Trailblazer announces change of service plan for Wright County

Trailblazer Transit buses have been seen in Wright County during recent months.  Almost all of the cities in Wright County have agreed to terms for bus services, but a few have not.  (Photo by Ed DuBois)


On Thursday, Aug. 21, the Trailblazer Joint Powers Board voted to change its 2014 service plan for Wright County.  Effective Sept. 1, 2014, Trailblazer Transit will no longer provide public transit service within the cities of Clearwater, Monticello, Otsego, and South Haven, reports Gary Ludwig, executive director.

Public transit service will also be unavailable within the townships located in Wright County.  However, service will still be available "between" any of these areas and other portions of Wright County that are participating in Wright County Area Transportation (WCAT), a new government organization created by a coalition of cities in Wright County that have agreed to help administer and fund Trailblazer Transit.  WCAT is expected to formally join Sibley and McLeod Counties on Jan. 1, 2015 to operate the three-county public transit system.

The Trailblazer Joint Powers Board, currently governed by county commissioners from Sibley and McLeod Counties, made the decision to change its 2014 service design in response to a vote made by WCAT representatives on Aug. 19, 2014 to exclude service within and between the areas in Wright County that have not joined WCAT and, therefore, are not participating in the administration and funding of the transit system.  Elected officials from the areas that have been excluded from service have decided not to help administer and fund the new public transit system in Wright County for various reasons, so the cities that have chosen to participate in the administration and funding of the transit system do not believe that it is appropriate for non-participating entities in Wright County to receive the same level of service as those cities who help directly fund the service.  The cities who came together to form WCAT established a self-imposed deadline of Aug. 1, 2014 for all the cities in Wright County to join WCAT, but four cities did not join.

Residents from all cities and townships in Wright County will still have the opportunity to access the public transit service provided by Trailblazer Transit if an individual is traveling to or from a city that is participating in WCAT.  The 12 cities in Wright County that are participating in WCAT include: Albertville, Annandale, Buffalo, Cokato, Delano, Hanover, Howard Lake, Maple Lake, Montrose, Rockford, St. Michael, and Waverly.  All cities and townships in Sibley and McLeod Counties have full access to the transit system because of the financial commitments made at the county level to support public transit.  The Wright County government is currently not a partner or financial contributor to Trailblazer Transit.

The service plan for public transit in Sibley, McLeod, and Wright Counties is created by the Trailblazer Joint Powers Board and then approved by the MnDOT Office of Transit.  The Trailblazer Joint Powers Board is currently working with WCAT and the MnDOT Office of Transit to develop a service plan and budget request for service in 2015.  The total operating cost for WCAT in 2015 will be less than $150,000 total for up to 14 bus schedules operating on weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Capital costs may be an additional expense depending on what resources are needed in Wright County.  Sibley County, McLeod County, WCAT, and MnDOT are committed to building a quality public transit system in Wright County that is efficient, comprehensive, and cost-effective, Ludwig reported.

You can contact Trailblazer Transit toll-free at 1-888-743-3828.



County Board discusses Trailblazer services

By Ed DuBois

During an updates portion toward the end of the Wright County Board meeting last Tuesday, Aug. 26, the commissioners discussed a recent announcement by Trailblazer Transit regarding changes in the service plan for Wright County.

(See related story on this page for more information.)

Negotiations between the Wright County Board and Trailblazer last spring did not go well, and eventually Trailblazer worked out an agreement with a coalition of cities in Wright County.

Commissioner Pat Sawatzke was very concerned about the cost of Trailblazer's services.  He talked about that last Tuesday, saying Monticello, which has decided not to seek Trailblazer's services, was looking at a cost of $40,000 for an agreement with Trailblazer.

Sawatzke added that Monticello can obtain bus services from a private company for $40,000.  He explained that Trailblazer wants to charge $40,000 after receiving 85-percent funding from the state for their entire system.

"That speaks to Trailblazer's (cost) inefficiencies," Sawatzke said.

