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"After all these years, still doing a great job!!" -Ron Hermanson
“We don’t want to be Las Vegas”
By Lynda Berg Olds
At Monday night’s meeting of the Village of Balsam Lake, two Minit Mart representatives were present to plead their case for new, more modern signage – of the digital variety. The village’s new Zoning Administrator, Benjamin Campbell, was also in attendance. He provided an opinion of sorts, which basically said that even the current sign is not up to code. That is, it is too tall and doesn’t meet the five-foot minimum setback. Plus, the electronic sign would be considered “fluctuating,” which is also against the village ordinances.
Try as they might, the Minit Mart reps couldn’t get anywhere There was no concession on the part of the village for a sign that fluctuates – the biggest reason cited for this, is that particular corner is dangerous as it is. Trustees were afraid a moving digital message would distract drivers – again - on an already dangerous curve.
Most of the trustees weighed-in, agreeing it was too much of a distraction to have flashing lights so close to the road. In fact, Campbell said the current sign is in the Right of Way.
The reps asked, “So are you stating we cannot have a reader board?
Yes, that is what the trustees were saying – not even on the side of their building. Village President Geno D’Agostino said the sign could be lit, it just can’t be flashing. The Minit Mart reps were pretty much sent back to their proverbial drawing board.
Trustee Preble stated bluntly, “It doesn’t meet the requirements so we can’t help you. We don’t want to be Las Vegas. We are kind of a quaint little town.”
February 8, 2018
Plea hearing Thursday for village president
By Paul Rignell
Bryan Beseler, recent Dresser village president and a former Polk County Board supervisor, is scheduled to appear in court 3:00 p.m. Thursday for a plea hearing concerning felony charges that were filed against him early last May.
He received a charge of child abuse with intent to cause great bodily harm, and a second charge of child abuse recklessly causing great harm, stemming from an incident that was reported at his Dresser home last April 21.
A 4-year-old boy who was treated at Regions Hospital in St. Paul for massive brain injuries later that day had been in Beseler’s care at the Dresser home around lunchtime that day. The boy had visited the home with the boy’s mother, whom at the time had been dating Beseler.
While the mother had gone to a St. Croix Falls business to pick up food for their lunch, Beseler told investigators that he and the boy played in the home by chasing each other with foam toy pistols. When the mother returned to the home, she found the child to be in distress. Beseler reported that the boy had vomited after running into a door frame during their play.
The child has survived his injuries, for which immediate treatment included removal of a portion of his skull due to swelling of the brain.
Some doctors stated opinions during investigations that the boy’s injuries likely came from trauma more severe than the incident which Beseler had described.
The defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges during an arraignment last spring, and he has been free on signature bond of $25,000.
A jury trial was scheduled to begin May 7 before the announcement of Thursday’s plea hearing came earlier this week. Maximum sentencing for the first felony charge would carry penalties of 40 years in prison and $100,000 in fines, while the second felony charge would carry maximum penalties of 15 years in prison and fines totaling $50,000.
Beseler has been in a re-elected term as Dresser village president since early April 2017.
The Village Board held a special meeting 5:00 p.m. March 28 (after this edition went to press) for considering a resignation letter from Beseler as the president.
The board was also to consider an appointment of one of the trustees among them to complete Beseler’s lead term through April 2019.
March 29, 2018
First-degree intentional homicide attempt
By Lynda Berg Olds
A sergeant with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department responded to a report of a shooting in the southeastern-most corner of the county on Saturday afternoon shortly after 1:00 p.m. The reporting party met the sergeant at the County Line and 30th Avenue outside of Clear Lake. The caller was in a 2005 GMC Yukon SUV.
“I could see the rear window was shattered and one bullet hole was in the tail gate of this vehicle,” the sergeant said. “I could see three bullet holes in the right rear quarter panel of this vehicle.”
The sergeant went on to say that the reporting party said he had gone to his previous address on 20th Avenue to retrieve his camper. While there, he was backing up to the camper when the male he knows as Lenny Anderson (later identified as Leonard Claude Anderson) approached him with a rifle. The caller/victim said he was standing on the driver’s running board with one foot, the other foot in the vehicle when Anderson discharged the firearm into the SUV, three shots to the quarter panel. Anderson told the man he had five seconds to get off the property – he was trespassing.
