Herald JournalHerald Journal, Jan. 6, 2003

Winsted-Lester Prairie year in review, part 2

Several events defined the year 2002 for local residents

By Lynda Jensen

In Winsted, development of Winsted's industrial park, relocation of Waste Management headquarters into the park, and a very soggy growing season, with some flooding, characterized the year.

In Lester Prairie, closing of the grocery store, placement in a new athletic conference at the Lester Prairie School District, and the fate of the outdoor pool dominated the year 2002.

(See part one, Jan.-June)

The following represents the last six months of 2002.


Communities in the area experienced record rainfall June 24 through 25.

"We're just thankful for all the volunteers and the fire department helping out with things, and the guys from our maintenance department ­ Damon Thompson and David Meyer ­ working through the night to make sure all our pumps were working, and helping people with water in their basements," Winsted City Administrator Brent Mareck said.

Winsted Lake also rose, he said.

"We had probably a handful of calls from residents in Winsted with water in their basements ­ it was nothing to say we had a crisis or anything like that.

"It was a long night, though, Monday (June 24) for a lot of people," Mareck said.

Although Winsted and Lester Prairie were hit hard, Silver Lake and Hutchinson were also pounded with the heavy rains.

"I know that we had some damage with people and water in their basements, and things like that," said McLeod County Sheriff Wayne Vinkemeier.

"We've had quite a bit of rainfall in the area over the past week or so, and in regards to the last rainfall Monday night (June 24), I think at that time we had between 5 to 6 inches of rain across McLeod County," McLeod County Emergency Management Director Kevin Mathews said.

The ground was already saturated from the rain the previous week, it really had no where to go, he said.

"In the City of Lester Prairie, they sand-bagged three houses Wednesday (June 26), and there were several roads closed due to water over them," Mathews said.

Lester Prairie had one residence that was flooded at Babcock Avenue, but that home has since been sandbagged, as well as two other homes, City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk said.

Lester Prairie teenager Andy Birkholz, 16, is doing just fine after having a heart transplant June 30.

"Everything is going very good so far," said Andy's dad Doug Birkholz. Andy's mother is Patty and his sister is Amy, 14.

Andy had the transplant at Fairview University of Minnesota, East Bank, after spending only two weeks on the donor list. The call came in at about 9:30 a.m. that morning that a heart was ready.

"The surgeon told us the surgery went 'fabulous,' and that everything is going well," he said. The surgery lasted four hours.

Andy's prognosis is excellent. "This surgery should be all he needs. The biggest concern is rejection," Birkholz said.

Thousands of dead fish washed ashore at Lake Ann during the Fourth of July holiday.

Between 5,000 and 10,000 fish, mainly small perch, were killed from low oxygen levels, said Paul Diedrich of the Department of Natural Resources.

"It was all species ­ all kinds," commented Tom Hammer of the Lake Ann Lake Association.

The low oxygen was likely caused by shallow flood waters that washed into outlying areas, remained standing over dying vegetation, and then washed back into the lake, Diedrich said.

What appeared to be a routine traffic stop in the city of Lester Prairie with someone on a four-wheeler, led to a high-speed chase through town that lasted several minutes July 5.

"It was a four-wheeler that didn't stop for a squad car. The initial reason for us attempting to pull him over was for speeding," said Lester Prairie Police Chief Fred Blaser.

The four-wheeler led the officer through town, down Pine Street, and eventually past the Lester Prairie park. The driver then went off the road.

Later that month, police captured the driver in Missouri following a two-week crime spree across four states.

The 21-year-old Montrose man who was driving the four wheeler, who was already on probation for earlier offenses, started a series of misdemeanor and felony offenses July 3 beginning with the incident in Lester Prairie.

Several juvenile males from the area caused a scare near ShadowBrooke Golf Course June 20 at approximately 1 p.m.

"We had a report from a vehicle traveling in the area of Shadow- Brooke that another vehicle had pulled up along the side of them and flashed what appeared to be a hand gun," McLeod County Sheriff Wayne Vinkemeier said.

A county patrol car was in the area, and it was found that the reported hand gun was actually a squirt gun.

No one was injured in either of the incidents.

The results of the community survey were tallied by Dick Grabco of Short, Elliott, Hendrickson (SEH) at the Lester Prairie City Council meeting.

The top three community development improvements in recreational facilities on the survey are a walking/bike path, a joint use facility, and outdoor pool.

