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More drama with Civic Auditorium
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
The drama continues with the Civic Auditorium and there are still ongoing developments in this never-ending saga.
At the last city council meeting in June, the council voted to remove the Civic Auditorium from the for sale status in a 3 to 1 vote.
Then on June 25, Mayor Arnie Carlson vetoed it for the following reasons:
“This action is an existing contract with Edina Realty to list for sale selected properties designated by the city, and, therefore, exposes the city to potential legal action.
“This action also creates a public perception that the City of St. Croix Falls is willing to cancel at anytime, unilaterally and without cause, any agreement or contract it may have with any other party.
“In addition, the agreement with Edina Realty requires bilateral agreement between the Mayor and Edina Realty in order to de-list a property. In this case, the mayor does not agree...”
“For the reasons I believe the above mentioned motion was improper and ill-advised. Therefore, I have vetoed the motion to 'Remove the Civic Auditorium from its for sale status.'”
There were three things on Monday night's agenda regarding the Civic Auditorium: Presentation of contract details between the city and Edina Realty, regarding listing of the Civic Auditorium, consideration of overriding the mayoral veto regarding the council action, and consideration of a Memorandum of Understanding between the City of St. Croix Falls and the Friends of the Civic Auditorium.
After playing with the order, it was decided that Shari Steele from Edina Realty would first speak about the contract details that the city has with Edina Realty.
“We had no conversation regarding the termination of the contract,” stated Steele. “One of the things I'll ask you is what is the issue with the listing?”
Steele noted that it was just listed a few months back, and that it was not a unilateral decision to be made as there was an agreement between “you as a city and my corporation. You have to have a reason behind it, and have to have a discussion with the agent and the corporation.”
Alderman Kirk Anderson spoke to the issue, noting the challenge since these discussions have to take place within the confines of the council chambers during meetings.
“The reason it was removed from listing is that it passed by a 2 to 1 vote, with one member's seat empty,” noted Anderson. “It was also the last meeting prior to the two new members being sworn in. Then there was a 3 to 1 vote because this (new) council decided to steer the ship in a different direction from where it was originally going.”
“You just didn't like what the other council did,” stated Mayor Carlson.
“It was a drastic action for that council's last meeting,” observed Anderson.
“Any outside conversations have to include me,” stated Steele. “I want to help you and not discourage you. Your representation needs to be present.”
Steele went on to say that anyone who has looked at or expressed interest in the building could be considered a “protected buyer.” And those three interested parties could include the Friends of the Civic Auditorium.
Alderman Jeff Virchow noted that there was no ill-will towards Steele herself or Edina Realty, and that the council did not want to waste a bunch of her time.
Steele noted the amount of animosity that the issue has brought to the community and stated that she did not want to be perceived as a bad person just because she had the listing. Noting that the sudden change was “disturbing.”
“Any listing is not a unilateral decision,” observed Steele, adding that the brokerage would be the ones to decide whether or not to accept it.
Virchow directly asked Steele if the city were in violation of the agreement and she would not say whether it is or not, noting that the city had a right to do it, and that there has to be a conversation about it.
Steele noted that while the city may be required to discuss their matters in open session there are some details that as their agent should be discussed behind closed doors and not for the public record.
Steele noted that the city could place the building under the TNFS (temporarily not available for showing) which would last for a period off 30 days. Then the city could put it back on the market and pull it back of with another TNFS of 30 days, that that was a loophole the city could use.
Anderson noted that it would make fundraising difficult for the Friends of the Civic Auditorium if they were trying to raise funds for a building that was listed as for sale.
The council voted unanimously, (Warren White, Virchow and Anderson) to override the veto. Alderwoman Joy Zasadny was absent.
July 11, 2019
Osceola to be featured on Discover Wisconsin
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
Discover Wisconsin is a well known show among the residents of Polk County and fans of Polk County and most all of Wisconsin for that matter.
The program can be viewed on FSN north and is also available for streaming on Chromecast, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Roku TV, Smart TV and at DiscoverWisconsin.com.
There were four communities highlighted as the 2019 Choice Destinations, Whitewater, Omro, Florence County, and Osceola. These communities are highlighted in their Just Off Main Street segment.
Co-host Mariah Haberman kicks off the show in the Village of Osceola. Haberman takes in the natural beauty of the area and explores the waterways by kayak. She then goes to Trollhaugen to try out their outdoor recreation area that includes a zip line and a 120 element aerial challenge course.
