Star News » Government The Star News covers community news, sports, current events and provides advertising and information for Elk River, Otsego, Rogers and Zimmerman, Minnesota and their surrounding areas. Thu, 26 Mar 2015 20:30:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Finding the faces lost in Vietnam Thu, 26 Mar 2015 03:41:59 +0000 Submitted photo  The Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C., carries the names of 58,282 men and women who died in the Vietnam War. The Faces Never Forgotten campaign is collecting information on all of those people. The stories of 15 Minnesotans are still being sought.

Submitted photo
The Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C., carries the names of 58,282 men and women who died in the Vietnam War. The Faces Never Forgotten campaign is collecting information on all of those people. The stories of 15 Minnesotans are still being sought.

• ‘Faces Never Forgotten’ campaign needs help to honor Vietnam casualties

by Sam Schaust

Murphy News Service

Minnesota is on track to join the ranks of four other states in memorializing those who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.

The records of the 58,282 names carved on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., were destroyed in a monstrous military personnel records fire in 1973.

The Faces Never Forgotten campaign began as a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund project and has gained traction with Americans nationwide. Efforts to reimagine the long-gone collection of names with a photo, short biography or both are nearing the finish line.

Through extensive research, the memorial fund has taken the stockpile of names from the Vietnam Memorial Wall and broken them down by casualty date and military branch. The hometown for each man and woman was also recovered to bring a localized focus to the recovery effort.

Minnesota has been extraordinarily cooperative in bringing back humanity to these heroic names, said Andrew Johnson, a volunteer for the memorial fund and National Newspaper Association board member. “It began with at least 1,071 names needing photos, and right now it is down to only 15.”

Wyoming was the first state to complete its list, followed by New Mexico and then North Dakota and South Dakota. States with larger populations still have hundreds of unknown identities, although similar Midwest states, like Wisconsin (with 64 names to go), are further from their goal than Minnesota.

“On Feb. 23, we passed the 40,000 mark,” said George DeCastro, program coordinator of Faces Never Forgotten. “We get a lot of response from newspaper clippings. Between mail, email and website submissions, up to 10-15 photos are given each day.”

The memorial fund is aiming to uncover many pictures and stories behind the names by Memorial Day this year. However, DeCastro hopes to ultimately have the project finished before the planned education center across the street from the Vietnam Memorial Wall is built in 2019.

“When the center is built, you will be able to browse those profiles,” DeCastro said. Loved ones will be forever on display within the construct of the new underground education center.

The 15 Minnesotans still be sought are Leroy E. Peterson and Eugene M. Rick, of Coon Rapids; Donald J. Jacobsen, of Montevideo; Allen J. Ritter and Melvin Stockdale, of Moorhead; Lawrence H. Harris, of Wilmar; Gerald J. Johnson, of Round Lake; Kenneth J. Honek, of East Grand Forks; Joseph S. Herron and Bruce D. Olson, of St. Paul; and five from Minneapolis: Richard V. Blackburn, David W. Erickson, Dennis W. Ferguson, William G. Moncrief and Richard W. Smith.

“We want to humanize them by showing where they grew up, getting a story from their parents, or who they went to prom with …pretty much anything,” said Reed Anfinson, a Benson, Minnesota, newspaper publisher and member of the National Newspaper Association. “Hopefully someone will recognize some of these remaining names and at least put us in touch with their family.”

To publish a photo (and accompanying biography) to any one of the missing names, contact George DeCastro at 202-393-0090, ext. 128, or by email at Submissions can also be made at (Editor’s note: Sam Schaust is a journalism student at the University of Minnesota.)

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Pool’s win in Livonia Township election confirmed by recount Wed, 25 Mar 2015 02:30:53 +0000 by Debbie Griffin

Contributing Writer

Livonia election judges spent about 30 minutes on March 19 to conduct what most agreed is the first recount of votes in the township’s history, or at least in the past 20 years. The recount confirmed newcomer Sheldon Pool as winner of the supervisor B seat with 73 votes over Lila Spencer, who garnered 68 votes.

Livonia Clerk-Treasurer Jody Hammre said when an election is decided by fewer than 10 votes and involves fewer than 400 total votes, either candidate can request a recount.

