Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Dec. 31, 2001

2001: Winsted-Lester Prairie year in review

By Lynda Jensen

January

Plans for a school expansion at Holy Trinity started out the new year.

The proposed project included the addition of a second gymnasium and constructing a new elementary school.

There will also be improvements to the existing schools' heating system and addressing handicapped accessibility issues.

A rough cost estimate was $7 million, Father Paul Wolf said.

During its January meeting, the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School Board planned its next step in the future potential high school site selection.

Proposals from the cities of Winsted and Howard Lake were given Jan. 22 to a school board committee and discussed at the next board meeting.

A sub-committee of board members Gene Lorentz, Jim Raymond and Charles Weber, as well as Superintendent Riley Hoheisel, met with city administrators from Howard Lake and Winsted to discuss offers from each city for the school site.

The board was looking at the Ray Fiecke property, located 1/4 mile north of Winsted city limits, and the Edna Frank property, bordering the Howard Lake city limits.

There are 101 acres on the Frank property, at the southwest corner of Howard Lake, at a cost of $10,000 per acre. The Fiecke property offers 70 acres available for $5,000 per acre, or 150 acres available for $4,500 each.

Later that month, the Howard Lake City Council appointed its own contractor to appraise both properties. The appraisals were used to determine Howard Lake's offer for the new school site.

Also during January, several Winsted residents showed up at a construction meeting to protest what was described as unnecessary and sudden improvements to McLeod County Road 1. McLeod County planned to resurface the road from Main Avenue to the county line just north of Winsted.

The project started more than a year ago when the county started work south on McLeod County Road 1 to the industrial park, Administrator Matt Podhradsky said.

Toward the end of the month, the Lester Prairie School Board heard suggestions from state financial specialists about the school's debt.

The Lester Prairie School Board passed its revised 2000-2001 budget, after it was held over from the month before.

The budget was revised to adjust for less revenue, stemming from declining enrollment, and increased expenditures, in part from higher gas prices, Superintendent James Redfield said.

Two education finance specialists from the Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning were on hand to make suggestions to the board about reducing its chronic deficit.

The previous budget did not take into account the increase in gas prices. Heating costs alone increased by 309 percent for the district, Redfield said. Other cuts were suggested.

Also during January, St. Paul Ev. Lutheran Church in Lester Prairie dedicated an education wing addition.

Construction on the $550,000 project began last spring and was completed in the fall. The main part of the project included adding eight new classrooms to the education wing.

The project added approximately 5,500 square feet, and was designed to accommodate a large fellowship hall that could be added to the east side in a future project.

February

February started with a break-in, and drug search in Lester Prairie. Big Don's Carthedral was broken into Feb. 3, according to the Lester Prairie Police Department

Missing from the business, but later recovered, was computer hardware and software, cigarettes, and other items. Not recovered was several types of candy.

In other events during February, an auditor praised the City of Lester Prairie for its financial condition.

Lester Prairie's budget is extremely healthy for 1999, said Al Heinen of the accounting firm Brackermann, Heinen, and Mayer.

Also during February, planning got underway for a revised festival in Winsted. A lively discussion concerning volunteer hours and division of profits took place at a Winsted Festival steering committee meeting.

Because of the reorganization of the festival, the committee decided that this year's festival would be a two-day event.

At the end of the month, HLWW continued its collection of information about the two final school sites chosen, although the school board would not divulge information about the two sites yet.

March

During March, RAM Buildings expanded its construction business to include building supplies.

The partnership between Gregg Machemehl and Rawelin "Rollie" Radtke started when Machemehl joined Radtke, who then owned Waconia Building Center.

Their business in Winsted started in 1999, when the two created RAM Buildings, Inc., which specializes in post-frame agricultural, residential, and commercial buildings.

Also in March, Coach Dean Neumann reached his 300th basketball victory at Holy Trinity High School.

That includes 11 years of girls varsity and 13 years of boys varsity, starting with the 1977-78 season.