Her tour of the area includes a visit to Cascade Falls and a scenic ride on the St. Croix Valley Railway.
Next co-host Marie Justice explores the Northwoods of Florence County with 72 miles of state-designated Wild Rivers and nearly 200 miles of motorized trails that connect Wisconsin and Michigan. Justice also visits Keyes Peak Winter Recreation Area and two of the seven waterfalls in Florence County (LaSalle Falls and Breakwater Falls).
Justice then heads south to Whitewater, where fun meets urban living. She will tour the Whitewater City Market, which offers locally made products and produce, hike the Ice Age Trail and spend an afternoon road biking.
Haberman rounds out the episode with a visit to Omro on the Fox River. She gets to know the town by taking the Omro Historic Walking Tour with a local historian. She then takes advantage of the city's free kayak and canoe rental program.
“A community's Main Street is the beating heart of its town. In Wisconsin, Main Street communities are known for being friendly, charming and authentic, with unique personalities that set them apart from one another,” noted Haberman. “From a National Scenic Riverway to remote waterfalls of the Northwoods, there are so many things that surprised me about Osceola, Florence, Whitewater and Omro.”
July 18, 2019
Local athlete seriously injured in crash
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
On Monday shortly after 8 a.m., the Polk County Sheriff’s Department received a call of a two car head on crash on Highway 87 in the 1600 block, which is approximately three miles north of St. Croix Falls. Both drivers were injured in each of the vehicles involved. It was also reported that one of the vehicles was on fire.
The St. Croix Falls Police Department were first on scene and verified that one of the vehicles was on fire and the driver of that vehicle was trapped inside. Fire extinguishers were used by responding units until a Cemstone, Inc. cement truck fortuitously came upon the scene and utilized the water on board to extinguish the fire.
Preliminary investigation of the accident determined that a 2004 Volvo 4 door was traveling south bound on Highway 87. The vehicle crossed left of center and into the path of a 2000 Honda Civic, which was traveling north bound.
The vehicles struck each other head on, glancing off of each other. The Volvo began rotating and came to rest several feet to the south of area of impact still on the roadway, in the southbound travel lane.
The Honda also began rotating, however, upon leaving the roadway, tipped and overturned in the ditch. The Honda came to rest in the east ditch, on its roof and started on fire.
The driver of the Volvo was transported by ambulance for injuries that were sustained in the crash. A scene landing was performed by LifeLink Air Medical. LifeLink transported the driver of the Honda to Regions Hospital in the Twin Cities. Names of the drivers are currently being withheld by the sheriff's department.
However, Monday afternoon a Caring Bridge link identified the driver of the Honda who was airlifted as Jordan Braund, a St. Croix Falls student athlete, especially well known for competing in powerlifting at the national level.
According to the website, Braund sustained a broken pelvis, a punctured lung and third degree burns on her legs.
As of Tuesday morning, the website stated that Braund is stable and is scheduled again for surgery sometime on Wednesday. She has third degree burns on her legs below the knees. Her right foot was not viable as it was damaged beyond repair. She did not have any head or spinal cord injuries.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Department would like to thank the following agencies for their assistance: the St Croix Falls Police Department, the St. Croix Falls Fire and First Responders, Life Link air ambulance, and the Lakes Area Ambulance service.
The sheriff's department would also like to personally thank the St. Croix Falls Public Works, and Cemstone, Inc. for their truly heroic and lifesaving actions as they did save the life of the trapped victim.
The crash is still under investigation by the Polk County Sheriff’s Department.
July 25, 2019
Local principal become published author
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
Rita Platt is the St. Croix Falls/Dresser Elementary School principal. She is a ray of sunshine wherever she goes with her positive upbeat attitude.
Platt is a National Board certified teacher with experience teaching learners of all levels from kindergartners to graduate students in communities all over the country including inner-city schools in Las Vegas and in off-road Inuit villages on the Bering Coast of Alaska.
Platt has taught the first, second, fourth, fifth and seventh grades, been a reading specialist, school librarian, a program director, and school administrator. In addition to her day job she teaches graduate courses for the Professional Development Institute, writes for professional journals and has a monthly blog for MiddleWeb.
