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January 19, 2018

12/29/2017 11:36:00 AM
2017 new faces, old friends, the year in review

The North Branch Area public schools community is sending positive wishes  to Superintendent Dr. Deb Henton who is in the running to be selected as superintendent of the year nationally.
Henton was named Minnesota’s Superintendent of the Year in the fall.  The nation’s top school leader will be designated from all the state nominations this February.

Chisago Lakes welcomed a new superintendent as Joe Thimm opted to retire in 2017.
Dean Jennissen succeeds Thimm.

As for other special people:
Chosen for Taylors Falls Royal Lady was Mary Anne mattson.

The Chisago Lakes Homecoming Royals were Carmen Backes and Ryan Mower.

North Branch chose Nick Jensen and Joy Edyvean for their high school homecoming king and queen.

John Mattson was Shafer Days Grand Marshal.

Karl Oskar Days’ Grand Marshals were Alice and John Mortenson.

The Stensons-- Jackie and Kevin--served as Ki Chi Saga Days Grand Marshals.

North Branch honored Kevin Grote, asking him to lead the MidSummer Parade as Grand Marshal.

Wyoming Police see one of their own honored in June with the Trudeau Law Enforcement Award-- Rachel Columbus

Relay for Life featured Bev and Jerry Mollberg, Rush City, as honorary chairpersons.

Eagle Scout Matt Stark presents his Eagle project-- a ball pit-- to the Stacy Doyle Memorial ballfield group.

The St Croix Wild & Scenic National Riverway part of the National Park Service, welcomed a new permanent park superintendent Julie Galonska, who has served in an interim capacity.

Local firearms instructor Lance Morgan, earned state honors as Firearms Instructor of the Year from the MN Dept of Natural Resources.

County Conservation Officer Phil Mohs presented the award.

Farm Family of the Year went to Amy and Douen Proeun and family.  They have a farm in Rushseba Twsp.

There were a number of large grants and other financial awards won by government entities in Chisago County in 2017, leveraging millions of dollars of non-local dollars to accomplish things...the Sunrise Township Board, county economic development staff and active township citizens  won in excess of a million dollars through Minnesota’s border-to-border program for a broadband enhancement project.  

The Fish Lake Township Board and citizens in that township were also successful in writing an application and compiling supportive data to win a couple million dollars for broadband service improvements that will be installed in 2018 in the township as well. 

Chisago County also got the welcome news, after multiple efforts, submitting requests for state trail aid, that the LCCMR was recommending to the legislature to appropriate about $2 million for the Swedish Immigrant Regional  Trail section leading into Taylors Falls, through Interstate State Park.  

And, speaking of leveraging outside financial support--the ABC effort came to an end in 2017,  after about  two years of engaging in collaborative revitalization initiatives for the Chisago Lakes region-- as participants in the America’s Best Communities contest.  The outcome did not rank Chisago Lakes in the top three prize-winners but it leaves a core group working on issues that surfaced.  The ABC committee’s hard work and passion  brought the area all the way through quarter and semi-finals and ranked as one of the eight cities contending for $6 million in grants.  Winning the finals top three awards were Huntington, WV, Lake Havasu, AZ and Statesboro, GA.

The new county law enforcement center project, now scheduled to open in April-- was also awarded a $3 million subsidy through the state bonding bill.  

In political issues making headlines in  2017--

Area liquor stores got the okay from the state legislature to operate on Sunday.  Sunday off-sales began in July.

The Muslim cemetery permit created a heated discussion, with a substantial  opposition effort from the general public leading the County Board to deny, on  a 3-2 vote, the conditional use permit for the cemetery south of Chisago City, for members of the MN Bosniak community.    The denial was almost immediately reversed, however, when the county commissioners were named in a cemetery group’s appeal;   and the U.S. Dept of Justice informed the county the federal government would be investigating a complaint alleging the permit denial violated protected religious civil liberties.  The DOJ dropped its investigation in April, upon the permit being reviewed and then approved by the county.

To improve facilities, build a new Chisago Lakes elementary school, and do a host of other educational and athletics projects-- School Bonding referenda were granted voter approvals in May 2017,  for both the North Branch and Chisago Lakes districts.  

North Branch  was cleared to borrow $69.5 million and Chisago Lakes will be able to use $65 million.

An unresolved political issue carrying into 2018 will be the Lakes Area Police Dept. funding spelled out in a joint powers agreement. The contract started to be reviewed preparing for  2018, as it’s set to expire every five years.  

Preliminary overtures from Lindstrom city officials to revise the existing 50-50 cost split now with Chisago City were met with crowds of citizens expressing opposition to doing anything that would hurt the department. A Lindstrom City council majority is supportive of negotiating with Chisago City through the Police Commission in the coming weeks/months. The 2017 police commissioners’ every-other-month meeting schedule was complete in November--and the commission meets next in January.

And, the special election for House District 32B took place in February 2017.  The polling date was ordered when Bob Barrett was disallowed from serving-- after the courts ruled he had run as a candidate in November 2017 to represent a district where he did not reside.

Anne Neu, of North Branch, defeated Laurie Warner vying for the House seat in the special election.

A few historic buildings were in the news  in 2017...

the Chisago County Historical Society sold its brick “Gustaf” residence on mainstreet in Lindstrom.  

The society also had a history center (residence) at Broadway and First St. that it put on the market.  The Historical Society is in the process of relocating artifacts and data into a new facility the society bought in Lindstrom.  The old Gordy’s Gifts and the adjacent computer repair business space now belongs to the Historical Society and provides a research archive, large meeting and educational space and a place for volunteers to share information, assist in visitors’ inquiries and just be ambassadors for the area in general.

Of special note:  Chisago Lakes Mutual Insurance Company became the oldest running business in the county, hitting its 150th anniversary.

There was a full eclipse of the sun August 21.  Cloudy here in the Chisago county area and not ideal for viewing.

The old Chisago City Community Center was sold, along with the fire hall next door.   A brew pub and events center are proposed in a phased development there.  

Chisago City constructed a new fire hall, at the Karmel Avenue-Hwy 8 area.  It was dedicated and put into use in October 2017.

Rose Hill Resort’s main building was razed.  Firefighters got the opportunity to do a live fire training at the site on South Lindstrom Lake in late summer 2017.  

The property is being prepared for a development featuring a senior assisted living complex, but the plan is far from final and has not been submitted to city officials just yet.

A brand new township hall opened for the people of Chisago Lake Township.  Town supervisors held their first official meeting there Oct 17 Community hearings were being held in the township maintenance shop for months, as township operations moved out of downtown Lindstrom a couple years ago.  A fitness business operates in the former township hall.

The new town hall on 316th is also available for rental by the public.


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