Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Aug. 13, 2001

HLWW school location is part of discussion for Waverly's future

By Lynda Jensen

A team of Waverly community leaders met Thursday to discuss the community's future in relation to a prospective $10,000 grant to be awarded later this month.

Subjects in the discussion included the impact of Highway 12 expansion on Waverly, the potential relocation of the new high school to 10 miles away, revitalizing the downtown area, and plans for housing.

The grant, called a "healthy communities partnership," is being offered by the Initiative Foundation, which is a non-profit organization serving 16 counties in Minnesota.

Waverly is competing with Dassel-Cokato, Hanover, and Upsala for the grant. There are four grants to be given, but this doesn't mean that Waverly will automatically get it, said Initiative representative Catherine Stoch.

The grant, if given, will create an independent team, complete with a third party consultant, that represents a spectrum of people in the community, and not just city hall or members of the business community, Stoch said.

This allows the grant to communicate with average citizens, such as the elderly, than those who are normally associated with business, participant Jim Vrchota said.

Some groups that are being represented include the Knights of Columbus, the Montrose-Waverly Chamber of Commerce, St. Mary's Catholic Church, the American Legion and the auxiliary, the Economic Development Association, and planning and zoning, Vrchota said.

The timing is critical for Waverly right now, in part because the youth of Waverly may be fractured by the location of a new high school, Citizens State Bank of Waverly President Birdie Jackson said.

"Our kids will have choices," she said, pointing out that every single school around will be 10 miles away if the new Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted high school moves toward Winsted. This includes the following districts: HLWW, Dassel-Cokato, Buffalo, and Delano, Jackson said.

Another reason for timing is development of Highway 12, Gary Olson noted.

Jackson pointed out that Montrose, only a few miles east, is turning out building permits at an astronomical rate and had its industrial park fill up fast.

"We really need to be planning for growth," she said.

For residents, the ideas generated by this team can turn into a new library, youth center, impact highway beautification, or any number of other things, said Initiative representative Karl Samp.

What other towns have done with guidance from the grant:

Libraries - Wyoming and Pine River are working on creating or expanding their libraries. The buildings were donated, Samp said.

Youth centers - Cass Lake developed a boys and girls club, Samp said. Zimmerman got a youth asset building.

River clean-up - Delano used its grant money for cleaning up the Crow River, as well as developing its downtown, Samp said.

heritage celebrations - St. Joseph started a German spring farmer's market to celebrate its farmers and draw people into town.

Melrose created a Mexican independence day, expanded its soccer fields, and hired Hispanic a police officer as a result of suggestions from its grant.

Community theater - Kimball and Long Prairie created community theater troupes, Samp said.

downtown street-scape - The city of Wadena developed its downtown streetscape, and built a new teen center with the help of a philanthropist who donated $40,000.

The streetscape work was followed up with a small cities grant worth just under $1 million from the Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development, Samp said.

Pequot Lakes got the city and township planning boards working cooperatively together for the first time ever.

Ideas suggested at the Waverly meeting included beautifying the highway, planning for growth, developing the downtown area, and the need for senior and rental housing.

'I love Waverly!'

All who attended the meeting agreed that Waverly had several strong points.

"This is a wonderful place to grow up in," commented Ben Borrell. Borrell indicated that he attended the meeting because he wanted to give input from a young person's perspective.

It was noted that young people will be a crucial part of the team's composition.

"I love Waverly!" Angela Lachermeier said. This point was echoed by Jackson, and Pam Henry-Neaton. "We have a good group of people," Henry-Neaton said.

"We're lucky to have the lake," John Rassat added.

Those interested in joining the community development team, or speaking with committee members, should call (763) 658-4417 and ask for Jim Vrchota.

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