Offered a chance to respond, Trailblazer provided the following statement.

"Trailblazer questioned the rationale behind the City of Monticello paying a private provider $40,000 on an annual basis to provide less service than what Trailblazer would provide at an estimated cost of $15,000 per year to the city.  However, the City of Monticello expressed concerns about: 1. the requirement established by WCAT to enter into a five-year contract with the WCAT group, and 2. not knowing exactly how much service it would be getting for an exact price.  In an attempt to address the concerns expressed by the City of Monticello, Trailblazer Executive Director Gary Ludwig suggested to Monticello City Administrator Jeff O'Neill the idea that all parties may want to explore the concept of Monticello contracting for dedicated service for an exact price not to exceed $40,000.  This way, the City of Monticello may be able to contract for service annually instead of having a five-year commitment with WCAT, and the city could negotiate an exact cost for service.  In exchange for a contract rate that would presumably be higher than actual cost, WCAT may be interested in giving up some service in other parts of Wright County to provide Monticello with some level of guaranteed, priority service.   In other words, giving up some service in other parts of Wright County may lower the local share for the other cities in Wright County.  Trailblazer's finances would not necessarily be affected by this potential contract depending on how it was set up.

"Of course, this was all just an idea discussed between two administrative heads in an effort to work through some complicated political matters.  Trailblazer made it clear to Jeff O'Neil that this was just an idea and that the concept would need to be approved by the City of Monticello, WCAT, the Trailblazer Joint Powers Board, and MnDOT.  How a simple suggestion to a city administrator, an idea that was generated in response to concerns expressed by the Monticello City Council, turns into a point of criticism about Trailblazer being inefficient from a county commissioner at a Wright County Board meeting is disturbing.  Furthermore, it may interest you to know that the idea was first proposed by the City of Monticello before the WCAT group officially formed.  Mr. Ludwig only returned to the idea after Monticello decided not to join WCAT.  Additionally, the City of Monticello contacted Trailblazer today to explore the idea of a contract in more detail, and Trailblazer asked the City of Monticello to first explore the issue with WCAT."

In other business:



The County Board is not meeting next Tuesday, Sept. 2.  The commissioners regularly cancel one meeting in each month with five Tuesdays.



The county's tax forfeit land sale is taking place on Wednesday, Sept. 24 at the Wright County Government Center.



In regard to the tax forfeit land sale on Sept. 24, the Board approved a resolution for the seizure and possible sale of abandoned personal property on some of the tax forfeit land parcels.



In other actions, the Board:

* approved retaining Kevin Casserly to perform appraisals of property in the City of Monticello for tax court purposes.  Several cases regarding property tax appeals have been settled without the need for full appraisal reports.  Casserly is being hired for one of the last remaining cases.

* approved a resolution that favorably recommends that the Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue convey a tax forfeit parcel to the Marsh Run Townhomes Association in Rockford;

* accepted a Ways and Means Committee recommendation to set up a motor pool for use by the county departments;

* approved filling a pair of Human Services positions, mental health professional-social worker III and social worker; and

* approved $303,384 in claims involving 201 transactions with 138 vendors.



Bertram grant proposed

By Doug Voerding

The Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park could become larger with the help of a Parks and Trails Legacy Grant. The Wright County Board on August 19 approved submitting a grant proposal for expansion of the park.

The county will be requesting $1.4 million that will require a ten percent match, five percent each from the City of Monticello and the county.

The grant would be used in 2016 to purchase land on the northeast side of the current park, land nearly surrounding First Lake. The county portion of the cost is already budgeted in the capital improvement plan for 2016.

In a separate action, the board agreed to hire SGA Group, Inc. to prepare a report showing the suitability of a land parcel in Franklin Township for park development.

Franklin Township supervisors have been seeking to develop another park in the township. This site is on the south fork of the Crow River near the City of Delano and could become a township park, but not a county park.

Crow Springs Park on Highway 25 is the only county park in the township.

The Wright County Parks Department is assisting in the site study.



