Demolition of old St. Francis School gets underway

Demolition of the old St. Francis School in Buffalo began this week.  The back portion of the facility has been torn down, and as of Tuesday, May 17, the front portion, which was constructed in 1937, was still standing.  Veit & Company of Rogers is performing the demolition work for the City of Buffalo.  The site could one day have a new fire station standing on it, and perhaps other city facilities in the more distant future.  (Photo by Ed DuBois)



Board looking at whether or not to move forward on courts facility

By Ed DuBois

The Wright County Board might need to speed up the planning for a new courts facility.  A preliminary conclusion from a study conducted by Wold Architects suggests work should begin soon on a new facility.

The study is only halfway finished, but the County Board was told the current courts facility needs have become so significant, further delay is not recommended.

During the Board's Tuesday, May 17 meeting, the commissioners scheduled a May 24 committee of the whole meeting to discuss the matter.

The Board had been looking at several options.  The first option involves a ten-year construction delay while remodeling to keep the current courts area in the County Government Center operating.

Option two would delay construction 3-4 years.  Option three would proceed with construction in two years.

The cost of a new courts facility could be around $40 million to $50 million.

The estimated costs of the three options were presented.  These costs are for keeping the courts going in their present location until the new facility is ready.

The costs are $20.7 million for Option One, $13.1 million for Option Two and $1.5 million for Option Three.

The present courts facility, which was constructed in 1959, has space needs, as well as technology needs, handicap accessibility needs and security issues due to tight spaces in the courtrooms.

Commissioner Mike Potter said delaying construction of a new facility too long and remodeling the present facility is a Band-Aid approach.  The solution is to construct a new facility soon, he stated.

Board Chair Pat Sawatzke expressed concern about the tax impact of the project.  The county is currently constructing a new Wright County Highway Department Building, and moving too fast on a new courts facility could increase taxes too quickly, he indicated.

Potter mentioned that remodeling the courts now will lead to more remodeling for a new use of the current space after a new courts facility is constructed.

The committee meeting on May 24 begins at 3 p.m.

In other business:



The Board approved a resolution proclaiming Wright County Law Enforcement Officers Week, May 15-21, and Sheriff Joe Hagerty conducted an awards ceremony during which several deputies were given commendations, and some deserving citizens were given letters of recognition and citizen commendations.

 (See related story elsewhere in this week's issue of the Journal-Press for more information.)



Cathleen Gabriel presented an annual report on child protection cases.  For eight years, Gabriel has been representing parents in child protection cases.  She said her efforts are aimed at working with parents and the courts to help serve the best interest of the children.

Many cases involve some very serious circumstances, and sometimes, due to drug use or abuse and neglect, the loss of parental rights is in the best interest of the children.

She was involved with 48 cases in 2011, 35 in 2012, 55 in 2013, 54 in 2014, and 44 in 2015.  Although the total last year was down, this year has been very busy so far.  County Attorney Tom Kelly said the county is on pace for 90 cases this year.

He said Gabriel has been doing an excellent job.



The Board is working with Sean Riley, county planning and zoning administrator, on establishing a Solar Work Group to help establish an improved solar ordinance.

Riley has a list of volunteers, who include five county residents and five solar industry representatives.  Two commissioners, Charlie Borrell and Pat Sawatzke, are joining the group, which could also include two Planning Commission members.  The first meeting is scheduled for Friday, May 27 at 10 a.m., and the group could meet every other Friday for two months.  More meetings could follow.



The Board approved an assessment rate increase.  Rates have not been increased for more than five years.  To keep up with the cost of assessments, gradual increases are planned.

The per parcel charge is going from $10.50 to $11.50 in 2018, and then it will go up to $12 in 2019.  The charge for new construction valued less than $500,000 is going from $25 per parcel to $50 per parcel.  The charge for new construction valued at more than $500,000 is going from $100 to $150 per parcel.



