25 with a total of $14,298; and

* approved $451,701 in claims involving 500 transactions with 255 vendors.



BHM enrollment expected to gradually decrease over the next few years

This graph was shown to the School Board.  It shows the projected enrollment gradually decreasing from 5,694 this year to 5,430 in 2021-22.

By Ed DuBois

Enrollment in the Buffalo Hanover Montrose (BHM) School District is expected to gradually decrease over the next few years, according to an enrollment projection that was presented during the school board meeting last Monday, Nov. 28.

Gary Kawlewski, director of finance and operations, presented the information.  He commented that predicting the enrollment is like projecting the weather.  Last year, the projected enrollment for this fall was 5,624 students.  However, the actual enrollment as of Oct. 1 was 5,694.

The higher than expected enrollment was a pleasant surprise.  Nonetheless, the projections for the coming years include: 5,654 in 2018-19, 5,626 in 2019-20, 5,496 in 2020-21, and 5,430 in 2021-22.

Because enrollment drives state aid funding and school district budgets, the projections of lower enrollments are not what the school district officials want to see.

Kawlewski's presentation included a look at open enrollment numbers and data regarding home-schooled students and those attended private schools.

The losses of students to open enrollment (going to other school districts) has been gradually getting greater.  The three top destinations of students leaving BHM are Rockford (156 students in 2015-16), Delano (135) and Watertown-Mayer (52).

The number of students who are home-schooled is just over 200.  The enrollment at St. Francis Xavier School is 262, and the Salem Lutheran School enrollment is 89.

Kawlewski reported the birth rate in Wright County has been going down.  Consequently, the kindergarten class is the smallest in BHM at 358 students.  The largest class is 514 sophomores at Buffalo High School.

Housing has gone up a little in recent times, Kawlewski said, but not enough to boost BHM's enrollment significantly.

Enrollment is used to calculate state aid.  The projected state aid amount per pupil is: $6,370 in 2017-18, $6,338 in 2018-19, $6,269 in 2019-20, and $6,210 in 2020-21.

In other business:



A presentation about course proposals took place during the board meeting.  Approval of the course proposals could take place during the Dec. 12 board meeting.

It was pointed out to the Board that approval of the concept for a course will not necessarily end with implementation of the course.  Determining factors include the availability of a teacher for each course and interest shown by students.

Some of the proposals are college in the school (CIS) courses: CIS Biology, CIS World History, CIS Personal Finance, and CIS Introduction to Gerontology.

A few of the other proposals discussed last Monday included: Earth Science A, Earth Science B, Algebra with Trigonometry, Arts Infused Science 9, Integrated Economics & Personal Finance, AP Computer Science A, Arts Infused Forensic Science, and Robotics 2.



The Board is proud of:

1. Heidi Horak, special education teacher at BCMS; Alicia Job, second grade teacher at TES; Elisa Kunde, third grade teacher at MES; and Carrie Walz, special education teacher at BHS, who were awarded the Leadership in Education Excellence Award sponsored by Resource Training and Solutions; and

2. Katie Steege, fourth grade teacher at NES, and Robin Nyquist, technology teacher at BCMS, who were chosen as TIES Exceptional Teachers.



The Board accepted 25 donations amounting to $24,681, and a $1,662 grant for the Open Streets Program.  Eight donations amounting to $13,826 were directed to Hanover Elementary School for a variety of uses from Chromebooks to physical education equipment.  A Tatanka Elementary School prairie restoration is receiving $5,668 from conservation groups.



In other actions, the Board:

* conducted a closed session to discuss a private personnel data matter, and afterward the Board approved a letter discharging a clerical employee.

* received a student council report from Mitch Bunting regarding a 15-school fall conference for sharing ideas, a candy cane fundraiser aimed at increasing positivism with encouraging notes, and efforts to increase awareness about the dangers of distracted driving;

* approved a Washington, D.C. trip for six students from Feb. 19-24 to provide hands-on civics experience in the nation's capital;

* approved an easement for the water tower and the wind generator near the high school (The easement had never been put in place previously.); and

* approved the 2016-17 teacher seniority lists, with Carlton Urdahl at the top of the list with 44 years.



The next board meeting is taking place on Monday, Dec. 12, 7:00 p.m., in the Board Room at the Discovery Center.