Other written suggestions included extending city office hours, and reducing the local police department.

The walking/bike path ranked higher than the joint facility, with a score of 150. More than 100 people are in favor of the joint use facility, while 69 people feel an outdoor pool is a priority.

If a joint use facility between the city and school were built, a multi-media center, full-size gymnasium, auditorium, walking track, pool, meeting space, recreation center with games and snacks, and police department were all billed as being the most important aspects.

Areas that were identified as being top needs in the city include commercial development, industrial development, and downtown development.

Just under 70 percent of residents returned a valid survey, Grabco said.

Janet Daniels and Tiffani Haag are becoming funeral directors.

Both are working for Kevin Chilson, who owns Chilson Funeral Home in Winsted and Peterson Chapel in Buffalo and St. Michael-Albertville.

Twenty four students and adults from Holy Trinity parish traveled to an Illinois town July 13 for a week of painting and prayer.

The students helped poor folks at Cairo, Ill., which is a town at the southernmost tip of the state.

The experience is part of YouthWorks, a non-denominational nationwide program.

Mary Behrens was interviewed by KARE 11 as part of a feature story about Betty Crocker's 70th anniversary.

The general consensus of the Lester Prairie School Board was not to pursue an operating referendum for the 2002-03 school year.

The board discussed what would be needed if it were to go forward with a referendum, however, it was agreed that it would probably be the 2003-04 school year instead.

The major reason for not having one this year is if a joint use facility is approved, voters may be asked for money again two years in a row, Council Member Nancy Krull said.


The west side of Winsted may look very different in the future, pending council action on a large residential development known as Grass Lake Farm of Winsted.

The development plans include 159 single family homes, to be built over two phases, with an extension of Main Avenue featured in the plans.

The preliminary plat of the first phase received the nod from the planning commission during its meeting.

Grass Lake Farm will be located south of Main Avenue and Grass Lake Road. It is planned to be about 68 acres, said developer Mike Crosby of Landmark Midwest.

A fire destroyed a hay shed at Henry Otto's farm, located about two miles north of Lester Prairie on McLeod County Road 9.

"His family was hauling hay, and a few minutes later there was a heavy fire," Lester Prairie Fire Chief Jim Hoof said. "I'd guess it was probably a spontaneous combustion."

Helen Guggemos of Winsted was this year's Winsted Summer Festival parade grand marshal.

An evenly numbered Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School Board deadlocked twice over what it considered to be two good candidates vying for one vacancy on the board.

The board voted 3-3 twice, before a final vote of 5-1 installed Allan Doering as a replacement for long-time board member Gene Lorentz who recently resigned.

After being gone from the Winsted office for eight years, TDS TELECOM Manager Tom Ollig is back managing both the Winsted and Monticello offices for TDS.

New Police Chief Bob Carlson took the helm of the Lester Prairie Police Department, following the retirement of Fred Blaser.

Carlson, 31, has been with the department since May 2000 and has been a police officer since 1996.

Cancer survivor Jeanne Norman told her story to the Journal. Two teams from Winsted were formed for the cancer Relay for Life race, one headed by Jean Kappel, and the other by Barb Fasching.

Paul and Barb Boger recently sold their interests in the hardware store located in Cokato, and plan to eventually expand their Winsted hardware store, Paul Boger said.

The Bogers officially turned over Boger's True Value Hardware to Kurt and Stephanie Dahlin of Cokato Aug. 9.

The youth who shot a 16-year-old boy in the neck at a Lester Prairie apartment last February appeared in court for sentencing Aug. 6.

Benjamin Keith Berry, 16, will serve one year in the McLeod County jail after pleading guilty to one felony count of a felon in possession of a firearm.

Bergen and Hollywood townships purchased automatic ballot counters.

The West Nile Virus is in McLeod County, affecting four horses near the Glencoe area, according to the state board of animal health.

Another horse that was infected is owned by a Winsted area resident, but since it was kept at a Carver County stable, it was included in that county's statistics.

Wright County has 21 reported cases, Carver County six, Meeker two, and Sibley has no recorded cases, as of yet.

There are a total of 147 infected horses in the state.

Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Superintendent George Ladd jumped into the sensitive issue of the school district's future by unveiling a one-year plan for gathering public input ­ setting a building referendum as a goal for November 2003.

