Veterans were smiling in full gym during Veterans Day program

Veteran Jerome Bradford (left) salutes during the presentation of colors at the beginning of a Veterans Day program in the Buffalo High School gym.  Many veterans attended, and they were greeted with respect and appreciation from the student body, as well as from members of the general public who took the time to experience the event.  See more photos inside this week's issue of the Journal-Press.  (Photos by Ed DuBois)


By Ed DuBois

Wright County Attorney Tom Kelly, who delivered the Veterans Day address in Buffalo last week, has spoken to thousands of students over the years about our great country and opportunities it offers.

He asks what the average citizen owes society for all the rights and freedoms we have, and he tells the students all they have to do is pay taxes and remain law-abiding.

"Is that asking too much?" he asks, and then he says, "That's a heck of a deal."

It's a heck of a deal because of the brave veterans who have been willing to risk their lives to keep America safe and to preserve our freedom.

"I want the students to know and remember the true price of freedom so they will never forget the sacrifices that came before them," Kelly said.  "I tell them that because of those who have been willing to serve, they (the students) have a shot, a chance, at the American dream.  They can be whoever and whatever they want."

Kelly also asks students if they have thanked the veterans they know.  He suggests that, "just for the fun of it," on the next Veterans Day, they should send a card of thanks to each veteran they know.  He added, they should do that because as G.B Stern stated, "Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone."

The Veterans Day program for which Kelly was asked to be the guest speaker was the first of its size and scope at Buffalo High School, and judging from the smiles of the veterans in attendance and the respect and appreciation shown in the crowded gymnasium, it might be the first of many.

When Kelly finished his speech, he asked for and received a resounding ovation for the veterans.  Students and citizens rose to their feet and applauded.

When asked how the program came about, BHS Principal Mark Mischke said it began last summer with some discussions initiated by Supt. Scott Thielman.  The high school seemed to be a natural fit for the event, which was organized as a way to say thank you to the veterans.

Social studies teachers, Scott Palmer, Laurie Raymond and Tracy Hulley, did not need to be convinced to lead the planning process.

"We all felt it was long overdue," said Hulley.  "We had discussed it.  All it took was for someone to say, 'Let's do this.'"

It was easy to find volunteers for something as positive as thanking the veterans, she added.  All were onboard.

Forty-four students volunteered to serve as ambassadors for the Veterans Day program.

Mischke opened the program with a welcome, and everyone stood for a presentation of the colors and the national anthem, which was played by the high school band.

During his speech, Kelly noted that as part of Veterans Day we remember those who died in the service of their country, but a bigger part of Veterans Day is thanking the living veterans for their service while underscoring the fact that all those who served, not just those who died, have sacrificed and done their duty.

Kelly said the first Veterans Day was on Nov. 11, 1919 and was called Armistice Day, which honored the end of World War I.

It became a legal holiday in 1938, and later, in June 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day to make it clear that on Nov. 11 we honor American veterans of all wars.  We celebrate on that day and honor America's veterans for the patriotism, love of country and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good, Kelly said.

He stated he is proud to say his dad, Richard Kelly, and his four brothers all served in World War II at the same time.

"I always wondered what my grandpa and grandma, Roy and Hazel Kelly, thought about when they went to bed at night knowing that all five of their sons were stationed throughout the world, serving and fighting in WWII," Kelly said.  "I am sure they felt a sense of pride, but at the same time, I am sure they were worried and prayed for their safe return."

"My grandparents' prayers were answered, and all five sons came home," he stated.

Many soldiers paid the ultimate price, life itself, Kelly said.  In WWI, 116,000 Americans lost their lives, followed by: 400,000 in WWII, 37,000 in Korea, 58,000 in Vietnam, 4,900 in Iraq, and 3,550 so far in Afghanistan.

"The world is a dangerous place, and we thank God for those who have served, are serving and someday will serve in order to keep us safe and free," Kelly said.

He commented he has never been in trench warfare during WWI, "but I am grateful to those who have."  Likewise, he has never been in an amphibious landing craft heading to Normandy during WWII.  He has never known the hell of Korea, nor fighting in the jungles of Vietnam.  He has never fought in the deserts of Kuwait and Iraq, and he has never fought in the mountains of Afghanistan.  But he is grateful to those who have.