Man from Buffalo helps support North Dakota protesters

A resident of Buffalo, Rob Gill has volunteered to help the oil pipeline protesters in North Dakota.  He is holding a ceremonial shield made with elk hide and including bear claws and imitation eagle feathers.  (Photo by Ed DuBois)

By Ed DuBois

Winter weather was approaching as thousands of people arrived and gradually increased the size of a peaceful oil pipeline protest encampment at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation about an hour south of Bismarck, N.D.  Rob Gill of Buffalo was there last weekend.  He volunteered his time to help split firewood and provide some health care.

He had served as an EMT in North Dakota from 1997 to 2003, he said.

"Saturday night, I treated a man's injured hand.  He said it had been hit by a projectile.  He said protesters were fired upon with a water gun and rubber bullets," Gill said.

The incident occurred over the weekend of Nov. 19 and 20.

He feels it is important to help support the protesters, who are "peacefully uniting for a noble cause."

Gill was born in Chicago, he said, but he grew up on reservations.  His parents helped start the Tiospa Zina Tribal School in South Dakota, and he graduated from the school in 1989 before going to college in Bismarck and also earning his EMT certification at a paramedic school.

Today, he works at the Peterson Chapel in Buffalo, and he lives with his wife, Bonita, and children, Wastena, 20, Derick, 18, and Sarena, 14.  The whole family, except Wastena, joined him the first time he volunteered at the encampment.  Wastena was able to go along the second time last weekend.  Rob plans to go again, but other members of his family might no go along.  He is concerned about force being used against the protesters.

The governor of North Dakota has reportedly ordered an evacuation of the encampment, which has grown to about 5,000 people, according to recent news reports.  Rob says the total is closer to 9,000.

A winter storm arrived at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation last Tuesday, Nov. 29, and there is concern about the well-being of everyone in the encampment.

The protest opposes plans to run the Dakota Access Pipeline under the Missouri River, Rob said.

He added that the protest began about eighth months ago and has been growing in recent weeks.  People from across the country have been arriving and joining the protest.

"Many of the people from other states are not prepared for the cold weather," Rob mentioned.  "Semi loads of wood needed to be cut.  There is no electricity in the camp."

He noted that not just Native Americans are protesting.  In fact, he estimated there are now more non-Native Americans than Native Americans protesting.

Instead of reducing the number of protesters, the incident involving water gun spraying and rubber bullets two weekends ago was followed by an increase of protesters.  Rob mentioned the encampment has a decontamination tent for those who are harmed by pepper stray.

He mentioned that protesters hope the investors in the oil pipeline pull out due to the project being delayed.  The protesters are calling for a complete environmental impact statement to be prepared.

Rob also mentioned that military veterans were planning to stand between the authorities and the protesters.

"They plan to help defend the right to peacefully protest," Rob said.



Christmas Angels making sure lonely seniors not forgotten

By Ed DuBois

A group of caring individuals calling themselves Christmas Angels are helping make sure senior citizens who have no loved ones are not forgotten during the holidays.

You can join the cause with a donation of a new blanket, sweat pants or some personal hygiene items.  Christmas Angels drop-off sites have been set up at: Cub Foods, Buffalo Hospital, Stellis Health (formerly Buffalo Clinic), BJ's Deli, St. Francis Xavier School, Kid's Haven, and Northwinds Elementary School.

Tennille Popelka, who works at the hospital, said about six years ago she noticed that many seniors schedule medical visits during the holidays.  When she asked why, she learned that many of them have no family to be with during the holidays.

Now on Christmas morning, Christmas Angels visit nursing homes, assisted living centers and some homes of seniors who are on their own.

"We do it so they are not forgotten," Popelka said.  "We want to show them someone cares."

The group includes about 15 members.  They hand out blankets or other items, and they talk a while.

Their visits had been well received.  For example, a few years ago, Lake Ridge Care Center wrote a thank-you in the newspaper telling how the Christmas Angels made a difference.

"Life is fragile, and we never know just how long our own time on this Earth will extend," Popelka said.  "It is my hope that we would each take the opportunity to thank each person who makes a difference in our lives."

Blankets are preferred for nursing home residents.  Sweat pants and personal hygiene items, such as soap, shampoo and lip balm, are much appreciated at assisted living sites.  For those at home on their own, restaurant gift cards, dishes, pajamas, or movie gift passes are suggested.

For more information, call Popelka at 612-282-4165.



Retailers in Buffalo asked to be extra vigilant regarding counterfeit money

Counterfeit money has been seen in Buffalo recently, and the Police Department is asking retailers to be extra vigilant.