The county entered into a joint powers agreement with the St. Paul Port Authority for the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program.

PACE offers financing for local businesses that seek to save money by adopting energy efficiency in the business buildings.

PACE eliminates the up-front costs by providing low-cost, long-term financing. The businesses then repay PACE through property assessments for up to 20 years.

Peter Klein of the St. Paul Port Authority described how a company can use the energy savings to make the payments on the energy improvements. Klein said that the savings are usually greater than the loan costs, and that once the assessment is paid off, the company continues to save money on its energy costs.

The county does not provide any money for the program, but the joint powers agreement allows the energy loans to be placed on the property taxes as an assessment.



Now that the board has redefined the job description for the Veterans Services Officer/Nuclear Director, interviews will be held on Sept. 5, beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Of the applicants, 39 out of 43 met the minimum qualifications. Of that group, six were planned for the interviews.

Commissioner Charlie Borrel disagreed with the method that was used for the final selection.

"The focus was heavier on vet services experiences," said Borrell. "Those are trainable skills, but the nuclear side is a different set of skills that can't necessarily be trained for."

Commissioner Pat Sawatzke suggested adding two more candidates to the interview process, the two "strongest in Emergency Management skills."

The board agreed, but Borrell added, "In the interview process, we need to make clear what the job is."



Adam Tagarro, the new IT director, was introduced to the board. Tagarro came to Wright County from a similar position in Benton County. He is replacing the retired Bill Swing.

"I am very excited to be here," said Tagarro. "I am looking forward to seeing how technology is used in the county and then expanding on that."



In other action, the county board:

- approved a lease agreement with District 877 for the wRight Choice program at the courthouse. The school district is leasing about 2000 square feet for $26,744 for the year.

- a public hearing for September 16 at 9:30 a.m. The county must hold a public hearing before approving an agreeable land swap between the St. Michael-Albertville and Elk River school districts. The land swap is located in what is known as the Mattamy Homes development.

- approved claims of $372,381.84 for 333 transactions with 157 vendors.



School starts Tuesday, Sept. 2

All shined up and parked in neat rows, the Vision Transportation school buses serving the Buffalo Hanover Montrose School District are ready for the start of the new school year.  The first day of school is next Tuesday, Sept. 2.  Are you ready, students?  Are motorists ready to share the roads with the buses and give them plenty of consideration to keep the students safe as they travel to and from school?  The 2014-15 school year begins right after Labor Day.  (Photo by Ed DuBois)



Bullying policy revision approved on first reading by BHM School Board

By Ed DuBois

A first, second and third reading are usually involved when the Buffalo Hanover Montrose (BHM) School Board approves a policy revision.  But language chances for the bullying policy were approved on a first reading at the board meeting last Monday, Aug. 25.

A new law in regard to bullying, the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act, was signed by Gov. Mark Dayton last April, and the School Board wanted to approve the policy revisions before the new school year starts on Tuesday, Sept. 2.

Little discussion took place, but Board Member Patti Pokorney asked a question about what constitutes multiple incidents of bullying when parents would like a problem addressed.  She wondered if a parent needs to report each incident or make one report about several incidents.

Supt. Scott Thielman indicated that one report about several incidents would be enough to begin investigative action.  Verification of the incidents would help determine the appropriate steps to be taken to address the problem.

Thielman mentioned later in the meeting that the policy revisions were not ready in time to be included in student handbooks, but they are being included in handbook copies that are accessible electronically on the Internet.

The legislation that passed last April requires local school districts to adopt a clear and enforceable bullying policy to help protect all children from bullying.  In addition to protecting students, the legislation reinforces tolerance and respect in the schools through four components: 1. locally implemented school policy; 2.definition - bullying; 3. employee training; and 4. support for schools from the Minnesota Department of Education.

In other business:



The levy process for the 2014 Payable 2015 levy cycle remains

largely the same as it was for 2013 Payable 2014, said Gary Kawlewski, finance and operations director.  The school district is required to adopt a proposed levy by Sept. 30 and will do so at the Sept. 22 board meeting.