The plans call for what nearly amounts to a search for public opinion in the next several months, to formulate what kind of building arrangement should be made, either new or remodeling of existing facilities ­ which hasn't been decided yet.

To this end, the board plans to approach key organizations and solicit input directly from people. "Then we have a good shot at getting the word out," commented Board Member John Lideen.

The Lester Prairie School decided it was not a storm shelter, according to the school board.

It is, however, a facility that would provide support after the fact if a disaster hit the city, the board agreed.

Fire that consumed a wooden grainery south of Grass Lake Road early Saturday morning is suspected to be arson, according to the Winsted Fire Department.

Ten Winsted firefighters responded at 2:13 a.m. to 23998 Grass Lake Road, which is property owned by brothers Ralph and Charlie Millerbernd, said Winsted Fire Chief Paul Herbolsheimer. Mutual aid was given by the Lester Prairie Fire Department.

The empty structure was fully engulfed by the time crews arrived, he said. It took the firefighters approximately 30 minutes to diffuse the blaze, he said.

Evidence found at the scene led fire officials to suspect arson, Herbolsheimer said. Arson is an unnecessary risk when it comes to firefighter safety, he noted.


Realty Plus real estate agent Art Mallak opened his doors in downtown Lester Prairie.

His business is located at 32 Juniper Street.

Winsted resident Billie Allor opened her business, Living Legends Stables.

Allor gives riding lessons, and trains and boards horses. Horses are named after prominent people, hence the name.

Winsted firefighter Ken Fitchwell brought back quite a souvenir after recently visiting his sister and brother-in-law at Long Island, New York.

He took a Winsted Fire Department T-shirt with, hoping he could get some signatures from New York firefighters and police near Ground Zero.

Fitchwell got about 20 signatures from firefighters, the NYPD, and even an emergency medical technician who was at the towers Sept. 11, he said.

"The firefighters really appreciated the support they're getting from everyone," he said.

The community of Winsted will conducted a service to mark the one-year anniversary of Sept. 11.

The service took place at Mill Reserve Park in Winsted and included a presentation of colors, lower of the flag to half-staff, a message by Rev. Gerald Boldt, and songs "Amazing Grace" and the national anthem.

Fire struck the home of Keith and Justine Damlow, west of Winsted.

The fire was contained to one bedroom and the adjoining hallway on the main floor by the Winsted Fire Department, with mutual aid from other departments.

Neighbor Marvin Neumann saw the flames and called the authorities.

Small cities waiting for the state's shortfall to be resolved adopted double digit preliminary levy increases nearly across the board in the area.

Levy increases ranged from 5 to 41 percent, with Waverly being the only city that proposed a single digit increase. Montrose proposed a 41 percent increase, related to planned utility improvements.

Winsted City Administrator Brent Mareck pointed out that proposed budgets are just that ­ proposed ­ and that Winsted may actually end up raising the levy only five or 10 percent itself.

This is true for many cities, since proposed levies are generally considered a worst-case scenario financially, since the state will not allow cities to raise their figures after they are turned into the county for calculating tax rates.

Last year, cities were taken by surprise with the budget shortfall ­ and if it hadn't been for the veto override ­ would have been hit hard by state cuts.

Most small cities receive a sizable sum from Local Government Aid (LGA) given by the state.

Winsted's share of LGA is in the $400,000 range, Mareck said.

The projected state budget shortfall for 2004 is expected to be even larger than last year, or about $2.7 billion, Bahn said.

The state will probably cut about $59 to $70 million in LGA, Bahn said.

A burglar alarm and a police dog prevented a Winsted residence from being robbed.

Part-time Winsted police officer Aaron Wiemiller and his police dog Tyson responded to a security alarm with two other officers and found 34-year-old Jeffrey Thomas Traxler of Hutchinson in the basement of the home. He was apprehended.

The Winsted City Council viewed a presentation by the City of Chaska about a wireless Internet option.

The HLWW board decided to conduct a retreat to discuss long range district goals.

Currently, the board is accepting input about the long term facilities issue. "The process is started," Ladd said.

For long-term goals, Ladd indicated the board should sit down and talk to make sure that everyone was going in the same direction.

The dialogue should include the administrative staff, such as principals, Ladd said.

The current list of goals, which is outdated now, is more of a directive, "not goals as I would see them," he said. Some goals may be ongoing, he added.

