Year In Review: A week by week look at the headlines from 2012

Another year has come and gone, and once again, it was full of interesting headlines. The city of Watertown started the year by finally putting one issue to rest — the idea of a second river crossing — and ended it by giving the go-ahead to another long-awaited project: a senior assisted living facility on the south end of downtown.

The school district made plenty of headlines as well, most notably with its new iPad initiative. The election dominated the headlines and letters to the editor for months, and sadly, the year also marked the death of one of the city’s most beloved residents, Mayor K.J. McDonald.

Here is a week-by-week look at stories that made the headlines in 2012. Stories are listed by the date of the issue they were published in, not the date when the event occurred.

 

January

Jan. 6: A new study of potential downtown and northern river crossing options in Watertown was recently completed, and is expected to give city officials a better understanding of both the practicality and the potential costs associated with several previously unexplored locations for a second crossing of the Crow River.

…Watertown-Mayer/Waconia/Delano/Holy Family divers Dustin Gens and Michael Roane were featured. Despite Watertown-Mayer High School no longer having diving boards, this pair emerged as one of the state’s top diving tandems.

Jan. 12: Watertown resident Carol Wiggins died as the result of injuries suffered in December when she was struck by a car after dark on Territorial Street near Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. Wiggins was attempting to cross in the cross walk when she was struck. The driver was not charged in the incident.

…Eight-year old Watertown resident Tianna Schilling and her family were featured shortly before a benefit was held for the family. Tianna was suffering from a form of brain cancer that was discovered in October, and spent roughly two months living in a hotel room with her mother in Chicago while she underwent chemotherapy and proton therapy.

Jan. 19: City engineer Dave Martini revealed to the city council that reconstruction of the current Territorial Street bridge is tentatively set for 2013. That is several years earlier than previous projections, which indicated replacement of the bridge, which has been deemed structurally deficient, could come sometime around 2015. Martini said that with a second bridge no longer on the table, work on the current bridge could be fast-tracked.

…Peace Lutheran Church in Watertown took a big step forward earlier this month when it welcomed its first full-time pastor. The 1-year-old church welcomed Pastor Shannon Bauer, who began on Jan. 1 and is starting his first job as an ordained pastor. He was ordained during Peace’s Jan. 8 service, which was officiated by Pastor Bruce Nelson, who served as the church’s interim pastor since its inception in the summer of 2010.

Jan. 26: Frontier Communications was named the Business of the Year and Scott Cassidy of Citizens Alliance Bank was named the Member of the Year by the Watertown Area Chamber of Commerce at its first meeting of the year. Also, Sue Burke of Bremer Bank was awarded a certificate of recognition for all that she has contributed to the Chamber over the last several years. Jim May was also introduced as the new Chamber president, along with new vice president Nicholas Hoese and new treasurer Laramee Paradise.

…Jan Nester was honored during an Open House at the Watertown Public Library for her 25 years of service. Nester had no immediate plans to retire, but the Friends of the Library simply wanted to honor Nester for her service. Nester is so well known to frequent library patrons that many young students in town simply refer to her as the “Library Lady.”

 

February

Feb. 2: After receiving what it said was valuable input from a room full of about 30 residents in attendance at a public hearing, the Watertown City Council decided not to map a second alignment for a new river crossing in Watertown. The issue had been under debate for more than a year, but the council ultimately said it would take both river crossing studies under advisement and use those studies when it considers long term transportation plans. Carver County had hoped the council would choose one of three southern alignments so it could be placed on the map for planning purposes. The council eventually decided to study downtown and northern crossings as well, but ultimately decided to map none of them.

…The Watertown-Mayer School board authorized superintendent Dave Marlette to begin gathering information on pricing and finance options for potential remodeling projects at the Primary School. Marlette said his goal was to keep the building operational and in use for at least the next 15 years.

…During Super Bowl week, with the Patriots set to face the Giants, Watertown resident Bob Kratch recalled the two Super Bowls he played in during his NFL career. He played in two, one for the 1990 New York Giants and one for the 1996 New England Patriots.

