Herald JournalHoward Lake-Waverly Herald, Dec. 30, 2002

Howard Lake-Waverly-Montrose year in review

Flooding made 2002 the year that few will forget

By Julie Yurek

Historic flooding made for the record books heavily impacted residents in the Howard Lake, Waverly and Montrose areas for the year 2002.

The suddenness of the rains, which occurred overnight June 24 through June 25, met the criteria for a 100-year flood, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

January

Howard Lake inventor Jan Gilmer, 57, was featured in the Herald for his thermostat light.

Howard Lake City Administrator Doug Borglund gave notice of his resignation, effective Feb. 1.

The water tower squabble with Wright County was tabled again at the Howard Lake City Council meeting.

The new Howard Lake city water tower stands atop land that is owned by the county.

The county recently attempted to secure signatures from the Howard Lake council of a contract that included free use of water for the Wright County Fairgrounds.

It was noted that resolutions were passed by both the city and county in 1994 to allow five years of free water use for the county. This expired in 2000, City Administrator Doug Borglund said.

These resolutions are different than the unsigned contract being circulated by the county recently as well as the agreement that was passed in resolution by either entity, Borglund said. The resolutions are not a binding agreement, he added.

A review of area school districts' open enrollment figures shows Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school district loses a significantly larger number of students than many other districts do.

Of the 312 students who are open enrolled out of HLWW, 75 attend Dassel-Cokato, 66 go to Watertown-Mayer, 59 to Lester Prairie, 46 to Buffalo, 26 to Maple Lake, and 19 to Delano.

The HLWW school board reorganized for the new year, setting its sights on finding a new superintendent.

The search stems from the retirement of longtime Supt. Riley Hoheisel at the end of this school year.

Kathy Johnson purchased Donna's Salon from Donna Munson and renamed it Salon Amie. The salon was relocated next to Bergie's. The former location was taken by the city, and then purchased by Security State Bank for its new bank complex.

February

Purses and cigarettes were snatched off kitchen tables, and cell phones were taken from cars during a midnight burglar's spree in Howard Lake Jan. 25.

Many items were returned and the burglar was caught by the Howard Lake Police later.

A new book by author and radio personality Garrison Kiellor puts Waverly and Howard Lake squarely on the map, near Lake Wobegon.

In Search of Lake Wobegon, a follow up to his best selling book Lake Wobegon Days nearly a quarter century ago, is Keillor's answer to many years of fans asking him where his fabled town of Lake Wobegon is located (population 942).

Four outbuildings located at the Wright County fairgrounds appear to be located on top City of Howard Lake land.

The issue cropped up during the Howard Lake council meeting when resident Mike Mitchell, whose family owned large chunks of land at the fairgrounds many years ago, addressed the council.

Mitchell indicated that he thought there were three roads at the fairgrounds located at the south parking lot, which may not have been vacated. The three roads are First Street, Second Street, and 12th Avenue.

Dan and Collene Fogarty of Howard Lake formed Good Neighbor Realty, located at 606 Eighth Avenue in Howard Lake, which opened Jan. 1.

A large liquid manure spill almost one year ago at Metro Dairy, located three miles south of Waverly, was finally put to rest by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) recently.

The spill was settled in court last fall, however, Wright County prematurely released information about the settlement before it was truly settled, said MPCA Information Officer Julie Swiler.

The case remained suspended over the winter, pending technical changes made in the legislature that might have affected part of the settlement, Swiler said.

The technical impact didn't happen and the original fine amount of $26,500 was delivered to owner Virgil Scherping last month.

The spill is related to more than 100,000 gallons of liquid manure that spilled March 15, 2001, when earthen lagoons at the dairy overflowed into a storm water pond near the dairy, and discharged thousands of gallons of liquid manure into a county ditch in Woodland Township.

The board set a special session 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28 at the HLWW media center to discuss its long-term space needs, including a potential new high school, or other long-term solution.

Since November, new board members John Lideen and Charlie Borrell took their places among the board. The board is also very different because it reflects fewer members - nine down to seven - pared down by a previous consolidation plan.

One goal abandoned by the board was pursuing a consolidation with Lester Prairie.

March

Strong discussion ensued during a special board meeting about the long-term facilities at the HLWW school district.

Several ideas were suggested with Chairman Jim Raymond moderating the discussion.

The board decided to solicit public input, and to meet with an official from the Department of Children, Families and Learning, tentatively set for Monday, March 11.

"Maybe someone in the community has a good idea," Board Member Charlie Borrell said.

"We need help," Raymond said.

