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"After all these years, still doing a great job!!" -Ron Hermanson
Local students take part again in food aid project
By Paul Rignell
St. Croix Falls Middle School students continued an annual service tradition April 27 by helping to pack meals for children in other countries through a Feed My Starving Children mobile pack event at the Polk County Fairgrounds.
Based in Coon Rapids, the faith-based FMSC welcomes and coordinates volunteers at three permanent packing sites in Minnesota (along with four more in Illinois and Arizona) to provide food for children in underprivileged nations. The standard FMSC food package combines rice with soy protein, dehydrated vegetables, vitamins and minerals.
Each package of food is designed to provide six meals. FMSC has boxed and shipped more than 2.08 billion meals to children in more than 70 other nations since the program started in 1987, and that is with great support from groups choosing not to volunteer at the permanent packing sites but rather by coordinating mobile events in fairground buildings, large church halls and other local sites. FMSC staff will bring all of the ingredients, equipment and packaging to mobile sites where they can coordinate packing events.
Bethesda Lutheran Church, based in rural Dresser, coordinates a two-day mobile event for FMSC at the fairgrounds each year. Volunteers usually work at the events in two-hour shifts, and the church welcomes workers from many locations in the county.
Seventh- and eighth-grade students from St. Croix Falls Middle School worked together at the fairgrounds from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. on April 27.
They were followed by the school’s sixth-grade students working with Clear Lake High School students from noon to 2:00 p.m.
Teams of volunteers work together in assembly line fashion with a goal of packing and sealing as many bags of food as possible within two hours (allowing for 10 to 15 minutes of clean-up and a group recap at the end of the second hour).
Knowing that six standard meals come out of each bag, a total of 36 bags (or 216 meals) go into each packing box.
Middle School guidance counselor Denise Sinclear Todd said that 164 seventh- and eighth-grade students from her school combined to fill 185 boxes with food packages in their two-hour session.
The St. Croix Falls sixth-grade students and the older Clear Lake students (totaling 153 more volunteers) filled 134 boxes through their two hours.
So with the aid from visiting Clear Lake students, the local middle school students worked on packing 68,904 meals through four hours last week.
FMSC staff noted that will be enough to provide one meal per day throughout a year for 188 children.
The meals packed in St. Croix Falls last week likely will be going to children in need in Haiti, Nicaragua and the Philippines.
For more about Feed My Starving Children and how the program funds its missions, visit fmsc.org.
May 3, 2018
Police chief speaks about driving incident
By Paul Rignell
The Dresser Village Board on May 7 held its first regular business meeting since a Twin Cities television station reported on a traffic incident involving Dresser Police Chief Ryan Haass as a driver at fault.
KMSP TV reported in late April that on Sunday, Feb. 11, while Haass was off-duty from his position, he was drinking at a bar in Osceola before driving his Jeep into a ditch.
He reportedly walked to his home in Osceola from there, and later called for a tow truck to retrieve his vehicle. Osceola Police reportedly did not know of the vehicle in a ditch until the tow truck driver called dispatch with suspicions.
Police went to speak with Haass at his home approximately several hours after he had driven off the road. He reportedly told police that he had swerved from the road to avoid hitting a deer.
Officers said that Haass smelled of alcohol and that he was showing signs of intoxication. Haass allegedly admitted to drinking at a bar earlier in the day (video from the Osceola bar showed that he was served seven times), but Haass also said that he had been drinking since returning home. Wisconsin law allowed police to cite Haass for failure to report an accident along with failure to maintain control of his vehicle, considering the different factors.
Chief Haass maintains regular attendance at the monthly Dresser Village Board meetings, with the duty or expectation that he will share monthly reports on police matters as they pertain to the Dresser community.
Haass was present throughout the board meeting May 7, and he gave updates on having notified residents about animal licensing and nuisance properties in April.
The board also approved a cost of $914 for radiator replacement in the village’s 2014 Dodge Durango police vehicle, along with other costs not to exceed $700 for shipping and installation of a new siren control box on the vehicle.
Chief Haass concluded his regular portion of Monday’s board meeting with what he said would be his only public statement in regard to his personal legal issues from last winter.
He said the incidents in February forced him to accept he had made “poor decisions” in his private life, and that he has since begun to get professional help for correcting those issues.
“I am glad to say that part of my life is in the past at this point,” Haass said. He said that he would welcome more questions from board members or any other residents. “My office is always open.”
May 10, 2018
Police department dealing with short staff
St. Croix Falls Police Chief Erin Murphy was on hand to present his report to the St. Croix Falls City Council at their meeting on Monday night.
Murphy noted that the current members of the police department have been good about taking on extra shifts to assure that there is 24-hour coverage.
“Have you considered reducing patrols and what kind of impact that would have on the budget?” inquired Alderwoman Joy Zasadny.
“We are a 24-hour agency and that’s the way it is,” observed Murphy. “We have the call volume to support it and we owe it to the taxpayers to have coverage all hours of the day.”
Zasadny noted that in the past the department hadn’t been 24 hours. Murphy pointed out that it had been a 23 and a half hour department.
