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"After all these years, still doing a great job!!" -Ron Hermanson
Wisconsin Association of School Councils Spirit of Excellence Award
St. Croix Falls High School earned the WASC Region I Spirit of Excellence Award for the 2018-19 school year.
The Spirit of Excellence program honors Wisconsin schools that achieve excellence in leadership development/academic achievement, sportsmanship and service to school and community.
Leading this committee was Student Council Adviser, Suzanne Imhoff, and co-Adviser Sam Roach. She put together a group compiled of high school students that created a portfolio exhibiting all the wonderful things about St. Croix Falls High School in these areas.
The students took artifacts, quotes, summaries, and pictures from different clubs, sports, activities, and events at St. Croix Falls High School and compiled them into a portfolio and sent to be judged. Each year, a selection committee consisting of members from WASC, Wisconsin Association for Middle Level Education, AWSA, Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, Wisconsin Athletic Directors Association, Wisconsin Parent Teacher Association, Rotary District #6250, WEA Trust and the Milwaukee Bucks selects one high school from each of WASC’s six regions to receive the award.
All categories of the portfolio had to meet certain requirements in the three areas. The school found out early March that they had received the award.
The students who made this possible were: Mason Peer, Andrew Opel, Nora Wondra, Abby Jensen, Jesi Peterson, Anna Klein, Maddy Stensven, Natalie Gorres, and Lauren Hoverman.
On Sunday, April 7, the student representatives convened in Milwaukee to get recognition at a Milwaukee Bucks basketball game.
They were announced right on the court, as well as five other Wisconsin high schools from the other regions that earned this award. Then they had the opportunity to enjoy the game. They received a banner to be hung at the high school for their school's excellence.
April 18, 2019
The cloistered community of the Rock Pile
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
Sometimes, a person could spend their whole lives searching for a sense of community. Looking for a place they belong, that they can call and consider their home.
Small communities like the ones located throughout Polk County are called home by the thousands. While whole towns can be considered a community, there are smaller neighborhoods within some villages and cities that are very close knit.
Case in point, the Rock Pile in St. Croix Falls located off from Hamilton Street down by the St. Croix River.
The Rock Pile consists of 10 separate, privately owned residences. Nearly every homeowner was present at the St. Croix Falls Plan Commission meeting on Monday for a public hearing for a conditional use permit for 1035 N. Hamilton Street to allow for short term rental.
The City does not have an ordinance defining exactly what a short term rental is. However, in the proposal put forward by the owners of the recently purchased property, Frank and Debora Dusenka, is to operate a short term rental, upscale housing for up to six guests, parking for five vehicles. The owners would also be personally using the property.
The first Rock Pile resident to speak to the matter was Terry McCune. She noted that the neighborhood at one point had an Association that was started about 50 years ago and it had been abandoned. It was started in 1967 and dissolved about 10 years later. While not currently incorporated, the Association still operates as it has over the past decades. They meet at least on an annual basis and expenses of the common area such as the tax bill is split evenly among the 10 residences.
Also making the situation more unique than others is that the infrastructure is privately owned. The homeowners are responsible for any expenses incurred regarding the water and sewer system after the point of the lift station. Any expenses that are incurred, such as a $6,000 repair to the sewer, was split 10 ways.
“This would come in and change the neighborhood,” observed McCune. “There are safety and plumbing issues. We are also concerned about people coming in with the 'vacation mentality'.”
McCune noted that there are a pair of nesting eagles across the river and a family of otters that like to visit from time to time, and questioned how they would be impacted by the increased activity and the noise of vacationers.
McCune also noted how if this were allowed that it could affect property values. There are also safety issues to consider as the drive that services these homes are exceptionally narrow.
The residents of the Rock Pile also pay for any other infrastructure maintenance and repairs that are required including repairs to their drive and snow removal. This burden has been divided evenly among them for the past 50 years, and that balance that has been struck is threatened when six people can pay $375 a night.
Short term renters such as the request would allow would not be aware of and likely to take into consideration the home, the neighbors, and especially the taxing effect it would have on the existing infrastructure.
John Haselbeck of JH Callahan & Associates was present at the meeting to represent the Dusenka's for this request.
“Where are they anyway?” asked Steve Bailey, a 14 year resident of the Rock Pile. “Wasn't this important enough for them to come.” Haselbeck stated that the owners are currently in Texas.