The district must also notify county auditors (Wright and Hennepin Counties) about the date for a truth in taxation hearing by Sept. 30.  Currently, district officials plan to host the hearing on Dec. 8 during a board meeting, and final levy approval could take place during the same meeting after the truth in taxation hearing concludes.

The Board will most likely approve the "maximum" levy.  This allows final levy corrections to be made before the end of the year.

"We hope the changes will be minimal, if any at all," Kawlewski said.



A group of three or four Buffalo High School yearbook students has been invited to Dallas for a Balfour Publishing Intensity Workshop.  Very few schools are invited, and Board Chair Sue Lee said the trip is an honor for the BHS students.

The Board approved the trip, which is being planned by teacher Ryan McCallum.  The exact dates of the trip are being determined.  It involves the weekend of Sept. 20 and 21, and the students will likely miss one school day.



At the end of the meeting, the Board conducted a closed session to discuss negotiations.



In other actions, the Board:

* learned from Pokorney that a tentative contract agreement has been reached with the school district custodians;

* completed a handbook review for the high school, the middle school, Early Childhood Special Education, the PRIE program, and parent volunteers; and

* authorized signers for official depositories and for electronic fund transfers.



The Board is proud of:

1. BHM ECSE Program, which earned a 4 Star Parent Aware Rating through the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

2. Daryl Boeckers, Spanish teacher at BHS, who received the Emma Birkmaier Award from the Minnesota Council on the Teaching of Languages and Cultures.

3. Julie Mundahl, FACS Teacher at BHS, who received the Family Economics and Resources Management Education Award.



Donations include: $53 from Cub Food Club Labels for Learning to Early Childhood Family Education, $4,500 from the Montrose Lions to the Montrose Elementary School playground, $137 from Pel Industries/Target - Bison apparel to Buffalo High School, $300 from United for Youth to Parkside Elementary School Buddy Benches, and a $10,000 Allina Health Neighborhood Health Connection Grant to Community Education.



The next meetings include:

* Board workshop, Monday, Sept. 8, 4:30 p.m., Buffalo High School; and

* Board meeting, Monday, Sept. 22, 7:00 p.m., Board Room, Discovery Center.



Funds available for property owners affected by flooding in June

Residents affected by June flooding in Carver, Scott and Wright Counties may be eligible for state loans up to $70,000 through Minnesota Housing.  Funds are for capital improvements that return the home to pre-disaster or comparable condition.

There are two loan programs available.

Community Fix Up flood loans can provide up to $50,000 in repair funding for residents with qualifying credit. The interest rate for these loans has been reduced to 3 percent.

For residents who do not qualify for a Community Fix Up loan, or those who have flood repair needs beyond what is covered by the Community Fix Up loan, the Quick Start Disaster Recovery Program can provide additional assistance up to $20,000.  Quick Start loans are interest free and forgiven if the owner remains in the home for 10 years.  Funding for rental housing properties is also available under similar terms and conditions.

"These programs are critical resources for people who experienced this year's flood damage," said Mary Tingerthal, Minnesota Housing Commissioner. "I encourage property owners in affected areas to contact our lender partners to learn more."

To be eligible for loans, residents in the declared counties and tribal areas must first contact their insurance company. Only damages that are not covered by insurance can qualify.

The application deadline for both loan programs is Oct. 24, 2014.  Eligible residents should contact the local administrator, Center for Energy and Environment, to learn more and apply: Center for Energy and Environment, 212 3rd Ave. N., Suite 560, Minneapolis, MN 55401, or call 612-335-5851.

Find out more at, and follow them at and on Twitter@mnhousing.



Classics by the Lake Car Show Sept. 6 in Buffalo

The annual Classics by the Lake Car Show is taking place on Saturday, Sept. 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Sturges Park in beautiful downtown Buffalo.

Come and enjoy looking over beautifully restored classic cars of all shapes, sizes and colors.  Admission is free.  Trophies are being awarded to 75 car owners, including a Spectators Award, a Sponsors Award and Best of Show.