In other actions, the Board:

* received a report on the Highway Department Building project, which recently had seven change orders for $4,069 and is $1.79 million under budget;

* approved a ballot printing agreement with Sea Change;

* approved filling an opening in Health and Human Services for a public health nurse;

* approved sending a letter to Woodland Township advising a culvert should be lowered about a foot to help water flow better in Ditch 31;

* scheduled a June 15 committee meeting for interviews with candidates for the County Recorder position;

* approved a property tax abatement for a couple who were forced out of their home because of a fire;

* scheduled a June 14 public hearing for amendments to the water surface use ordinance; and

* approved $1.52 million in claims involving 239 transactions with 149 vendors.



County law enforcement recognition presented

In honor of 2016 National Law Enforcement Officers Week, the Wright County Sheriff's Office presented several awards and commendations to deputies and citizens during the County Board meeting last Tuesday, May 17.



Thomas McCabe and Matthew Furlong were given a Citizen Commendation Award.  They were nominated by Deputy Terry Strege.

On Nov. 27, 2015, deputies were dispatched to a capsized boat on Pelican Lake in Buffalo Township.  On arrival, deputies observed a duck boat heading in from the main lake to the boat access.  The boat had five occupants.  Three were duck hunters experiencing extreme hypothermia and exhaustion.

Thomas and Matthew stated they were on their way to the boat launch when they noticed decoys floating loose.  They spotted a capsized boat, with two hunters clinging to the boat and the third was using goose decoys to stay afloat.  Thomas and Matthew drove their boat over to attempt to rescue the duck hunters, who were having problems functioning and moving due to the frigid temperature of the water.  They balanced their boat and used the half-floating boat to assist the hunters in and bring them to shore.

Not only did Thomas and Matthew take a risk by going out to save the hunters, they went back out to the main lake to round up gear and the boat, and towed it in to shore.



William Muehring was given a Citizen Letter of Recognition.  He was nominated by Deputy Brent Rausch.

On April 22, 2015 at 12:41 a.m., Deputy Rausch responded to the report of a house fire in Chatham Township.  Upon arrival, he was met by William Muehring who was driving by and noticed the east side of the deck was on fire.  William stopped at the residence and proceeded to pound on the front door until he was able to wake the homeowner.  The Maple Lake, Buffalo and Annandale Fire Departments responded to the residence and were able to get the rapidly spreading fire out.

Although the house was severely damaged and uninhabitable, the family of six evacuated unharmed, due to William's attentiveness and quick thinking.



Deputies Robert Salls, Adam Fournier, Adam Lund, Glen Gerads, Ryan Cowley, and Kevin Olson, and Dispatchers Courtney Knoop, Jessica Hall and Haley DuBois were given Commendation Awards.  They were nominated by Sgt. Eric Kunkel and Communications Officer Heather Pomeroy.

On May 9, 2015, the above Communications Officers handled a call for service from inside the home of a male shooting victim.  Communications Officers stayed on the line after losing contact with the victim in an attempt to gather as much information to assist the victim and responding deputies.

The above deputies arrived on scene and took immediate action by entering the residence in an attempt to save the shooting victims and confront the suspect, believed to still be on scene.  While the incident had a tragic ending, the above employees handled themselves with professionalism and bravery in a high-stress situation, placing themselves directly in harms' way to save the victims.



Buffalo Police receive first-ever statewide award from Special Olympics Minnesota

Accepting an award from Special Olympics Minnesota, Detective Barrett Chrissis (center) of the Buffalo Police Department poses with Special Olympics athlete Katie Timmer (left) and Sgt. Jim Nystrom (right), Special Olympics Minnesota's Law Enforcement Torch Run Chairman.  (Photo courtesy of Buffalo Police Department)


During the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Annual Conference earlier this month, the Buffalo Police Department received a first-of-its-kind award from Special Olympics Minnesota.

According to incoming Chiefs of Police Association President Rod Sauer, the Chief of the Savage Police Department, "Special Olympics is our association's designated non-profit, and we couldn't have been happier than to be a part of delivering this award to the very deserving Buffalo Police Department."