Another event in March was Eldron and Sharon Hecksel working in the same building, after operating separate businesses in Winsted for more than 25 years each.

Sharon's Beauty Salon, Eldron's Realty-Plus real estate office, and the Total Entertainment Center are located in this building.

At the end of the month, the Winsted council reversed a recommendation given by the planning commission on a development permit for a subdivision of Winsted on the Lake.

Complaints vented by about 20 people gathered at a planning commission meeting caused the commission to recommend a temporary suspension the conditional use permit (CUP) issued for the development in 1997, until further investigating could be done.

The council voted to table the matter concerning the final plat development of the Winsted on the Lake property, developed by Scenic Homes, until the next city council meeting, in order to hear from the Department of Natural Resources.

April

Winsted firefighters made a cold water rescue of a man stranded in a boat on thin ice at Winsted Lake April 1.

The rescue took place in the vicinity of Lake Avenue East, when a dog that had apparently been attracted to the geese and open water, and wandered out onto the north end of the lake.

The three firefighters who went in the water/ice were able to get close enough to the man, Wally Paschke of Winsted, toss him a rope, and pull his boat to shore. The dog, which had been in the boat when the fire department arrived, walked to shore on its own.

The ice on the north end was thinner than in other areas of the lake because of the two aerators, which are in place to reduce winter fishkill.

In the middle of the month, the HLWW board approved the site near Winsted as the best choice between the two remaining possible sites for a new high school, as recommended by the sub-committee that studied the issue, said Vice Chairman Randy Heuer.

Two board members dissented, Rick Lammers and Kirk Jensen. The choice angered many Howard Lake and Waverly residents.

Two men received drug possession charges from a Silver Lake drug bust. Benjamin Zachary Hanson, 26, of Silver Lake, and Craig Edward Johnson, 43, of Buffalo, were charged with possession of methamphetamine after a search warrant was executed at an apartment on Main Street in Silver Lake by the Southwest Metro Drug Task Force April 18.

Also in May, a first-time ever animal shelter was planned to open in McLeod County, called the Heart of Minnesota Animal Shelter.

Winsted City Administrator Matt Podhradsky announced his resignation to the surprise of many.

Podhradsky accepted a position as the assistant to the administrator of Chaska, where he resides.

The Lester School Board cut four teaching positions.

Two non-certified teachers, teaching under a variance by the state were selected, followed by the two teachers with the least seniority. This included Rick Baumann, sixth grade teacher, Lyle Kritzeck, physical education/social studies, Michael Bates, special education, and Richard Andrews, band teacher.

May

Fire destroyed the Gueningsman Automotive Specialists' shop May 20.

Among the ruins was one customized truck used in truck pulls, the tools and entire contents of the building.

One customer's motorhome was also apparently destroyed. However, several other customer vehicles were away from the building and not damaged.

Fire investigator Casey Stotts, who was called to the scene because of the extent of the fire, said the cause was determined to be accidental, probably related to electrical.

"The hardest part was losing the two pulling trucks. There was a lot of time invested in them," said Kay Gueningsman.

A new Winsted postmaster was sworn in May 17, as Katie Olson was appointed the new Winsted postmaster.

Spring flooding caused the McLeod County Board of Commissioners to declare that a state of emergency exists within McLeod County.

In the middle of the month, the Winsted City Council approved the sale of the historic Winsted City Hall building.

The decision to either preserve or demolish the structure has been the ongoing debate over the past couple of years.

The building was sold to Todd and Kelly Colonna of Le Sueur for one dollar.

The couple has extensive knowledge in building restoration. They plan on restoring the outside of the building to look as it did when it was first built.

On the inside of the building, they plan to remodel the second floor to be used as residential space, with the ground floor to be converted into commercial space.

The Winsted Preservation Society members present at the meeting expressed approval of the plans.