Chief Murphy requested that the cap be lifted on the accrual of vacation time through the end of the year. Since officers with the department have been covering extra shifts, many of them have reached the limit of accrued vacation.
Murphy noted that the fiscal impact of doing so should be minimal in the department’s budget.
As the department has dealt with being short staffed, officers haven’t always been able to take the vacation days they requested. The chief pointed out that this presents a “morale issue.”
The City received approximately 20 applications for its police officer positions. “Lower numbers of people are going into law enforcement,” observed Murphy.
Zasadny observed that the city was then fortunate to receive so many candidates.
“Actually, not really,” observed Murphy. “About half of those were dismissed outright for the simple fact they do not meet the minimum qualifications for the job. Out of them, we have about three that we are considering.”
Alderman Brent Waak, who also serves as a deputy with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department, concurred with Murphy, “It is really difficult to find and retain people.”
Chief Murphy also detailed the monthly report, observing that 21 hours were spent at the hospital.
Zasadny inquired why officers spent that amount of time at the hospital. “Don’t they have their own security?”
“In some cases we are taking someone to be medically cleared, before the jail will admit them,” observed Murphy. “In other cases it may have to do with mental health issues as well as providing service and assistance to security and other agencies.”
Zasadny asked whether or not the hospital was assessed or helped offset the expense for time spent at the facility. Murphy stated that there was no such agreement.
Alderman Chris Chelberg asked about the type of coverage for Dresser and how that impacted the department.
“It depends on the type of call and who’s closest,” said Murphy, noting there had been occasions when he had been contacted directly by faculty at the Dresser school.
Zasadny noted that the police department accounted for 70 percent of the budget and so was concerned about how cuts to expenses may be made.
“I am inclined to let the department head run the department,” stated Mayor Arne Carlson.
While the council did not have an overt issue with approving the removal of the vacation accrual cap, Alderman Waak asked that a breakdown of the projected costs of doing so be prepared.
In other business, Fire Chief Mike Dorsey noted that the fire department has lost a couple more members, “We can’t seem to draw anyone out of the community. So if anyone has any recruitment ideas, let me know.”
May 17, 2018
City to auction parcels online
Alder woman Joy Zasadny was in attendance at the St. Croix Falls Planning Commission Monday night to discuss excess parcels of property that might be put up for sale online in an effort to get them back on the tax rolls.
“I have come up with three (options) that we can experiment with,” said Zasadny. “On Block 75 of Highway 87, Lots 6,7 and 8.”
The three parcels are side by side and include part of a road right of way. The lots, which would be sold together, total .33 acres.
It was pointed out that the right of way couldn’t be sold and that the city would have to vacate that road. Which presented another issue, that the parcels could be considered landlocked since access to Highway 87 is rarely granted by the Department of Transportation. In addition, the grade of the parcels near the road would make access difficult if not impossible.
“Just a word of caution,” observed planning commissioner Brian Blesi. “The city may be asked to open an unopened street. The city is responsible for a platted street. There are certain streets, portions of them that the city has been sued over many times.”
Zasadny noted that if the city were to vacate the road that they may be able to tax it in the future. The parcels in question might be of interest to the adjoining landowners, which would eliminate the access concern.
Zasadny proposed two other locations. The three lots on the east side of the esker near the hospital.
In the past the St. Croix Regional Medical Center had approached the city regarding the lots, as they wanted to extend their ring road parking lot.
The proposed sale caused a furor among neighboring properties as they voiced concerns about cutting further into the esker, among other things.
In that case, the city backed away from the sale and the parcels were zoned conservancy. Such a zoning classification would further complicate sale. The lots in question have about 100 feet of flat, buildable land. About enough room for 1,000 square foot house if one were to build there, and a variance would have to be granted.
All three parcels on the east side of the esker would be about 0.9 acres.
Zadasny also put forward two lots on Block 24, Lots 9 and 10 of Georgia Street, west of the football field.
Two elderly residents who were moving out of state donated the lots in question. They had been unable to sell them in a timely manner and so gave them over to the city to do with what they wanted.
Size wise, the property is buildable, but there may be problems with accessing it. There is also the issue of not being able to build when the grade is over 12.5 percent.
A lot of interest has been expressed by members of the city council in divesting itself of extra parcels and getting them on the tax rolls.
Zasadny noted that Polk County has sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 parcels of tax forfeited properties.
“I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel,” said Zasadny. “I’m trying to do what works. If it’s good enough for the county, it’s good enough for us.”
Blesi noted that the base value of the properties would have to be determined.
“Land is worth what people are willing to pay for it,” observed Zasadny, adding that she would be more comfortable discussing such matters in closed session.
Blesi made the motion, which was seconded by Milt Stanze, to recommend to the city council that the two lots on the west side of the esker and the aforementioned 3 parcels located off from Highway 87 be put forward as a trial run on the online auction.
If all goes well, then more of the city’s excess property may find its way online.