Some board members appeared battle-worn, reluctant to retrace old ground, since the issue has dragged on for five years.

A fair-sized crowd attended the Howard Lake City Council meeting to discuss an ordinance related to the mobile home court.

Peggy Ashley spoke for the crowd, asking the council to pass an ordinance that would protect mobile park tenants from financial loss if owners of the park decided to sell for the purpose of development.

The group presented a petition signed by 40 residents.

The council decided to table the issue, to allow time for further research.

It later decided against passing the ordinance because existing state laws protect the owners of mobile homes and any ordinance would have encroached onto private property.

Large-scale remodeling is nearly out of the question for the existing facilities of the HLWW school district, following a visit from the Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning (CFL).

Board members were given state guidelines on remodeling and new building projects by CFL Representative Bob Buresh.

Buresh told the board that the state would not allow the school district to renovate existing buildings on a large scale unless an additional 30 acres or more could be added to the structures, in order to bring the buildings up to state expectations.

School districts' plans for construction projects in excess of $500,000 must be approved by the state, Buresh said.

In addition, when the cost of renovating approaches 60 percent of its replacement cost, the state recommends the district to build new, he said.

The question would be whether it could be cost effective to renovate when the numbers go this high, unless the district can make a case for it, he said.

April

Lance and Brenda Hartkopf earned the Farm Family of the Year distinction given by the University of Minnesota for alternative farming related to their elk farm.

A controversial plan to expand the Security State Bank and Ridgeview Clinic moved forward.

The Howard Lake City Council approved a subsidy cap of $39,000 with four conditions placed on the agreement:

Young and old filled the Village Hall basement to its capacity in order to share thoughts and ideas about Waverly's future.

Those in attendance included numerous business owners, longtime and newer residents, political figures, Waverly royalty and candidates for the coming Waverly Daze, members of the fire department and city public works, some township residents living close to Waverly, and senior citizens, among many others.

The attendance numbered between 165 and 180, said Healthy Communities Partnership co-chair Jim Vrchota.

Following a rib dinner and presentation by the Healthy Communities Partnership.

The exercise was a success, with many people in the community being given the opportunity to inject their own ideas about how to handle the swell of development sweeping through Waverly. However, only one council member attended the meeting, Gary Olson.

Howard Lake Sportsmen's Club asked the Howard Lake City Council questions about the pending renovation of the Lions Park.

The renovations will be paid for in part by a matching $40,000 grant successfully obtained by the city from the Department of Natural Resources.

Montrose and Waverly are standing on a commercial pool of development sweeping along Highway 12.

Waverly is in the process of selling tracts of land associated with the railroad, as well as making plans for an industrial park down the road, said Waverly Clerk Debbie Ryks.

Commercial interest at the former railroad land is very active, although nothing is sealed yet except one business that took up residence a while ago, she said.

The industrial park at Montrose is home to three businesses, Thwing-Swanson said. A fourth business, mini storage, is starting construction, she said.

Waverly is in the process of starting a 32-acre industrial park, to be located south of town, and developed by Arcon development.

Right now, the property is an outlot and not platted yet, Ryks said. There are no dates set for the park since this is up to the developer, she said.

Howard Lake Council members made it clear that the water tower scuffle with Wright County is far from being settled, even though the county was acting as if everything had been resolved.

One of Howard Lake's water towers stands on land that is owned by Wright County.

"I've noticed they've become quiet since we told them there may be no parking or the road may be closed," Councilman Shelly Reddemann said, referring to First Street, which is a city owned road and the main entrance to the fair.

It is also a road that may contain four fairgrounds buildings built on city right of way, on its northern half.

Most recently, a report by Wright County correspondent John Holler made it appear that the county assumed its previous offer ended the issue, which was for the county to give itself free water use up to 185,000 per year; what the county fair uses anyway.

The issue initially erupted last year when the city disputed an unsigned agreement concerning water usage at the fair, based on a memorandum of understanding.

The memorandum gave unlimited water use at the fair, with no expiration date, and was passed by the Howard Lake City Council in July 1999, in order to have the water tower built, Administrative Assistant Kelly Bahn said.

The city is in the process of checking the legality of the contract, Bahn said.

Prominent Howard Lake businessman and former mayor Mark John Custer was charged with first and second degree criminal sexual conduct related to a minor.

All of the charges were eventually dismissed.

Selection of the new superintendent for HLWW school district will culminate at the school board meeting April 15.

The Waverly Village Hall briefly took center stage at the Waverly City Council meeting.