Also in May, the HLWW school board reported the cost to build new high school was higher now due to the passage of time on construction costs.

Inflation in the building market was the chief factor for an estimated 26 percent increase in the cost of a new school, according to the architect, said Superintendent Riley Hoheisel.

In a consolidation scenario with Lester Prairie, the school district could receive a $6 million grant from the state, Hoheisel said.

In a separate meeting, talks started between a cooperation committee from Lester Prairie, and a similar committee from Glencoe-Silver Lake. They said they have not made any firm commitments; they are just gathering information.

June

With no promises, the Lester Prairie school board left the door open for consolidation following a joint school board meeting that month.

Lester Prairie school board members asked for more time to consider a possible consolidation effort with the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school district.

"We will give you an answer one way or the other," Starke said

July

The second half of the year started with an anti-climactic finish to the controversy surrounding the Winsted on the Lake development. The preliminary plat of phase three of the development received the approval of the Winsted Planning Commission.

Later that month, a fire broke out at Poly Foam's wood chip silo in Lester Prairie. Before long, the Lester Prairie Fire Department, with the help of the lift unit, had the blaze under control. The silo is used to hold wood shavings which are used for energy. All of its machines run on steam and these shavings are the main source of heat.

The Lester Prairie School Board faced a standing-room-only crowd during its July meeting as it looked at making some tough choices regarding cooperation or consolidation.

The board was in the process of seeing what the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted and Glencoe-Silver Lake school districts have to offer. No tax impact information was available to the public yet.

With little discussion and no controversy, the Winsted City Council reviewed the current status of Winsted's old city hall project and the contract with developer Todd Colonna. Colonna's intention is to renovate and restore the old building and then make it available for lease space.

Winsted residents living in the Westgate subdivision received a surprise when a natural gas line was hit. Casey's was closed, and a few area residents were evacuated, before the line was repaired.

Winsted resident Kenny Norman was inducted into the Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame as well as the Distinguished Service Award for Officials, the latter of which was presented by the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association.

The Lester Prairie and Glencoe-Silver Lake school boards met in Glencoe to discuss possible cooperation or consolidation between the two school districts.

August

Kevin Kubasch of Kubasch Sanitation, and Steve Metz of Waste Management corporation, announced the sale of Kubasch Sanitation to Waste Management.

Winsted residents in Pheasant Run, Shady Creek Drive, and Fairlawn Avenue have been having frequent power outages. Xcel Energy was repeatedly contacted about the problem.

A routine traffic stop for speeding turned into two arrests for possession of illegal substances in Lester Prairie Aug. 2. During the traffic stop, a vehicle search was performed, resulting in two suspects being charged with possession of illegal substances, marijuana pipes and methamphetamine. Two Waconia men were charged, and the men acknowledged to officers that the methamphetamine had just been purchased in Lester Prairie for $100.

Several Winsted residents peppered two Xcel Energy representatives with complaints at the city council meeting regarding power outages occurring at the homes in Pheasant Run, Northgate, and on Shady Creek Drive. It was determined that trees were hitting the lines and that trimming them would solve the problem.

Still at the forefront for the Lester Prairie School Board was cooperation/consolidation with either the Glencoe-Silver Lake School District, or the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District.

During the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school board meeting, a new committee was formed to oversee a potential consolidation with Lester Prairie.

Committee members will reflect an identical committee formed by Lester Prairie. A committee was also being formed by Glencoe-Silver Lake, with the same purpose, and number of people.

Triple T Race Products moved from 151 Second Street South to the Winsted Industrial Park.

September

The Lester Prairie City Council approved the sale of the city skating rink lot when Crown River Builders of Hutchinson met the asking price of $22,500.

The council also set the tax levy for the proposed budget 7.5 percent increase over the figure for last year's budget.

Three items that raised the budget were the new fire truck, the new furnace needed for city hall, and the park budget (which includes swimming pool expenses).