Feb. 9: Carver County Attorney Mark Metz announced that a Federal grand jury indicted Demetrius Charles Edward Derden, 27, of Blaine, for violation of the Federal Hobbs Act in conjunction with an armed robbery alleged to have occurred at the Mayer Mobil Mart on Dec. 3, 2011. Originally prosecuted in state court by the Carver County attorney’s office, it was decided it was best to prosecute in federal court because of the possibility for a longer sentence.

…The Watertown City Council awarded a new waste hauler’s contract to Randy Environmental Services, a contract that would bring environmental benefits to the city but ask residents to pay 15 to 17 percent more for service.

Feb. 16: Watertown area Republicans lent their support in overwhelming fashion to presidential candidate Rick Santorum in the Republican Presidential Primary, helping send the former Pennsylvania senator to an easy win in Minnesota’s GOP caucus.

…The Douglas Kugler Eco site recently celebrated its first anniversary. In its first year, the facility processed a total of 367 tons of materials. The bulk of that material included 116 tons of corrugated cardboard and 102 tons of newspapers.

…A 7-year old boy in Montrose was struck and killed by a vehicle that ran a red light while he was waiting for the school bus in the morning. Hayden Solien, who attended school in Buffalo, was killed when a 47-year-old driver lost control of his vehicle on Highway 12 near Highway 25, went up onto the sidewalk and struck Solien. The driver was also killed.

…Watertown-Mayer High School students Afton Windsperger and Josh Loomis landed walk-on roles in a production of Hairspray at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres through the theater’s StarKids program.

Feb. 23: The city of Watertown received another grant from the Metropolitan Council in the amount of $240,687, to use for Phase II of its ongoing Downtown Redevelopment Project on the south end of downtown. The grant brought the city’s total amount of outside funding for the project to more than $900,000.

…2005 Watertown-Mayer High School graduate Mallory (Kling) Dykema, now a dance instructor and choreographer at the Prairie School of Dance in Eden Prairie, produced a show based on a bible verse that was performed at Watertown Evangelical Free Church.

 

March

March 1: Former Watertown-Mayer state champion wrestler Eric Reinert was featured. Reinert was still in the recovery stages from a rare disease that left him in a Hawaii hospital for 7 weeks during what was supposed to be a work exchange trip. Reinert believes he got sick from drinking contaminated water, and contracted rat lungworm disease, which left him too week and in too much main to move for weeks on end. Reinert lost a significant amount of weight and had to re-train himself to walk all over again. Nerve damage associated with the sickness likely will be lifelong.

…Katie Heilman and Brooke Leaf competed for the Watertown-Mayer gymnastics team at the state meet at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion. Leaf competed in the all-around and Heilman competed on vault.

March 8: The Watertown City Council approved an employment separation agreement with city finance director Steven Wallner. City administrator Luke Fischer said the agreement was mutual between the two parties, but he could not comment on specifics. According to a statement from mayor K.J.. McDonald, the decision came following a Jan. 25 performance review.

…A new method of therapy at Elim Home was featured. MnemeTherapy is designed to use everyday pleasures such as singing, movement, painting and storytelling in combination to stimulate brain activity among patients. It has proven to be especially beneficial to patients with dementia.

…Watertown-Mayer/Mayer Lutheran wrestlers Jackson Sweeney and Austin Torres competed at the state wrestling tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Torres took fifth place at 195 pounds. Sweeney competed at 106 pounds, but lost in the first round.

…Watertown-Mayer High School student Dustin Gens took second place in the state diving competition at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. His teammate for Watertown-Mayer/Waconia/Delano/Holy Family, Michael Roane, also took eighth place.

March 15: The Mayer City Council decided to shelve a west side road reconstruction project because of high costs. The city council didn’t want to assess homeowners that much money, and weren’t in favor of changing the policy to lessen the burden on homeowners, either.

…A 36-year-old Waconia man who once headed the Republican Party of Carver County and served as public relations director for a local fundraising organization for autistic children pleaded guilty to charges of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree. Paul Scott Zunker pleaded guilty to sexual conduct in the second degree with a child under the age of 16. Zunker was expected to serve 6 months of actual jail time for the offense.

…The Watertown-Mayer School Board began exploring 1-to-1 technology initiatives, which would place electronic devices in the hands of every student.