The victim said he immediately started driving off, out the driveway, when Anderson again started shooting at him. The sergeant states in his report in support of probable cause for arrest, that one shot shattered the victim’s rear window and another struck the tailgate of the SUV.
“One bullet struck the inside visor just above [the victim]. The windshield directly in front of him was also struck…that’s when he dialed 911.
The victim described Anderson’s gun as a camo 22 rifle with two large magazines connected to each other. He also advised the sergeant that Anderson lives on the property in the motorhome parked north of the house.
In the meantime, a Sheriff’s Deputy was watching the address where this took place when he observed Anderson’s vehicle go south on 10th Street. The Deputy stopped the vehicle as it pulled into 176 10th Street in Polk County.
Anderson was taken into custody, where he admitted he was shooting at the man in the vehicle. He submitted to a preliminary breath test and blew a .02. He also consented to a blood draw at the Amery hospital, before being transported to the Polk County Jail for booking.
The report noted a search of the shooting location was conducted and a camo 22 rifle and spent ammo casings were located.
Anderson’s demeanor was described by the lawmen as “cooperative.”
May 3, 2018
Food truck hot topic in Balsam Lake
Monday night’s meeting of the Balsam Lake Village Board of Trustees meeting began with public comments from Nick Elert of Top Spot. Elert addressed the possible approval of the food truck coming to Balsam Lake. Elert expressed his feelings of frustration with the situation. Elert later spoke more about his dissatisfaction with the fact that there was no discussion amongst the board about the food truck coming to town. Owner of the food truck, Gary Kannenberg was next to make a public comment. Kannenberg is the owner of the Adventures food truck and explained to the board that he was asked by Polk County employees to come to Balsam Lake. Kannenberg, also described food truck operations, timely fashion of service that suits employees from the county and also Bishop due to the length of time they have for lunch. He went on to note that the truck is on private property and is there for three hours a week. Kannenberg stated, “I see no affect and I don’t know what the issue is.”
Chief Brad Williamson presented the monthly fire report. Williamson reported that there were eight rescue runs and four fire runs. Williamson stated, “grass fires are getting heavy.”
The Monthly Police Report by Chief Tom Thompson began with the announcement that full-time police officer Shawn Thayer has accepted the position of the Milltown Chief of Police and his last day is Friday. Thompson told board that the department hired a firm called Erometrics, that will hold scenario testing for candidates that apply for the open position. The position is open until May 15. The department already has 10 candidates. Thompson also reported that the two part-time boat patrol officers made it thru the entire training process.
Director Linda Heimstead presented the monthly Library Report. She reported to the board that 16 people attended story time and the Endeavors movie time had 20 people in attendance. The library also hosted a gardening event with Lakeside Landscaping, Balsam Lake Hardware Hank and Endeavors with 13 people in attendance. Upcoming events include: Kids summer reading program starting June 12 with a magicians appearance and the Unity DJ Party on June 18.
The Monthly Public Works report was next and presented by Director Dave Patterson. He reported that the crew has been working on patching pothole, sweeping streets, cleanup the park and the bathrooms at Legion and Beach are now open.
The next item on the agenda was to consider approving the Adventures Rollin Food Truck to come to Balsam Lake Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. beginning the week of May 14. Caroline Rediske provided the background on last years discussion about bringing the food truck to town and recommended that the permit should be reviewed. Rod Preble motioned to approve the permit with the added stipulations: permit use limited to Thursdays only; operation hours on Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. only; sales limited to area near government center only; no other use of this permit on any other day except Thursday including no use on holidays or special events. Eric Jorgensen seconded the motion. A roll call vote was held: Caroline Rediske, no; Kathy Poirier, yes; Brandon Scheuer, no; Eric Jorgensen, yes; Faye Brittan, yes; Rod Preble, yes; Geno D’Agostino, yes. The motion passed.
A discussion was held regarding a request to reduce a six-foot fence located at 701 Pearson Road to four feet. Ben Campbell, the building inspector, received a complaint that the six-foot fence blocks the view of the lake for the cabins. The motion was carried that the fence be reduced to four-feet.