Details of the contract between the City of Winsted and Todd and Kelly Colonna are still being finalized, but the sale of the old city hall building inched closer.

Tree trimmers, contracted by Xcel Energy, arrived in Winsted to start trimming all the trees within the utility easements.

The Winsted Volunteer Fire Department planned to conduct a blood and bone marrow drive to boost the nation's blood supply.

To fund the project, an auction was done to raise money to fund the proposed bone marrow drive.

This auction was a little different. The item up for bid was the chance to give someone a haircut. The volunteers were willing to go bald (and most did), to raise money for this worthy cause.

Ten firefighters, one police officer, one Winsted businessman, and one young boy, helped raise nearly $3,800 in a couple of hours.

The detour route for McLeod County Road 1 upset drivers as the road project entered its second phase.

Julie Millerbernd, principal of the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted elementary schools requested an alternative travel route for teachers.

Several teachers with classes in both Winsted and Waverly have been unable to make it between the two cities and be on time for classes.

The terrorist attacks Sept. 11 caused a short-lived rush to the gas pumps, with motorists lined up five deep at Casey's and Tom Thumb in Winsted. The rush was caused by speculated tensions with Arab countries that may cause gas prices to sky rocket. This did not materialize. Also present at the pumps were two members of the Winsted Police Department to ensure that no fights broke out.

John Grunloh of Winsted was only about 30 blocks away when terrorist planes struck New York. Grunloh works for Sterner Lighting Systems. Sterner Lighting has its specialty products shipped worldwide, and has accounts all over the United States. Grunloh, a field service representative, was in New York, making some adjustments to lighting at the MetLife Tower.

Both councils from Winsted and Lester Prairie observed a moment of silence to honor the nearly 5,000 people who died during terrorist attacks Sept. 11.

Members of the Martin Krueger American Legion Post 407, police officers, citizens, and Winsted Fire Chief Paul Herbolsheimer attended the Winsted City Council meeting for a ceremony to honor the dead.

Phase two of the McLeod County Road 1 project proved to be quite a headache for motorists who frequently travel between Winsted and Howard Lake.

The detour route, which was designed to keep traffic on paved county roads, was lengthy, and motorists were slow to learn that it was in everyone's best interest to drive the designated detour route.

A Victor Township official indicated the township roads took a beating from the heavy misdirected traffic use.

October

The Winsted Fire Department continued to fly its flag at half staff despite a national directive to end mourning sooner.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs requested that all of America's fire and emergency service agencies continue to fly flags at half-staff and shroud their badges until Oct. 11 to mark a formal 30-day period of mourning for the huge numbers of fire and rescue workers lost in the terrorist attacks.

Committees from Glencoe-Silver Lake and Lester Prairie schools discussed possible cooperation/consolidation.

The Winsted Fire Department attracted a huge turnout for its bone marrow and blood drive Oct. 3. The American Red Cross reported that 145 people came to the event, 13 people were deferred, and 126 usable units of blood were collected. Of those donating blood, 21 people were first-time donors.

Six of eight candidates who filed for two Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school board positions squared off during a forum sponsored by the Howard Lake Business Association. The remaining two candidates did not participate for different reasons, incumbent Kirk Jensen announced his withdrawal from the election, saying he was unable to give the proper amount of time to serve. Incumbent Leo Weber was unable to attend the forum due to illness.

Lester Prairie School Board member Gene Starke gave a positive report about a recent consolidation committee meeting with Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school district. Starke indicated he was impressed with how the curriculum from both schools appear to blend together, he said.

Other school board members did not comment.

Filmed in New Germany four summers ago, the motion picture "Herman USA" was released in theaters - featuring several local people as stand-ins.

Burt and Leona DeMaris of Lester Prairie, Diana Thompson, Rosie Hertel, and Corrina Hagen, all of Winsted, appeared as extras in the movie.

November

The newly installed New Ulm Diocese Bishop John C. Nienstedt visited Winsted.

