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. Wed, 04 Mar 2015 03:57:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Otsego OKs new housing, archery range Sun, 01 Mar 2015 21:36:02 +0000 by Debbie Griffin

Contributing Writer

The Otsego City Council gave the green light at its Feb. 23 meeting for Meridian Land Holdings to build a third addition of the Wildflower Meadows housing subdivision and for the city to have an archery range in the southwest corner of Prairie Park.

Merdian plans to develop 27 single-family homes in the neighborhood bordered generally by Queens Avenue to the south, 74th Street Northeast to the east and River Road Northeast (Highway 42) to the west. The homes will have a minimum lot width of 55 feet and setbacks of 25 feet in front, 7 feet on the side, 25 feet on the corner and 30 or 65 feet in the back, depending on the lot orientation.

Meridian plans to curve Queens Avenue around to connect with 74th Street and create a looped block of homes. The developer’s agreement says the company will, by the end of 2015, dedicate 6.4 acres of park land to the city, build streets and other infrastructure, install boulevard-landscape trees and erect street lights.

Rick Meridian attended the meeting and answered the council’s questions. He said the company plans to come back for approval of plans to build a fourth addition of town houses and perhaps an eventual fifth addition, too. Meridian said that the city needs more housing like town homes.

City adds archery targets

Otsego Parks and Recreation Manager Ross Demant explained that the archery project came to be after the company Archery Country approached the city about the possibility of providing free archery targets if the city would supply a place to put them and construct frames to hold them.

Archery targets coming to Otsego

Archery targets coming to Otsego

He had checked with the city of St. Joseph, where the archery company had the same arrangement, then talked with some local Scouts about the possibility of constructing the target frames for Otsego as an Eagle project. Demant checked on places where the range could be and found the southwest corner of Prairie Park to be feasible. He said the city could create dirt berms behind the 20- to 60-yard targets to catch stray arrows and limit access to the adjacent private-property farm field.

Each of the archery targets retails for about $300, and Archery Country replaces them for free or at a substantial discount. Demant said the targets would be left up year-round and require little maintenance. Otsego could add standing-area concrete for about $50 per pad, and the archery range would share parking with the nearby ball field.

The council members confirmed that the range would operate under park hours, have a trash can placed nearby and go by rules to be proposed and approved after further research.

The Otsego City Council took other action at is Feb. 23 meeting:

•Approved Parks and Recreation Commission meeting minutes that say a 55-plus program started in January is going well at the Prairie Center 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, offering card games, field trips, speaker presentations and fitness options.

•Appointed members to the city’s advisory boards and commissions since several terms expire at the end of February; the appointments included three members to the Planning Commission, two for the Heritage Preservation Commission and four people to the Parks and Recreation Board, including an alternate.

•Selected U.S. Bank as its one depository for the safekeeping and administration of “the city’s investment assets.”

•Approved as part of its consent agenda a liquor license for new business The Igloo, located at 15850 87th St.

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Council addresses the ‘single’ part of single-family homes; sign design chosen Thu, 26 Feb 2015 22:26:20 +0000 by Debbie Griffin

Contributing Writer

After swearing in the city of Elk River’s new chief of police at its Feb. 17 meeting, the Elk River City Council took action related mostly to homes, business, signage and security.

It granted the permit, zoning change and final-drawing approval needed for the Washington Street Investors to develop the West Oaks housing subdivision located south of Highway 10 near the city’s border with Big Lake. The plan includes 44 single-family homes, a lower density than the original development plan for 64, four- and six-unit town homes.

The council’s documents say each home will have a separate driveway, and the homes will be served by city sewer and water. Planned setbacks are 20 feet on the street side, 5 feet along the sides and between 2 and 25 feet in the back.

A neighbor who lives west of the area said at the meeting he thinks the lots seem too small and the buildings too close together. He wondered how the homes could be worth $200,000 or $300,000 when all are on slabs and won’t have basements.

The city planner said the developer will use a hybrid model of home that fits the site. The current plan has slightly smaller setbacks than the original plan but places fewer overall dwelling units in the area. The council voted 4-1 to approve the plan, with Council Member Jerry Olsen voting no.