"May God bless all of you, may God bless those who have served and are serving, and may God bless the United States of America," Kelly concluded.

The program included a poem, "Stepping Forward," which was read by BHS student Audrey Green.  Student Council President Sabrina Munsterteiger spoke about the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Campaign, which supports military members and their families, and she said donations for Beyond the Yellow Ribbon would be accepted during lunch at the school that day.

Girls State representative Madeline Schwappach led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The BHS band played "The Armed Forces Salute" and the "National Emblem March" during the program.


Golf Professional Vic Kline honored in Colorado

Charles "Vic" Kline, a 1953 Buffalo High School graduate, was recently named Golf Professional of the Century in Colorado.  Vic (left) is shown here with golf great Jack Nicklaus (right), who was on hand to congratulate Vic.  He was the first BHS golfer to qualify for the state tournament.  Now living in Arvada, Colo. with his wife, Nadine, Vic has come back to Buffalo many times for class reunions.  During his many years as a golf professional, he was a five-time Colorado PGA Player of the Year.  See the entire story about Vic in Sports this week.  (Submitted photo)



Bond sale and salaries addressed by Board

By Ed DuBois

The sale of bonds was discussed at the Wright County Board meeting last Tuesday, Nov. 17, and the commissioners also approved some salaries for 2016.

The Board is looking at approving a $7 million bond sale in December or January for the Public Works Project.  A two-part bond issue is financing the project.  The Board approved the first part, a $10 million bond sale, in the first week of October.

These are bank-qualified bonds, and the Board is working with a limit of $10 million a year.  That's why the two-part process is being used.

Discussion last Tuesday touched on some other projects that are coming up in the county.  A courts project is being considered.  More county administration space is needed.  Some remodeling could take place in the old jail, as well.

As for the Public Works Project, the Board decided to go with bank-qualified bonds, which would open up the bond sale to smaller banks and could increase the number of bidders.  The Board also decided on a 20-year term for the bonds instead of a 10-year term.

The interest rate on the $10 million bond sale was 2.44 percent, and a similar figure is anticipated for the $7 million bond sale.

The Board could decide next week when the $7 million bond sale will take place.

In other business:



The commissioners approved their salary for 2016, $38,007, which is 1.5 percent more than their current salary.  The increase matches those approved for most county employees.  The Board also approved a $50 per diem for the meetings attended by the commissioners in 2016.  The new per diem amount is the same as the figure for 2015.

The Board approved a $122,480 salary for the Auditor-Treasurer.  Commissioner Pat Sawatzke made a case for a smaller salary, but the amount recommended by a committee was approved 4-1.

The County Attorney's salary of $137,493 was approved, as was the Sheriff's salary, $124,038.



In other actions, the Board:

* discussed seeking candidates for an opening on the Great River Regional Library Board;

* approved a new joint powers agreement with the state regarding access to criminal justice data;

* authorized signatures on a natural resources block grant of $83,638;

* authorized signatures on a $5,395 feedlot performance grant; and

* approved $1.01 million in claims involving 211 transactions with 147 vendors.



Buffalo plans to refinance Wild Marsh

By Doug Voerding

Cities are always seeking ways to save taxpayers money, and the City of Buffalo is no exception.

The Buffalo City Council on Monday, Nov. 16 approved the use of general obligation tax abatement re-funding bonds to refinance the 2005 bonds on the city-owned Wild Marsh Golf Course.

City Administrator Merton Auger said that the action does not change property taxes in any way, but "will help the city's cash flow and lower the interest rate."

The new bonds, not to exceed $3,265,000, will save the city an estimated $160,000 per year in interest payments.

"The existing annual payment of $380,000," said Auger, "is more than the golf course and the city can handle."

Back in 2005, the previous owners of the golf course had decided to sell the course for real estate development.

According to Auger, numerous residents were in favor of the purchase of the course as an addition to the recreational activities offered by the city. Auger said that, at the time, only one person in a room filled with more than 200 people spoke against the purchase.

Mayor Brad Nauman said that the majority were in favor of the golf course.

"If we closed it tomorrow, we would still owe the debt. The city can't default. Refinancing is the right thing to do," he stated.