…The city of Mayer was awarded a Minnesota Wastewater Treatment Facility Operational Award for the period from Oct. 1, 2010, through Sept. 30, 2011. The Certificate of Commendation was for outstanding operation, maintenance and management of its wastewater treatment system.

March 22: The Watertown-Mayer boys’ basketball qualified for the state tournament with a 73-65 win over St. Cloud Cathedral in the Section 5AA championship game at Halenbeck Hall on the campus of St. Cloud State University. The Royals, who finished 24-2 in the regular season and won the Minnesota River Conference with a perfect 14-0 record, advanced to state for the first time since 1999.

…The Watertown City Council voted in favor of awarding Cost of Living Adjustments for city staff. The council had voted against the measure three months earlier, but now voted for the 2.2 percent raises for all city staff members. The total budget impact was $6,266.

March 29: A unanimous decision of the Watertown-Mayer School board approved a 1-to-1 technology initiative that would place iPads in the hands of every student in the district beginning in the 2012-13 school year. The program, made possible by the passage of an increased operating levy by voters in November, is designed to drive student achievement by following a growing national trend of shifting from a traditional book-oriented approach to a more digital-oriented approach to education. In a separate measure, the board also approved a 5-year lease program that would cost $1.28 million in principle and interest, or an average annual amount of $255,784.

…The Watertown-Mayer FFA program received a $2,500 grant thanks to a contest won by Mayer farmer Eric Hoese. Hoese, who entered the America’s Farmers Grow Communities contest, was selected as the winner for Carver County, allowing him to choose a local non-profit organization to receive the grant.

…The Watertown-Mayer boys’ basketball team fell in the first round of the state tournament, losing to Litchfield at the Target Center.

 

April

April 5: A proposal that would pave the way for the development of a new retail building at the corner of Hutchinson Road and Highway 25 got a cold reception from the Watertown City Council. Though the issue was tabled for further discussion, there appeared to be little support among the council for Watertown Subway restaurant owner Steve Erhard’s proposal to rezone a property along Highway 25 near Highland Park from residential to commercial and construct a strip-mall type retail space that would house his restaurant and as many as three other businesses.

…A two month fundraiser on the part of the Mound Area Masonic Lodge No. 320 netted $91,500 for the Watertown Friends For Life Food Shelf. Another $28,305 was raised for the Westonka Food Shelf. The huge sums were the result of a 2-for-1 match offered by Minnesota Masonic Charities.

…The Watertown City Council voted to move forward with street and park construction projects slated for the summer. The projects, including the reconstruction of six city streets as well the extension of street and utilities in the Community Park, were expected to cost $2.2 million, with part of that being assessable to property owners.

April 12: Kristin Jones joined the Watertown Public Library as its new librarian on April 2.

…Carver County ranked second in Minnesota in health outcomes and health factors, up from No. 5 in 2011, according to the 2012 County Health Rankings report released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

April 19: The Watertown Area Fine Arts Council announced a first ever Watertown Jazz Concert, set for July. The event was to have Nachito Herrera as the headline entertainment, and the hope was to build the event into a weekend long festival down the road.

…Nearly 400 people attended the 60th annual Dairy Day Dinner at New Germany Hall. The event celebrates Carver County’s dairy farmers and others who have contributed to the dairy industry over the past year.

…A series of four signs commemorating the history of the city of Watertown was dedicated during a small ceremony last Thursday at Rapid Waters Park along Mill Avenue. The signs are located along paths along the Crow River in Rick Johnson Park and Rapids Water Park.

April 26: Watertown-Mayer girls’ basketball star, already named the Associated Press Player of the Year in Minnesota, took home the state’s biggest honor when she was named Miss Basketball at a banquet in Minneapolis. In a six-year varsity career, the Creighton-bound star climbed all the way to fourth all-time in state history in scoring, set the state record for 3-pointers made, and set nearly every offensive school record in the books.

…Elim Home employees Adam Olson and Marissa Nevala tied the know in a unique wedding ceremony at their place of employment. The wedding featured residents as part of the wedding party, and many of the residents attended. The couple chose to have their wedding there after growing close to a number of the residents.

