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February 22, 2020

1/2/2020 4:07:00 PM
A look back on 2019

In 2019 a number of school district building projects approved by voters the year before, started opening up.  

The Chisago Lakes District celebrated with an open house at the new community center and the opening of the new Lakeside School with ribbon-cutting officially in October, shortly after students had occupied it for  the first-ever new school year.  

Taylors Falls Elementary opened its new media center space a little later.  

North Branch opened its high school addition, community fitness spaces and the new football stadium was put in use. The North Branch district continues renovations at additional sites in spring 2020.  

Demolition of the old Lakeside School in Chisago City took place in late fall.  The vacant site is now on the market.  

Meanwhile, the time capsule was saved from the old Lakeside building as it was razed-- and opened December 20. (See story Dec. 26 edition.)

December brings the departure of longtime County Auditor Dennis Freed who retires. His position is switched to being appointed and there won’t be anybody on a ballot for the job, as the County Board appoints Chief Deputy Auditor Bridgitte Konrad to the Auditor-Treasurer post.

The sheriff office announces its newest K9 unit is  activated.  A Belgian Malinoix, “Ghost” replaces Recon, who retired to spend more time with his law enforcement family.

In late fall there was a fatality on the freeway and a Marine-on-St Croix man is being tried criminally in connection with the incident. The victim, a 63-year-old Moose Lake man, died when his car rolled, allegedly after being struck from behind by a pickup truck driven by Samuel Dakota Moreno, 23.

The Royal Lady for Taylors Falls was head of the Lighting Festival Parade in late November.  Royal Lady Carol Schumann  also thought it would be great to begin a new tradition of holding a tea for Royal Ladies and the public and initiated this event as of this year.

The area recognized the achievements of two new Eagle Scouts-- Lars Heinecke and Alex Schmidt.

In November the National Park Service solicited public input on re-designing the Osceola Landing on the St Croix. A plan will be announced later based on the public’s feedback.

Chisago City Council lifted its moratorium that had been halting new solar installations while an ordinance was reviewed for several months.
The local Legion Posts are celebrating 150 years of existence.

Lindstrom and its Economic Development Authority agree to swap land and the new Lindstrom Fire Hall is approved to be designed for the 1.6 acres of a former commercial/industrial lot next to the plastics plant offices-- by city hall.  The fire hall on mainstreet will be under EDA control now.  The old fire hall’s future is not determined yet, but it reportedly needed costly roof repairs, was under-sized for modern rigs and was becoming unsafe.

October 10 the Governor visits Chisago County and he applauds the partnerships between schools and manufacturing and city efforts to attract manufacturing.  He tours Rosenbauer, in Wyoming.

Homecoming Royals are named for North Branch and Chisago Lakes...for the Vikings the Queen is Chloe Triggs and King is Carter Whitman.  The royals for the Wildcats are Paige Bergquist and Kaleb Bruce.

The opening of the new Lakeside School takes place with a ribbon-cutting in early October.

End of summer has the area lake associations and the Lake Improvement District (LID) initiate phragmites invasive species controls-- part of which is using funding for spraying herbicide on various patches of the invasive reed.  In the field and in ditches the reed is also being cut down.  This is part of a multi year effort that will require continued vigilance to keep this invasive from inundating the landscape as has happened in other states.

A former public school teacher is sentenced when he pleads to counts of possessing child pornography. Robert Bruce Zemlin, 48, gets 90 days in jail and is on 10 years probation.
The city of Taylors Falls gets back up to full strength staff-wise, semi-retired engineer Steve Heth is hired after Adam Berklund left city hall.

Warner Nature Center a popular student field trip destination and nearby (northern Washington County) environmental education facility announces it is closing at the end of 2019.

County Administrator Bruce Messelt accepts a job elsewhere.  The deputy county administrator Chase Burnham steps up to serve in the interim until advertising, interviews and a hire can be done.

North Branch has another Royal to be proud of...former Midsummer Days Ambassador Elise Toussaint will be Queen of the Lakes for the Minneapolis Aquatennial in 2020.  She was chosen over dozens of other local town celebration contestants who sought the Aquatennial honor.