Spencer, who was appointed to the seat in December 2014, requested and attended the recount. She said if the election had not been so close she probably would not have asked for the recount, but she knew the law allowed it and wanted to be certain of the results. Spencer served as the township clerk-treasurer from 2001 until 2013 and is a member of the Sherburne County Planning Advisory Board.

“I wanted to continue serving,” she said, adding that if elected, she’d have used her experience and knowledge to provide efficient and economical leadership.

Spencer said she’s lived in Livonia since 1993, is well aware of the town’s business such as budget and taxation as well as roadway and construction standards. She said she is certain the seated board will do a good job.

Spencer was appointed to replace Don Sherper, who’d served the Livonia board since 1999 but resigned in December due to personal reasons, “I really enjoyed it, but my health is catching up with me,” he said.

Sherper’s past civic service includes being an election judge and a board representative of the Minnesota Association of Townships, for which he acted as a liaison. He will continue to be involved as much as possible with the Livonia committees that manage parks and the cemetery.

Sherper said his time on the board and association with local people had been an interesting and positive experience. He spoke in favor of continuing to hold the local elections in March instead of doing as some townships have done and move them to November. He thinks the spring elections enable citizens to focus on the local issues and said Livonia has traditionally held its annual meeting on that second Tuesday in March after the polls close.

He said Spencer has shown she is a qualified candidate and that Pool seems like a community minded and level-headed individual, “I respect both of them very highly and am sure that Sheldon will do a good job,” Sherper said.

Sheldon Pool said he thinks Spencer did a good job of campaigning and agrees the five-vote difference was extremely close. He was pleased to see more voting in this election than he remembers in the last one even though it takes place in the spring when citizens typically aren’t thinking about voting.

“I think a lot more people got out and voted this year,” he said.

Pool did not attend the recount and said he received a phone call from the Livonia Township Clerk-Treasurer Jody Hammre to inform him of the results. He ran for the seat thinking maybe the board could benefit from a fresh perspective.

Pool and his wife own the Zimmerman Home and Garden Center, as well as Rocky Mountain Construction company. He said he’s lived in the area most of his life, has not served city or township government before and will tend to look at things from a business perspective.

With the City of Zimmerman uniquely situated in the center of the township, Pool would like to continue building and strengthening a relationship with the city, an effort that may involve combining resources. The new supervisor said he wants to continue keeping taxes low by making wise budgetary decisions.

Pool said he’s been a member of the Zimmerman-Livonia Fire Department for 20 years and plans to continue that service. He coaches and sits on the board of three, local, youth-sports organizations including football, softball and basketball.

The recount itself commenced at 10 a.m. and involved two election judges hand counting ballots as Hammre supervised and Spencer watched. The judges stacked the 141 ballots into stacks of 25 then checked each other’s stacks before dividing them into piles for each candidate.

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Christianson named to Elk River Planning Commission Mon, 23 Mar 2015 19:12:06 +0000 Garrett Christianson

Garrett Christianson

Garrett Christianson has been appointed to the Elk River Planning Commission by the City Council.

He replaces Thomas Petschl, who has moved out of Elk River. Christianson will fill Petschl’s unexpired term, which runs until Feb. 28, 2017.

Christianson, of Elk River, is an operations supervisor with United Parcel Service. Last fall, he ran for an open seat on the Elk River City Council, losing to Jerry Olsen in a close race.

The City Council appointed Christianson to the Elk River Energy City Commission in February, but he declined the appointment due to a scheduling conflict with the meetings..

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Zimmerman explores Legacy grant opportunity Fri, 20 Mar 2015 21:27:27 +0000 • Abatement fund aimed at spurring green development

by Debbie Griffin

Contributing Writer

The Zimmerman City Council listened at its meeting March 16 as Sherburne County Board Supervisor Rachel Leonard and other county officials explained that the city is eligible for up to $409,800 in grant money from the county’s Landfill Abatement Legacy fund. Leonard said the requirements include “green-building” criteria and award funding based on how many criteria the potential project includes.