 

May

May 3: The Watertown City Council voted not to approve an amendment to the city’s 2030 Comprehensive plan that would have cleared the way for a property near Highland Park to be rezoned for commercial use, and instead directed city staff to begin looking into the possibility of purchasing the property for use as park land. The property in question became part of a city-wide controversy several weeks ago when Subway owner Steve Erhard petitioned the city to rezone the property from residential to commercial so he could purchase and develop the site into a retail strip mall. The proposal, which would have housed his restaurant and additional retail space, would have first required the land to be rezoned, which would have required an amendment to the comprehensive plan. By a 3-2 vote, the council opted not to make that amendment, citing the impact the property would have on nearby residents, as well as safety reasons, and the desire to use the land as part of Highland park.

…Watertown-Mayer High School students enjoyed prom and a post prom event at the Mall of America.

May 10: After sorting through 24 different options at its April 24 meeting, the Carver county Board adopted new commissioner districts on May 1 that will place Mayer and Watertown in the same District, District 4. After a census is completed every 10 years, governing bodies must redistrict their areas to ensure equal representation of their constituents.

…The Watertown-Mayer School District decided to reshuffle its leadership positions to best suit the skills of its various administrators. Middle School Principal Bob Hennen would take over as the high school principal, Director of Teaching and Learning Nick Guertin would become the Middle School Principal, and High School Principal Scott Fitzsimonds would become the Director of Technology, Teaching and Learning.

…In two separate Watertown-Mayer athletics related stories, the district announced it would reduce athletic fees by $25 for the following year, and also construct two full sized soccer fields on the district’s Highway 25 land between Watertown and Mayer.

…Students at Mayer Lutheran High School celebrated prom, as well as Post Prom at the Mall of America.

May 17: Watertown’s Territorial Street bridge spanning the Crow River won’t be reconstructed in 2013, as had been anticipated, City Engineer Dave Martini told the City Council. The process of applying for various permits and receiving approval from the federal government would simply take too long to be ready for construction by 2013.

…After spending 3 years training a service dog, Elaine Beckstrom’s golden retriever pupil, Izzo, was placed with a Stillwater woman. Beckstrom became interested in training a service dog when she how much it benefitted her son, who had been injured several years earlier in a diving accident.

…Cuban jazz musician Nachito Herrera was featured. Herrera, who was already booked as the headlining entertainment for a jazz festival later in the summer, developed a unique fondness for Watertown and its residents after several previous shows in the town.

May 24: The Mayer City Council approved a short term fix for Second Street, from Highway 25 to Canary Street, a project that would cost only $35,423. Earlier in the year, the council voted to scrap plans for a larger scale street reconstruction project that would have cost more than $580,000.

…The Watertown-Mayer School Board approved a switch back to a four-period block schedule from a six-period schedule that had been used for only one year as a cost-cutting measure.

May 31: The city of Watertown reached an agreement to purchase the property at the corner of Highway 25 and Hutchinson Road, adjacent to Highland Park, to be used for an addition to the park. The city agreed to pay market value for the land, which had become the source of controversy as to whether it should be used as part of the park or for commercial development.

…Seniors at Watertown-Mayer High School celebrated graduation.

 

June

June 7: Mayer Lutheran High School seniors celebrated graduation.

…Both Watertown-Mayer High School and Middle School fared well on the new Minnesota Multiple Measurement Rating score, earning scores that would have earned them “Reward School” designations if they were eligible to receive such a designation.

June 14: The Watertown-Mayer girls’ track and field team finished in second place at the state meet at Hamline University in St. Paul despite having only five athletes competing in four different events. The Royals missed tying for the state title by a single point. Marissa Janning won a state title in the 300-meter hurdles, and Janning, Katie Heilman, Liz Miller and Hannah Johnson also won a state title in the 4×800-meter relay. Caitlin Duske also finished third in the triple jump. Other Watertown-Mayer and Mayer Lutheran athletes to compete at the state meet included Watertown-Mayer’s Nick Hix, Dan Raiter, Matt Scanlon, Drew Wallstrom, Hunter Hulley, and Mayer Lutheran’s Jessica Klaustermeier, Nicole Manteuffel, Holly Johnson, Sam Bartz, Josie Schreiner, Ashlyn Hucky, Alex Fredrickson, Kyle Fredrickson, Chase Greenhagen, Jesse Greenhagen, Sean Bartz and Consti Siggelkow.

