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Police Department welcomes K9 Ikar
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
The St. Croix Falls Police Department has been fundraising to procure their very own K9 officer. While they were very near to achieving their fundraising goal, the department got approval to go ahead with procurement of the animal, and a vehicle to accommodate the team.
St. Croix Falls has seen the drug problem grow, in particular methamphetamine, but other drugs like cocaine and heroin are not uncommon. 
The City of St. Croix Falls is also a place for drug interdiction with Highway 8 traveling through it and the river crossing to Minnesota.
Until now, the department has relied on assistance from the Polk County Sheriff’s Department or other agencies to provide assistance. Now, instead of having to wait for aid from another agency, the department will soon be able to execute searches on their own. 
This week, the St. Croix Falls Police Department is introducing K9 Ikar to the public.
Ikar is a two-year-old male German Shepherd from the Czech Republic. Ikar has been partnered with Officer Patrick Mariakis, who has spent the last three weeks developing a tighter relationship while participating in a 12-week K9 training program.
Ikar will be utilized for narcotics, criminal apprehension, officer safety calls, search and rescue, and tracking.
“Ikar will be a great asset to the police department, citizens, and the communities surrounding St. Croix Falls,” the department stated in a press release.
The St. Croix Falls Police Department has committed to raising the necessary funds for the K9 program without creating a burden on taxpayers.
All of the funds raised to date have been raised through the generosity of donors through the St. Croix Falls Police K9 Association, some grants, and special gifts.
Everyone is invited to help. The department has secured a police SUV that will be outfitted for Ikar. The items still needed for the vehicle includes a two-section rear seat cage, which will allow for his own protected space, while still allowing space for a prisoner. The cost of the partition is $2,600.
The vehicle will also be equipped with a heat sensor system that automatically engages a fan to keep Ikar cool during hot days. That system costs $500.
The vehicle requires a bail out system, which opens the rear door by remote if the handler requires assistance of the heat sensor indicates an unsafe temperature. The cost for this system is $300.
Other K9 specific items are required for the vehicle build. To date the department has raised $40,000 of their $50,000 goal. They will continue to raise additional funds to fund themselves fully.
For more information and an opportunity to donate visit the St. Croix Falls K9 Association’s Facebook page.
April 9, 2020
Keeping busy during trying times
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
These are trying times for everyone. Students are out of school, many parents are out of work, and then there is waking up every morning with an existential threat and the knowledge that one misstep at Wal-mart or getting gas, or picking up groceries at the local store, things that were so mundane just a few months ago could be the errand that a person could contract the Covid-19 virus.
Many people are behaving themselves and trying to obey the safer at home orders and observe social distancing. Others scoff at such measures and are not only putting themselves at risk, but also their friends, family and neighbors.
The activities that everyone took for granted are now things that are sorely missed. The school year ended abruptly and seniors will have a memorable last year for all the wrong reasons. As of right now, there are no proms, no graduation, no games at the ball park. Students have had to step up and level up.
While the social distractions that can occur have all but been removed, students are having to learn in a new way, take up new responsibilities to keep their education moving forward, and it can be a challenge.
For some, the isolation can prove too much and on the other side of this global pandemic it is likely many people will be suffering with post traumatic stress.
Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Stress during disease outbreaks can include: fear and worry about one’s own health, or the health of their loved ones, change in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, the worsening of chronic health problems, the worsening of mental health conditions, and the increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. How a person responds can depend on their background. 
Those who may react more extremely to the current crisis are older people and people with chronic disease who are at higher risk if they contact the coronavirus, children and teens, people who are helping in the response like health care providers and first responders and those who already have mental health conditions, including substance abuse.
There are some steps everyone can take to cope during this stressful time. Start by taking breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, that includes social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. COVID-19 has permeated nearly every aspect of life, so much so that 2019 just seems like a blessed memory. Find something, anything to entertain or inform that is unrelated to coronavirus. Give the brain a chance to think other thoughts, even if it’s just for a little while.