Parking and goody bags are available on a first come first serve basis.

Entertainment is being provided by Chopper, the World's Nuttiest DJ.

Also enjoy food and refreshments, and maybe do a little shopping and antiquing in town, as well.

For more information, see, email or call 763-765-1943.

click to see

feature photos


Staying together forever

Marvin and Ellen Scheuble of Montrose have been married for more than seventy years and are the best of friends

By Doug Voerding

" have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward until death do us part."

These traditional marriage vows were pronounced by Marvin Scheuble and Ellen Babatz to each other on June 6, 1944, now more than 70 years ago.

"We took that promise seriously," said Ellen. "Getting married meant staying together forever. Failure was not an option."

And, after some bad times, after some poor times, after some sickness, and after all the good times, Marvin and Ellen still take those vows seriously and love and cherish each other, always watching out for each other.

Marvin and Ellen are best friends and have been best friends for more than seventy years.



Depending on whom you talk to, the story of Marvin and Ellen's first meeting is different.

The youngest of the seven children of John and Mary Ceryes Babatz, Ellen was born September 8, 1924, in Watertown. Her family moved to a farm northwest of Montrose in 1932. After her father died in 1934, she moved with her mother to a house across the street from Montrose School. Ellen attended Montrose School until her last year when she attended Buffalo High School. She was in the first class from Montrose to graduate from Buffalo High School in 1943.

Marvin is the only son of Alfred and Elizabeth Vossen Scheuble and had one sister Dorothy. He was born May 19, 1923, in Waconia, but when he was seven, his family moved to a farm south of Montrose. He attended several country schools. When Marvin was four, he was given an accordion. He has been playing by ear ever since.

Ellen says they met at a dance at the Owl Club in Montrose; Marvin says they met at the Waverly Pavilion. Both agree that Marvin was playing his accordion in the band that night.

They became engaged on Valentine's Day in 1943. "I was still in high school, my senior year," said Ellen. "We were engaged for a year and a half because Marvin wanted to wait until he was 21 before we got married."



Marvin Scheuble and Ellen Babatz were married at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Waverly on June 6, 1944. It was D-Day, when the United States launched an invasion of Europe on the beaches of Normandy.

Ellen remembers hearing the D-Day announcement on the radio, repeated several times, but did not realize its importance. After all, she was getting ready for her wedding.

The wedding reception was at Ellen's mother's home in Montrose.

Marvin and Ellen had no honeymoon. They just moved in with Ellen's mother, a temporary place until they could find a home.



A year later, Marvin and Ellen paid cash, although they don't remember how much, for their first house on the south side of Highway 12 in Montrose. Back in those days, Highway 12 was much narrower, and the Scheubles had a front yard with a fence.

They built a large garage behind the house, and, as the family grew, added two rooms onto the house.

Their first child Melvin was born there in 1947, followed by Rick, Judy, Peggy, Darlene, Renee, Jan, Gary, and Debbie.

In 1957, they purchased five acres west of what is now Center Street in Montrose and, after extending a street, built a large garage. In 1960, they completed a house near the garage, built entirely by themselves evenings and weekends. The house was built with lumber from a Chevrolet garage in Wayzata that was demolished for Interstate 494. "I can't tell you how many nails we had to pull out of that lumber before we could reuse for our new house," said Marvin.

Rose Mary and Lori were born in that new house.



With so many children, the Scheubles had to be frugal. And they worked together.

Even living in town, they kept pigs, chickens, and a cow. They had large gardens for canning corn and tomatoes. They had a field of potatoes, dug for winter storage.

While still young, the children worked too, mowing lawns, baby-sitting, baling hay, and detasseling corn, while still working at home watching each other, cooking, ironing, and milking the cow.

Typical of the times, Ellen stayed home to manage the growing family, while Marvin started his own business and worked many jobs.

Ellen made clothes for the children and cooked, cleaned the house, and washed the clothes. "The wringer washer was always running with the clothes hung on lines in the yard," she said.