June 21: Watertown resident Steve Duske opened a new store on Lewis Avenue called Legends on Main. The sports memorabilia shop would also sell Italian Ice.

……The Watertown City Council wrestled with how to handle faulty sidewalk that was installed just several years earlier along Jefferson Avenue near Territorial Street. The contractor it worked claimed the city’s snow plowing methods were responsible, and the city believed the work was faulty.

…The Mayer City Council ruled that corn already planted in the Coldwater Crossing Development would be allowed to stay, but not be sprayed with chemicals.

…Eight Watertown-Mayer teachers headed into retirement. Those teachers were Linda Guspiel, Joan Fritzke, Nancy Hokenson, Vicki Wingert, Linda Stelzer, Sharon Tollefson, Tom Dressen and Doug Voerding.

…The Watertown American Legion baseball team paid tribute to several World War II vets prior to its home opening game. ElRoy Vidlund, a former amateur baseball star in Watertown, even through out the first pitch, Brothers Harry and Hjelton Johnson were also on hand to help raise the flag prior the game. The ceremony helped mark the anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, which both Johnson brothers were a part of.

June 28: Lyndale Lutheran Church, located 6 miles east of Watertown on Highway 6, began a new ministry called Rejoicing Spirits, which is a church service designed specifically to accommodate children and adults with cognitive and developmental disabilities.

…A flood warning was issued for the Mayer and Watertown areas as the Crow River climbed to higher than 11 feet. Flooding was contained along the river, and there were no reports of damage.

 

July

July 5: Mayer Lutheran High School held its 50th Anniversary Celebration, an event that included individual class reunions, a community picnic, a jazz concert and a worship service.

…Watertown-Mayer first-year Superintendent Dave Marlette received high marks in the School Board’s annual evaluation. Marlette received a 4.5 out of 5 overall, with 1 being the lowest and 5 indicating outstanding performance.

…The School board continued to debate how to proceed with problems at the elementary school and the high school that it believes the construction manager for projects should be responsible for.

July 12: The city of Mayer celebrated its annual Mayer Rising Community Festival, complete with a car and tractor show, youth baseball clinic, youth parade, games, food, and much more.

July 19: Watertown Mayor K.J. McDonald was honored during a surprise ceremony at a Watertown City Council Meeting, attended by approximately 100 politicians, community members, and others who have worked closely with McDonald over the years. The day was even proclaimed K.J. McDonald day in the state by the Minnesota senate. Numerous groups and politicians read statements and proclamations thanking McDonald for his service to the city, the state and the country. McDonald, who served numerous terms as Watertown’s mayor, also served 14 years in the state House of Representatives and was a Korean War Vet.

…Marketplace Foods grocery store in Watertown was the victim of a burglary overnight during the Fourth of July weekend, when one or more burglars cut a hole in the roof to gain access to the building. More than $7,000 in cash and cigarettes was stolen. The next night, the grocery store in Norwood Young America was also burglarized. Police do not believe the two were connected, but could not rule it out.

…New Germany celebrated its 125th anniversary with a weekend festival that included a car show, softball tournament, kickball tournament, music, games for kids, a fireworks display, and much more.

July 26: Watertown celebrated its annual Rails to Trails festival, an event that included the return of a Friday night street dance on Lewis Avenue. Hundred of people turned out for the Street Dance, featuring Watertown’s own Basement Band. For the most part, the weather cooperated, except for Saturday morning rain that may have affected turnout for that mornings car show.

…Representatives of Knutson Construction, the construction manager for the construction of the elementary school and high school projects in 2006, attended the Watertown-Mayer School Board meeting to express why it felt it was not responsible for problems encountered at both buildings.

 

August

Aug. 2: Nachito Herrera performed in front of an estimated crowd of 400 people at the Watertown Fine Arts Council jazz concert. Organizers said they were pleased with the initial event, but hoped to find ways to boost attendance in future years.

Aug. 9: Mayer resident Jim Gravelle was feature. Gravelle flies radio-controlled airplanes and helicopters, a passion he’s had since the mid 1980s. He was featured earlier in the year at the Mayer Rising Community Festival, where his display drew big crowds.