Among her accolades, Platt has been honored as a Fulbright Scholar in India and a Fulbright Memorial Scholar in Japan. She was awarded the First Year Teacher of the Year in Alaska, a Belin-Blank Center Teacher in Iowa, an Herb Kohl fellow in Wisconsin, and was one of 10 winners in the national I Love My Librarian Award from the New York Times and the American Library Association.
Platt has also presented at conferences regionally, nationally, and in Canada. She has published in more than a dozen journals, is a frequent contributor to Ed Weekly Teacher Q & A with Larry Ferlazzo, and can be heard discussing issues regarding teaching and learning on several podcasts.
Platt can now add published author to her list of accomplishments with her new book Working Hard, Working Happy: Cultivating a Culture of Effort and Joy in the Classroom.
“My book is written primarily for educators,” says Platt. “It focused on the best practices that will help develop a school climate where students and teachers alike are inspired to work hard and be happy most of the time.
“We often don't see effort and joy as connected ideas, but I think we should!” Platt continued. “I do not see them as opposites at all. Fun and hard work have a reciprocal relationship in classrooms – the more joy, the more hard work, and vice-versa. In my experience, the most effective classrooms are those where student and teachers alike are hard working.
“Over the years, I have come to believe you cannot separate joy from effort. They go hand-in-hand, and when they are nurtured in the classroom, magic can happen.
“And you know what else? Teachers and kids spend the better part of their days in the classroom. We should work hard and it should be fun. We owe that to the students and to ourselves. That is what the entire book is about.”
Platt was approached by MiddleWeb about writing a book and she jumped at the chance. She wrote the book over the last year, although pieces of it can be found in the writing she has done over the past 25 years.
“It's a great way to help my fellow educators,” noted Platt. “I believe there are amazing things happening at the St. Croix Falls School District and our state report card scores confirm that. I want to share what I've learned with the wider education community.”
August 1, 2019
Dresser approves rate increases to water and sewer
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
At the Dresser Village Board meeting on Monday, the board voted unanimously to approve a three percent rate increase each of the next three years, as well as $1 per thousand gallons used, effective Oct. 21. This request will be sent to the state's Public Service Commission for final approval.
The board also approved a three percent increase to their sewer rate (also effective Oct. 21).
Village Board President Bryan “Fatboy” Raddatz noted that nobody likes raising the water and sewer rates, but not doing so would leave the village in a precarious situation and when the next crisis arrived regarding their aging infrastructure.
In other business, the lighting around the welcome signs and flagpole has been completed under budget.
The board also decided to close the village office on Wednesday mornings on a trial basis to allow the clerk time to perform administrative duties uninterrupted.
Gwen Anderson of People Loving People was present to request the closure of Grand Avenue from Main Street to First Street from the evening of Friday, Sept 27 to the evening of Sept. 28 for the fourth annual Apple Pumpkin Fest. It was noted that over night at least one lane of traffic will be opened to allow for homes near there to access the alley.
The Apple Pumpkin Fest will have a variety of fun activities for kids and their families.
The board voted to approve two of four operator's licenses to serve fermented malt beverages and intoxicating liquors. Two were denied on the grounds of a recent alcohol related crime as well as habitual misdemeanor drug offenses.
Allied Emergency Service, Inc. will be holding an open house at the new Alden Fire Station located at 1850 Church Road in Star Prairie on Sept. 21 from 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.
August 8, 2019
Mayor wants numbers told his way
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
There was a long agenda for the St. Croix Falls City Council meeting on Monday night for a meeting that lasted three and a half hours. There were some weighty subjects to be considered. The agenda was especially heavy since the last meeting had to be canceled due to their being a lack of a quorum.
Early on in the meeting, Mayor Arnie Carlson took the opportunity to update the council and those in attendance at the meeting as to what has been happening with a number of issues, and using that opportunity to call out the press on what he thinks should be and would like to see covered.
He noted that he never sees the reports from the fire department or police department included in the paper and would like to see that in that he thinks that it is important, especially with the police department as he noted the startling statistic listed in the July 2019 report that asserted that officers with the city's police department handled four simultaneous mental health calls at the hospital resulting in two transports, with two officers devoting a total of 10 hours. Later during that shift they then responded to two additional disorderly conduct calls at the hospital.
For the month of July, the police department spent 30 hours at the hospital, six hours at Menards, 12 hours at Wal-mart, and four hours at the school.