Cities in the Hwy 8 corridor get involved with “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon” organization and begin local programming and outreach meant to help local military families, veterans and others with hardships and challenges due to serving in the military.  Cities along the Highway 8 corridor establish Beyond the Yellow Ribbon committees and the organization helps vets’ families with everything from storm damage cleanup and with holiday needs.

Conservationists of the Year for the county, announced by the Soil & Water Conservation District are Randy and Karen Carlson of Harris. They have qualified as a “water quality certified farm” among other measures they have implemented to be environmentally friendly.

North Branch School District officials throw the open house in September for placing a time capsule in their high school addition and for the public to tour the construction projects that are complete.

Area healthcare provider, the St. Croix Valley Medical Center, holds a party for the public and celebrates 100 years.  The organization began a hospital operation in a house in St. Croix Falls and now has clinics in various regional cities and the hospital has expanded many times.

Meanwhile the Rush City Hospital comes down. A farewell tour is held by the historical society and Fairview-- in August.

Summer 2019 brings all the usual celebrations at local communities.

Grand Marshals for area parades included:  Terrie Trudeau, Center City Days, Amy Frischmon and Dan Raedeke for Wannigan Days,  Keith Carlson and Joan Carlson in Lindstrom Karl Oskar Days, Dave Reider is grand marshal in North Branch Midsummer Parade, Pastor Ron Gerl in Chisago City Ki-Chi-Saga Days parade.

KO Days selects royalty and they are, Keegan Miller, Olivia Koesters and Abby Pratt.  Midsummer Days doesn’t hold an ambassador (royalty) pageant this year.

Ki-Chi-Saga Days chooses Alexis Kamppi  as Little Miss.

The Relay for Life event has three co-chairs for the summer fundraiser event for the American Cancer Society...Betty Fogel, Vickie Duschaine and Doug Brown are honored during the relay held in July, at the North Branch Outlet Mall.

Former County Commissioner Lora Walker is sentenced for a fatal vehicle crash in March 2017. She was in the midst of an episode where she was unaware of her blood sugar levels, and hit a car head-on on I-35 killing that driver. The judge decided she would serve 90 days at-home confinement with an electronic monitor and will not be allowed to drive again and is on 10 years probation.

In early summer the levels of the Chisago Chain are up and the channel between North Center and North Lindstrom lakes is open for the first time in many years.  People enjoy the new adventure being able to boat under the new County Road 20 bridge.  

There is a Congressional hearing in Chisago County for the first time in modern memory. Representative Pete Stauber brings his small business subcommittee to Franconia, where Bulltear Industries hosts a fact-finding hearing on Broadband needs in rural areas.

The bike trail ribbon-cutting is held in Shafer, May 11.  The Swedish Immigrant Regional Trail has seen some major segments completed this year, but it’s still a work in progress.

Lakes Area Police go to bodyworn cameras.  It is the first law enforcement agency locally to utilize the devices.

The Gloria and Charles Wilberg Family gifts $100,000 to the Taylors Falls Library.
~ Ardent Mills announces it will close the Rush City mill in early 2020. It was built in 1910 and converted to durum processing in 1926.

~ Security State Bank of Marine celebrates 100 years.

~ Lindstrom Boy Scout Troop159 marks its 75th year.

~ Hazelden-Betty Ford is 70 years old and announces a multi-million dollar possibly two year construction plan at the Center City campus, that will tear down two units Cronin and Promises replacing them with a new two story building and will leave only Jellinek as the “vintage” unit on campus.

North Branch Middle School gets a new principal as Kelly Detzler succeeds Todd Tetzlaff-- who accepts a new job with the district as director of finance.
Wyoming gets a new fire chief  as Jesse Milligan is sworn in to hold the post.

The state auctioneers’ Hall of Fame gets LeeAnn VandeKamp as its newest inductee.  She has been leading auctions locally for 28 years and has been active in the association.

Chisago Lakes Dance Team is among the top three in 2AA and goes to state.

Eric Coleman, 46, is sentenced early in 2019 for his responsibility in the death of an 8 year old in December 2018.  Coleman gets 150 months for the murder charge and 365 days for the conviction on DUI.  The victim, Alan Geisenkoetter inspires the state legislature to act quickly on closing a loophole. Now, under Little Alan’s Law--  on-street DUI offenders are no longer eligible for snowmobile or boating privileges.  

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