Stress can play havoc with your immune system. It is important to take care of physical well-being at times like this. Try to eat healthy well-balanced meals. And while staying at home is leading to some packing on the pounds, it is important to exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep.
There are ways to exercise without violating social distancing guidelines. St. Croix Falls is known as the City of Trails for a reason. Times like this, the fresh air and sunshine can do a world of good for a person’s sense of well-being.
It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, worry and grief during and after a disaster, everyone reacts differently and feelings change overtime. Acknowledge and accept the feelings. Taking care of emotional health during an emergency will help a person think clearly and react to the urgent need to protect oneself as well as their family.
People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue their treatment plans during the emergency and monitor for any new symptoms.
Those with children are facing a unique set of challenges and that includes ensuring their kids make it through this calamity unscathed both mentally and physically.
Some children react right away while others may show signs of difficulty much later. Children react, in part, based on what they see from the adults around them. If the adults around them are dealing with the situation calmly, that can provide the best support for their child. People can be come more distressed if they see repeated images in the media. It may be a good idea to limit the amount of exposure to media coverage.
Setting a good example by managing stress, keeping a schedule, eating well and exercising can go a long way towards benefiting children and young adults in the home.
While some parents may be better than others at it, everyone is encouraged to talk to their children so that they know that their parents and guardians are prepared and will keep them safe.
Also, by reviewing plans with children it can give them confidence and a sense of control.
The coronavirus has everyone going just a little bit stir crazy. Some young adults have managed to stay in contact with their friends via social media, but as any one of them will tell you, it is just not the same thing.
There are at least three St. Croix Falls students that aren’t going to waste their quarantine time sitting on the couch. Last week, the three girls decided to walk a marathon around town.
The trio started off at 6 a.m. walked a total of 26.4 miles in nine hours and 21 minutes. While they got a few blisters along the way, they did it. 
While everyone is dealing with this stressful situation in their own way, there are things that one can do to alleviate what they are experiencing. While not everyone is up to walking a marathon, they can take a hike or take up a challenge that they never had time to consider before.
If a person is having a hard time coping with the new normal there are resources out there. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-TALK or the Crisis Text line (text HELLO to 741741).
April 23, 2020

​Civic Auditorium receives some grace
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
The St. Croix Falls City Council held a three-hour meeting via zoom, which was streamed live on Facebook, on Monday night.
Two items regarding the Civic Auditorium were held over from previous meetings. It is fair to say that former mayor, Arnie Carlson was not a supporter of the project, and had been battling against it. In particular he did not want to see the project completed with the use of TIF funds.
Members who were openly hostile to the project were appointed to the Community Development Authority, who oversees expenditures from the TIF. At their first meeting, members of the CDA were asking how they could procure outside legal opinion regarding the use of TIF funds, rather than learn their duties as members, the original purpose of the meeting.
Months later the former mayor called together the joint review board, which is populated by the tax entities that the TIF District is located within (the school district, WITC, Polk County, city). Carlson argued that because the project no longer included the proposed hotel portion of the project and because of that it would no longer expand the tax base and therefore did not qualify as a TIF project.
The board voted to remove their approval for the project, with the school district representative abstaining, stating that the matter had not been brought before the school board for consideration and therefore they could not make an educated decision on the matter.
No formal action was taken on the two agenda items until Monday night. Alderman Jeff Virchow gave new council members Joe Snyder and Craig Lien an abridged version of what happened to get them up to speed.
“By way of a recap, the CDA was terminated in December (2019) for operating outside the scope of their authority and violating the cooperative agreement with the city for their attempts to scuttle the project,” noted Virchow, adding the recommendation of the now defunct CDA was irrelevant.
Alderman Warren White made the clarification that the volunteers who served on the CDA were not irrelevant, only the actions they took on the matter.
The council voted unanimously not to accept the recommendation of the CDA due to the fact that the situation has changed and their recommendation is no longer applicable.
The situation has changed because a private investor has been found that is interested in the Civic Auditorium as well as the lot next door.