The council also discussed how Elk River defines a single-family dwelling. Planner Chris Leeseburg said people ask why they can’t build an accessory structure or shed on their property for someone, why they see two families living in one single-family dwelling and why they can’t sublet a garage or basement apartment to supplement their income.

The members discussed how zoning laws allow for such functions in a multi-family district but technically define single-family homes as one, independent household unit that includes eating, sleeping and sanitary facilities. Everyone agreed the issue is an evolving one in more places than just Elk River.

The council members agreed the city should research other municipal policies and check with the League of Minnesota Cities and then revisit the issue after it gathers more information.

The Elk River City Council took other action at its Feb. 17 meeting:

•Consented to a $126,000 jobs-incentive microloan from the Elk River Economic Development Authority to Hemmer Properties, LLC, dba Distinctive Iron, for it to acquire and renovate a building at 19128 Industrial Blvd. for its growing metal design and fabrication business, which will create jobs in the coming years. The council also said yes to the company storing steel on outdoor racks in a 20-square-foot area that will be enclosed by a 6-foot fence and surrounded by 15 trees.

•Expressed support in the form of a resolution for local company Sportech, which needs the council’s approval for a grant application it is submitting to the Minnesota Job Creation Fund based on its plans to develop a manufacturing building later this year.

•Accepted a $50,000 donation from the Trust for Public Lands to improve and restore parts of the 335-acre Houlton Farm Property Conservation Area, agreeing to use the money only to improve, demolish or remove buildings; clean the site; install signage and interpretive materials; develop an entrance, parking area and primitive boat launch; and restore the site.

•OK’d the permitting needed for Phoenix Enterprises, LLC, to replace its current sign east of Highway 169 at 19260 Evans St. NW with a digital sign that has an overall sign area of 136 square feet, is 30 feet tall and has a digital display area of about 50 square feet. The sign meets standards that say it must transition faster than two seconds and no more often than every eight seconds.

The Elk River City Council has chosen this design for new entrance signs.

The Elk River City Council has chosen this design for new entrance signs. Other signs in the city will also be patterned after this design.

•Chose design option B for Elk River’s way-finding program, which includes placing monument-style signage at four gateways to the city; the signs will include four square tiers and feature the city logo, characteristic river rock and the slogan “Powered by Nature.”

•Agreed, after interviewing four internal candidates for the position, to promote Katie Haase, a part-time city employee serving as the fire chief’s administrative assistant since 2013, to the job of human resources technician.

•Listened as Mayor John Dietz said that since the New Hope shooting incident, Elk River will look into tighter security at council meetings with such possible measures as a metal detector at the door or a police officer at meetings; he said “if it can happen in New Hope, it could happen in Elk River.”

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Legacy grant could open door for Zimmerman project Thu, 26 Feb 2015 21:29:05 +0000 by Debbie Griffin

Contributing Writer

The Zimmerman City Council did not discuss the item for long at its Feb. 23 meeting, but its supporting documents say the city is eligible for up to $410,000 in Sherburne County Solid Waste Legacy Grant funds, which must be used for green-building construction of a community project.

Mayor Dave Earenfight asked for information about the funds and said at the meeting a county representative had sent him a grant application. The correspondence suggests that someone from the county visit and provide more information before the city names a project or applies for a grant.

Solid-waste fees associated with the Elk River Landfill generate the fund, and Zimmerman would be eligible for only one grant from it. The council members agreed to contact the county and ask someone to visit during a regular meeting.

The grant application documents say that possible projects earn more points and have a better chance of winning funds when they plan to retain existing structures and use recyclable materials. The requirements say projects should try to keep at least 50 percent of an existing structure and strive to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification standards, which include four levels: certified, silver, gold and platinum.

The mayor said after the meeting that Zimmerman had acknowledged the Legacy funds during the recent budget process and then not long afterward participated in the community café event facilitated by the Elk River school district. The majority of residents attending it “wished” for a community center where people could hold big or small events, civic meetings and senior activities.