On a different matter, the mayor again called out the press on a different matter, in regards to the numbers involving the Civic Auditorium.
“We have been talking with the Friends of the Civic Auditorium,” said Carlson. “We are making progress on an agreement. We are working on a common goal, but don't have a common solution.”
He then went on to note that he didn't know why the press wasn't covering the “numbers” as he had shared them before.
Both publications which cover the St. Croix Falls City Council have shared the numbers regarding the Civic Auditorium ad naseum as to how many dollars were raised through grants, personal donations, etc. However, this did not follow an apparent desired narrative.
To make his point, Carlson distributed a document to the council and members of the press entitled “Civic Auditorium Distribution Matrix”.
This highlights the mayor's earlier statement of the evening that the city and the Friends of the Civic Auditorium had the same goals.
It is apparent from the statement and breakdown presented in the matrix the mayor distributed that he has clear reservations regarding the project and would be eager to pull the plug on the project and take a one time payout for the city...
“...1.4 percent of donors are registered voters of St. Croix Falls; city residents donated 3 percent of total dollars; 81 percent of donations came from corporations and foundations; 16 percent of donations came from individuals outside the City of St. Croix Falls. It's very illuminating so few resident donors, 10 percent, appear to be willing to support the project. This calls into question the wisdom of spending a large sum of tax dollars on this project. It's nice so many outside donors are willing to support a city project. For them, this is a one time donation. However, city residents make an on-going tax commitment if the project fails.”
There is little wonder that progress on finding a solution to the Civic Auditorium issue when the goals do not appear to be the same at all.
August 15, 2019
Local woman now missing for 10 years
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
Many readers might remember 10 years ago when local woman, Rose Marie Bly went missing.
Bly was last seen at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 21, 2009 when she left her home on the 2300 block of River Road in St. Croix Falls. She left to meet her cousin at a local bar in Cushing.
Bly was driving a 2001 Pontiac Grand Am. Some time later that night she had called her husband to let him know that she would be home by midnight. However, Bly never arrived in Cushing, and has never been heard from again.
Five days after Bly vanished, her car was found abandoned in a parking lot in Grantsburg near the post office that was often used by truck drivers to park their tractor trailers. The car was not damaged. There were no signs of foul play and the keys were missing.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) Alert for Bly. The Alerts are used for certain missing or unidentified persons in whose cases foul play is suspected. Bly, 21 at the time of her disappearance, was classified as a missing/endangered person.
At the time of her disappearance Bly was 5'0”, 110 pounds. Her hair was light brown and she had brown eyes. Bly also had a tattoo of two cherries on the outside of her right ankle.
Ten years after Bly's disappearance law enforcement is no closer to solving the mystery of what happened to Rose Marie Bly. They may have parties of interest, but no solid evidence to dictate the direction of the investigation.
Bly's husband filed for divorce three weeks after her disappearance. He also sought a court order to prevent her from returning and taking the children. The couple had married in 2009. Their relationship was said to be troubled. Police were called to their home at least once for a domestic violence incident. Bly's husband accused her of slapping him, she accused him of putting her in a headlock and banging her head to the ground. In June 2009, her husband had filed for divorce, but withdrew the filing after they reconciled.
Bly's husband took a polygraph test and wasn't considered a suspect. His divorce petition was granted and he was granted sole custody of their two daughters.
A week before Bly's disappearance, her mother noted that she had fallen off a horse. She reportedly told her mother that she was having headaches after the incident. Her mother had advised her to see a doctor, but there is no evidence that she ever did. Bly's mother speculated that her daughter became disoriented due to her injury and wandered away. However, there is no evidence to support this theory.
Right now, there is no telling what exactly happened to Rose Marie Bly. If she had met with an accident, she would likely have been found by now. Might she have been abducted, there is no way at this point of saying for certain.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Polk County Sheriff's Department at 715-485-8300 or call into the FBI tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI or into your local FBI office.
Civic auditorium deal is one step closer
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
The saga of the Civic Auditorium is one that has lingered on for well over 10 years, and for all involved it has taken some intestinal fortitude to persevere.
Construction of the Civic Auditorium began in 1916 and concluded in 1917. Local residents watched their first silent film there.
In its time since it has served many purposes all the way from the Red Cross using it to wrap bandages as a part of the war effort to a movie theater, and even as a theatre for plays.