The council also voted to disregard the decision of the Joint Review Board for the same reason. The information that they based their decision on is no longer valid because the situation has changed.
It was also pointed out that WITC based their decision on a legal opinion that they had received at the time.
For now, for the first time in many months, if not years, the Civic Auditorium project is not in immediate jeopardy and isn’t currently on the chopping block, though it is not for lack of trying on the part of some of the powers that were.
It is hard to say what will happen with the Civic Auditorium project. While it has had staunch supporters of the past decade, it has also had some very vocal opposition. The idea that those who have spoke so loudly against it will suddenly go quiet, even though opponents of the project were so soundly defeated in this spring’s election, seems unlikely.
April 30, 2020
Students share what they are thankful for 
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
There is little doubt that students, especially seniors feel that they got shafted. Prom has been canceled. Schools are trying to figure out how to do virtual commencements and awards ceremonies.
During this time there is fear and uncertainty for many, students and adults included. For some kids, school is an escape for an unhappy home life. It is a social place that may help them feel less isolated.
This time in history which is being experienced is putting pressure on individuals and families as a whole, but there are some students in the St. Croix Falls School District that have still found something to be grateful for.
What follows are excerpts of letters from freshman Saints sharing what they are grateful for.
“Dear Government Leaders,
“Thank you for keeping everything in line and on track, especially during this time.
“Because of you, America is going to fight this virus and overcome it, and be on top in the end.
“I know that being a government leader is not an easy job and that it takes a lot of work and effort to keep everything right. It is a lot of pressure to make some hard decisions on certain topics, and you try to do your best to do the right thing. Thank you for handling the pressure through the time of COVID-19, and working hard to help move America along.
“Your decisions allow US citizens to have many privileges like the right to vote, run for office, have freedom, etc.
“Thank you for keeping us safe and handling the current situation so well. I would not want to have anyone else in your position than you…”
Brianna McCurdy
The next letter was addressed to the voters in the recent school district referendum:
“I am grateful for everyone that took the time to vote for the school referendum. As you all know, it passed! I feel blessed to live in a community and a nation that so strongly supports its students and places a high value on offering much-needed equipment, supplies, and space. 
“It takes a lot these days to support students and it can come at a high price. I will never forget the generosity it took from the community for me to be able to go to a school with a new weight room. I love lifting weights and believe it helps kids have the opportunity to burn off energy.
Thanks Again,”
Tyler Olson
Another student expressed their gratitude for poll workers and many others:
“Even though I am not of the legal age to vote, I thank polling workers for helping to ensure that our government stays strong.
“Thank you to the school’s referendum on giving us an opinion in our school, and for giving us more power.
“To the lawmakers in not just Wisconsin, everywhere, thank you for keeping us safe in our day to day lives.
“Thank you to our government leaders for taking this situation seriously, and for keeping us safe and healthy…
“Thank you to anyone who has checked up on their friends and asked how they are doing, mentally and physically.”
Summer Cole
Another student expressed her gratitude regarding the passage of the referendum:
“I would like to thank the voters of the SCF referendum. Now student athletes will actually be able to have a nice weight room. I have long awaited this. My brothers are also super grateful.
“Also, the fact that we are getting an actual auditorium is thrilling. Students of the performing arts will finally have a stage to do a wonderful performance, not that we do not already. Think of an actual stage to perform on. It’s going to be lovely. 
“It is not just the students and teachers who are happy. The bus drivers as well. They can clean the buses inside a garage. Now some will not to have to park outside in the gravel parking lot.
“Thank you so much.”
Hailey Reed
Another student also directed their gratitude towards political leadership:
“Dear Government Leader,
Thank you for all your hard work and for trying your best to keep each citizen as safe as possible.
“I’m sure it is very stressful for you with everyone’s opinion being forced on you. I am so thankful that you are trying your best to keep us healthy. It is incredible that throughout all of this we can still have freedoms that other countries no longer have.