Earenfight said those circumstances “made the light bulb go off,” and he contacted the county. He agrees that it’s a far-off future goal, but the funds hold strong potential to make something like a Zimmerman community center a reality. For example, the mayor said Legacy funds helped Livonia build its town hall. He said everyone will have different ideas about how to use potential grant money in Zimmerman, but the city has “tossed around” for years the idea of enhancing and expanding the small civic building in Lions Park near the ball fields.

The Zimmerman City Council took other action at is Feb. 23 meeting:

•Heard the park and recreation report on progress the city is making to replace worn and aging plastic glass surrounding the ice arenas and how vandalism is down at the arena, probably due to increased law-enforcement patrols in the area.

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Former Zimmerman mayor, Sheburne County Commissioner dies at 94 Tue, 24 Feb 2015 15:28:14 +0000 Myron “Mike” Edward Johnson, a former Zimmerman mayor and Sherburne County Commissioner has died at age 94.

The Zimmerman mandied on Feb. 20 at the Elim Nursing Home in Milaca.

He was born on Dec. 11, 1920 in Isanti Co to Ed  and Hattie (Meyer) Johnson.

Myron "Mike" Johnson

Myron “Mike” Johnson

Johnson was a WWII Navy Veteran stationed in San Diego, CA. In 1952 he moved from St Paul to Zimmerman, where he had bought a gas station and cafe.

In Zimmerman, he was a member of the American Legion, the Fire Dept, and Zion Lutheran Church of Crown. He served as Mayor of Zimmerman for 11 years and was a Sherburne County Commissioner for 21 years.

He and his wife Beatrice (Whittlef) were married for 72 years. They had two children and four grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be Sat, Feb. 28 at 11 a.m. at Zion Lutheran Church of Crown, 7515 269th Ave. N.W., St Francis, with visitation 1 hour prior to service.

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Otsego to district: ‘Where are the fields’ Fri, 20 Feb 2015 18:04:04 +0000 by Debbie Griffin

Contributing Writer

Most members of the Otsego City Council had questions for Parks and Recreation Manager Ross Demant at the Feb. 9 meeting as he gave an awaited update from the school district on a pending project to create playing fields adjacent to Otsego Elementary school.

Demant said Greg Hein, the district’s executive director of business services, had told him in an email that the project had not reached priority status on the school’s list.

Mayor Jessica Stockamp asked what had happened and said, “We were told this was on their five-year CIP plan since like 2004.”

The council members requested details for why the project would not happen. Demant said he’d asked for more information but had not gotten any yet. The email message he received said the potential project funds would be used for educational components.

The site sits north of Otsego Elementary school on River Road and south of a subdivision development fronted by 82nd Street Northeast and has open space and a baseball diamond. The Council members said people practice there but don’t play games because the field consists of patchy dirt, weeds and rough terrain.

Demant and City Planner Dan Licht agreed that discussions about the potential project go back as far as 10 years and that the general perception has been that the city and school district could achieve the new playing fields together. Everyone agreed they thought the project was moving forward this year or soon. Discussions have generally been about the school district installing a sprinkler or irrigation system and then the city maintaining and mowing the area.

Demant said he’d attended a meeting with school district representatives in November and checked back at least monthly since then in an effort to bring the council an update. The council members agreed they were disappointed by the news and needed “more of an answer.”

Council Member Doug Schroeder, who sits on the subcommittee for the new E-8 school that will eventually get built in Otsego and is funded by the recently passed bond, said he’d like to hear the “no” from the superintendent. Several people at the meeting agreed that they wanted better communication, especially from this future school-building partner.

Superintendent Mark Bezek and Hein said in a phone call after the meeting that the district had shared with Otsego an engineering report completed this fall that revealed how much work the site needs. They said the original plan to install a sprinkler system would cost around $50,000, but the site report shows decent fields at a cost closer to $500,000.

The report shows more specifically what it will take to transform the site into two adult softball-baseball areas and a field for soccer and lacrosse, and the work would include major reorientation, grading and “moving of dirt.” They said the district shared the report in a meeting that involved city staff and some would-be construction people. Hein said the goal involves far more than installing sprinklers.

Bezek confirmed that the school district had set aside the money for an irrigation system but did not have money for the other work.

“We obviously have a lot more requests than we do funds available,” he said.