At the meeting, EDA president Jim Vrchota presented the council with the results of a town meeting that attracted 175 people April 1.

Popularity wise, restoring the village hall was listed as a top five priority by the huge number of residents who attended the meeting.

To help fellow student Jason Fern, 9, with his leukemia, HLWW school is hosting a community-wide Scholastic book fair for Fern.

All proceeds went to his family.

Planning the next move for a potential high school took center stage at the HLWW school board meeting.

Board members decided to take the issue to the people ­ to actively seek out town boards, councils and other organizations' opinions.

The committee is also supposed to hash out different ideas held by each board member about exactly how to improve the school facilities, including whether the school should add or remodel, Lideen noted.

The building and grounds committee is already interviewing four architect firms to handle the issue.

The HLWW board hired George Ladd as its new superintendent.

Ladd was the McLeod West superintendent. McLeod West serves the Brownton and Stewart area.

Ladd, who is a Buffalo resident, was the top choice out of three final candidates.

The other two top candidates were Percy Lingen, superintendent of the Caledonia School District, located near La Crosse, Wisc., and John Franzoia, superintendent of the Royalton School District.

Ladd has been superintendent of McLeod West for two years, and principal of Glencoe-Silver Lake from 1999 to 2000, Weber said.

Visiting the Lions Park issue once again, the Howard Lake City Council received an interesting idea from Howard Lake Sportsmen Club Mike Mitchell about how to improve the park.

Mitchell suggested moving one or both of the boat launches across the lake to Memorial Park. The sportsmen suggested it to the council.

The new boat launch could be groomed and become a main point of access on the east side, joining an older launch there, said Erv Luhman, of the Howard Lake Sportsmen. Mitchell and Luhman discussed the idea, he said. The dredging is something that the sportsmen could follow up on, Luhman said.

This would alleviate future space problems at Lions Park, since the city is trying to pack a beach, playground, double boat launch, fishing pier, parking lot, and picnic area, all into a fairly small space, Bahn said.

The council hailed the concept as a splendid idea.

Plans to expand its wastewater facility rolled forward, as the Montrose City Council discussed the project at its meeting.

The city expects to break ground in June, and have the project completed in the fall of 2003, said City Clerk Barb Swanson.

The Montrose project will regionalize sewer service to include services for City of Waverly and 12 Hi Estates, a manufactured home park located about halfway between Montrose and Waverly, Swanson said.

The project includes a force main from Waverly to the facility located in Montrose, several lift stations, facility changes, and improvements.

May

Road crews from Bauerly Brothers rolled into Howard Lake to start about six weeks of road work that will finish Highway 12 through Howard Lake.

Most of the activity for the first three weeks focussed on the 1,500 feet of what was known as the "muck" area last summer, located east of Howard Lake, said engineer Barry Glienke.

First, crews plan to widen the road by adding bituminous to the shoulders, Glienke said. Currently, the road is 24 feet wide. "That's pretty tight for a highway," he said.

Confusion caused a scare for several mobile home residents when sirens went off May 5, leaving them locked outside of their yet-unopened storm shelter.

Severe weather moving through the area deposited quarter-size hail, and damaged some out buildings in Cokato. No one was injured during the storm.

Sirens went off, leaving residents scrambling for cover. However, the new storm shelter built by the mobile home park owner was locked, since it was not finished yet.

The storm appeared to build right above the immediate area, leaving emergency personnel little time to react, said Denny Bobrowske of the Howard Lake Fire Department.

Last month, mobile park tenants were given a mailed notice with their April statements instructing them to take cover at the storm shelter from now on.

The notice set off a round of confusion, as residents, who normally take cover at the high school, found the west door of the school locked and the shelter locked as well.

The fire department opened the east doors of the school, Bobrowske reported to the council.

There is no designated door, Ashley said, although the west door was used at the end of last year.

Eventually, the shelter was opened, although this was not supposed to happen, since the shelter is waiting for a certificate of occupancy by the building inspector, Mayor Gerry Smith said. Otherwise, the owner is liable for any problems that arise, he said.

Bobrowske advised the council that the Howard Lake Fire Department was planning to come up with a comprehensive plan to solve the issue, and that the department will open the high school regardless of the storm shelter status, to avoid further confusion.

Ridgeview Medical Clinic asked the Howard Lake City Council to consider lending the city's tax-free status for $5.6 million in bonds.

There is no financial impact or long-term liability to Howard Lake residents.

The Waverly Village Hall once again took the spotlight at both the Waverly City Council meeting and the council's work session.