The existing list of goals from last year include completing programming for a new 9-12 high school, the idea of Lester Prairie school consolidation, technology goals, expanding the agricultural program, curriculum and graduation standards, and several other goals that are identified as areas of continued focus.


After 10 years and 32 merit badges, Winsted teenager Josh Knott, 17, earned the top Boy Scouts honor, the Eagle award. Knott is in Boy Scout Troop 399, and is a junior at Holy Trinity Schools.

Sheila Sudbeck of Winsted was missing in action as a Democratic candidate for District 18 state senator ­ which is the fairly high profile race against incumbent Steve Dille.

Sudbeck moved back to South Dakota for a job a few months ago, said Nancy Larson, the DFL chair.

Sudbeck is no longer a resident of District 18, and is therefore no longer an eligible candidate, said Kent Kieser of the Secretary of State's office.

Two years has passed since Brandon Rehmann of Winsted was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

His ordeal has been painful, with injections, side effects of treatment, and tests, yet the family tries to look to the future.

Wright County Republicans pulled their support from candidate Dick Borrell of Waverly ­ asking him to withdraw from the race for District 19B ­ following publication of an Oct. 5 Star Tribune article about sexual misconduct by Borrell 15 years ago.

Borrell was later elected as representative of District 19B, despite a hasty write-in campaign launched for Republican Darren Knight.

Houses may dot the previously undeveloped north end of Lake Mary, if tentative plans to develop the area move forward.

Ideas about what to do with the 72 acres, which is owned by the late Albert Geisenkoetter, were discussed at the Victor Township meeting.

A large sum was awarded to Lester Building Systems of Lester Prairie by a jury in McLeod County District Court.

Following a three-week trial, an amount of $29.6 million dollars was awarded as a result of faulty Inner-Seal wood siding sold to Lester's by Louisiana Pacific Corp., headquartered in Portland, Ore.

Prior to 1991, Lester's used plywood, but decided to try Louisiana Pacific's product. Lester's has since gone back to using plywood for these projects.

Lester Prairie Market and Deli closed its door for the final time Oct. 11 at 4 p.m.

Store owner Bob DeMaris said it boiled down to bigger stores in Hutchinson and toward the cities, and not enough customers spending enough money.

"The whole general economy has been down 15 to 20 percent since last fall, after Sept. 11, and the world changed," DeMaris said. "This was just another little store that couldn't take another cut."

The store was unable to pay the refinance payment when it came time to do so.

"Banks want their money, too," he said. "But, the money is in the store on the shelves."

The perishable stock has been sold to other area grocery stores. The rest of the stock was sold at a going-out-of-business sale Oct. 25 and 26.

"That will be the last sale and liquidation of everything," he said. "There was a liquidator and auctioneer in here to look at a lot of things."

As for the fate of the building, DeMaris feels that it is highly unlikely another grocery store will be in it.

"If a town wouldn't support a store that size, why would it support a bigger one?

"Anything is possible," he said. "But it's not likely."

The Winsted fire department particpated in an anthrax drill at the Linden Wood Apartments.

The Journal revisited the local legend of 'Hanah's grave.'

Evidence of meth was found following a search warrant executed by local police and the Southwest Metro Drug Task Force at 460 1st St. N.

Christopher Ryan Paulson, 23, of Winsted, was arrested and charged with a first degree felony of selling controlled substances (meth). Jeremy Dotson, 32, of Victoria, who is Paulson's cousin, was cited and released for possession of drug paraphernalia.

Eighteen neglected dogs led to charges of animal cruelty being filed against a Winsted woman Oct. 21 after police executed an unrelated search warrant at her residence in Westgate.

Claudell Lorraine Grundstrom, 56, was charged with two misdemeanors when police discovered the dogs, two of which were dead, while serving the warrant.

"Not making threats, only promises" got a Lester Prairie man in trouble with the law following a confrontation with a minor Sept. 27.

Mitchell John Flatgard, 34 of Lester Prairie, has been charged with four separate offenses - fifth degree assault, possession of a dangerous weapon, theft of lost property, and possession of prohibited fireworks.

The assault charge stems from a confrontation with a juvenile over the stabbing of a dog in the 600 block of Central Avenue, according to a criminal complaint. The complaint states that "He got in the juvenile's face, grabbed him by the chin and threatened to hit him," and later stated that he "had no problem dropping a minor."