Bezek and Hein said the bigger project was never a definite “go.” The potential irrigation system had been part of a capital budget plan, not a capital-improvement plan.

Stockamp and Bezek mentioned that the administration of possible future fields had come into question a few times. The school district schedules activities on its fields, but Otsego schedules its own. Bezek said it leads to confusion when two different entities schedule things for the same field.

The superintendent said the city and school district have been talking about the project a long time, but now it has come to the economics of it. He said questions at this point aren’t unusual and that Otsego and the school district just haven’t reached an agreement yet. He said typically properties like the one in question are a joint venture and partnership between the two entities.

He said regardless of which pool the funds come from, they’ll be taxpayer dollars that must be used efficiently. Bezek said it is always the district’s intent to collaborate with cities and work with them, citing recent school bond meetings as an example. He visited each city that will undergo school improvements and facilitated informational meetings in the communities that requested them.

The Otsego City Council took other action at its Feb. 9 meeting:

•Listened as Rep. Eric Lucero delivered a legislative update in which he said a committee meeting date will be set soon for the bill(s) proposing a third lane on Interstate 94 between Highway 241 in St. Michael and County Road 19 in Albertville; he will want to gather constituents for that meeting once the date is set.

•Discussed renewing Otsego’s 15-year franchise agreement with Charter Communications when it expires in 2017. The city attorney said the process starts now because of federal regulations that require a 36-month period of negotiation, during which time the city may poll residents to get their impression of the company’s service.

•Agreed to allow the new Igloo Restaurant and Bar to pay “normal” sewer- and water-access fees, even though it plans to hold a maximum of 10 bigger-venue events per year that if held regularly, would warrant higher fees.

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Arnold, Hiivala win professional awards Fri, 13 Feb 2015 13:00:02 +0000 Diane Arnold

Diane Arnold

Bob Hiivala

Bob Hiivala

Two area auditor-treasurers have been honored by their professional association.

Diane Arnold, Sherburne County auditor-treasurer, received the Auditor Of The Year award and Bob Hiivala, Wright County auditor-treasurer, received the Treasurer Of The Year award.

The awards were presented by the Minnesota Association of County Auditors, Treasurers and Financial Officers.

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Elk River City Council makes appointments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 23:54:20 +0000  Britt Aamodt

Britt Aamodt

Garrett Christianson

Garrett Christianson

Kent Madsen

Kent Madsen

Bob Jones

Bob Jones

Mike Nicholas

Mike Nicholas

Brad Thiel

Brad Thiel






by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

Thirteen people have been appointed or reappointed to Elk River boards and commissions by the City Council. All terms are for three years, except for the Library Board.

New appointees, pictured here, include Britt Aamodt, Garrett Christianson, Bob Jones, Kent Madsen, Mike Nicholas and Brad Thiel.

Reappointed by the council were David Anderson, Dennis Chuba, Andrew Crook, David Kallemeyn, Mark Konietzko, Guenther Sagan and Daryl Thompson.

Here’s more about the appointments.

Elk River Library Board

Britt Aamodt, of Big Lake Township, is a self-employed radio and print journalist who was appointed to the Elk River Library Board. She has undergraduate degrees in art, biology and Korean culture and a master’s degree in mass communications.

Aamodt will fill Nicole Novotny’s unexpired term. Novotny resigned from the Library Board in November. The term runs through Dec. 31, 2018.

Energy City Commission

Garrett Christianson was appointed to the Elk River Energy City Commission and Dennis Chuba was reappointed.

Christianson, of Elk River, is an operations supervisor with United Parcel Service. Last fall, Christianson ran for an open seat on the Elk River City Council, losing to Jerry Olsen by 29 votes.

Chuba, also of Elk River, works in construction sales for Chuba Company. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and advertising. He also serves on the Elk River Housing and Redevelopment Authority and has been active in other community and professional organizations.

Scott Hagen did not seek reappointment.

Heritage Preservation Commission

Bob Jones and Mike Nicholas, both of Elk River, were appointed to the Elk River Heritage Preservation Commission.

Jones is retired. He spent most of his working life in electrical generation facilities, including working as one of four construction superintendents for the power plant in Becker. He also is past chairman of the Elk River Library Board.

