Area News

Jan. 24, 2020

Litchfield gymnastics coach resigns at request of AD

After about a month with the Litchfield gymnastics team, first-year head coach Neva Freitag has resigned, the Litchfield Independent Review reported.

According to Freitag, she was called into Activities Director Justin Brown’s office and asked to resign.

In an email to parents of gymnastics athletes, Brown said, “It was evident a coaching change needed to be made.”

Brown declined to comment on why he asked Freitag to resign, and Freitag also declined to comment.

Brown said Freitag will continue to coach at the youth level, and former varsity head coach Sara Holmgren has been reinstated as the interim head coach for the remainder of the year.

Waconia infrastructure project moves to final design

The Waconia City Council ordered the preparation of final design plans for a proposed 2020 infrastructure improvement project following a nearly two-hour public hearing last Monday, Jan. 6, the Waconia Patriot reported.

A few dozen residents attended the hearing and more than 15 spoke, posing questions and expressing concerns about the project.

The proposed project is actually a package of improvements, including:

• New street, storm sewer, sanitary sewer and water, and sidewalk on the western portion of downtown at Main, Walnut, Third and Cherry streets;

• New watermain along Waconia Parkway North in the Sugarbush area;

• Sugarbush Park stormwater improvements;

• Oak Avenue overlay, curb and gutter, and trails from Highway 5 north to Waconia Parkway; and

• Updated street lighting and a few other miscellaneous projects.

Total cost of the improvements is estimated at about $5.1 million, of which around $841,000 would be assessed, according to Project Engineer Jake Saulsbury. The remainder of the project would be paid for through bonds and city sewer, water, and capital improvement funds.

Stolen vehicle burns in Meeker County

Early Sunday morning, the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a vehicle on fire in the 20000 Block of 640th Avenue in Ellsworth Township. Authorities later learned the vehicle was stolen, KDUZ reported.

When deputies and Litchfield Fire Department personnel arrived at the scene at about 5:30 a.m., they found the vehicle unoccupied and on fire. The vehicle was a total loss.

Deputies learned the vehicle was stolen sometime during the night from the 61800 block of 193rd Street.

The cause of the fire and the stolen vehicle report remain under investigation.

Costs increase $1M for Hutchinson street project

Hutchinson’s portion of the bill for this summer’s State Highway 15/Main Street reconstruction project may end up costing $1 million more than previously estimated, according to City Engineer Kent Exner. This was among the details Exner discussed at last week’s city council meeting during a review of the cooperative agreement the city is considering with MnDOT, the Hutchinson Leader reported.

The project calls for full reconstruction of the roadway and underground utilities covering seven downtown blocks between Second Avenue North and Fifth Avenue South, as well as pavement resurfacing, sidewalk, and pedestrian improvements from Fifth Avenue south to Airport Road. The work is scheduled to begin in May and wrap up by November.

Along with outlining the construction and longterm maintenance responsibilities of the city and MnDOT, the agreement clarifies the city’s cost obligations for the project. According to the agreement, the city’s share of the bill includes 100 percent of the water and sanitary sewer costs, as well as portions of the costs associated with other utilities, street lights, sidewalks, traffic lights, parking lane construction, and improvements that meet Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.

In August, the city estimated its share of the project’s cost at $1.7 million, but that has increased substantially and is now estimated at $2.7 million. Several factors led to the increase, according to Exner, including the overall rise in the costs of construction materials from August to January.

Waconia schools, teachers reach contract agreement

Waconia Public Schools and the Waconia Education Association (WEA) have reached a two-year contract agreement that covers the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, the Waconia Patriot reported. The WEA voted to ratify the tentative contract agreement Jan. 10, and the District 110 School Board approved the proposed agreement at its meeting Jan. 13.

Negotiation teams worked through several challenging factors to hammer out the contract – notably that the school district is in statutory operating debt, primarily due to shortfalls in state funding, particularly with regard to rising special education costs that are not covered by state funding but are mandated by federal and state law, a condition known as a cross-subsidy.

Under the terms of the agreement: The teacher salary schedule will be increased by one-half of one percent in April, and anther one-half percent in September; teacher compensation increases that recognize years of experience will be reduced and delayed in both years of the agreement; and the district will match rising health insurance premiums beginning in March.

Longtime Glencoe firefighters stepping aside

They don’t remember the first call they went on, the dates of specific major events, or even the locations or significant details of fire calls. After 20-plus years as a Glencoe volunteer firefighter, it’s the people they helped and their fellow firefighters that mattered the most, the McLeod County Chronicle reported.

Earlier this month, Jamie Voigt and Jim Schroepfer Jr. retired. Voigt turned in his pager with 21 years of service to the department, Schroepfer with 20. Both men will be allowed to keep the helmets they wore as firefighters. Voigt will use his turn out gear when burning brush in his job with Glencoe Public Works.

Voigt retired as an assistant chief. Schroepfer served as a first lieutenant, a position he gave up because his job took him out of town and limited his availability. Both men easily surpassed the acceptable level of calls made – 20 percent – and retired well above that threshold. But, as they have aged gracefully, the two men concede rolling out of bed in the wee hours of the night to be on one of the first trucks out the door isn’t as easy as when they were in their 20s.