Flatgard then showed the youth the blade of a switchblade knife, the complaint said, and put his hand to the youth's head in the shape of a gun while continuing to make other threats.


Winstock performers did well at the Country Music Awards, including several artists lined up for next summer's 10th anniversary bash.

Hot country acts who are signed for the anniversary festival June 13 through 14 include Brad Paisley, Sara Evans, and Trick Pony.

Paisley was a big nominee at the Country Music Association awards ­ winning the music video of the year for "I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin' Song)," and was nominated for single of the year, and song of the year for the same song, as well as nominated for male vocalist of the year, which he lost out to Alan Jackson.

It seemed to be Jackson's night, with him taking five of the seven categories he was nominated for - thanks in large part to his song "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)?."

Benjamin Berry, 16, of Lester Prairie, is going to prison for a probation violation.

Berry was sentenced to 60 months in prison at McLeod County court.

The race for State Representative District 19B took another turn ­ post election ­ with Dick Borrell being investigated for unfair campaign practices by the Wright County Attorney.

Borrell won a three-way race among DFLer Lori Schmidt, and Republican write-in candidate Darren Knight.

The investigation stems from pamphlets and statements distributed by Borrell supporters five days before the election, claiming that Knight was being investigated by Wright County Attorney Tom Kelly.

Lilly, the newest addition to the Darlene Heuer household, came home for the first time evening.

The daschund was given to Heuer, and Orville Heldt who lives with Heuer, to assist them with hearing because they are both partially deaf.

The Lester Prairie Lions learned of a program that places dogs in homes, and trains them to respond to things like a door bell, telephone, smoke detector, alarm clock, and intruders.

Heuer and Heldt had a dog in the past to help them with such things, but that dog passed away last summer because of age.

What began as one man sleeping outside in a tent has led to more than $1 million dollars being raised in the fight against homelessness.

Bob Fisher of Wayzata is the son of Amelia and the late John Fisher of Winsted. Six years ago, he spent the nights of almost the whole month of November in a tent on his lawn, sometimes bearing sub-zero temperatures, all to get the word out about homelessness.

"That is just the kind of guy Bob is," said Fisher's mother Amelia. "His father was like that too, always helping people."

The Fishers moved to Winsted in 1968, and Bob was already in the Navy at that time. Following his term with the Navy, he located to Excelsior and opened Bob's Shoe Repair in Wayzata.

has for over the past 17 years, including when it used to be .

Kenny Radtke, who is employed by Waste Management, took first prize in a competition among three of the major garbage packer companies for his driving and pick-up times.

Summer construction of Highway 7 caused problems for motorists and business owners ­ and likely will again for more planned construction.

The next portion of the project, from Silver Lake to St. Boni, is aimed to begin in 2006.

Less than a half hour into a meeting about a possible joint use facility for Lester Prairie, several township officials from Bergen and Winsted townships walked out on the Lester Prairie School Board and Lester Prairie City Council night.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss plans of a joint-use facility in the community.

However, township board members did not seem satisfied with information presented to them.

Just prior to the rift, township members asked several questions about the facility.

"What we would like to get to before we leave tonight, is an idea of who's interested in sitting down and rolling up their sleeves and answering questions," Kyllo said.

"If anyone is not interested in sitting at the table and putting money in for bonding, then they're not sitting at the table," Kyllo continued.

With that, six township members left, Eugene Feltmann, Alden Enger, Mike Laxen, Pat Lemke, Ervin Mathews, and Albert Teubert.


Herb Roufs was Winsted's 2002 Winter Festival grand marshal.

The Winsted Fire Department teamed up with Jimmy's Pizza, the fire department to give a free pizza to a resident in the Winsted fire coverage area.

But there is a catch. The residents must have working smoke detectors in order to get their dinner free.

Any resident, who orders a pizza to be delivered Monday nights between 6 and 7 p.m., must have working smoke alarms in their home to get their pizza free. If all the smoke detectors are in working order, the fire department picks up the cost of the pizza.

So far, the department has paid for two pizzas, and given out one smoke detector and two packs of batteries.

The announcement of McLeod County's denial for the City of Winsted's request for tax abatement caused anger for Winsted City Council members because the city was not notified the item was on the county's agenda.

Blades owner Jill Fiecke opened her doors Nov. 26. The business is located in her home at 410 Zion Avenue in Winsted.