A group of concerned citizens and members of the non-profit Healthy Communities Partnership (HCP) attended the council meeting, looking for the council's blessing on its pursuit of a long-term solution to the village hall issue.

The issue came to life when HCP conducted a visioning session April 1 to gather input from 175 people in the local area. One of the top five concerns of the group was the village hall.

HCP member Gerry Smith identified key issues, such as the leaking roof and need for handicapped accessibility, as well as future uses for the building, such as using it as a community center, for weddings, and possibly even a theater.

In the past, Mayor Charlie Bush has expressed strong concerns about the financial impact of restoring the building, which would be costly to the city.

Council member Ken Hausladen has been critical of restoring the building, hinting at its demolition as a preference.

The Waverly Boosters attended the Waverly City Council meeting to announce their plight and ask the city to take over some of its more costly ventures.

The Boosters are behind several popular and successful ventures such as summer recreation activities.

It is a non-profit organization that is operated by volunteers.

Complaints of a petroleum-like smell radiating from a unit at the Howard Lake Apartments resulted in three people being charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.

Brett Michael Wimmer, 19, and Jan Marie Bapp, 33, both of Howard Lake, were arrested along with Caryn Nieskens, 41, of Maple Lake for first degree conspiracy to manufacture a controlled substance. They are not tenants of the apartment.

The trio were at the apartment of a vulnerable adult living there, and found with glassware, trace amounts of meth, and other manufacturing materials, according to the Wright County Drug Task Force.

Previously, a search of Bapp's Howard Lake residence in April revealed some materials used to package meth, as well as drug paraphernalia, according to the Wright County Drug Task Force.

The Howard Lake Police Department received tips before the bust occurred.

June

A one-car accident took the life of Howard Lake resident Nathan Paul Westrup.

Westrup, 21, was travelling westbound on Interstate 94 near Monticello when he lost control of his 1998 Ford Escort and struck a guard rail, according to the Wright County Sheriff's Department.

Westrup was a 1999 graduate of HLWW High School.

The terrorist attacks of September 11 permeated both American Legion Memorial Day ceremonies at Waverly and Howard Lake.

Both ceremonies featured speakers who alluded to the deaths of 3,000 civilians, including 23 police men, 37 port authority officers, and 343 fire fighters during terrorist attacks in New York last year.

"On this day last year, we were a nation a peace," commented speaker Gary Whitcomb, a member of the Howard Lake Sons of the American Legion. "Now, we are a nation at war."

The family-owned Citizens State Bank of Waverly is solely owned by Kim and Birdie Jackson, with the sale of 50 percent interest of the bank from Dan and Maureen Graham to the Jacksons.

The bank has been owned by the Graham family since 1951, when Dan purchased it from David Toussaint.

The bank continues more than a half century of family ownership through Birdie Jackson, who is the daughter of the Grahams.

The bank will continue as a community oriented bank, Birdie Jackson commented.

In turn, Dan and Maureen purchased Red Indian Lodge, located at Lake of the Woods, Sioux Narrows, Ontario.

The lodge rests atop 15 acres situated along Whitefish Bay at Lake of the Woods, which is a fishing paradise, Dan said.

The ailing electronic sign on the east end of Howard Lake was one of several subjects addressed at the Howard Lake City Council meeting.

The council decided to order fixing the sign by Good Neighbor Days weekend, but not before discussing the issue at length.

The sign has been stuck displaying the same messages since April.

The sign is 10 years old and costs the city between $275 and $300 per month in electricity, because it uses incandescent bulbs, unlike newer signs which use LED displays, Sideen said.

The first business in the Howard Lake Industrial Park will also be the first one to expand at the park.

Innovative Laser Machining, Inc. plans to double its size by mid-July, after taking up residence in the park November last year.

The business specializes in custom flatbed laser cutting, serving customers nationwide in several fields, said General Manager and co-owner Chris Bickmann.

Rod Fiecke is the primary owner of Innovative Laser, which he started January of 2000.

Howard Lake Police Officer Lenny Keyes recently accepted the chief of police position offered by the City of Howard Lake.

Keyes started the position July 4. His salary was set at $44,373.

Former Chief Mike Simmons retired Aug. 1.

Keyes has been with the department for 14 years, going to full-time status in December 1989.

Historic flooding ­ June 25

Torrential rains dropped an estimated six to 10 inches of water in the Howard Lake and Waverly area filled basements, blocked roads and caused thousands of dollars in damage.

Nearly half of the tenants at the Howard Lake mobile court were evacuated in the early morning hours June 25, fleeing by boat across several feet of water rising at the south end of the park.