Nicholas is an operations analyst with Absolute Quality Mfg. Inc. He has a master’s in public affairs with an emphasis on economic development. Nicholas served as a planning commissioner for the city of Chaska from February 2014 to August 2014. He recently moved to Elk River.

Steve Rohlf and Marilyn VanPatten did not seek reappointment.

Ice Arena Commission

Kent Madsen was appointed to the Elk River Ice Arena Commission.

Madsen is a bridge safety inspector with the city of Minneapolis. He is a college graduate, with a minor in recreation. He is a past member of the Ice Arena Commission, served on the Elk River Youth Hockey Board for 13 years and is a past member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission. He also is a hockey referee.

Ron Johnson did not seek reappointment.

Parks and Recreation Commission

Dave Anderson, David Kallemeyn and Guenther Sagan were reappointed to the Elk River Parks and Recreation Commission.

Anderson, of Big Lake Township, is director of concrete quality at Cretex Concrete Products. He has 27 years of commission experience.

Kallemeyn, of Big Lake Township, is an engineer with Honeywell.

Sagan, of Elk River, is a retired teacher. He also coached high school and youth sports for many years in Elk River.

Planning Commission

Andrew Crook and Mark Konietzko were reappointed to the Elk River Planning Commission, and Brad Thiel was appointed for the first time. All are from Elk River.

Mike Keller did not seek reappointment.

Crook is a program manager with Aetna, and Konietzko is a business consultant with SpartanNash.

Thiel is a manager with Anoka County. He has a bachelor’s degree in management and a law degree. He has been a volunteer mediator, board member and board chair at Mediation Services for Anoka County. He also has been a city of  Champlin Environmental Resources Commission member and chair and a city of Champlin Planning Commission member.

Utilities Commission

Daryl Thompson, of Elk River, was reappointed to the
Elk River Utilities Commission. He is self-employed and has served on many local boards, commissions and elected offices.

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Community Cafe clarifies plan, explores ideas Thu, 12 Feb 2015 23:06:44 +0000 by Debbie Griffin

Contributing Writer

The city of Zimmerman and Livonia Township, along with the Elk River Area School District, hosted a Community Cafe forum Feb. 9 at the Zimmerman Elementary School that drew about 140 participants eager to talk about community needs and ideas.

Attendees shared ideas and planned for the long-range future at the Community Cafe. Photo courtesy of ISD #728 Communications

Attendees shared ideas and planned for the long-range future at the Community Cafe. Photo courtesy of ISD #728 Communications

Charlie Blesener, director of community engagement for ISD 728, facilitated the two-hour session. He and Shane Steinbrecher, a School Board member and resident of Livonia, said after the meeting they agree that the pending school improvements voters OK’d have generated excitement all over the district, but there is still a lot of confusion about how the bond money will be spent.

Superintendent Mark Bezek started the meeting by explaining the specific improvements that will be made in Zimmerman: a performance auditorium and addition to eliminate temporary classrooms at the high school, and more space at Zimmerman Elementary for early-childhood education. The district’s website summarizes the bond improvements and rough timelines of each.

Steinbrecher and Blesener said residents and some officials of Livonia and Zimmerman had met with Bezek last summer to talk about eventual improvements within the community.

Blesener said the purpose of the Feb. 9 meeting was to “talk about Zimmerman’s future,” not specifically about a community center. He said the intent of the recent meeting was to be aware of anything the community had in mind as it embarked on improvements.

“If we knew there were other things the community desires and would be willing to pay for,” Blesener said, “we should know that so that we don’t put the auditorium where people want a ball field to be.”

The Community Café meeting involved the 140 attendees answering four questions and rotating to different tables as they answered them. Photo courtesy of ISD #728 Communications

The Community Café meeting involved the 140 attendees answering four questions and rotating to different tables as they answered them. Photo courtesy of ISD #728 Communications

Steinbrecher said about the meeting ideas, “At the end of the day, some sort of community center came up most often.”

A “community center” could be anything from very basic to elaborate and multi-functional, Steinbrecher and Blesener said. Other ideas that recurred at the meeting were a library, pool, senior center and more recreation options like trails and playgrounds.