…With the ongoing Olympic games in London, local swimming coach Chuck Charnstrom and gymnastics coach Steve Hangartner said they expect the publicity from those games to boost participation in those sports locally, especially among younger children.

Aug. 16: Peace Lutheran church celebrated its 2-year anniversary with a polo event fundraiser to raise money for landscaping at the site of its future church building. Then, the church officially broke ground on that new structure on Highway 20, just two short years after the congregation began meeting at the Watertown Community Center on Aug. 1, 2010.

Aug. 23: Both Watertown Mayor K.J. McDonald and Mayer Mayor Chris Capaul announced they would not seek re-election. McDonald served as Watertown’s Mayor in 1975-76, and again from 2005-12. Capaul served as Mayer’s mayor for 6 years.

…The Watertown City Council wrestled with the best way to reconstruct the intersection of Lewis Avenue and Territorial Street whenever the Territorial Street bridge eventually is replaced. The county has told the city that the intersection cannot remain a four-way stop, leaving the council to discus the possibility of either a two-way stop — with traffic stopping only on Lewis Avenue — or a roundabout that could force the relocation of the NAPA store that currently sits on the northeast corner of the intersection. Of those options, the council determined in a workshop that the roundabout would be preferable, but made no official decisions and intends to discus the issue further.

…Filing for local elections closed. In the highest profile local races, Rick Mann and Charlotte Johnson filed to run for mayor of Watertown, and Mike Dodge was the only candidate to file for Mayer mayor.

Aug. 30: With the start of the school year rapidly approaching, Watertown-Mayer School officials handed out iPads to students. The school held training sessions for parents and students, and distributed more than 1,000 iPads over four nights.

 

September

Sept. 6: Watertown-Mayer students headed back to school.

…The Mayer City Council decided to table the topic of allowing chickens within the city for further discussion, but generally did not look favorably upon the idea, which was brought forward by a resident.

Sept. 13: Dr. David Philp, a tremendously popular and well-respected family physician in Watertown for more than 42 years, died at the age of 87. Philp, a Korean War vet who briefly began his career in Wyndom before being called to active duty, arrived in Watertown in 1954. He retired in Dec. 1997 after practicing at Watertown Clinic and Lakeview Clinic.

…Work began on the new streets and utilities to be extended in the Community Park on the northeast side of town.

…New Germany resident Nick Kubasch finished in third place a national trapshooting event in Sparta, Ill. It was the best finish ever for Kubasch, who has qualified for the national event before.

…Watertown-Mayer athletic trainer Sandy Hanson, of Ridgeview Sports Medicine, said the school’s new concussion management program is doing what it is designed to do and generally receiving positive reviews as the program enters its second year. During its first year at the high school, 11 students suffered concussions.

Sept. 20: The Watertown City Council approved the city’s 2013 preliminary levy, an amount that would be a 12.5 percent increase from the 2012 levy. The council said it would work to lower that amount before the final levy is certified in December, a typical process in Watertown.

…The Mayer City Council set its 2013 preliminary levy at $999,539, which is up slightly less than 3 percent from 2012.

…Watertown-Mayer High School dedicated two benches at halftime of a Friday night football game in memory of Aaron Kelzer and Luke Schultz, two students who died in recent years in car crashes.

…Jason Kamerud officially took over as the Carver County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy. He replaces Blair Anderson, who was appointed as the Police Chief for the St. Cloud Police Department.

Sept. 27: Watertown-Mayer and Mayer Lutheran both held their homecoming coronation ceremonies. At Mayer Lutheran, Cole Carnes and Ashlyn Hucky were crowned King and Queen, and at Watertown-Mayer, Joe Reinert and Leah Pysick were crowned.

…The Watertown-Mayer School District announced a partnership with an entertainment booking agency in St. Cloud that would seek to bring more shows to the school’s Performing Arts Center. Superintendent Dave Marlette said he believed the facility was under used, and that by allowing the company to use the facility for shows, it would benefit the schools and the community as a whole.

 

October

Oct. 4: The Watertown-Mayer FFA announced a plan to use the school district’s land on Highway 25 between Watertown and Mayer for a crop plot. The project would help serve as a fundraiser for the organization and a learning lab for students.

