2012 provided big names, big stories

Yellow Ribbon launched in 2012

The effort to establish Elk River as a Yellow Ribbon community was kicked off in January when Annette Kuyper, the director of military outreach for the Minnesota Army National Guard, came and spoke.

Elk River was proclaimed a Yellow Ribbon city seven months later with a visit from Gov. Mark Dayton. He said: “We all understand that freedom is not free.”

Water tower named to historic list

File photo by Joni AstrupThis Elk River water tower made its way on to the National Register of Historic Places.
File photo by Joni Astrup
This Elk River water tower made its way on to the National Register of Historic Places.

A water tower in Elk River was named to the National Register of Historic Places in June.

Located along Jackson Avenue just north of downtown, it was built in 1920.

A historic architect who reviewed the nomination called the water tower a “great small-town icon.”

Roberts hired as Elks’ hockey coach

Gordie Roberts, a former Minnesota North Star and member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame who helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win two Stanley Cups, was hired to become the Elk River High School  head boys’ hockey coach.

Roberts played in the NHL for 15 years, including nearly eight seasons with the Minnesota North Stars.

He also helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history and again the following year.

He went on to finish his playing career with the Boston Bruins. While with the Bruins he became the first American-born player to play in 1,000 games in the NHL.

Redistricting opened three seats

Three legislative seats were wide open in the Elk River area in 2012 as a result of redistricting.

Republicans swept all three seats in the November election. Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer of Big Lake won the open Senate seat in District 30, Elk River City Council Member Nick Zerwas clinched the House District 30A seat and David FitzSimmons of Albertville won in House District 30B.

Mayors go hungry — for a cause

The mayors of Elk River, Otsego and Zimmerman participated in a Hunger Challenge in March to raise awareness about hunger.

They agreed to spend no more than $27.35 per person on food and beverages the week of March 4-10. That magic number is the average amount of food support received each week by a person in need in Minnesota.

The mayors and others took the challenge and it was, well, challenging.

After it was over, Elk River Mayor John Dietz said: “I don’t know if I could do it again. It was really difficult.”

Board moves ahead with revised plan for $1.37 million All Day K

The Elk River Area School Board decided on a 5-2 vote on Dec. 17 to add a free all-day, everyday kindergarten program, despite the District 728 administration’s recommendations to go with either a less costly option or hold off entirely.

The price tag is $1.37 million in the first year for a condensed 5.5-hour version of the program, down from a $2.2 million proposal for a full program that was considered part of a $6 million Nov. 6 operating levy that voters defeated.

The majority put a high priority on the new program, primarily because the recently adopted strategic plan. Another stated reason was the loss of students to other school systems that have all day every other day kindergarten programs.

The minority of the board would have preferred to hold off in the face of $3.6 million in budget cuts that are needed heading into the 2013-14 school year.

Alleged arsonists destroy home

File photo by Henry GrinerThis fire was allegedly set by arsonists who now face charges of burglary and arson.
File photo by Henry Griner
This fire was allegedly set by arsonists who now face charges of burglary and arson.

A Sept. 6 fire destroyed an Elk River home, which was later determined to be arson. Two local men have been charged with burglary and arson and charges are being considered by the Sherburne County Attorney’s Office against a third individual. The homeowner was home at the time of the fire, but got out safely.

Elk River boys bring home school’s seventh state title

Elk River High School has an unusual ledger when it comes to state championships. When the boys’ tennis team coached by Randy Ronning won the Class AA crown in June (see page 13 for sports stories of the year), they became the seventh Elk team to win a state title — one each in seven different sports. The 2012 Elks had one distinction among Elk state champs: at 31-0, they were the only one to go unbeaten for the season. Two of the Elks’ previous state titles came in hockey with the boys winning in 2001 with a 29-9-1 final mark and the girls in 2004 with a 29-2  record. Other ERHS state champs have been Nordic ski girls in 1994 (they won all but one meet), cross country girls in 2009 (they won seven of nine meets), golf girls in 2005 (they almost ran the table, winning 15 of 16 outings) and softball in 2009 with a 23-6 mark.

Big names came to town in 2012

Some big names visited Elk River in 2012.

File photo by Kara StriteskyGov. Mark Dayton helped designate Elk River a Yellow Ribbon community this past summer as a keynote speaker.
File photo by Kara Stritesky
Gov. Mark Dayton helped designate Elk River a Yellow Ribbon community this past summer as a keynote speaker.

In August, Gov. Mark Dayton spoke at a ceremony proclaiming Elk River a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon community. The event was held outdoors in downtown Elk River.

In April, it was a former governor that addressed an Elk River Early Childhood Education Summit put on by the Elk River Area Early Childhood Coalition. He urged the community and business to come alongside families to help parents be successful preparing their children for school.

Education Commissioner Dr. Brenda Cassellius shared Gov. Mark Dayton’s seven-point plan for achieving excellence in Minnesota public schools and explained Minnesota’s No Child Left Behind waiver proposal at Handke Center.

In August, it was big name entertainers who performed at JamFest in Otsego. Among the big names at the two-day event were rockers  Peter Frampton and Eddie Money on the first night and the following night it was country artists Jerrod Niemann and Ronnie Dunn.

Elk River buys prime riverfront

Unique. A gem. Awesome.

Those are a few of the words Elk River city officials have used to describe Bailey Point.

The 26-acre peninsula between the Elk and Mississippi rivers became city property in 2012. The city clinched the deal in November, buying the site for a nature preserve-type park that will open to the public in the spring.

Voters reject $6 million levy to fund operations, curriculum, technology,  and All Day Every Day Kindergarten 

The Elk River Area School District’s proposed operating levy renewal passed at the polls Nov. 6, but a second $6 million question for more money and an all-day, everyday kindergarten program among other things was handily defeated.

There were 19,870 votes cast for the first question, or 57 percent of the vote compared to 14,928 votes or 43 percent against it.

With the passage of the renewal, the district will continue to receive $5.75 million a year for the next decade. The money will be used to maintain existing curriculum, programs, services, class sizes and staffing.

The second question garnered only 40 percent or 13,961 votes compared to 20,764 votes or 60 percent “no” votes.