Nick Anhut of Ehlers and Associates will return to the council on Dec. 7 when the date of the bond sale will be set. The sale of the new bond will be done at the same time as the sale of the temporary bonds needed for Phase Two of the Central Avenue project. Connecting the two bond sales will also save the city money on attorney and investment fees.



Two businesses, Lil' Explorers Child Care and Centra Sota, are seeking the extension of Ryan's Way, the street behind the city liquor store and the Advanced Auto Parts store on Highway 55.

Currently, access to the two businesses is limited to right turns in and out from Highway 55.

The council approved updating the feasibility study for an analysis of the cost and how those costs would be assessed for an extension of the street.



The council accepted two donations from the proceeds from the September Classics by the Lake. The donations included $500 to the Flora of Buffalo for 2016 and $500 to the Sturges Park Restroom Facilities fund to leverage the construction of new facilities.



In other action, the council:

- learned from Council-member Teri Lachermeier that the Safe Schools Committee will be researching ways to address mental health issues of students.

- learned from Lachermeier that the Buffalo Community Center's website is a good way to find out what is happening at the community center. The community center calendar and newsletter can be found by clicking on the Community Center tab under Departments on the city website



'West Side Story' opens Thursday at BHS

Buffalo High School's fall musical is "West Side Story."  The first of four performances begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19 at the Performing Arts Center.  Maria, played by BHS junior Mallory Rabehl, and Tony, played by senior Sam Haggen, rehearse the musical's final scene.  See the story in School News, Page 4C. (Photo by Rob LaPlante)



Two BHS divers qualify for state

Buffalo High School divers, senior Rachel Bertram (left), and sophomore Alex Zeiss (right), both qualified for the Class AA state swim/dive tournament following first and second place finishes at the Section 8AA championships on Saturday, Nov. 14 at Elk River. See story in Sports, Page 1C. (Photo courtesy of Buffalo Bison Girls Swim/Dive Facebook Page)



Police investigating burglary in Buffalo

A burglary reported on Saturday, Nov. 14 is being investigated by the Buffalo Police Department.

Police Chief Pat Budke said, "From information provided by the residents, it is believed the safe containing a handgun and other items was taken some time between Nov. 8 and 14."

Ammunition for the handgun and a shotgun were also reportedly taken from the same area of the residence at 1608 Anderson Ave., a townhouse near the Buffalo Hospital.  A neighbor provided a description of a person of interest seen in the area.

"We are attempting to identify that person, but we have no other leads at this time," Chief Budke said.



Property tax homestead notice issued

The Wright County Assessor's Office has issued a property tax homestead notice.  This will affect the amount of property tax you pay in 2016, and it may affect your eligibility for a property tax refund.

Please contact your county assessor to file a homestead application on or before Dec. 15, 2015 if one of the following applies:

* You purchased a property in the past year and you, or a qualifying relative, occupy the property for homestead purposes on Dec. 1, 2015; or

* You, or a qualifying relative occupy a property for homestead purposes on Dec. 1, 2015, and the property was previously classified as non-homestead.

A qualifying relative for homestead purposes depends on the type of property. For residential property, a qualifying relative can be a parent, stepparent, child, stepchild, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece of the owner. This relationship may be by blood or marriage. For agricultural property, a qualifying relative can be a child, grandchild, sibling or parent of the owner or of the spouse of the owner.

Once you have been granted the homestead classification, no further applications are necessary unless they are specifically requested by the county assessor.

You must also contact the assessor by Dec. 15, 2015 if you are the property owner or a qualifying relative of the property owner and the use of the property has changed during the past year.

If you should sell, move or for any reason no longer qualify for the homestead classification, you are required to notify the county assessor within 30 days of the change in homestead status.  Failure to notify the county assessor within this 30-day period is punishable by recalculation of tax as non-homestead, in addition to a penalty equal to 100 percent of the homestead benefits.

You can contact the Wright County Assessor's Office at 763-682-7367.

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Too beautiful for fishing

Todd Schulze creates fish decoys that are more like works of art than bait for a big northern

By Ed DuBois

For someone who hasn't been carving and painting fish decoys very long, Todd Schulze has accumulated an impressive number of top honors at National Fish Decoy Association (NFDA) events.  He entered his first competition only about five years ago.