…Watertown-Mayer High School and Mayer Lutheran High School both held their homecoming football games. Mayer Lutheran won, but Watertown-Mayer was defeated by Sibley East, marking the school’s first loss of the season after a surprising 4-0 start.

…The Watertown-Mayer School District was busy trying to find ways to make the schools new lunch program more appealing to students. New regulations from the USDA created a stir around the country, particularly the calorie limits. While district officials said the high school and elementary school students were largely adjusting to the new lunches, the most resistance was seen at the middle school level.

Oct. 11: Watertown Mayor K.J. McDonald died at the age of 81 after a nearly year-long battle with metatastic melanoma. Born in Watertown in 1930, McDonald devoted much of his live to serving his hometown as both a public servant and an active community member. He was a Korean War vet, served 14 years in the Minnesota State House of Representatives, 9 years as Watertown’s mayor, and was seen by many as the face of Watertown.

…Westwood Place resident Teri Jensen was featured. Jensen suffers from various forms of mental illness, but excels at art, a lifelong passion she now is trying to turn into a freelance art business.

Oct. 18: The Mayer City Council approved a planned remodel of expansion of Schmidty’s located at 308 Ash Ave. N. The first change will be the remodel and expansion of the storage and office space located on the same parcel as the existing business. Schmidty’s will move into the new space as a convenience store and service station. Next, the building that currently houses the store will be relocated to a parcel owned by the applicant just south of this site. After an extensive remodel, it will be used for retail/restaurant space.

Oct. 25: For the second time in less than a year, the cities of Watertown and Delano came together in a sharing agreement. This time, the neighboring cities put together a Utility Sharing Agreement, in which the two towns will share equipment related to cleaning and maintaining the storm and sanitary sewer system. Each city had only one of the major pieces of equipment that is necessary. The cities had previously come to an agreement to share the services of an in-house building inspector.

…The Mayer Lutheran football team won a share of the Minnesota River Conference title with a 21-14 win over Watertown-Mayer. The winner of that game was guaranteed a share of the conference title.

 

November

Nov. 1. Comedians Jason Schommer and Mary Rowles were featured. They were about to perform in the Watertown-Mayer Performing Arts Center’s first comedy show on Hunting Widows Weekend.

…The Watertown Film Festival was featured. The festival is entirely organized by high school students, and has been since its inception in 2007.

Nov. 8: A Veterans Day piece highlighted the changing attitudes toward veterans in the United States over the years.

…Voters headed to city and township halls to cast their votes for local, state and federal elections.

…A Hollywood Township home was destroyed by fire. Nobody was injured in the fire that destroyed the home of Dale and Debra Kompelien. Six fire departments responded to the blaze.

…The Mayer Lutheran High School football team qualified for the state tournament by defeating Maple Lake in the section 4AA title game.

…Watertown-Mayer cross country runners Hannah Johnson and Liz Miller competed at the state meet in Northfield, as did Mayer Lutheran runners Hannah Truniger — who finished in eight place —  as well as Alex Fredrickson and Jesse Greenhagen.

Nov. 15: Charlotte Johnson defeated Rick Mann in a close race to become the next mayor of Watertown in one of numerous local races contested in the previous week’s election. Steve Washburn and Adam Pawelk earned seats on the Watertown City Council, and all three school board members up for re-election — John McCain, Jennifer Hoover, Steve Burns and Chad Koehler – retained their seats. Running unopposed in Mayer, Mike Dodge was elected mayor, and Tice Stieve-McPadden and Bruce Osborn were re-elected to the city council. Tim Lynch was re-elected to serve District 4 on the Carver County Board of Commissioners, and Mayer’s Ernie Leidiger was re-elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in Dist. 47A, defeating Watertown’s Keith Pickering. Incumbent Republican state senator Julianne Ortman also defeated Jim Weygand in a race for the Dist. 47 seat.

…Burglars victimized the Luce Line Lodge in Watertown, managing to steal the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) through a side door. That same night, the suspects, who were caught briefly on camera at the Luce Line Lodge, were caught on camera at the Mayer Mobil Mart convenience store. That store reported that it’s telephone lines had been cut, but nothing was stolen. The suspects had also cut a wire at the Luce Line Lodge — although the incorrect one — in hopes of disabling the security alarms. A strip mall in Norwood Young America was also the victim of an attempted burglary that night, but the Sheriff’s Office does not know if that incident is related to the ones in Mayer and Watertown.