Blesener said meeting attendees were tasked with answering four questions throughout the course of the meeting:

–Dateline 2035: Zimmerman has just been recognized as one of the top communities in the nation to raise a family. What’s in place that caused this distinction?

–What changes or practices would the community need to garner such recognition?

–What do people value about the communities and what would they not want to see changed?

–What role might the entire community play in helping create the best possible future for Zimmerman?

Blesener said everyone met new people as they circulated from table to table to answer questions and compared ideas. Before the meeting ended, everyone got to go around and look at all the ideas they listed together and discuss them.

Steinbrecher said, “People were very engaged the whole time.”

Steinbrecher and Blesener agreed the meeting buzzed with energy and ideas, and it overall seemed positive. People said they appreciated a chance to get information and give input.

Blesener said as the district and municipalities planned the cafe event, they intended to draw a diverse audience to include students, parents, seniors, business owners, city and county officials, and all types of citizens.

He said Bezek visited each of the city councils where bond-funded activity will happen, but Blesener doesn’t think the cafes will happen in all those places. “I think in the case of Zimmerman it was more of a citizen-generated energy.”

Steinbrecher and Blesener confirm that all the ideas will be summarized into a report that will be released in the next few weeks and emailed to all the meeting participants. The report will also summarize meeting attendees’ opinions on which projects have the best potential.

Once the report is produced and released, a Zimmerman-Livonia steering committee takes responsibility for any more local action, such as planning or fundraising for desired items. Steinbrecher said the meeting accomplished its goal, which was to take a long-range look at the community and generate a broad list of ideas for potential, future enhancements.

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Rep. Lucero named to data practices panel Tue, 10 Feb 2015 20:04:42 +0000 State Rep. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton, has been  appointed to the Legislative Commission on Data Practices and Data Privacy. The appointment was made by the Speaker of the House.

Rep. Eric Lucero

Rep. Eric Lucero

Lucero, a computer security specialist by trade, is one of eight members of the commission established to study government data practices related to security and personal privacy rights. Duties of the commission include reviewing legislation impacting security and privacy areas and providing recommendations related to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

“Data breaches have unfortunate consequences in the lives of citizens,” Lucero said. “We live in a digital era and new questions arise with each technological advancement. The law is not keeping up with technology and I look forward to taking a deep-dive analysis in this area to help ensure protections of citizens’ digital privacy.”

The bipartisan commission is comprised of two Republicans and two Democrats from the House, and two Republicans and two Democrats from the Senate.

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Veteran firefighters honored at retirement Thu, 05 Feb 2015 17:06:27 +0000 Two veteran firefighters have retired from the Elk River Fire Department.

Bob Pearson retired after 30 years and Duane Smith after 25 years. They were recognized at Monday’s Elk River City Council meeting.

Mayor John Dietz read a certificate of appreciation for firefighters Duane Smith (left) and Bob Pearson.

Mayor John Dietz read a certificate of appreciation for firefighters Duane Smith (left) and Bob Pearson.

Fire Chief T. John Cunningham said it’s been a privilege to work with such dedicated individuals.

Smith joined the fire department in 1989. “He is recognized by his peers as being an outstanding firefighter and apparatus operator,” Cunningham said. Being a pump operator entails much more than pulling levers and hoping water flows, the chief said. “The pump operator has to make split second mathematical calculations to factor in distance and friction loss to ensure that firefighters have the most water that they need.”

Cunningham said Smith is not one to shy away from any task and quick to take care of any equipment that is broken. He is, Cunningham said, “a firefighter’s firefighter.”

Pearson joined the fire department in 1985. “Bob has an incredible work ethic,” Cunningham said. “…He has the drive, the dedication and just the physical ability that will really surpass anyone that’s half his age.”

The chief said Pearson doesn’t complain about any assignment and is quick to get it done. He is attentive to detail and looks out for the best interests of firefighters. For more than 23 years, he served as secretary of the Elk River Fire Department Relief Association, ensuring that the investments for the relief association were well cared for and maintained.

Cunningham thanked Pearson, Smith and their families for their sacrifice over the years.

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