“Thank you for representing the people and fighting for our interests. It means a lot to me that you continue to help our country maintain our freedoms. So again, thank you…”
Olivia Britton
As is apparent, many students were aware of the referendum and what it meant for the student body:
“To the voters in the recent SCF school referendum,
First of all, I want to thank you for voting for the referendum because this will benefit our school in many ways. This could really be a great addition to our school. I know that many kids could utilize the weight room and auditorium. Our sports athletes can train with the new equipment and a bigger weight room. They will benefit from this by getting stronger and improving in the sport.
“Our drama program may also become bigger in our school. Not only will the auditorium benefit kids in theater, it will also benefit teachers who would like to do a class discussion there.
“The juniors could also use the auditorium for their junior seminar so they aren’t all crowded in a small room.
“So overall, I would like to say thank you, because you really are helping our school become better.”
Lydia Bainbridge
The final letter is again directed to leadership:
“Dear Government Leader,
I would like to personally thank you for keeping our state safe from the COVID-19 outbreak. I know that you are doing all you can to keep us safe. 
“I respect that you have canceled school and spring sports. I know that you are doing it to keep us healthy.
“Also, I have heard that we might be opening up our country some time in the near future. That would be nice…I miss my friends and I cannot wait to see them again.
“I understand that you guys are doing all you can to slow the rate of the virus and I support you and your decisions. All in all, I would just like to say thank you for all you have done for us during this pandemic.”
Michael Shannon
It just goes to show you, that there are still things to be grateful for. And while it is very disappointing for the many students that they will be missing out on rites of passage, in the grand scheme of things, while 2020 has been, and will no doubt continue to be a hellacious year, missing some things will seem a small matter in the grand scheme of things.
May 7, 2020
​St. Croix Falls schools boast some of the best
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
The St. Croix Falls School District has a lot of things going for it. A talented student body, both academically and athletically, their referendum just passed, and a dedicated and creative staff. Everything was going great for students and staff alike, until COVID-19 abruptly closed the doors.
There are, however, some bright spots that shine through the gloom. Three teachers and one principal from the district were recognized for all their hard work by the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation.
The Herb Kohl Teacher Fellowship recognizes teachers who have demonstrated superior ability to inspire love of learning in their students, have motivated others, and have provided meritorious service both inside and outside the classroom.
The Herb Kohl Educational Foundation has been recognizing educational excellence annually since 1990, awarding fellowships to 100 Wisconsin teachers and matching grants to each teacher's school. 
Shawn Gudmunsen
Gudmunsen is a vocal/music teacher for both the middle and high school as well as an alumni of the district.
A $6000 Herb Kohl Educational Foundation 2020 Teacher Fellowship has been awarded to Shawn Gudmunsen. The school will receive a matching $6,000 grant.
Chris Wondra
Wondra is a language arts teacher at St. Croix Falls Middle School. He also earned a fellowship award.
A $6000 Herb Kohl Educational Foundation 2020 Teacher Fellowship has been awarded to Chris Wondra, teacher at St. Croix Falls Middle School. The school will receive a matching $6,000 grant.
Denise Sinclear-Todd
Sinclear-Todd has been with the district for many years serving as a physical education teacher and gymnastics coach in the past.
Sinclear-Todd currently serves the district as a guidance counselor and is a familiar face at school functions of every kind.
Sinclear-Todd also received a $6,000 fellowship award. The school will also receive a $6,000 matching grant.
Elementary Principal Rita Platt
Last, but not least, is Elementary School Principal Rita Platt. Platt is known for her love of the kids in her school and her unquenchable zest for life. She has even published a book on education aimed at helping other educators.
A $6,000 Herb Kohl 2020 Principal Leadership Award has been given to St. Croix Falls Elementary School principal Rita Platt. Leadership Award recipients are school principals who are being recognized for setting high standards for instruction, achievement and character, and creating a climate to best serve students, families, staff and community. 
It likely has to be some sort of a record for a school district have three teachers and a principal earn these fellowship/leadership awards. Not only did they earn money for their own classroom, they earned just as much for their districts.