…The Mayer Lutheran football team lost to Jackson County Central, 51-20, in the quarterfinals of the state tournament.

Nov. 22: After a somewhat controversial public hearing, the Watertown City Council voted to leave the city’s assessment policy as is, charging homeowners 80 percent of the cost for street construction projects in front of their home. Many homeowners and several council members felt that percentage is too high, and others voiced concerns over the fairness of how corner lots are essentially charged double. However, the council left the policy as it was, largely out of fairness for previous homeowners who have paid and are continuing to pay based on the 8/20 split.

… St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Watertown wrapped up a shoe drive that collected 686 pairs of shoes, or 835 pounds, to be donated to Soles4Souls, a national organization that donates shoes to those in need across the county and world, especially in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters.

Nov. 29: The Watertown Fire Department’s new command vehicle and duty officer program has significantly reduced response times this year, the first year of the program. Response times across the board have been reduced by roughly 40 percent through the program which ensures at least one officer in the department is on duty at all times with immediate access to the department’s new command vehicle.

…A recent survey conducted by the Watertown-Mayer School District showed that parents are generally satisfied with the district’s new iPad initiative this year, but also raised concerns about how frequently the devices are used for gaming. Fifty-six percent of the parents rated the program as either a 4 or 5 overall, but more parents responded that their child uses the iPad most frequently for games than parents who responded that their child uses the iPad most frequently for homework.

December

Dec. 6: Watertown held its annual Chamber of Commerce Holiday Open Houses, as well as the tree lighting ceremony at City Center Park.

…The Watertown City Council addressed concerns with the enterprise funds by raising water and sewer rates once again for 2013. The enterprise funds have been losing money for several years and have been increasingly relying on general fund support. The changes to both the base charges and rates are designed to help the enterprise funds once again function independently, as they should.

…The Mayer City Council allowed Wade Thaemert to plant alfalfa and oats on land he is leasing from Security Bank of New Germany. The issue came full circle since the spring, when council members though alfalfa would be planted in the Coldwater Crossing Development, but were surprised to find corn. The city previously said the corn could stay, but would not allow it to be sprayed with pesticide.

…Watertown-Mayer High School gymnastics alumni returned to honor coaches Steve and Deb Hangartner with a surprise ceremony prior to the team’s home opening meet against Rockford. The Hangartner’s are now in their 25th year coaching the Royals.

Dec. 13: The Watertown True Value Hardware Store announced it would close at the end of the month. Owners Chris and Beth Johnson said the store had not been profitable for years, but largely because, as owners of numerous other stores, they weren’t able to commit their own time to the store and had to spend additional money on paying management and staff.

…The Mayer City Council approved water and sewer rate increases that will ask homeowners to pay about $6 more per month for service. The change was made to address the gap that exists between costs and revenues in the water and sewer funds.

Dec. 20: In a much anticipated move, the Watertown City Council was finally able to approve the development agreement and site plan for a senior assisted living facility to be build on the south end of Lewis Avenue as part of the city’s ongoing Downtown Redevelopment Project. The facility, which will be developed by Rice Lake Development III and operated by Prairie River Home Care, will include 16 memory care units, 42 assisted living units, and retail space along Lewis Avenue.

…The Watertown City Council approved the city’s 2013 tax levy and general fund budget. The 2013 general fund budget of $1.68 million is essentially the same as 2012, but the overall levy will rise 3.9 percent to $1.8 million due to an increase in the debt service levy.

…The Watertown-Mayer School board received more information about proposed remodeling projects at the Elementary School. The district’s goal is to keep the building operational for at least the next 15 years. Estimated costs for the project are just under $4.1 million, but Superintendent Dave Marlette said he won’t commit to the project at more than $4 million.

Dec. 27: Marissa Janning is off to a strong start in her freshman season for the Creighton women’s basketball team. She is third on the team in scoring and was preparing to come home to play the University of Minnesota on Dec. 30.

Contact Matt Bunke at matt.bunke@ecm-inc.com

 
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