There has been a great deal of animosity in regards to the Civic Auditorium. There was a plan over 10 years ago to use the money collected from the TID (tax increment district) for restoration, and at one time expansion of the building.
There are those volunteers that have given blood, sweat, tears and time to keep the project on track. They, however, met their match with a previous incarnation of the city council who had an openly hostile attitude towards the project.
At one point, the project was all but closed down. The city council instructed that the Centennial Committee who was charged with fundraising for the project to disband. And that would have appeared to been that.
However, those volunteers that had spent years donating their time energy and in some cases money to the project, were not about to give up so easily.
Prior to the current council being seated, a vote regarding the future of the Auditorium was taken with one seat being vacant, in a hurry up and get it done measure.
This matter was brought up again by the new council who questioned the fairness of the decision made by the outgoing council. The matter was brought up again and the council voted in a show of support for the project.
On Monday night, the saga continued at the St. Croix Falls City Council meeting. A few people spoke about the project, one of them was Rick Anderson who has purchased several buildings downtown including the Clayton Hardware Building, the old bank that housed the Inter County Publishing co-op office, and the yellow building that used to house In August.
“I would really like to see the agreement before it is voted on,” stated Anderson, adding that the city had been part of a realty agreement, and that $6 million dollars for said project as “ridiculous.”
Anderson also asked what business owners there were that supported the project and asked why he never saw them at any of the city council meetings that he has been attending religiously for the last year and a half.
One of those business owners who Anderson claims he never sees was at Monday night's meeting and has spoken several times in support of the project.
Leif Bjornson is co-owner of Luhrs/Bjornson Artworks, located on main street in St. Croix Falls for the last 34 years.
“We will have been here 34 years next month,” noted Bjornson. “The downtown just lost another business, Treasure Alley is moving to Osceola because they are investing in their downtown.”
Bjornson went on to note how Music on the Overlook events really bring a lot of people into the downtown and pointed out the value of making targeted investments.
The agenda for Monday night's meeting included a closed session during which a Letter of Intent as well as a triple net lease was discussed.
While both items were approved, they are at this time non-binding.
The Letter of Intent reads, in part, as follows:
This non-binding letter of intent outlines the basic terms and conditions upon which the City of St. Croix Falls is willing to partner with the Friends of the Civic Auditorium (FCA), other parties may include the St. Croix Falls Community Development Authority (CDA)...
The obligation of the parties to complete the transactions described in this letter of intent is subject to the preparation and execution of a definitive triple net lease and/or development and operations agreement, satisfactory in form and substance to the parties...
The transaction being proposed pursuant to the terms of this letter of intent is expressly subject to the negotiation, execution, and delivery of the agreement...
...Parties intend to renovate the Civic Auditorium using available CDA funds...
...The FCA will lead project development including construction redesign, bidding costs and overall project management. They will present plans to the council which will be subject to approval...
The FCA and the City will agree on a project plan setting forth a detailed construction design model, cost of construction and allocation of funding, and a timeline for completion...
...In order to successfully fund the project, the City is to provide information regarding the exact amount of funds available for the project so the renovation project plan can be redesigned to fit within those funding parameters.
The triple net lease that is currently being considered would become active when the project nears (substantial) completion. The lease term will be renewable as long as both parties agree and the terms of the lease are being met. Each lease term is slated to last 10 years. The terms of the lease shall be reviewed by the parties in years two and five of the lease and modified if needed.
Rent will be $1 a year in exchange for operating and maintaining restrooms that will be open to the public from 6 a.m.-12 a.m. seven days a week, subject to seasonality.
An annual Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) will be paid by the FCA based on a pro forma schedule, Year #1 - $1,000, Year #2 - $3,000, Years 3-10 - $5,000.
The FCA will be responsible for any repairs and maintenance including the roof, HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems, snow removal, janitorial expenses, etc.
The FCA will also be billed directly for all their utility costs.
The FCA will also be required to furnish a proposed operating budget and operation plan.
A reserve fund will also be required for operations and maintenance.
The City will require ongoing reporting and record keeping including an annual business and financial report to the city.
The FCA will also be required to carry their own general liability, property insurance and workers compensation insurance.
These are just some of the highlights of the Letter of Intent and proposed triple net lease.
They are currently non-binding, but the plan is to combine these two documents into a final agreement and move the project forward in the very near future.
August 29, 2019