Special Olympics Minnesota's Law Enforcement Torch Run Chairman Jim Nystrom, a Detective Sergeant with the University of Minnesota Police Department, said they wished to present their award to Buffalo Police Department during the chiefs' conference in order to deliver "well-earned recognition for Buffalo's statewide leadership."  Sgt. Nystrom said during the presentation, "This is a first-of-a-kind award from Special Olympics Minnesota, and it stands for years of consistent leadership and excellence in fundraising.  There were many nominations, but we agreed unanimously that the Buffalo Police Department was by far most deserving."

Sgt. Nystrom spoke of Buffalo Police Department's years of commitment and in particular, their innovative strategies and ability to "do more with less," than agencies much larger in size.

"They truly have been a longtime leader in our state for Special Olympics Minnesota," Sgt. Nystrom said.

Buffalo Police Chief Pat Budke and Lieutenant Rachel Pearson, both active in the department's Special Olympics events, assigned Detective Barrett Chrissis to represent their agency in receiving the award.

"Barrett's been with Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run since its inaugural year 30 years ago.  He brought it to our department so we felt he was the right person to represent us at the event," said Chief Budke.

Detective Chrissis said the credit goes to his fellow officers, reserve officers, command staff and "... all of our generous donors to Special Olympics, who are there for us year-in and year-out."  Detective Chrissis said he is particularly excited about Buffalo's new Special Olympics team, "The Stampede," who will be in the Buffalo Days Parade this year.

"Please cheer on the Stampede when they pass by in the parade," Detective Chrissis said.



High-speed chase concludes with arrest in Buffalo last Saturday

A high-speed chase last Saturday, May 14 from Maple Lake to Buffalo ended with an arrest near the Highways 55 and 25 intersection.

According to the Wright County Sheriff's Office, a deputy stopped a 2008 Chevrolet Impala at 10:21 p.m. for a speeding violation on Highway 55 and Hart Ave. in Albion Township.  During the course of the traffic stop, it was discovered the Impala was reported as a stolen vehicle out of the State of Kansas.  As deputies attempted to take the driver and two occupants into custody, the driver fled the traffic stop location in the Impala.

A vehicle pursuit was initiated eastbound on Highway 55 through the City of Maple Lake.  As the driver of the Impala attempted to make a left turn onto County Road 138, the vehicle entered the ditch and momentarily stopped, but the driver was able to maneuver the vehicle out of the ditch and continue eastbound on Highway 55.  A Wright County deputy was able to deploy "spike strips" on Highway 55 just west of the City of Buffalo.  The Impala was driven over the spike strips, causing both front tires to slowly deflate.  Just prior to the Highways 55 and 25 intersection, a Minnesota State Patrol trooper was able to utilize a "PIT" (Pursuit Intervention Tactic) maneuver to tap the rear of the Impala, causing it to slide sideways and stop.

The driver, Derron Reed, 36, of Leavenworth, Kansas, was booked into jail on alleged fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle and possession of stolen property.  Emily Keagul, 23, of Kansas City, Mo. was booked into jail on alleged possession of stolen property.  The third occupant was released after being interviewed by deputies.

The pursuit was nine miles in length and reached speeds up to 90 mph on Highway 55, the Sheriff's Office reported.  Minor damage was reported to the State Patrol trooper's squad car and the recovered 2008 Impala, as a result of the PIT maneuver.

Buffalo Police Chief Pat Budke said his department assisted the Sheriff's Office with taking the occupants into custody and with directing traffic around the scene but was not involved with the pursuit.

Both eastbound lanes of Highway 55 were blocked for approximately ten minutes, with traffic being detoured through the Arby's parking lot and adjoining parking lots.

About ten squad cars were on the scene for around half an hour.



Morgan Krause among twelve Princess Kay finalists

Morgan Krause


Twelve county dairy princesses have been named finalists for Minnesota's 63rd Princess Kay of the Milky Way, an icon for the state's dairy community best known for the Minnesota State Fair butter sculptures associated with it.