Solid Waste Administrator Dave Lucas said at the meeting, “It’s based on the content of recyclable materials in your project.”

He said the grants aim to keep materials out of the landfill, and the program uses standards known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) offered by the U.S. Green Building Council. The more recyclable building materials a project uses and the more LEED standards it meets, the more likely a city is to get funding. Projects may achieve partial or full funding.

Lucas said the city would need to decide on a project and then complete an application that the County Board would review. If approved, Zimmerman would incur expenses for the project then get reimbursed for them.

Mayor Dave Earenfight asked if there were designers and architects familiar with the elements the county wants, and Lucas said yes. He and City Administrator Randy Piasecki said the city should consult with an architect early in the process so that the project and application would be more likely to conform to grant requirements.

Leonard said the Solid Waste Legacy Fund started in 2006 after Elk River asked the county for money to help build a YMCA facility. She said the county said no, but the proposition got her thinking. Soon she voiced an idea that the board liked: Based on population numbers, allocate from solid-waste fees $100 per capita in each city then use the funds to make landfill-abatement grants.

Each eligible city may apply for only one grant. “You either use it or lose it,” Leonard said.

Piasecki asked how many other municipalities have gotten a grant, and Leonard and Lucas answered: Big Lake added on to the town hall, Elk River built a public YMCA, Livonia built a town hall and Santiago expanded its municipal complex.

Leonard passed around a book recently published by the privately funded Sherburne County History Center, “Going Green in Sherburne County.” The 48-page publication tells about the various efforts throughout the county to reduce, reuse and recycle.

The book talks about specific grants given and general conservation efforts throughout the county, such as the environmental learning center at the landfill and programs to convert methane gas into energy.

After the presentation, Earenfight said to Leonard, “I’m sure we’ll be talking to you.”

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Boat dealer hopes to bring new life to Saxon site Fri, 20 Mar 2015 12:05:50 +0000 by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

The old Saxon Motors site along east Highway 10 in Elk River may become a boat dealership, complete with a large new pond in front.

An artist's rendering shows the pond that would be part of a proposed boat dealership at the old Saxon Motors site.

An artist’s rendering shows the pond that would be part of a proposed boat dealership at the old Saxon Motors site.

Dave Markquart, owner of Skeeter Boat Center, is interested in moving his dealership from Ramsey to the old Saxon site at 17354 Zane St.

Council members were asked to provide informal, non-binding feedback on the concept during a work session Monday at City Hall and appeared generally receptive to the idea.

Mayor John Dietz said he’s in favor of moving forward.

“This area has been blighted for a long time. It’s a terrible eyesore in Elk River, to have people coming into our city and this is one of the first things they see,” he said.

He also doesn’t think a boat dealership would generate a lot of traffic to impact the neighborhood. Markquart had indicated that 20 customers a day would be a lot.

The Saxon site was a car dealership that closed several years ago.

Now Markquart envisions updating and remodeling the building and installing a half-acre pond in front, complete with a dock and a pavilion. The pond would be stocked with fish and landscaped. It would give technicians a place to test boats for delivery and repair. It also would provide a place for the sales staff to demonstrate boat features (only the trolling motor would be used on the pond, not the boat’s main motor).

The property would be fenced.

The old Saxon Motors building would get a new look, as shown in this artist's rendering.

The old Saxon Motors building would get a new look, as shown in this artist’s rendering.

Key to the project is receiving tax increment financing for restoring blighted property, according to a concept review that Markquart submitted to the city. TIF would allow the city to capture the additional property taxes generated by the new project and use that money to pay for certain development costs.

A critical component to establishing a redevelopment TIF district is finding that the structures within the district are substandard, according to city officials. An inspection will determine if the Saxon building is substandard.

The old Saxon dealership is located at 17354 Zane Street in Elk River.

The old Saxon dealership is located at 17354 Zane Street in Elk River.

Redevelopment TIF districts are not common in Elk River.

“We don’t do a lot of them,” said Jeremy Barnhart, the city’s deputy director of community operations and development. The last one was in 2006 to facilitate the two new downtown buildings — Granite Shores (formerly The Bluffs of Elk River) and Jackson Place.

