January 7, 2010 at 9:15 a.m.

Looking back at 2009

Looking back at 2009
Looking back at 2009

Looking back on 2009 there was no shortage of stories about local people making this world a better place, and for sure improving Chisago County's corner of the world.

We also saw controversy and compromise when it came to many hotly contested issues facing elected officials and citizens.

The following are some of the highlights we remember in looking back on 2009.

Financial troubles were front and center in all the news outlets, and Chisago County was no exception.

The first Minnesota bank to be closed in this recent spate of troubled institutions was one located in Chisago County and a second local banking enterprise changed its signage and ownership not long after the first.

North Branch's Horizon Bank closed and went under the Stearns Bank umbrella along with Mainstreet Bank, Center City, which was bought by Central Bank. The RiverBank in 2009 was placed under FDIC special rules through what's called a cease and desist order, and appears to be working its way out of a troubled loan portfolio and other issues.

Another financial concern -- the condition of the North Branch School District budget-- was in the 2009 spotlight.

The district went to the voters for additional funding asking two ballot questions and both failed by a margin of about two-to-one. North Branch School Board wanted $335 per pupil extra in local taxes to balance the regular expenditures and revenues and asked for $140 for technical curriculum support and got neither.

This was a good year and bad year for special projects....

The Vietnam Traveling Healing Wall arrived after years of planning work by a team of local boosters and was a highly memorable event.

This installation travels nationally and was set up in a field at Chisago Lakes High School where many thousands visited Sept. 11-13 over the 24/7 timeframe it was open.

Sno-Barons Club landed the County Board's approval to move forward on its hugely controversial "Hay Days" event and began site work. The vote was 4-1 with Commissioner Ben Montzka opposed to granting the Conditional Use Permit.

Sno Barons held the final Hay Days at its venue near Forest Lake in September 2009, and the club expects to be ready to roll at the new location, just outside of Almelund, for Hay Days in fall of 2010.

Major public infrastructure projects got underway or were completed in this area.

A $5 million reconstruction of County Road 22 between Chisago City and Wyoming was done over the summer of 2009, in a jointly-funded effort mostly supported by state turnback funding.

The Highway 95- Interstate 35 bridge project broke ground in the fall of 2009. This project continues under traffic and will replace the span, along with realigning roads and intersections and other improvements in the corridor on either side of I-35 in North Branch.

Xcel Energy built a new substation on the west edge of Taylors Falls.

The power company also upgraded powerline capacity from Lindstrom to the St. Croix River, installing taller and more substantial poles and equipment for the boost in power.

A new North Branch post office was opened by the U.S. Postal Service, the leased building now shares the parking lot with the North Branch City Hall.

Wyoming City, and state and county officials celebrated groundbreaking with Xccent manufacturing firm owners. The facility is under construction off 257th Street, near the freeway on the south end of Wyoming, and should open sometime this year.

The County Law Enforcement Center project, however, fell by the wayside in a 4-1 vote by the County Board after extensive planning and study efforts. Commissioner Mike Robinson opposed the motion to halt the process.

There was also a motion to put a new jail project to a citizen referendum that died on a 4-1 vote, with only Lora Walker supporting.

The site where the county planned to build a new law enforcement center is owned by the county, and is just to the east of Center City's urban area, on Highway 8. Development continued anyway, to ready the site with sewer and water, etc. in order to bring some new business to commercial lots the county now has for sale within the law enforcement center site.

A project that wasn't planned on happening affected the Middle School in North Branch.

A severe windstorm/ possibly a tornado damaged the school in August. Students are expected to be back into their repaired classrooms by the middle of this month (Jan 2010.) The district used the multi-purpose room-cafeteria space and any other empty areas it could find to hold classes while roofing and water damage repairs were completed.

In early February the Taylors Falls Elementary School flooded when a stormwater drain froze over and backed up melting snow and ice into the building. But staff quickly got things back in shape.

Also in February 2009 this paper did its first story on LS Power and its plans to develop an electric station in Lent Township.

This power plant continues to hold an important place in many peoples' lives, both who are in support and opposed to this facility getting built.

The county is working on a development agreement but the "Sunrise River Energy Station" has a long way to go before being experiencing any kind of turning point. Applications for permits, which would start state agency review and study, are supposed to be submitted sometime in 2010, LS Power company officials say.

The year 2009 wasn't very far along before we learned of an amazing journey to be undertaken by Chisago Lakes High School graduate, Tyler Fish, Class of 1992. He plans to become the first person to make it across land, unassisted, to the North Pole. Fish spoke to the Chisago Lakes Rotary in January about the expedition.

Fish and his fellow adventurer complete their quest April 25. They used no helicopters, no snowmobiles, no sled dogs, no mode of transportation other than their own legs to make it to the pole.

The Celebration of Lakes recognizes Community Ambassador Don Bungum in January.

In March 2009 Chisago County Press contributor and longtime friend of the paper Richard Hjort and his wife Marlys earn a national honor being chosen out of a community of 12,000 weather observers. The Holm Award went to the Hjorts for 8,120 consecutive days that they had supplied the weather service with exemplary field observation and weather reports.

The Chisago Lakes School District Wall of Fame at the high school added one more important face. Jim Iverson was inducted posthumously in March 2009. He retired with 31 years of education service and countless contributions to the community and to the local music scene.

Also in March a group of Eagle Scouts were recognized in a special mass awarding of the achievement and a scout who missed out on receiving the Eagle because he joined the military many years ago-- Ian Brown-- also got in on the ceremony. Later in the year Matthew Kramer was also awarded the Eagle Scout ranking.

In May 2009 Wyoming Chief of Police Paul Hoppe is sworn-in.

We R Able, a countywide program for those with disabilities that coordinates volunteers and events and support, celebrated its 20th anniversary. Betty Stoffel's been with the program the whole time.

In June the co-chairs for the Chisago County Relay for Life are announced, Missy Brown and Lynn Kienholz.

The North Branch Mid-Summer Days Parade Grand Marshal is Roger Nelson.

The Royal Ambassadors for Mid-Summer Days are: Kaylene Reider, Courtney Warraen, Melissa Melby and Jessica Wojcik.

Also in North Branch, Peter Holmes is appointed to fill the council seat left vacant by Amy Oehlers' election to mayor.

In the Chisago Lakes Area, Violet Norelius serves as Grand Marshal for Karl Oskar Days.

The Karl Oskar Queen is Ali Turnquist.

Wannigan Days Grand Marshals are Arne and Miriam Lagus.

Chisago City holds Ki-Chi-Saga Days and celebrates local citizens Mark and Michelle Anderson as volunteers of the year and Little Miss Ki-Chi-Saga, a title bestowed based on essays submitted on a yearly theme, goes to Hannah Sogard and Annie Dusenka is runner-up.

Senator Al Franken's wife, Fran, makes her first visit in a series of field trips she plans, to better-understand domestic abuse and victim shelter systems in the state. She chooses The Refuge shelter in north Chisago County to visit first. This shelter, which is a donated property/house, accepted its first domestic violence victims just this year.

The North Branch Vikings Homecoming is the first held in the 2009 school year. Homecoming Queen Miranda Charley and King Kyle Grote reign over the homecoming festivities.

The Chisago Lakes Wildcats Homecoming Royals are announced in the Oct. 1 paper: Annalise Serbus and Jesse Hage.

In December Taylors Falls Lighting Festival honors its Royal Lady of the Village, naming Marlys Breeden the 2009 awardee.


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