In 1947, Marvin started his trucking business, hauling cattle to South St. Paul and bringing back groceries, hardware, liquor, and plumbing supplies for the Montrose businesses. He also hauled gravel, at first, shoveling it by hand into the truck bed and then shoveling it out by hand. Later he got a hopper bottom gravel box and a tractor with a bucket.

In 1968, Marvin quit stock hauling, continued the gravel hauling, and began driving school bus for Montrose School. He continued driving bus for District 877 for more than 32 years. After the morning bus run, Marvin would return to his garage, haul loads of gravel and sand, and be back in time for the afternoon bus route. In the evenings, he sometimes had another gravel load to haul or would use the time to maintain his trucks.

"With so many children," said Marvin, "I had to keep my nose to the grindstone."

Ellen was the bookkeeper for the trucking business. "Whenever we needed to buy something, I had to get busy sending out the bills," said Ellen.

For extra money, Marvin played his guitar and accordion for weddings and barn dances. He was known as "Whoopy Scheuble" and played at several dance halls in the area with his son Melvin on the drums.

Ellen would go along, especially to the Oak Knoll Tavern near what is now Ridgedale.

"I had to," she said. "I had to drive them home because I was afraid they would fall asleep after playing so long."

While Ellen managed the family, Marvin also worked for the city in summer street maintenance and winter snow plowing.

For many years, every time it snowed, Marvin would be out at 1:00 a.m. to plow the streets in his open cab loader. After coming in for a little breakfast at 7:00 a.m., he would head out and "tidy up" the streets, making sure driveways were open and the streets were wide again.



After graduating from high school in 1965, son Melvin studied carpentry and built a garage and started building a house, just south of the Scheuble family home.

Melvin went off to Vietnam in March of 1968. On July 4, 1968, they learned that Melvin would not be coming home to finish his house; he had been killed in Vietnam.

The same year, Marvin and Ellen lost a full-term baby due to complications during the delivery.

In 2010, the Scheubles lost a grandson in a snowmobile accident.

Those were hard times for the whole family.

Marvin and Ellen have made the trip to the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C. to see their son's name permanently etched in the stone monument. They completed the house that Melvin started and moved there.



For vacations, Marvin and Ellen rebuilt an old school bus, adding in bunk beds, a kitchen, and eating area. The whole family went on camping trips to a lake up north, to the Grotto of Redemption in Iowa, and to the Corn Palace in South Dakota.

As the family grew older and moved away, the Scheubles continued to travel together. They have been to nearly every state and Mexico. Ellen was able to go to Canada to see the Pope.

But their favorite place is Branson, Missouri, where they have enjoyed Box Car Willie and meeting Minnie Pearl.

For many years, Marvin and Ellen worked together to make Christmas gifts for the grandchildren, hand-painted wood cutouts, Christmas ornaments, lawn ornaments, and lawn furniture.



The Scheubles have always been interested in cars.

They spent their free time rebuilding and repainting old cars. Marvin worked on the mechanical side, and Ellen worked on the interiors.

Their restored 1929 Model A Roadster received the People's Choice award a few years back during Montrose Days.

Marvin and Ellen sold most of their cars, 20 in all, at an auction a few years ago. Of course, some were bought by their children and grandchildren.



"It's surprising what a guy goes through in a life time," said Marvin, who also served on the Montrose Fire Department for many years and was in the Wright County Police Reserve.

"Of course," Ellen agreed. She has been involved in the VFW Women's Auxiliary for more than 40 years.

They have 29 grandchildren and 42 great-grandchildren, and all of their children live close by.

Marvin and Ellen are always together. If you see Marvin out mowing the grass, Ellen will be close by, watching out for him. If Ellen takes the golf cart to get the mail, Marvin will often be riding along.

Their advice on marriage: plan on staying together forever.


Some information is from a presentation at Marvin and Ellen's 50th Anniversary celebration, from a previous interview by daughter Judy, and from the 1981 Montrose History book.