He said he wanted something to do after his children moved to homes of their own.  Considering some options, he remembered good times while spear fishing with his dad.

"I loved it when we looked down through that big opening in the ice and saw a northern suddenly slide in," he commented.

The memories inspired an attempt at carving and painting a piece of pine until it resembled a perch.  Today, he enjoys showing a comparison between his first perch and his most recent perch, which took second place in the big 2015 NFDA event called The Gathering.

Wow, he has come a long way!


At it five years

He seems as surprised as anyone at how much he has progressed.

"We are all given certain talents.  I didn't know I had this one, though," he said.

If practice makes perfect, that bit of wisdom might explain why Schulze has become one the best fish decoy makers.  He has completed 243 projects since December 2010, "and that's just the decoys," he said.  He has carved and painted other things, including a turtle or two.


Lives near Crawford Lake

Schulze estimated he spends about ten hours on each fish.

He works on his projects after work and on weekends in his garage and basement.  A building maintenance mechanic at Supervalu in Hopkins, he lives south of Buffalo in the Crawford Lake area with his wife, Mary.

Their daughter, Carrie, a 2007 Buffalo High School graduate, now works in St. Paul.  Her job is in marketing with a magazine published by Life Time Fitness.  Her brother, Anthony, a 2005 Buffalo High School graduate, now lives in Maple Grove and has a financial job with Dougherty & Company in Minneapolis.

Todd and Mary grew up in Rockford and were friends in high school.  They started dating when they were in college.  Todd was attending North Hennepin Community College, and Mary was at St. Cloud State University.


Wanted to 'go for it'

Todd's fish decoy activities have taken off to new heights over the last two years.  He had reached a point where he wanted to "go for it" in terms of earning points and achieving the status of some of the best carvers.  Following The Gathering in April, he has worked on numerous projects all summer, and then he entered several NFDA events.  He has also competed in the Great Lakes Fish Decoy Association (GLFDA).

Some of the NFDA events took place in New York Mills, Park Rapids, Little Falls, and Alexandria.  They all led up to The Gathering, which was in Perham.

In the April 2015 event at Perham, Todd submitted 45 entries.  He said 28 of his creations placed.  He claimed 11 second-place honors in various categories, and three of his decoys took first place.  He was named the 2015 NFDA Points Champion.

Todd modestly commented that his three first-place entries were not "in the money" categories.

He added, "I won more the year before."

Nonetheless, he has risen to the level of the top carvers in just five years.


Shaping and carving

The process of making a fish decoy begins with a paper template, which helps with cutting out a rough shape of a fish from a block of wood.  Todd uses white pine, but he said he would like to try tupelo, which is popular among carvers.

He shapes the wood with a grinder and a sander.  Drawings on tracing paper help him as he carves features, such as eyes and gills.  Next, he uses a rotary power tool to add finer details.

A wood burner with a fine tip is used to add scales.

Aluminum siding is uses for fins.  Todd cuts out fin shapes, and then the rotary power tool is used to draw lines (rays) in the fins before they are attached to the wood.


Decoys have to swim

Todd drills a cavity in the wood for inserting lead.  He explained the decoy must not only look good, it has to swim properly in a circular direction to meet NFDA standards.  Each decoy has to be a certain weight, as well.

"Even though I would never use these beautiful decoys for fishing, they must perform like decoys made for fishing," he explained.

The lead provides buoyancy.

"I test the decoys in a large tub full of water, and for a final test, I take them to Crawford Lake and let them swim off the dock," Todd said.


Carvers learn from each other

He applies a sealer to the wood before he primes it and paints it.  He uses an airbrush, and he also does some painting by hand with a brush.

Asked how he learned his techniques, he said other carvers have provided tips.

"We learn from each other.  NFDA members share information," Todd said.

Most of his work shaping and carving the wood is done in the garage during the warm weather months.  Most of the painting happens in the wintertime, when he moves his projects to the basement inside the house.


Going for it again

The first points competition is in July.  Others follow in December, March and April.  The Gathering of 2016 is scheduled for April 16-17 in Perham.

Todd has been at it only five years, and already he has been winning some the top honors at The Gathering.

Soon after The Gathering of 2015 last April, he began the process of creating entries for the 2015-16 shows.

Maybe next April, he will end up with some first-place honors "in the money."