Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Review board clears deputies in shooting

St. Croix County Sheriff Dennis Hillstead announced that a shooting review board, which included law officers from New Richmond and Polk County, determined that deputies Ryan Kelly and Kristopher Stewart followed all policies and procedures in the fatal shooting incident of a man in rural Hammond Feb. 23.

Stewart is an 11-year veteran of the sheriff's department, including eight years as a patrol officer. Kelly joined the jail staff in May 2006 and has been in training as a patrol officer since January.

"Each of the officers has been provided with counseling services," said Hillstead. "It's a tragic incident, tragic for the victim and his family and tragic for the deputies and their families," he said. "It's very stressful and will continue to be."

Jacob Lee Sperl, 22, died as a result of gunshot wounds following a confrontation with the deputies. Sperl, who had reportedly made suicidal threats, pointed a loaded shotgun at the two officers outside his rural Hammond home when the deputies confronted him.

Water main replacement scheduled for spring

After last Monday morning's water pipe blow-out along USH 63 near Snap Fitness that dumped more than 200,000 gallons of water out of the village's north water tower, it was apropos that the Baldwin Village Board dealt with several water issues at their regular monthly meeting last

In addition to approving rebuilding part of Main Street, along with utility work in the street, the Board dealt with a block-long stretch of the main that dispersed its contents last week.

Public Works Director John Traxler noted at the meeting that the hole in the pipe that produced the large volume of water was about fist sized. He said that seven or eight feet of water main was replaced, but the entire main was pitted and is a continuation of the main done last year about a block south.

Traxler questioned whether replacing the block-long stretch of water main should be done in conjunction with the Department of Transportation project rebuilding USH 63 through Baldwin that will begin this spring and continue into the summer.

Village Engineer Mike Stoffel said the stretch of water main along USH 63 from Lokhorst to Summit is 370 to 380 feet and estimated the cost to replace it from $27,000 to $28,000 with new hydrants and valves. He said it is possible that it could be done in conjunction with the DOT project.

The board, after discussion, agreed that it makes sense to do the work when the road is torn up anyway, and approved the work if a price can be negotiated.

The other work along USH 63 that will be performed in conjunction with the DOT project is replacement of water main from the First Bank of Baldwin to the railroad tracks and replacement of sanitary sewer from Newton Street to Curtis Street. The board reviewed bids for the projects and accepted the low bid from Albrightson Excavating, Inc. in the amount of $78,376.

Finally, the board approved a project for the two block stretch of Main Street between 11th and 13th Avenues. That project includes replacing the water main and sanitary sewer, new water and sewer laterals and a new storm sewer drain at 13th and Main, said Engineer Stoffel.

Stoffel said the entire street will be lowered somewhat to improve drainage to and off the street.

Most of the existing sidewalk along the two block stretch will be replaced, with the exception of a short stretch of new sidewalk. New driveway aprons will be installed and the first lift of asphalt will be laid with the final lift going on in 2008, Stoffel said.

The board approved levying special assessments for laterals, sidewalks and driveways aprons to the property owners. Property owners can pay in installments over three years for new sidewalks, but aprons and laterals must be paid for in the year in which they are installed.

The Board approved advertising for bids on the project. Prices for paving the fire hall parking lot and installing curb and gutter and paving the Ambulance Service lot will also be included when bids are asked for the Main Street project.

In other action at the meeting:

-Candidates for the fourth judge position in St. Croix County who advanced to the general election after the primary gave presentations to the board. They are: Howard Cameron and Mark Gherty.
-Spring clean up days for village residents (not businesses) was set for Friday, April 25 from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 26 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
-A number of June Bug Days requests were approved at the meeting. The annual celebration will be held June 12, 13, 14 and 15 this year. The village will made an $8,000 contribution to the celebration, from the tourism fund.

The parade will be Saturday at noon, starting at the High School and proceeding east to 6th Avenue, then south and past Maple Street.