Among the 12 is Morgan Krause of rural Buffalo, who has recently served as a state FFA officer and is a current Wright County Dairy Princess.  Her parents are Charles and Robyn Krause.

The current Princess Kay is Kyla Mauk of rural Howard Lake, who was the first candidate from Wright County to ever be selected for the Princess Kay title.

The new 12 finalists, who come from dairy farm families or work on dairy farms, were named Sunday, May 15 at the end of a weekend dairy princess workshop at St. Cloud State University.  Each now has a chance to be crowned Princess Kay just before the opening of the State Fair in August, and will be sculpted in butter during the fair.

The finalists include:

* Kalley Berg, 20, Olmsted County, daughter of Tom and Penny Berg of Pine Island;

* Haley Hinrichs, 18, Goodhue County, daughter of Tim Hinrichs of Goodhue;

* Makaila Klejeski, 18, Dodge County, daughter of Jon and Kim Klejeski of Claremont;

* Morgan Krause, 18, Wright County, daughter of Charles and Robyn Krause of Buffalo;

* Annette Kyllo, 23, Olmsted County, daughter of Paul and Susan Kyllo of Byron;

* Kayla Leiding, 19, Fillmore County, daughter of Todd and Stacy Leiding of Fountain;

* Sabrina Portner, 19, Brown County, daughter of Tom and Mary Portner of Sleepy Eye;

* Kiersten Sabolik, 18, Douglas County, daughter of Gary and Beth Sabolik of Kensington;

* Kelly Schouviller, 19, Becker County, daughter of John and Linda Schouviller of Callaway;

* Meghan Skiba, 19, Isanti County, daughter of Christopher and Melissa Skiba of Cambridge;

* Emily Stocker, 18, Scott County, daughter of Rick and Ann Stocker of Jordan; and

* Stephanie Sukalski, 19, Mower County, daughter of Chris and Troy Sukalski of LeRoy.


The finalists were selected from nearly 50 county dairy princesses on the basis of their passion for dairy and communication skills.  Princess Kay and county dairy princesses make appearances to help explain dairy farmers' commitment to taking care of their animals and resources while providing wholesome, nutritious and affordable dairy products.  Midwest Dairy Association manages the program.




City of Buffalo seeking solid waste and recycling proposals

By Ed DuBois

After close to 20 years or more of service by Waste Management in Buffalo, the City Council approved a call for waste and recycling service proposals last Monday evening, May 16.

The current contract ends on Dec. 31, 2016.  The city plans to consider proposals from several waste disposal and recycling companies.  The due date for proposals is June 16.  A goal of the city is to get the best price possible for residential properties in Buffalo.

Some of the features the city would like to see included in the proposals were mentioned by City Administrator Merton Auger.  The city would like to see ideas for minimizing the damage to the roadways by trucks in the wintertime.  The city would like to see reports on where the recycling materials are sent.  The city does not want to see escalators that would increase fees for things such as fuel cost increases, for example.

A change of contract is expected to coincide with a change to new trash and recycling containers, with the cost of the containers borne by the company.

Council member Scott Enter mentioned that the city generated 1,651 tons of refuse in 2015, and 450 tons of recyclables.  He wondered if that is good performance, and he mentioned that at his house, the amount of recyclables is often greater than the amount of refuse.

Three council members were in attendance, with Teri Lachermeier serving as acting mayor.  All three voted in favor of the call for proposals.  The two council members voting were Enter and Eric Anderson.

In other business:



The Council received a Highway 25 project report.  Rain caused some delays in recent weeks.  Nonetheless, utility work is concluding, and curb and gutter work is expected to take place by the end of May or in early June.  Traffic could be allowed on the segment from just north of the Buffalo City Center to 8th St. near the Perkins and Holiday businesses by the middle of June.

Work will then get underway on the segment from the railroad crossing to the area near the Buffalo Hospital.

This week, colored concrete is being poured in certain sidewalk areas along the portion of Highway 25 that was reconstructed last year.



The Council approved a special event permit to Graniteman Events of Sartell for the annual Buffalo Triathlon, which is taking place on Sunday, June 5 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  The main events will be staged in Sturges Park.