The new development in Lester Prairie, Prairie Ridge, is progressing along well.

The Winsted Civic and Commerce Association changed its name to the Winsted Chamber of Commerce.

The Lester Prairie City Council approved a request by Police Chief Fred Blaser to lease a snowmobile for three months, giving the police department another option to enforce snowmobiling rules.

An audit indicated that the Lester Prairie Schools had a healthy fund balance, despite its debt of $1.5 million.

In local school elections, Charlie Borrell and John Lideen were elected to the HLWW school board. For Lester Prairie school board, Chester Hoernemann, Fred Blaser, and Robert Carlson were elected. The Lester Prairie referendum was voted down by a margin of 13 votes.

Talk of a potential consolidation between Lester Prairie and the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school districts was suspended following a committee meeting.

Both districts cited the desire to organize with respective new board members - none of whom were proponents of consolidation on either end - as the result of recent elections.

Kim Bachman of C2 Marketing, Inc. took up residence in the old theater building near the four way stop in downtown Winsted. C2 Marketing's is a business that offers church marketing.

Five-year-old Christopher Bebo of rural Silver Lake, a kindergartner at Holy Trinity in Winsted, was killed in a farm accident Nov. 12.

Bebo was the son of Tom and Joann Bebo, and the younger brother to Cody.

With a positive fund balance in hand from its recent audit, the Lester Prairie School Board turned its attention to making use of it.

Blaser emphasized having the district work on improving technology, both in terms of computers and additional staff.

Tricia Stender started hosting a popular aerobics session at the Blue Note in Winsted.

Leo and Mavis Weber were named grand marshals of the Winsted Winter Festival parade.

The Howard Lake-Waverly Herald and Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal newspapers were sold, effective Nov. 30, to Chris Schultz and Amy Hoese-Schultz of Lester Prairie and Dale and Linda Kovar of Watertown. The newspapers have been owned by Bill Ramige of Glencoe since 1986, when he acquired them from Floyd and JoAnn Sneer of Winsted. The new corporation will be known as Herald Journal Publishing.

December

The sale of old Winsted City Hall was finally completed. New owners of the old Winsted City Hall are Todd and Kelly Colonna of Le Sueur, who purchased the building from the City of Winsted at a cost of $1.

The City of Winsted and Waste Management discussed a proposed land swap. Waste Management, which purchased Kubasch Sanitation several months ago, has approximately five acres at the corner of Main Avenue West and McLeod County Road 1. Some of that property includes a wetland.

Early discussions brought up the possibility of moving Waste Management's facility to the city's industrial park, with the city then owning and making available for development the current Waste Management site.

Two lots at the northern edge of the industrial park would provide space for Waste Management to erect a new building and handle some outdoor storage.

Dorothy Smyth of Lester Prairie was chosen by WCCO as a "good neighbor for the day." Smyth was nominated by a long-time friend because of her active community involvement.

A Lester Prairie firefighter was miraculously OK following two multi-car accidents that closed down Highway 7 for several hours.

Wallace Dibb, 71, who was responding to an accident, was standing at the side of the road when he was overtaken and dragged by a runaway semi truck that became part of a second crash at the same location, one mile inside of the McLeod County border, between McLeod County Road 9 and the Hollywood Ranch House.

Dibb received minor cuts and bruises, and a sore ankle, but was otherwise safe. Dibb has spent 50 years on the Lester Prairie Fire Department.

The Winsted Fire Department decided to record on paper what the qualifications for fire fighters were, since they were previously not written down.

The Winsted City Council discussed the possibility of paving the Winsted Airport runway.

HLWW eighth grader Julie Rohling was chosen out of 71 other students from across the nation and Canada for her colored pencil drawing of 12 Holstein cows. Her drawing was printed as the January artwork for a full color calendar of Westfalia Surge, a dairy equipment supplier.

The resignation of long-time HLWW Superintendent Riley Hoheisel ended 2001.


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