“If I was your client, I would get on a plane and be here for this,” said Bailey.
“I feel quite disrespected by this as both an individual and a resident,” stated another female resident, who did not identify herself. “It was short notice, we were notified by mail, just two weeks ago.”
“Do you really want vacationers to come and have unfriendly and possibly hostile neighbors?” asked another resident.
Complicating the entire situation is the fact that while their Association has been operating informally for years, it does not have any legal recourse because it is not registered or incorporated.
While Haselbeck dealt with the open hostility of the residents, he noted, “I don't believe this will be the last time you'll face something like this unless you do something about it,” regarding incorporating/registering their association again.
One of the speakers had referred to the mission statement of the city: “The City of St. Croix Falls will continue to be a unique pristine river valley community, providing a safe, friendly environment for living, working and playing...”
“I find it ironic that you cite our mission statement regarding a safe and friendly environment when all I have seen here tonight is nothing but hostility.” observed council president and plan commission member Chris Chelberg. “This is a new animal for us to deal with, with VRBO (vacation rental by owner) and air bnb's and it's rearing its head again.”
Plan commissioner Brian Blesi also weighed in. “Due to the location and the public safety concern, I do not believe that it would be appropriate at this time.”
It was decided by a vote of 4 to 1 that the city council not approve the the conditional use permit.
The matter will next go before the city council for final consideration on the matter. If declined by the city, the request for a conditional use permit would not be able to be brought forward again for one year.
March 21, 2019
Resident bemoans ordinance enforcement, fears retaliation
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
An unhappy resident appeared to make a statement during the public comments portion of the Dresser Village Board meeting on Monday night.
Resident Bonnie McDonnell appeared at last month's board meeting to complain about cars at neighboring residences being left on the street during snow removal.
McDonnell made her statement during the public comments portion of the meeting, because a written request to further discuss the matter was rejected by Village President Bryan (Fatboy) Raddatz.
Her letter stated the following:
“This is a followup request to discuss the issues that I submitted and remain unaddressed at the March 4 council meeting, i.e. snow removal, parked cars on Main Street for extended periods of time impeding snow removal, dilapidated buildings, inoperative or junk cars left on Main Street, grass and weed control, barking dogs.
“These violations have ordinances clearly stated under nuisance laws...They carry a penalty of $250-$2,000. I've reported them to Jodi (clerk/treasurer) and Ryan (police chief) many times over many years.
“My problem was a frozen water meter, (which I addressed as improperly installed). I was immediately charged with negligence and paid $125.
“My question for discussion again is why was I immediately required to pay for my negligence; while all other ordinances are chronically ignored. I believe this is clearly negligence on the administrative body of Dresser.”
In his response and denial of her request Village Board President Raddatz stated:
“...The items that you are asking to discuss were brought to the village board's attention at the March 4 board meeting and have been taken under advisement...”
Raddatz then suggested that if she had something to add that this could be done during the public comments portion of the meeting.
It was not the response that she had wanted, and she did not hold back much if anything when she took the floor. (Of note, Raddatz was not in attendance at the meeting, he participated via phone, though did not vote on anything.)
“...After the March 4 council meeting there was a huge snowstorm. My car was parked off the street, but residences 115, 121, 133, and 139, (all on Main Street) had several parked cars on the street impeding snow removal. Mid-morning I began shoveling. The snow plow drove by, so did officer Ryan (Haass) several times. Ryan saw me struggling, and ignored it...
“After I received my letter from Fatboy denying me the chance to discuss the continuance of the problem of residents parking on Main Street during snow removal, I talked to Ryan and Jodi. Ryan was angry and so was Jodi.
“Ryan stated that his only requirement was that cars are not to be parked between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. 'I stated that doesn't make sense.'
“He replied that 'sense does not matter, that's the law.' (He doesn't enforce the law anyway.) But Ryan conveniently left out that the law states 'Please refrain from parking on the street after a snowfall.' He also said that the car next door to me had moved. Not so. Ask the snow plow guy. He plowed me out and went around the neighbor's car.
“Ryan continually ignores issues regarding nuisance laws in general. The residents at 121 Main Street had an inoperable car parked on Main Street for eight months. It had a flat tire. I complained, the neighbor fixed the flat with a doughnut, and it continued to sit there. Ryan states that it was operable. It was not.