The 30 victims included children and adults, who left the park at about 4 a.m. to take shelter at the HLWW High School.

Also during that time, a wall of tree roots, branches, and debris burst through the back of Troy and Susie Lange's home along the eastern shore of Ann Lake, following heavy rains in the early morning hours.

Crawling over appliances, the Langes fled their home in the middle of the night, Susie said. The Langes have two young boys, Christian, 5, and Chase, 2.

"We just ran with the clothes on our backs," she said.

The American Red Cross set up a shelter at St. James Lutheran Church of Howard Lake as soon as it received notice of the flooding in the early morning hours of June 25, said Tammy Luhman of the Wright County Chapter of the Red Cross.

To avoid backing up residential sewer systems in Howard Lake, the city was forced to pump sewage into Howard Lake for two days, Administrator Kelly Bahn said.

"It would have backed up everyone," if the city did not take the action, commented City Clerk Gene Gilbert.

A week of heavy rains, capped off by torrential rain early June 25, overwhelmed the city's treatment plant, causing the emergency.

A Big Waverly lakeshore cabin was also knocked several feet off its foundations early June 25.

The cabin's owner, Craig Smith of Burnsville, was inside the structure at the time and recalls thinking it was a tornado at first, he said.

He remained inside the cabin, even though it was pushed nearly into the lake by a giant mud slide that extended across Wright County Road 9.

The mud slide closed the road and caused Xcel Energy crews to scramble, attempting to fix downed lines.

Two fuel tanks owned by Cenex/Lake Region Cooperative were dislodged from their footings June 25, and ended up floating alongside Highway 12 for several hours.

This is the first time that Cenex has encountered problems with their tanks in any of the locations they keep fuel, said said General Manager Brian Yager.

The loose tanks, one gas and the other diesel, were partially full and floated like corks on the water, Yager said.

A number of vehicles parked outside were inundated by flood waters.

This included about vehicles marked for sale, parked near the Cenex/Lake Region Cooperative tanks, owned by a Lund's employee.

The vehicles had to be extricated by a skid loader.

In an unrelated incident, three vehicles owned by Wright County Deputy Pete Palmer were found completely under water June 25.

Sand bag brigades quickly formed, with a fairly organized effort made at Big Waverly Lake, and others along the shorelines of Lake Ann and Howard Lake.

Lake shore residents helped each other, bagging sand and moving back and forth on four wheelers.

Friends, neighbors and even strangers helped each other bag sand, in anticipation of predicted rain the evening of June 25.

The rain did not materialize, but sandbag efforts proceeded through Thursday, since the water levels continued to rise steadily, even though the rain stopped June 25.

Standing water was found in places that were not considered low lying areas, cutting off travel to several county roads and even Highway 12 at the west end of Howard Lake.

Many flood victims stood in shock the day after the rains, wondering how water could be found where it was. Most of the damage was reportedly not covered by insurance.

Others noted surprise runoff from new developments in both Howard Lake and Waverly.

"I've never seen it like this," commented Waverly Fire Chief Mark Karels, referring to water that overflowed a nearby drainage ditch near his business, Mark's Service Station.

Even crews from the Minnesota Department of Transportation admitted being surprised where the water ended up, washing out roads that are not known for flooding.

Many lake residents reported floating docks, boats orphaned by the storm, and washed out beaches.

The Howard Lake Fire Department ended up working around the clock, logging in 570 hours, Fire Chief Tom Diers said.

Other fire fighters were comparing the flooding to the Cokato tornado of 1992, in relation to disasters, Diers said. "It was never like this."

The water also managed to flood nearly every county road in the surrounding area, including a mud slide the blocked Wright County Road 9.

At one point that afternoon, Howard Lake travelers were trapped from nearly all sides except from the east.

The initial routing traffic around Highway 12 the morning of June 25 sent travelers in circles, since the roads being used to detour were also flooded, including two sections of Wright County Road 30, Wright County Road 8, Wright County Road 107, Wright County Road 5, Highway 25 south of Montrose, and then later in the day, Wright County Road 6 at the north end of Howard Lake, which was temporarily overtaken by water from the lake.

At the end of the week, weary city and county officials met with Senator Mark Dayton during an emergency meeting June 30 at the Howard Lake Community Center.

The meeting lasted two hours, with flood victims asking questions, and Dayton offering the services of his office.

The water in Howard Lake is 12 to 14 inches higher than ever recorded, Mayor Gerry Smith said.

See part two, July-Dec.


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