Dance licenses were granted for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights; picnic licenses were approved (allowing sale of beer); fireworks were approved for Saturday night; and a temporary operator's license was granted to Rick Coltrain.

-The annual lease for the Fire Hall was approved. The building of about 13,000 square feet rents for 50¢ per square foot.
-The board finalized a fireworks possession permit system with a charge of $3 per permit.
-The Board agreed that the village will participate in two loan programs using the proceeds from federal revolving loans. They are the Downtown Facade Program and the MicroLoan Program. The committee members for each program were approved as: Dale Jensen, Larry Knegendorf, Dale Fern, Dave Mattison and Willie Zevenbergen.
-Discussion was held regarding parking on 60th Avenue and whether it should be prohibited. Included in the discussion was whether a parking area could be created on the south side of 60th on village owned property commonly called "Wintergreen."
-The village approved purchase of playground equipment, mulch and trees for "Wood Duck Park" in Berkseth Heights. Cost of the playground equipment is approximately $15,000.
-Police Chief Jim Widiker noted that the kennel to which strays in the village have been taken has been closed and asked members of the board for help in finding an alternative.

Referendum information sessions set

When the referendum asking Baldwin-Woodville School District electors is held on Tuesday, June 3, members of the B-W Board of Education, a newly formed School Public Relations Committee and Superintendent Rusty Helland want voters to have as much information about the two questions as possible-the why, where, how and how much it will cost.

Toward that end, the newly formed committee-made up largely of members of the committee who studied school facilities needs and recommended that a new "intermediate" school be built on existing school property in Baldwin-are making themselves available to answer questions from the public and have planned a public information campaign.

As part of the public information campaign four public information meetings have been scheduled for different days of the week in order to accommodate as large an audience as possible. The dates and places of the meetings are:
-Monday, May 5 at the Viking Middle School gym in Woodville;
-Tuesday, May 13 at the Greenfield Elementary School gym in Baldwin;
-Wednesday, May 21 at the Viking Middle School gym in Woodville; and
-Thursday, May 29 at the Baldwin-Woodville High School Performing Arts Center.

All of the public information meetings will begin at 7:00 p.m.

In addition to holding informational meetings, members of the committee have divided into sub-committees. The "hard copy" committee will be producing flyers or brochures that will be available to district residents; the "electronic" committee plans to produce a web site and use
the B-W TV station, channel 18 on Baldwin Telecom cable, to present information about the referendum.

Also, said Superintendent Helland, all members of the "New School Public Relations Committee," including himself, have agreed to make themselves available to voters who have questions regarding the referendum questions.

Helland emphasized that the process that led to the referendum questions has been in the works for more than two years. Starting in 2006 a population study of the district was done by a company hired for that purpose and the B-W Board's long-range committee had discussed facility needs. A committee of district residents was formed to study facility needs, they met several times over a period of months, and their recommendations were presented last November.

Those recommendations, which were forwarded to the B-W Board which is expected to submit them to referendum on Monday night, March 17, calls for a new 90,000 square foot "intermediate" school to be built somewhere near present Greenfield (perhaps north or west of Greenfield) and some remodeling of Greenfield Elementary. It would house grades three through five. The cost of the new school is estimated at $16,494,500. The cost of Greenfield remodeling is estimated at $324,600. A separate question on the referendum is whether a new indoor swimming pool at a cost of approximately $3,500,000 should be built. If the pool and an intermediate school are approved, the pool would likely be attached to the intermediate school
since building a pool as part of a building project would be cheaper than adding it to an existing building, said Helland.

In upcoming informational pieces, district enrollment trends and projections will be presented and the effect of the referendum and bond issuance wo uld have on property taxes will be detailed.

Members of the committee who have agreed to be available to the public to answer questions regarding the referendum questions are: Jackie Benson, Jane Erickson, Beth Meyers, Denise Monicken, Dennis Paquette, Ken Peterson, Ken Rundhaug, Amy Wicker, Todd Graf, Dustin Klanderman, Tom Schumacher, Mike Timm, John Huenink - Construction manager with Kraus-Anderson, Brad Simonson - Architect with HSR Associates, Steve Apfelbacher - of Ehlers and Associates, the district's financial advisor, and Helland.