Of other news the village will be purchasing a new street sweeper and putting up signage at the gravel pit. Larry Hoen was hired for the street crew position. A $500.00 donation was received from the Balsam Lake Chamber of Commerce for an Eagle Scout project, for a bridge over the stream in Pine Park. Also, signs stating, “No feeding of Wildlife” will be erected at public landings at the balsam beach, near the 46 Store landing and on Elizabeth Trail.
The final minutes of the meeting was to announce the new trail at the Balsam Beach and boat landing for lake visitors to use to get to Main Street. The name of the trail is “Anderson Alley”.
May 10, 2018
Luck awards bid for downtown project
By Lynda Berg Olds
At the recent regular meeting of the Luck Village Board (on May 17), awarding of the bids for the upcoming downtown project was tabled when bids came in about $300,000 more than anticipated. New construction expenses have definitely seen an uptick, with electrical expenses leading the pack in terms of escalating costs.
The board tabled the matter as they wanted a bit more time to figure out the best avenue for financing their $700,000 part in the $1.3 million project. A special meeting of the Luck Village Board was thus held on Tuesday at 6:00 p.m.
A Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) will foot the bill for $500,000 of the $1.3 million and another $100,000 will be picked up by Luck's water utility for items like new hydrants, etc.
Village President Dave Rasmussen put together some funding options along with a projected impact the funding options will have on village taxpayers. He provided three different scenarios, two of which were utilizing the State Trust Fund Loan, amortizing over a 10-year period and a 15-year period. Those impacts to the taxpayer would be about $71 and $37, respectively. Going with a local bank loan, Rasmussen said it was likely they could amortize the funding over a 20-year period, with a 10 -year balloon. That tax impact was only $18.
Trustee Mike Broten talked about scaling back the project – like get rid of the benches and trash receptacles – and maybe even the street lights.
Trustee Mike Miller talked about the sidewalk portion of the project and how some of the businesses entryway steps were going to look pretty abysmal on the brand new street.
MSA's Teresa Anderson was present and when it came up to possibly postpone awarding the bid again, she strongly advised against it. If the board was not going to go through with the project as scheduled (after Lucky Days, which is the third full weekend in July), they should definitely let the contractors know so they can move forward and bid other projects.
Rasmussen echoed that sentiment and said, “We have to do this project. We've been talking about it for 10 years. I think we have to stick with our plan.”
Without too much more discussion, Miller finally made the motion to award the bid to McCabe Construction, Inc., out of Eau Claire, in the amount of $1.11 million. The rest of the cost is for the administration, engineering, design, etc., of the New Downtown Luck Project.
June 7, 2018
Four people survive three- vehicle collision
By Lynda Berg Olds
On Saturday morning at 11:29 a.m., a three car collision was caused by an inattentive driver on Highway 35 at 230th Avenue (between Milltown and Luck). Jack Taylor, 25, of Siren, was driving a 2002 Saturn, southbound on Highway 35 approaching the intersection of 230th Avenue, where Heather Nielsen, 37, of Luck was stopped, blinker on, waiting for oncoming (northbound) traffic to pass so she could take a left, and head east on 230th Avenue.
Nielsen said she looked in her rearview mirror as she was waiting to turn and "saw the nose of a tan car come over the hill behind her. Moments later I looked again and we were hit immediately."
The accident report verifies this information and notes that Taylor was cited for "unreasonable and imprudent speed and failure to keep vehicle under control."
Nielsen had her 10 year-old daughter in the vehicle with her and both were transported to Amery Hospital. The driver of the Saturn reportedly had a broken arm and "suspected serious injuries." He was taken by ground ambulance to St. Croix Regional Medical Center.
But the story doesn't end there, When Taylor smashed into the back of Nielsen's 2016 Honda CRV, he forced her into oncoming traffic in the northbound lane, where the third party, Jeanie, Schilling, 59, of Luck, was unable to avoid the collision. She was driving a 2016 Chevy Malibu.
The accident report noted that Schilling had possible injuries suspected, but she did not seek medical attention at that time, although she was clearly shook up. She had bruising from her seat belt and airbags – as did Nielsen and her daughters, who were hit from both front and behind – while stationary, with the other vehicles moving along at highway speed.
Schilling stated to law enforcement that she saw the first vehicle (Taylor's) crash into the second vehicle (Nielsen's) at what she believed to be highway speed, forcing the second vehicle into her lane.
According to the reports, all involved with this accident were wearing their seatbelts.