May 24, 2018
SCF Class of 2018 boasts 100 percent grad rate
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
The commencement ceremony for the St. Croix Falls High School Class of 2018 boasts a graduation rate of 100 percent, and all of them are looking forward to a bright future.
High School Principal Peggy Ryan addressed the masses of wellwishers assembled to see their friends and loved ones graduate.
Ryan noted the stellar work done by the students that made up the Class of 2018 and the accomplishments they had made.
Co-Valedictorian Addie McCurdy addressed the audience and her fellow students in her speech, “It’s Time.” Time to draw closed the chapter of their life that included their careers at St. Croix Falls High. Most students will pursue higher education, a few will be enlisting in the military and yet others will join the workforce.
Following her speech McCurdy joined other members of her barbershop quartet, (Claire Scharfenberg and Grace and Anna Klein). The quartet took first place at the state competition and impressed the crowd with a rendition of What a Wonderful World.
Claire Scharfenberg reminded her classmates that the lessons that they learned as children still apply to the world today with her speech “Kindergarten Concepts.” Reminders that simple things such as saying “please” and “thank you.” Will get them a long way as they enter into the world as tentative adults.
Co-Valedictorian Katie Herrick gave voice to the battle that seems to occur from one generation to the next and the disdain that preceding generations feel towards their successors. Generation Xers dealt with it and now it’s the turn of the Millennials.
Herrick’s speech was entitled “Ruining the World.” However, Herrick pointed out that she, her classmates, and her generation weren’t ruining the world, but may in fact be the ones saving it. She noted that many of her classmates have great aspirations and are ready to contribute what they can and be productive members of society. There are a lot of members of the Class of 2018 that have a lot to offer the world. It will take time, but eventually these intrepid youth who left the hallowed halls of St. Croix High for the last time will leave their mark on the world, all of them.
That is the highly unusual thing. All of the students in the class earned their diplomas. An occurrence that Ryan noted previously as “highly unusual.”
How does that square with state and national averages? As of 2016 the top 10 states and their graduation rates (percentages) are as follows:
1. Iowa, 90.8, 2. New Jersey, 89.7, 3. Alabama, 89.3, 4. Texas, 89, 5. Nebraska, 88.9
6. Wisconsin, 88.4, 7. New Hampshire, 88.1, 8. Kentucky, 88, 9. Tennessee, 87.9, 10. Missouri, 87.8.
Wisconsin is running in the middle of the pack in the top 10, which isn’t a terrible place to be considering the District of Columbia (DC) has the lowest graduation rate of 68.5 percent for the 2014-2015 school year. New Mexico has the second lowest graduation rate in the nation with 68.6 percent.
In some cases states and their respective school districts have been battling to improve graduation rates. It is a long slow battle as the greatest increase from year to year isn’t usually more than few percentage points at the most.
And that’s what makes the 100 percent achieved by the St. Croix Falls School District so notable. As schools are facing even more stringent budgets, cuts to programming and less sympathetic views from the public as well as state and national leadership, St. Croix Falls showed what can be done.
May 31, 2018
Hailing historic homes and the king of St. Croix Falls
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
Last week, the St. Croix Falls City Council approved the designation of 112 North Madison Avenue as a historic site.
The home, which now belongs to the Foss family, at one time belonged to Roy Lewis Patterson, a noted American League baseball player.
Mike Prichard of the Historic Preservation Commission presented the following information to the council:
Patterson threw out the first pitch and recorded the first win (8-2) in American League baseball history on April 24, 1901 when he was pitching for the Chicago White Stockings. The team that eventually became known as the White Sox. He and his team went up against the Cleveland Blues.
Patterson was originally born in Stoddard, in December 1876. His family relocated to St. Croix Falls when he was five years old.
Patterson began playing baseball in the early 1890s. He started out as a pitcher for the New Richmond Millers and other local teams. Roy wed his wife Mabel Anderson in St. Croix Falls in 1900.
In August of 1899, Charles Comiskey, owner of the St. Paul Saints (a Western League team), signed Patterson. In 1901, the Saints moved to Chicago to join the American League, which had been formed in January of that year.
He continued his baseball career until he returned to St. Croix Falls in the autumn of 1923 when he took over his father’s drayage (transport of goods over short distances) business.
Patterson became known as “Comiskey’s Boy Wonder” during his career spanned 1901-1907. His win-loss record at the end of his tenure with the Chicago White Sox was 81-72 and his ERA (earned run average) was 2.75, though he was said to be suffering arm injuries.
In 1906, Patterson was considered instrumental in winning the pennant pitching five out of seven days for said title.
Unfortunately, that feat took its toll and because of the strain placed on his arm, Patterson was unable to compete against the Chicago Cubs. The White Sox still won that one 4 to 2.
Following his career in the American Baseball League, Patterson continued pitching in the minor leagues as well as managing and coaching.
After retiring from baseball, Patterson was still active and stayed in shape. One way was taking long swims in the river above the hydroelectric dam.
In 1938, he was named the King of St. Croix Falls during the city’s centennial celebration. Patterson passed away April 14, 1953.
June 7, 2018
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