by Dennis Dalman – firstname.lastname@example.org
A major “facelift” gets underway at Sartell schools. Thanks to funds authorized by Sartell voters last year, the ambitious projects have begun. They include a major structural rearrangement of the District Office building, new roofs on the high school and middle school, a new running track and tennis courts, improvements to the indoor pool, a recoating of gym floors and rewiring for energy and technology.
Laurie Conzemius, media specialist at Pine Meadow Elementary School, is appointed to the board of the International Society for Technology in Education, which has about 5,000 members worldwide.
Dennis Herschbach, a Sartell resident, hosts an autograph party to sign copies of his first novel, “Convergence at Two Harbors,” a page-turner about an attempted terrorist plot in Two Harbors, Minn., which is Herschbach’s previous home town. Herschbach, a retired teacher, is also the author of a book of poetry and a collection of prose poems and letters about the grieving process.
Thefts of items from vehicles has the police department urging people to keep their vehicles locked and their garages locked overnight. In the period of a week or so, there were more than 50 thefts of items from vehicles and garages in virtually every area of the city.
The Sartell Community Band performs its end-of-season concert in Val Smith Park.
A fundraiser for the family of Jon Maus is a resounding success on the grounds of the Bernick’s Arena in Sartell. Maus, 51, of Albany, died in the Verso explosion May 28. He is survived by wife Lucy and four children: Anthony, Philip, Olivia and Veronica.
The Sartell City Council agrees on a plan to fix several walking trails in the city that had been damaged mainly by willow roots next to holding ponds.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar visit Sartell and meet with city officials and others. They assure displaced workers from the ruined Verso paper mill they will be eligible for extended unemployment benefits as well as retraining employment counseling and school help if needed.
On Aug. 2, the news everyone dreaded to hear was announced: The Verso paper mill, damaged in the May 28 explosion and fire, will close for good. Verso officials made the announcement at an afternoon press conference at Sartell City Hall. It would be prohibitively costly to repair the plant and get it in running order again, the officials announced, after being in business, under various names and ownerships, for 106 years. The current owner, Verso, is based in Memphis, Tenn. There are three other Verso paper-making mills elsewhere in the country that will continue to operate. Although many had anticipated the bad news, Verso’s closing still came as a shock to so many. It’s similar to a feeling of mourning and grief, said Sartell City Administrator Patti Gartland. The city’s attention immediately turned to other questions: Can there be a new business on that property that will bring jobs to residents? How will the 250 displaced Verso workers fare in an unstable economic climate?
The State Fire Marshal announces it was an overheated compressor that caused the explosion and fire that took the life of one employee, injured several others and caused the permanent closing of the Verso paper mill in Sartell. The May 28 catastrophe brought a stunning end to more than a century of the company, a historic and economic bedrock of Sartell.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann visits Sartell and suggests the hydroelectric dam operated for so many years by the now-defunct Verso company could possibly by operated by the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers in the future. She also promised to help find a new business-related use for the Verso property.
The city agrees to release $750,000 in half-cent sales-tax money for continued development in Pinecone Central Park. The funds are contingent upon funds raised by the Pinecone Central Park Association, a group of private citizens dedicated to park improvements on the site. The city bought that 168-acre site in 2008 from the owner of the land, which used to be the Sartell Golf Course.
The annual “Cookout with Cops” draws 150 senior citizens who enjoy guest speakers, lunch and conversation at the St. Francis Xavier Gathering Place.
The Sartell-St. Stephen Education Foundation gives $25,000 to be used for school programs in all of the city’s schools. The fundraising group donates money annually for projects that parents, students and teachers would like but cannot afford.
Sartell schools exceed state proficiency ratings in the Minnesota Measurement Ratings system, based on test data from last year and this. The ratings also take into account graduation rates, individual student growth and the closing of the achievement gap.
State Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell) is honored as “Legislator of the Year” by the Minnesota School Board Association. He was cited for his work to pass a bill on school-land trust reform. O’Driscoll also receives honors from other organizations for his work on behalf of veterans and for his work on city issues and pension issues.
Mary McCabe, chair of the Sartell-St. Stephen School Board, is voted out of her chairmanship, 4-2. Fellow board member Chris Gross presents a resolution citing reasons why McCabe should not be chair, including – according to the petition – inability to work with other board members and not adhering to the core values of the district. McCabe said she’d agreed to become chair only because the former chair had moved from the school district.
A task force is formed to explore issues involving the possible creation of a Sartell community center, which has for years been a top priority on the wish lists of many residents, as several polls have indicated. The council plans to use $1.6 million in half-cent sales-tax funds to make a center that would have multi-uses. The task now is to determine what, exactly, do residents want?
Sartell schools, like schools across the nation, begin serving meals according to a “Healthy Kids” federal mandate that is designed to make meals more nutritious and less fattening. Some students complain the meals do not make them feel full enough during the day.
An ecumenical church service honors the Verso paper mill and all of its former employees, including Jon Maus, who was killed in the May 28 explosion.
Election season is heating up as many local candidates begin to take part in local forums and debates. The candidates include those vying for seats on the Sartell-St. Stephen School Board, the Sartell City Council and two candidates for St. Stephen mayor.