"While counterfeit currency is not common in Buffalo, the Buffalo Police Department does take several reports per year of counterfeit bills being passed at Buffalo businesses," according to Police Chief Pat Budke.  "Businesses that seem to be targeted most often are retail stores and eating establishments.  While $20 counterfeit bills are the most common, we have seen $10 and $5 counterfeit bills, as well.  Counterfeit $100 bills are not as common, simply because retailers are more cautious about accepting those and checking them for counterfeit."

"We are asking that anyone involved in accepting cash payment for goods and services be extra vigilant," Budke stated.  "In many cases, the counterfeit bills involved have poor quality and contain none of the visible print security methods used in printing legitimate bills."

If a suspect counterfeit bill is detected at point of sale, police should be called while the person presenting the suspect bill is still present (if possible).

More information on the security features of U.S. currency can be found at  Counterfeit detection pens are also available at many retail stores.



Level 3 sex offender notice issued

Dagan Lasart

The Wright County Sheriff's Office has issued a notice about a level 3 sex offender who is being provided temporary housing at the Wright County Jail.

The offender, Dagan Lasart, 34, had engaged in sexual contact with an adult female victim.  Contact included sexual touching.  The offender concealed his identity and entered victim's residence without permission.  Force and a weapon were used to gain compliance.  The offender was not previously known to the victim.

The investigating agency was the St. Cloud Police Department.  Lasart's release date is Dec. 13, 2016.

The Wright County Sheriff's Office is releasing this information pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 244.052, which authorizes law enforcement agencies to inform the public of a sexual or predatory offender's release from prison or a secure treatment facility when an agency believes the release of information will enhance public safety and protection.

The offender has been convicted of criminal sexual conduct or another offense that requires registration with law enforcement pursuant to Minnesota Statues 243.166 or 243.167.  This offender is not wanted by the police at this time and has served the sentence imposed on him/her by the court.

This notification is not intended to increase fear in the community.  Law enforcement believes that an informed public is a safer public.

The Wright County Sheriff's Office may not direct where the offender does or does not reside, nor can this agency direct where he/she works or goes to school.  The risk level of this offender has been determined largely on his/her potential to re-offend based on his/her previous behavior.

Convicted sexual and predatory offenders have always been released to live in our communities.  It was not until the passage of the Registration Act that law enforcement had an ability to track movement of these offenders after their initial release.  With the passage of the Community Notification Act, law enforcement may now share information about many of these offenders with the public.  Abuse of this information to threaten, harass or intimidate a registered offender is unacceptable, and such acts could be charged as a crime.  Such abuses could potentially end the ability of law enforcement to provide these notifications.  If community notification ends, the only person who wins is the offender, according to the notification issued by the Sheriff's Office.  Many of these offenders derive their power from the opportunity that secrecy provides.

The Wright County Sheriff's Office is available to provide you with useful information on personal safety.  The Wright County Sheriff's Office may be reached at 763-682-7600.  To report criminal activity by this offender or any other individual, please call 911.


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Vikings cheerleader loves to dance

Buffalo High School graduate Jessica Bjore tried out three years ago and has made the squad this year and last year

By Ed DuBois

Not everything is glamorous and exciting for a Minnesota Vikings cheerleader.  For example, Jessica Bjore said she gets up at 3 a.m. on game days, and everyone is on the field at 7 a.m. to practice formations "so we get it all fresh in our brains."

A 2004 Buffalo High School graduate, Jessica spends about 15-25 hours a week on Vikings cheerleader activities.  She said the reason she gets up so early on game days is to make sure she has enough time to get her hair and makeup ready.  Practicing formations on the field has to be done early before the players get on the field for their warm-up activities.

"After a game, we sell cheerleader calendars for about an hour at Erik the Red (restaurant near stadium), which was formerly Hubert's," Jessica said.  "After that, I head home.  No use sitting in traffic; we may as well do something useful.  It's a lot of fun."

She likes to record the game and then watch it when she gets home.  She likes to hear what the announcers said, and she likes to see if any of the cheerleaders got on TV.  Her husband, Jon, watches with her.  She said Jon came to many of the games last year.  This year, she has been trying to get each of her relatives to at least one game.  Jon went to the first game this year against the Packers, and he plans to be at the game against the Cowboys this Thursday, Dec. 1.