“I spoke to the snowplow guys and they told me they would take care of it. It was towed to the backyard. Ryan claims he took care of it. That is one of three inoperable cars that have sat in their backyard. There is one left. They use my yard to park in 'if' they move their car (during snowstorms).
“Several years ago, a fellow officer urged me to take my issues up to the administration. I declined, but now that I have spoken, I regret it.
“I believe that I am being targeted by Ryan. I also believe that because I'm complaining, my neighbors are going to be angry at me.
“It isn't my job to enforce the ordinances, It clearly states that it is the job of the police.
“I believe that officer Ryan and Fatboy are unsuited to their positions. There is a lack of law enforcement, dishonesty, vengeance, inefficiency and laziness.
“I am frankly scared of retaliation.”
Since the statement was made during the public comments portion of the meeting, they were not immediately responded to. However, later in the meeting Trustee Karen Andrie asked that the matter be sent to the public safety committee for discussion and hopefully resolution. Doing so received the support of the full board.
Serving on the public safety committee are: Jeff Gutzmer, Wayne Moberg, and Karen Andrie. Raddatz may serve on the committee as an alternate.
April 4, 2019
Horsing around at school
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
At last week's St. Croix Falls School Board meeting, two intrepid students came before the board with a proposal. Eighth grader Katelyn Kozak and senior Katrina Gamer went before the board to discuss the Wisconsin Interscholastic Horsemanship Association. The WIHA is an equestrian competition where individuals compete as a team. The team belongs to a district, which corresponds to the county the school is located in. The goal of the WIHA is to get as many schools as possible to recognize this as a sport and allow students to letter.
The organization is dedicated to promoting continuous growth in programs that foster horsemanship education, sponsor activities to encourage interscholastic participation and to have adult supervised leadership/coaching for all students in grades 6-12, who wish to participate.
Kozak took the lead presenting her information to the board and listed a number of ways such a program would be a benefit to the district. “It doesn't cost the school any money. It also gives the participants a chance to compete for more scholarships. “It's good for mental health and will help keep kids out of trouble. It's a unique opportunity and could help bring more students into our district, no other schools around here are doing this right now. “It is affiliated with a state organization and is networked with other teams. “Horse ownership is not a requirement. More than 20 students have signed up and are interested,” observed Kozak. Superintendent Mark Burandt noted the students were wise and have recruited Principal Rita Platt to serve as the volunteer school adviser/coordinator.
“How can they compete if they don't have a horse?” asked one board member. It was explained there are a number of events that the horses can compete in with different riders. “People have been very good about sharing their horses,” observed Rita Platt.
The variety of events that students could participate in includes: western showmanship, saddle seat showmanship, hunt seat showmanship, bareback equitation/horsemanship, walk/trot horsemanship/equitation, saddle seat equitation, hunt seat equitation, hunter hack equitation, western reining (even years), or discipline rail (odd years), ranch riding, trail, reinsmanship, pole bending, barrels, timed class and two person relay. Middle School Principal Joe Connors was asked how he felt about the addition of such a program. “I support it,” noted Connors. “There is a table in the lunchroom, I call it the horse table because they are talking about horses and riding all the time.”
Not everyone can be or wants to be a football player, basketball player or track star. By allowing the program, the WIHA would give an opportunity for students to letter who may not otherwise have the opportunity. Another benefit of the program would be that students who may not have access to horses would be given the opportunity to learn from and participate with these animals.
The WIHA was founded in 2007. In 2008, there were 10 teams. As of 2015, there were 66 teams with 334 participants. The organization also has its own insurance. There are several districts throughout the State of Wisconsin. Each team competes at their corresponding shows. (Polk County is in District #5.) A district is required to hold three shows throughout the season in order for their team to advance to the state competition. Districts are allowed to have all three shows in one weekend (one of those days would be double-judged).
The top teams from each division at each district show have the opportunity to move on to the state championship competition. There are four divisions in WIHA that depend on the size of the team. Division A is 11or more riders; Division B is 6-10 riders; Division C is 3-5 riders; Division D is 1-2 riders.
The classes are placed 1st – 10th with point numbers assigned to each placing (1st place – 10 points, 2nd place – 9 points, etc). Superintendent Burandt noted that there are other clubs similar to this that exist at the school including the ice fishing club and the trap shooting club.
A decision as to whether or not to allow the program will be made at the next school board meeting.
April 18, 2019