Currently in its 30th year of recognizing educational excellence, the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation has awarded $21.2 million to Wisconsin students, teachers, principals and schools. 
May 14, 2020

​Mayor makes statement regarding opening back up
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
St. Croix Falls Mayor Kirk Anderson is entering his term under some unique and unforeseen circumstances.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw the country and the state shutdown. Non-essential businesses were ordered closed, schools were closed, and life as it was known was turned on its head as everyone was instructed to avoid each other in hopes of slowing down the disease’s progression through the population.
Because cases were still on the rise, the Safer at Home order was extended. Republicans in the legislature cried foul, and the conservative Supreme Court at the state level agreed. Wisconsinites have been turned loose with seemly little guidance and no cogent plan in place. As the governor stated in an interview, it’s the wild west.
Mayor Anderson released a statement via his Facebook page, shortly after the 4-3 Supreme Court decision was announced:
“As mayor, I understand that there are a variety of concerns about what this means for our businesses and you personally. You may be excited, nervous, nervous or angry about this court decision.
“I am hopeful. I am hopeful that businesses can reopen and operate effectively and profitably, without compromising public or personal safety.
“The court’s decision ruled the DHS Emergency Order 28 ‘unlawful’ and ‘unenforceable,’ ending it effective immediately.
“(Note: the Court declined the Legislature’s request to stay any enforcement of an injunction for six days, noting that two weeks have passed since they began considering the case and ‘…therefore, we trust that the Legislature and Palm [Secretary designee] have placed the interests of the people of Wisconsin first and have been working together in good faith to establish a lawful tule that addresses COVID-19…’
“I believe that everyone is striving to do what is best to protect the health and economic well being of Wisconsin residents and this latest decision highlights the need of everyone to work together to make our way through the situation.
“The court’s decision confirms that we are currently able to open for business, but also suggests that the court trusts that the DHS and legislature should already be working together in good fait to establish a lawful order to deal COVID-19, so be prepared for that too.
“Keep in mind that on May 1, the Polk County Board voted on and passed a resolution urging Governor Evers to ‘allow regions within the State to determine for themselves the best and safest way to allow businesses to slowly reopen’ and ‘encourages local officials to exercise their discretion on enforcement of the Governor’s Orders in a manner that is reasonable, especially when businesses are following physical distancing and other recommended safety measures.’
“Also, on April 21, Polk County Sheriff Brent Waak made it very clear that his agency would not be using its resources to enforce the DHS Order #28, leaving that to the discretion of the health department and local law enforcement agencies.
“Wednesday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court decision immediately ended the DHS Order #28, opening up Wisconsin businesses, but it does not eliminate the need for Wisconsinites to be vigilant moving forward.
“Businesses and individuals should understand that COVID-19 is still a significant health threat and should take preventative actions to protect their customers and themselves from the COVID-19 virus.
“Businesses are encouraged to pay close attention to state and local health department recommendations regarding the Supreme Court decision and watch for possible new rules enacted through the legislature and the governor.
“Before Wednesday’s court decision the WEDC [Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation] had already issued detailed reopening guidelines to be followed under the emergency order. I urge you to read through these guidelines as soon as possible,” Anderson concluded.
Guidelines can be found at wedc.org/reopen-guidelines.
Anderson also included an update from the Polk County Health Department released on May 14. As of this time, the local county health department is recommending the following:
-Businesses should still check with their insurance provider and legal counsel (if applicable).
-Businesses should follow the WEDC business-specific guidance (each business sector has a toolkit).
-Businesses should implement physical distancing and public health recommendations to the fullest extent possible (a physical distancing guideline is four people per 1,000 square feet, or operating at 25 percent capacity).
-Businesses can call the health department for technical assistance. They will try to educate to get businesses to operate safely.
-If something “egregious” is occurring, people are asked to contact the health department so that they can work collaboratively to address the issue.
There is the potential for future action from the State, so it is uncertain where things may go. 
May 21, 2020