The accident report does note that skid marks indicated the first vehicle locked brakes and "swerved slightly within just a few feet of the area of impact."
The front right of Nielsen's vehicle collided with the front right of Schilling's vehicle and they both came to rest in the northbound lane and northbound shoulder, side by side, both facing east.
June 28, 2018
Beseler sentenced in abuse case
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
On Monday morning interested parties gathered in the courtroom of the Honorable Daniel J. Tolan for the sentencing of Brian Beseler.
Beseler was originally charged with three counts of child abuse – intentionally cause great bodily harm (Class C Felony); child abuse – recklessly cause great harm (Class E Felony); and child abuse – recklessly cause harm (Class I Felony).
The charges were pleaded down to the latter charge, a Class I Felony.
The charge stems from an incident that occurred April 21, 2017 when Beseler’s then girl friend left her four year old son with him while she went to get Chinese food, about a 10-15 minute trip one-way.
According to the account, the child was crying and struggling because he wanted to go with his mother. When the mother returned, she found her son unresponsive and posturing.
Beseler maintains that the injury to the child’s head was the result of him colliding with a doorjamb, and that he neglected to get help not thinking it was all that serious. Though that claim met with some resistance on the part of the state.
District Attorney Jeff Kemp theorized that in a moment of frustration that Beseler either shook, or pushed the child in frustration.
Whatever the cause, frustration or a dreadful accident, it resulted in the child having to be hospitalized, and while he survived, he will be dealing with the ramifications of this event for the rest of his life.
To this day, the child referred to as Max is still unable to use his right hand and has been unable to control his bodily functions.
There were a lot of people in attendance at the sentencing, and many people were there in support of Beseler. The victim’s family was there too, and it was the grandmother of the child, Shirley Newford, who spoke about what happened and how it affected her and her family.
“I am wondering of why and how you could do this,” said Newford. “It kills me inside to see him struggle, and you are a free man.
“He’s not better,” she continued. “He walks, he laughs. He remembers that you did this to him…”
Newford continued to reflect on Beseler’s behavior during the long and painful process as the case wound its way through the court system.
“I’d see you laughing and joking in the courtroom while Max was on his deathbed. You with that cowardly, cocky grin, arrogant and disrespectful, ignorance,” she said. “You turned people’s lives upside down.”
The grandmother left Beseler and the court with the following biblical quote from Matthew 18:6 - “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
There were many more that spoke out in favor of leniency for Beseler and sent letters or testified as character witnesses. In fact the court reported receiving 18 such letters.
Former school mates, former law enforcement officers, former co-workers all describe Beseler as a “responsible and loving father and community leader.”
Beseler’s ex-wife even came forward and testified as to the quality of father he was as well as his personality.
“This is the difficult part of being a judge,” observed Tolan, “How can I make sure justice is done for MHB.”
While the events as Beseler described them may somewhat explain the head injury that the boy suffered, the judge stated that it did not explain the bruising the boy had on the inside of his thigh.
Tolan noted that Beseler had no priors, has endured a job loss, and has had his children withheld from him. He has also lost the right to run for public office by pleading no contest to the Class I felony.
There were a lot of tears shed in the courtroom on that day. Some were from the victim’s family, some were from Beseler’s supporters, and Beseler himself shed many.
“This is something that will sit with me forever,” Beseler told the court tearfully. “I have prayed for healing and growth. I want to do everything I can to help, but I can’t go back in time. My inaction will stick with me forever.
“My career has ended and this has changed my approach and my outlook on life. I ask you to show grace, not for me, but for my children.”
Beseler could have faced up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine. While defense attorney Mark Biller was seeking three years of probation, Tolan sought to find a middle ground.
Beseler had no previous convictions, has spent a lot of time in public service on both the Polk County Board and the Dresser Village Board, has expressed and shown remorse, is considered to be low risk and not known to have any issues with drugs or alcohol.
However, in his search for justice, Tolan did not think probation was enough.
Beseler was sentenced to 12 months conditional jail time, half of which is to be served up front, subject to work release; the rest will be banked for use by probation. Beseler may end up serving his time in St. Croix County so as to be able to continue at his current job. He will also be required to complete 120 hours of community service, pay restitution (amount yet to be determined) and serve three years of probation.
July 5, 2018