Referendum motions approved by school board

The Baldwin-Woodville Board of Education took the first formal steps in the building referendum process at the regular meeting Monday night. At last month's meeting, the board agreed upon June 3, 2008 for the date of the referendum; now two initial resolutions authorizing general obligation bonds and a resolution approving the form of notices and the official referendum ballot have been approved as required by law.

The two bond resolutions, one for a new intermediate school not to exceed $16,775,000, and another for an indoor swimming pool not to exceed $3,500,000 carried on a six to one vote. Voting yes were board members Mike Bondarenko, Todd Graf, Dustin Klanderman, Deb Rasmussen, Tom Schumacher and Jeff Campbell. Voting no was John Hinz.

The resolution approving the form of referendum notices and official referendum ballot was approved unanimously.

In discussion prior to the vote, Hinz asked if the increased borrowing affects the percentage of the school district's state aid, which is currently 68 percent. District financial advisor Steve Apfelbacher of Ehlers and Associates explained that there are no guarantees of state aid percentages from year to year regardless of debt. Each year the state figures state aid based upon all districts in the state. For the purposes of this project, Apfelbacher said he figured 63 percent state aid.

"What if the district's valuation goes down?" asked district resident Ken Rundhaug. "How does that affect our state aid?"

Apfelbacher said that's one of numerous variables that can affect a district's state aid percentage, either up or down. He said Ehlers and Associates bases their estimates on past and present information and past experience.

Rundhaug also suggested that school districts could re-align to spread students out to prevent over-crowding.

Superintendent Rusty Helland informed the board the new School Public Relations Committee met last week and the turnout was good. He said the group divided into two subcommittees: the hard copy committee and the electronic committee. Both will work to get referendum information out to the public. Helland said that four public informational meetings have also been scheduled. (Please see related story on this page.)

Sixth grade teaching team members Jarod Dachel, DeAnn Ashlin and Scott Benoy delivered a presentation to the board regarding gender specific classes. According to the team, having gender specific classes allows teachers to structure classes differently for boys and girls. Research has shown improved achievement at this age level in gender specific classes, Dachel said.

Benoy visited gender specific classes in Somerset, and met with teachers and students there. Although it's too early to measure the results with hard data, the staff and students were pleased with the situation there, he said.

The district's WCKE test results have shown statistically significant gender differences in academic achievement at the middle school and the team hopes to improve this through gender specific classes.

"We all know that boys and girls are different," said Benoy. "With these classes, the curriculum content stays the same, the way it is presented is different," he said.

The team said that research shows that grades four, five and six are the optimal time for gender specific classes.

Enrollment in gender specific classes will be voluntary, and the number of sections will depend upon how many students sign up this spring, according to the team.

A motion to approve open enrollment applications for the 2008-09 school year with one exception passed with a six to one vote. Voting yes were Bondarenko, Graf, Klanderman, Rasmussen, Schumacher and Campbell. Voting no was Hinz.

"Why are we accepting open enrollment students when we are crowded already?" asked Hinz.

"I look at it as a positive thing if students want to go to school here," responded Helland. "We would rather have increasing enrollment than declining and have to be cutting programs, like many districts around the state," he added.

The net number of open enrollment students is 20, according to Helland.

Following a closed session, the board approved re-admitting a student who had been expelled. The student has fulfilled the board's requirements for re-admittance. The student will be re-admitted April 1, the first day of the fourth quarter, said Helland.

Fitting tribute at final farwell

Bantam and varisty players of the Blackhawk Hockey Association paid a fitting tribute to Rose Schultz last Saturday at the conclusion of her funeral at Immaculate Conception Church in Hammond. The team members formed a canopy with their sticks during the recessional from the church and saluted with three raps on the ground. Rose, along with her husband Russ, has been a supporter of amateur hockey in the area since the inception of Blackhawk Hockey.