The Verso employee-union president, Lyle Fleck, hosts a press conference in Watab Park during which he sharply criticizes U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater) for allegedly not showing up in person or meeting with displaced Verso unionized workers shortly after the Verso explosion. He described Bachmann’s absence and what he called her lack of concern for employees an “insult.”
The Sartell LeSauk Fire Department hosts its annual open house at the fire hall. A similar open house takes place in St. Stephen. At the two events, parents watch as their children enjoy crawling in and out of fire vehicles, eating treats and intermingling with firefighters.
At a Sartell-St. Stephen School Board meeting, members of the public gather, and many of the 16 speakers accuse the board of being “immature,” “disrespectful” and “dysfunctional.” For many months, there have been bickering disagreements among some board members, as well as some behind-the-scenes accusations. Some claim the effort to renew Superintendent Dr. Joe Hill’s contract is being railroaded through by just a few members. One speaker, former board member Julie Zupfer Anderson, claims some board members had repeatedly violated provisions of Minnesota’s open-meeting law by meeting or communicating when the board was not officially in session. Other speakers rap the board for the way it handled the decision to drop spring break. Some speakers at the meeting, however, defend Hill and say some board members are pushing their own agenda. Right after the public meeting, as summarized above, the board opens its official meeting during which it votes 4-2 to renew the superintendent’s contract – the very thing most of the public speakers had asked the board not to do that evening. They and two school board members wanted the board to delay the contract-renewal decision for an upcoming meeting.
After a partial insurance settlement, the Verso company reimburses Sartell for $397,679 for the costs incurred by the city for emergency services and backup in the wake of the May 28 explosion and fire at the mill.
A wandering moose takes a stroll through St. Stephen and then disappears in a swampy area to the east. St. Stephen resident Randy Asseln takes photos of the creature and shares them in the pages of the Newsleader.
Verso workers say a sometimes-tearful farewell to one another and to the plant they worked at for so many years. The emotional event takes place at an appreciation ceremony held at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud.
The long-awaited results of Election Year 2012 are in. In the Nov. 6 election, new contender Amy Braig-Lindstrom is elected to the Sartell City Council, defeating incumbent Sandra Cordie and challenger Mike Piotrowski. Incumbent Steve Hennes is re-elected. In the Sartell-St. Stephen School Board race, the victors are Michelle Meyer (a former school-board member) and newcomers Krista Laurich-Durrwachter, Jason Nies and Pam Raden. They defeated five other candidates, including two incumbents, Chris Gross and Gary Schnellert. The newly elected members will join the two other current members, Mary McCabe and Dan Riordan, when the new board meets for its first January meeting.
In St. Stephen, incumbent Mayor Cynthia Vanderweyst defeats challenger James Dahl.
Mark Bromenschenkel is re-elected to a second term as a Stearns County commissioner.
In the Nov. 6 election statewide, Democrats take control of both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature. Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Republican) is re-elected to the State House. Also elected are U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Two proposed amendments to the Minnesota Constitution are defeated by state voters. One would have required photo IDs to vote; the other would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman only.
Nationally, the presidency is won again by President Barack Obama.
A virtual “army” of volunteers, about 120 of them, sod the football fields in Pinecone Central Park in a matter of just a few days. The fields will be ready for play next summer.
Alexis Roy, after 20 years of service as a Sartell police officer, retires. She tells the Newsleader, “It was a good ride, and I had a really, really good time.”
The Verso paper mill announces it has received a $40-million insurance settlement for the extensive damage and costs incurred from the May 28 explosion and fire that caused the plant to close for good after more than 100 years of being an economic bedrock for Sartell and the surrounding area.
The Sartell Sabre girls swim team takes second in the state meet, Class A division. In 2009 and in 2011, the team was named state champion.
The cold-blooded murder of Cold Spring police officer Thomas Decker sends shock waves through the entire state. The young officer, father of four children, was gunned down while making a welfare check of a man in downtown Cold Spring. His funeral attracted thousands of people, including law-enforcement personnel from throughout Minnesota, other states and even from Canada. A Sartell contingent of police officers also attended the funeral at St. John’s Abbey. Decker’s killer has still not been found. A reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest of the killer or killers.
The Sartell Senior Connection moves into its new “home” in the remodeled section of the School District Office Building.
Regan Dockery, a Sartell High School student, captivates audiences in her starring role in the play “Junie B. Jones in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells,” a GREAT production at St. John’s University.
The first Winter Farmers’ Market in Sartell is a resounding success as many customers show up at Sartell City Hall to sample and buy locally grown products. Organized by Sartell resident Amy Braig-Lindstrom, who also started a summer farmers’ market in the city two years ago, the Winter Farmers’ Market will take place the first Saturday of each month during the cold season at Sartell City Hall.
Sartell school officials, like people throughout the world, are horrified by the unthinkable massacre of 20 students and six school staff at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. A deranged young man used his mother’s weapons to kill her, then he drove to the school where he unleashed his bloody mayhem, firing an assault-type weapon over and over into huddling groups of terrified young students. Sartell administrators and teachers review their safety procedures at all schools.