The Council approved a planned unit development amendment to allow a rotating sign to show both logos of Caribou Coffee/ Einstein Bagels.  The sign will rotate 360 degrees twice per minute.  City staff and officials initially expressed concerns about the sign becoming a distraction for those driving on Highway 55, but the speed of the rotation is slow enough to give it a try, said council member Eric Anderson.  The Council voted to allow the sign, along with a one-year review.



The Council approved a fueling canopy expansion at the Kwik Trip store near Menards on Cessna St.  A new canopy to provide diesel fuel for mainly smaller trucks is planned just east of the existing fuel canopy.  The two canopies will be separated by a barrier and will have separate entrances.  Traffic will enter the new fueling area from Cessna St. and will exit onto Piper Dr.  A Kwik Trip representative said semis are not likely to use the site because of its design, but they will not be prevented from entering.

Lachermeier expressed concern about the amount of traffic in the area and the idea of adding more traffic.

At the close of discussion, the Council voted to allow conditional use permit amendments for the expansion, plus a one-year review in case changes will be needed.



In other actions, the Council:

* voted to sell four replaced boat motors from the Parkshore Pavilion through an online auction service;

* approved moving parks employee Emily Topp to a full-time position;

* approved the renewal of a lease agreement for the Post Office parking lot, with a cost of $7,000 per year paid to the city for five years and $8,000 a year paid for five years after the first five years;

* heard from council member Scott Enter that a water mitigation project has been underway at the downtown liquor store;

* approved a special home occupation permit for Jim's Up North, which sells high-end firearms and shooting supplies at 2013 Hawk Trail;

* approved a conditional use permit for a 1,071-square-foot attached garage at 1212 Windrush Road;

* approved an annual fireworks sales license at Sterling Drug; and

* accepted Flora of Buffalo donations of $100 from Laureen Bodin, $100 from Joe Steffel and a $100 anonymous donation; to date, the donation total is $7,945.



Hall of Fame awards presented at BHS

Buffalo High School seniors Jonathan Miller (left) and Allie Palmer were named the 2016 Hall of Fame Award winners during the Monday, May 16 Academic Excellence Awards Program. See more in School News on page 6C. (Photo by Rob LaPlante)


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Cold and windy opener

Fisherman had little luck on the local lakes as they endured the elements and carried on a Minnesota outdoors tradition

By Ed DuBois

The sun was out, but the temperature was around 32 degrees during the morning of the fishing opener last Saturday, May 14.  The wind wasn't blowing real hard around 6:30 a.m. at the Lake Pulaski landing in Griffing Park.  But the wind speed pickup significantly by the time we visited the Buffalo Lake landings from 7 to 7:30 a.m.

Very little activity was apparent at Lake Pulaski.  A boat inspector and a DNR (Department of Natural Resources) official were alone for a while, and then a few boats on trailers arrived.

Over at Buffalo Lake, the landing and parking lot at Sturges Park were empty.  Apparently, the fishermen preferred the north landing on CSAH (County State Aid Highway) 35.  About 20 pickup trucks with boat trailers were parked in the lot across the road from the landing.

Here and there on the lake surface, fishing boats could be seen.  The fishermen were hunched and bracing themselves against the cold, harsh wind.  A consistent "walleye chop," which fishermen like to call white caps, was developing on the water.

The fishermen we talked to later in the day said they had no luck.  They enjoyed getting out for the start of the season, but they said they will have to wait for another day to catch some fish.

We checked with a few area fishing tackle and bait stores to find out if anyone had brought in some fish pictures from the opener, but no such pictures showed up.

Gov. Mark Dayton had some luck on Big Sandy Lake.  His office provided a fishing opener report, along with pictures of the governor and the lieutenant governor catching fish.

Often on the opener, the weather is not accommodating, but Minnesotans can't wait to get the boats out and wet a line on the first day of the fishing season.  Whether or not they catch any fish, they love getting on the lakes and enjoying the sport of fishing.