Chris and Jane Otto of Lester Prairie were the lucky winners of a pair of Vikings tickets to Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers, courtesy of Lester Building Systems.

The tickets were given away at the Lester Building Systems web site.

A chimney fire destroyed several rooms at a residence in rural New Germany, located in Hollywood Township.

Severe fire, smoke, and water damage was caused by the fire, forcing Robert and Jodie Dobratz and their children Ashley and Chad out of their home at 17875 42nd St., north of New Germany.

"I'm glad it's you, and not me," a colleague told Rep. Tony Kielkucki upon learning of Kielkucki's re-election to the assistant majority leader position in the house of representatives.

This was said after learning of the state's $4.56 billion budget shortfall, Kielkucki said.

In the midst of being re-elected, Kielkucki will have a big task ahead of him as he works with governor-elect Tim Pawlenty to try to tackle the deficit.

The assistant majority leader position is gained by being elected by a 60 percent vote of the House Republican caucus members, which took place.

Kielkucki has been in this position since 1999, and is in his fourth term at the legislature.

The Prairie Ad-News of Lester Prairie was purchased by Herald Journal Publishing Dec. 2.

HJP produces the Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal and Howard Lake-Waverly Herald newspapers, along with the Herald Journal Shopper, the www.herald-journal.com web site, and various other publications and marketing services.

Kevin and Tami Chilson, owners of Chilson Funeral Chapel of Winsted, are the new owners of Maresh Funeral Home in Silver Lake.

The Maresh Funeral Home was owned and operated by Bruce and Wendy Maresh of Silver Lake. Wendy had been running the business since Bruce's sudden death in July 2002.

Instead of reindeer and a sleigh, Santa uses a souped-up blue 1938 Chevrolet roadster in Lester Prairie, with the help of Bill and Joan Kocourek.

The Kocoureks own a Christmas display that is modeled after Bill's real life '38 Chevrolet Sedan, parked in the garage at Maple Street.

Doug and Mary Pawelk came home for lunch at 12:05 p.m. to see an intruder exiting their home through the front door.

Doug Pawelk chased the man, 24-year-old Jerimiah Westley Ross of Glencoe, for about half a block north of his residence on Fifth Street N., but was unable to catch him.

Ross works at St. Mary's Care Center with the Pawelk's daughter. Police suspect that Ross stole her house key while she was working, according to the complaint. Ross was not working at the time of the robbery.

A driving complaint near Hutchinson led to a foot pursuit, high-speed chase, and vehicle roll-over Dec. 8.

Ronald Eugene Christensen, 34 of Lake Crystal, was stopped by a state trooper while driving near the intersection of Highway 7 and McLeod County Road 1. He fled on foot and evaded arrest.

Christensen found his way to the Lester Prairie area, where he stole a 1979 Brougham motor home, owned by Daniel LaMott of Lester Prairie, from a storage shed.

Christensen, who has other outstanding warrants, was apprehended by Deputy Aaron Wiemiller.

Township officials returned for a meeting about a possible joint use facility for Lester Prairie; however, some still left disappointed about a disagreement over whether a plan was in place for the the structure.

"I understand that there's a plan out," said Bergen Township Supervisor Gene Feltmann.

"That is certainly not the plan," said architect Mark Thiede of TSP One, the committee's architectural firm. "A starting point was needed for everyone else to go from ­ this is just one plan, a place to begin."

A place to begin is what the committee is hoping to establish with a series of meetings set up throughout the early part of the new year.

Following three months of gathering opinions, the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School Board unveiled three ideas for long-term facility plans.

"This is what we think we're hearing (from the public)," said Supt. George Ladd.

The options, which feature remodeling and building a possible new middle and high school, were formulated by KKE Architects.

The ideas will be discussed at public hearings planned for February and March.

The Lester Prairie School Board discussed the pros and cons between the current six-period school day and a traditional seven period school day.

Board members Nancy Krull and Bob Carlson have heard comments lately how students who want to take band, choir, Spanish, etc. are having difficulty because they must choose between those interests and college-prep classes.

Clancy, the only mercury dog in the United States, visited all three Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted buildings in December ­ finding plenty of the toxin mercury.

"We recovered a total of approximately 18.5 pounds of elemental mercury at the school," commented Carol Hubbard, Clancy's dog handler, who is also a mercury specialist for the MPCA.

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