Danced throughout high school

Jessica met Jon in college, and he now works for a Fortune 500 company.  Their wedding was in 2010.  (He requested that we not include last name and his company's name in this story.)

Jessica said her family moved to Buffalo from Maple Grove when she was in the fifth grade.  Her dad, Scott, is a retired sheriff's deputy, and her mom, Jan, is a retired Wellness on Wheels Van staff member.

While in high school, Jessica was heavily involved with dance.  She drove down to Summit Dance Shoppe in Plymouth every day.

"I loved dancing in competitions.  I liked being pushed to be my best, and competing with the best," she said, adding that she has good friends from her years at the dance studio in Plymouth.

At the University of Minnesota, she studied at the College of Design and was proud to graduate in three years.  She studied retail merchandising at the Carlson School of Business, and she eventually earned a job as manager of Club Monaco, a high-end apparel retailer at the Mall of America.


Wanted to dance more

However, "an opportunity I could not pass up," led her back to dance.  A lady she knew was opening a dance studio in Eagan, and Jessica was offered a position as artistic director.

She is now in her fourth year as artistic director and lead teacher.  She also does office work and gets to pick costumes for shows, which gives her a chance to "use my creative juices."

As for becoming a Vikings cheerleader, Jessica said she had wanted to dance more, and then in April 2013, she heard on the radio about an open call.  She decided to attend a tryout, and afterward, she was asked to enter the Vikings cheerleader training program for high potential candidates.  She was in the program two years, and she said during that time, she fell in love with the organization.

Tryouts take place every year, and in 2015, Jessica made the cut.

"Following a performance at the Mall of America, results were posted online, and then I got the call in the morning.  It was one of the best calls," Jessica said about learning she made the team.  "It almost felt unreal for three and a half months."


New stadium

Performing as a Vikings cheerleader finally felt real at the first game.  It was the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, and the cheerleaders performed there because the Vikings were named the home team.

"It was a cool trip.  We flew in a charter plane," Jessica recalled.

Throughout the 2015-16 season, the Vikings' home games were played outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium while the U.S. Bank Stadium was under construction.  Jessica's first game at TCF was a preseason contest, and she remembers, "It was fun dancing in the rain."

A Vikings fan since Randy Moss played for Minnesota, Jessica loves being a Vikings cheerleader, and she also loves the new stadium.

"I like looking up at all those seats full of fans, and I like the new "Skol" chant," she said.  "The new stadium has more levels, and the levels are more steep.  The seats are more up than out."

She also likes the new fire-breathing dragon.  The heat from the flames can be felt across the whole stadium.

At U.S. Bank Stadium, the cheerleaders are now closer to the fans, and now and then some fun verbal exchanges take place.


Dancers and ambassadors

The cheerleader squad includes 28 dancers and 14 members whose job is to serve as ambassadors in the stands.  The ambassadors visit the fans and sell calendars.  Proceeds go to the Vikings Children's Fund, which supports children's cancer research.

The arrangement with 28 dancers and 14 ambassadors is new this year.  Last year, there were 35 dancers.  A different set of dancers visited the fans in the stands for one quarter.

This year, the dancers stay on the field, with seven in each corner.

There is a rule that the cheerleaders and players cannot meet, and their paths rarely cross anyway, Jessica said.  Exceptions occur when cheerleaders and players make public appearances.  For example, Jessica met Marcus Sherels at a breast cancer awareness luncheon in Edina.  She appeared with former Vikings kicker Blair Walsh during a Play 60 event at Parkside Elementary School in Buffalo last September.


'Too much fun'

Jessica said her experiences as a Vikings cheerleader have been "too much fun," and she plans to try out again for next year.

"Everyone has to try out each year.  No one's place on the team is safe," she explained.

Despite living in St. Paul now, Jessica said she has been able to stay in touch with close friends from Buffalo.  Many of them now live in the Twin Cities, she mentioned.

She has fond memories from her years in Buffalo, such as summer days when she and other girls were "beach bums" at Lake Pulaski's Griffing Park.  They floated on the water together.  They enjoyed doing that at Beebe Lake, as well, Jessica said.

She probably does not enjoy getting up at 3 a.m. on game days, but, judging from her comments about the overall Vikings cheerleader experience, she is having a great time.

From the Skol chant to meeting fans at Erik the Red, and then watching a recording of the game at home with her husband, game days are "too much fun."

Besides that, she gets to dance.  She loves dancing.