Besides seeking TIF, the project also would require that the city’s land use plan be amended from high density residential to commercial, and it would need a conditional use permit.

If the project becomes reality, eight staff members would relocate from Ramsey to Elk River. An additional five service staff members would be expected to be added in the next two years, according to the concept review.

A portion of the building could also be rented out for office space, generating additional jobs.

About Skeeter Boat Center

•Skeeter Boat Center was founded by Dave Markquart in 2009. It has grown to be the third largest Skeeter dealer in the country, out of 165 dealers.

•Skeeter Boat Centers are now located in Ramsey and in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.

•Skeeter Boat Center is a retail fishing boat business selling primarily high-end Skeeter fiberglass fishing boats powered by Yamaha outboard motors.

•Skeeter is a luxury boat brand with package prices typically ranging from $30,000 to $80,000 each.

•The business offers a full range of fishing boat services, including new and used boat sales, marine maintenance and repair, and fishing boat parts and accessories.

Source: Concept review submitted by Dave Markquart to the city of Elk River.

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New business park draws interest Fri, 20 Mar 2015 12:01:59 +0000 by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

Elk River’s new business park is taking off, with three companies looking at locating or expanding there.

All three companies are interested in lots in the Nature’s Edge Business Center, which is near Highway 10 and the Northstar commuter rail station.

The Elk River City Council voted Monday to accept purchase agreements from Scott Morrell and from GATR, a truck dealership.

The Morrell offer is to buy the 4-acre lot adjacent to Morrell Trucking for the asking price of $2 per square foot or $349,351, according to Jeremy Barnhart, Elk River deputy director of community operations and development.

GATR’s offer is to buy two lots totalling nearly 15 acres at the asking price of $2.25 per square foot or $1,316,695, Barnhart said.

GATR sells heavy-duty and medium-duty trucks, including Volvo semis, and has locations in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines, Iowa, and Sauk Rapids, Minn. GATR is planning a new dealership at the Elk River site.

The price difference between the Morrell lot and the GATR one reflects industrial property versus commercial property, Barnhart said.

Meanwhile, the city also considered a third purchase agreement from the parent company of Sportech in Elk River to buy two lots totalling 14 acres, but the Elk River Economic Development Authority directed city staff to negotiate that one to reach a “win-win” scenario.

Annie Deckert of Decklan Group, representing Sportech, said the company is looking to build a new facility to support continued growth.

“They have aggressive plans to continue growing, and create hundreds of new, well-paying jobs,” Deckert said.

Members of both the Elk River EDA and the Elk River City Council stressed during meetings Monday that they want to come to an agreement with Sportech to make the project happen.

Mayor John Dietz said Sportech has done a tremendous amount for Elk River when it comes to jobs and expanding the tax base.

He said it’s imperative that the city reaches an agreement with the company.

“I’m holding everybody accountable here that this gets done,” he said. “I really want this to happen.”

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Legislators calling for $17 million in state bonds for Highway 10 planning Thu, 19 Mar 2015 01:16:00 +0000 Two Republican state legislators introduced bills in late February seeking money to complete final designs and environmental analysis of Highway 10 improvement projects in Anoka and Ramsey.

Sen. Branden Petersen

Sen. Branden Petersen

Rep. Abigail Whelan

Rep. Abigail Whelan


Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, and Rep. Abigail Whelan, R-Anoka, respectively introduced Senate File 956 Feb. 19 and House File 1207 Feb. 25 and are awaiting first hearings in the Senate’s Capital Investment Committee and the House’s Transportation Policy and FinanceCommittee.


If approved, this legislation would appropriate $17.46 million from the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s bond proceeds account and distribute these dollars to Anoka County in the form of a grant. The money allows the county to complete preliminary engineering, environmental analysis and final design for Highway 10 improvement projects in Anoka and Ramsey between Fairoak Avenue and Ramsey Boulevard.

“I’m excited to work with Representative Whelan on these critical infrastructure issues,” said Petersen. “I’ve been working on Highway 10 issues for the five years I’ve been in the legislature and I look forward to building on the success we had last session with the Armstrong Boulevard interchange.”

Whelan said Highway 10 “is one of the most important issues affecting our district.” She and Petersen will also be introducing a bill this session that allocates $122 million to complete projects in this area of Highway 10. The $17.46 million would ensure these projects are “shovel ready” when funds are allocated.

“Those of us who live in the northwest metro know that Highway 10 is in dire need of an additional lane of traffic, among other things, to help improve traffic flow. This legislation is an important first step in seeing this important project completed.”


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Spencer asks for recount in race against Pool for Livonia Town Board Wed, 18 Mar 2015 20:32:14 +0000 It will take place at 10 a.m. on March 19 at Livonia Town Hall.

Spencer was the incumbent in the race. She had been appointed to the seat after longtime supervisor Don Sherper resigned. Livonia officials counted 68 votes for Spencer and 73 votes for Pool on election night.

Livonia Clerk-Treasurer Jody Hammre said that when an election is decided by fewer than 10 votes and involves fewer than 400 total votes, either candidate can request a recount at the taxpayer’s expense.

Once the votes have been recounted, results will not be official until they’ve been presented to and accepted by the canvassing board.

Hammre said election officials hand counted votes the first time, so she does not expect any discrepancy due to machine error. She hasn’t been the clerk of Livonia for long but has served as an election judge since 1996 and said this is the first recount she recalls happening in Livonia.

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Franken pressing for making oil less volatile before its shipped Tue, 17 Mar 2015 23:49:04 +0000 U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., a member of the Senate Energy Committee, is pressing the Federal Railroad Administration for new measures to make the oil less volatile before its shipped from North Dakota through communities in Minnesota.

Photo by Jim Boyle  The high volume of cargo, including grain, oil, propane and coal, are causing major delays on Minnesota’s rail system. Add to that last winter’s polar vortex, summer flooding and maintenance, and it has been one long year. Propane delivery, taconite production, agricultural crops and passenger rail have all been heavily impacted.

Photo by Jim Boyle
The high volume of cargo, including grain, oil, propane and coal, are causing major delays on Minnesota’s rail system. Add to that last winter’s polar vortex, summer flooding and maintenance, and it has been one long year. Propane delivery, taconite production, agricultural crops and passenger rail have all been heavily impacted.

He also called yesterday (March 16) for action to route trains around communities, to address rail integrity issues, and to give communities more resources to respond to an accident.

“I have heard strong concerns from many constituents about the safety of Bakken crude oil being shipped through Minnesota, as the trains carrying this crude oil have shown a propensity to explode in the case of a derailment,” wrote Sen. Franken in a letter sent to the Federal Railroad Administration on Monday. “I urge you to take whatever actions necessary to address the safety of the product itself, as your comments called for, and require that this crude oil be made less volatile before it is shipped through my state and across the country.”

Franken backed new federal safety standards for trains carrying the oil last fall. He has also urged the creation of a new fund to manage existing and emerging issues related to oil transportation.

To read a copy of Sen. Franken’s letter, click here.

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New economic development director likes helping businesses succeed Tue, 17 Mar 2015 22:20:12 +0000 Amanda Othoudt

Amanda Othoudt

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

Amanda Othoudt will begin work March 23 as Elk River’s new economic development director.

She fills the position vacated by Brian Beeman.

Othoudt has worked since 2012 as the community development coordinator for the city of Becker. Her responsibilities have included planning, community development and economic development for both the city and Becker Township. She also has been responsible for business retention, expansion and attraction.

She’s excited about her new job in Elk River, and sees a lot of potential to spur new development.

“I’m very interested in business development and helping businesses succeed,” Othoudt said.

Othoudt is a graduate of St. Cloud State University, with a bachelor’s degree in planning and community development and minors in economics and heritage preservation.

Prior to Becker, she worked for a land development and construction company in St. Cloud.

Othoudt grew up on a dairy farm near Foley. Today she and her family live in the home where she grew up. She and her husband have five children, ages 6 to 15.

“We do hobby farm stuff. It’s a lot of fun,” she said.

One of their projects has been to restore the old barn on the property, which was a year-long project. Othoudt and her husband were married there, and she envisions it as a venue for other weddings as well.

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