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NEIGHBORS Brainerd Dispatch, Wednesday, December 29, 2010


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Tornado strikes Wadena, community responds




onths of planning went into a day of celebration in Wadena. Within seconds, it turned into devastation. Just after 5 p.m. on June 17, a stormy afternoon took a frightful turn as the ground rumbled with the signature sound of an approaching tornado. The multi-vortex tornado had wind speeds estimated at 170 mph. The twister was rated an EF4 by the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, the second-strongest rating of tornado on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. The tornado was 1.1 miles wide at its peak and traveled 10 miles before its destructive path ended. In its aftermath was sunlight, silence and stunned realization — about 20 city blocks were wiped out by the tornado in southwest and northwest Wadena. The National Weather Service quick response team determined the tornado touched down about 5 p.m. on that Thursday about three miles southwest of Wadena and produced a continuous damage path through the city before lifting about 5:18 p.m. seven miles northeast of the city. Thirty-four people were injured, one critically, though not with lifethreatening injuries, officials reported. As homes were lifted off their foundations, the city was dealing with a significant gas leak. An anhydrous ammonia leak was contained. By Thursday night, a door-to-door sweep was completed of every home. There were 268 structures damaged, including area businesses. Twenty-five families lost their homes. Damaged areas covered 20-25 percent of the city and damaged extended to farmland outside Wadena. In the hard hit areas of the city, pine trees were snapped in half, windows were blown out, chimneys torn

The Wadena tornado was 1.1 miles wide at its peak and traveled 10 miles before its destructive path ended. In its aftermath was sunlight, silence and stunned realization — about 20 city blocks were wiped out by the tornado in southwest and northwest Wadena.

from rooftops and crushed cars were left on their side or on rooftops. A debris field of family heirlooms and household items littered the cemetery in the city. Trees and headstones were toppled. Heavily damaged areas included the fairgrounds, community center, municipal pool and park, Leaf River agricultural plant and the Wadena-Deer Creek High School. Parts of the community center was wrapped around the high school like a metal blanket. In what would be its last act, the

high school — built in 1965 — sheltered school employees and graduates there to attend the weekend’s allschool reunion. About 20 to 25 people are estimated to have taken shelter in the school. Some suffered minor scrapes. Inside classrooms were blown apart. For the school, it would turn out to be a mortal blow. The building was damaged beyond repair. Demolition on school began Nov. 15. Building a new school will take two years. Thousands of volunteers helped

with cleanup efforts. Donations came in to help with rebuilding and tree planting. Federal aid was approved. In the aftermath, city officials worried about the economic impact, potential loss of jobs and population for the city of about 4,200 people. The recovery, after seconds of destruction, is expected to take years. RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at or 8555852.

Brainerd leads state in unwelcomed category — jobless By RENEE RICHARDSON Senior Reporter


n 2010, Brainerd stood out among all cities in the state with populations of more than 10,000, but the category wasn’t one worth cheering. However, a $27 million investment in Wausau Paper’s Brainerd mill was welcome news and the company announced it was expected to provide long-term stability for jobs here. The aftermath of the Great Recession, which economists say began in December 2007 and ended in June of 2009, kept its anticipated path of a slow and painful recovery where the addition of jobs, slashed during the free fall, lags even further behind. For Brainerd, which has sustained doubledigit unemployment for 24 straight months, 2010 was another difficult year in terms of its jobless rate. Since 2001, the city had a jobless rate of 10 percent for a total of 17 months during a six-year span leading up to the start of the recession. Since the recession began in 2007, the city has posted a jobless rate below 10 percent only three times. And each of those months it was only just below the 10 percent mark at 9.8 percent or 9.9 percent. October’s statistics with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development show Brainerd had a labor force of 7,213 people with 886 of those workers unemployed for a 12.3 percent jobless rate. The city’s highest jobless rate in 2010 reached 19 percent in January with 1,393 workers unemployed. The Brainerd Micropolitan, which covers Crow Wing and Cass counties, had a labor force of 47,078 as of October with 3,705 people out of work for a 7.9 percent jobless rate. In 2010, the micropolitan’s number of unemployed workers reached a high of 5,448. It wasn’t uncommon to hear stories from job hunters who had been out of work


Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey

Wausau Paper is a bright spot of economic development in the area for 2010 with a $27 million investment into the Brainerd mill on the city’s northeast side. A rebuild of paper machine No. 7 was being conducted in two phases in February 2010. The mill employs about 190 people.

for a year or more. Earlier this decade, the jobless rate ranged from 3.5 to 4.1 percent across the seven county lakes area. All those facts and figures make the Wausau Paper investment in the Brainerd mill stand out as a bright spot of economic development. The

investment is expected to open up markets in the paint, medical and automotive industries, among others, as the mill produces a wide range of unsaturated tape-backing paper that is used to produce masking tape. The mill retains its ability to produce premium paper. Phase Two of

the rebuild project involving the No. 7 paper machine is expected in February. RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at or 8555852.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Brainerd Dispatch |

Brainerd teachers, district finally settle contract By JODIE TWEED Staff Writer


t took 14 months, several rounds of mediation and many more closed negotiation sessions, but in mid-September the Brainerd School District and its teachers settled the 2009-11 master teachers’ contract. While it’s unknown what went on behind closed doors during those negotiation sessions between school officials and union representatives from Education Minnesota Brainerd, the issue became contentious within the community. Residents questioned whether the sticking points involved pay raises during the tough economic times. In the end, the school board narrowly ratified the contract by a 3-2 vote. Teachers also voted for the contract but the final vote tally was not released by Education Minnesota Brainerd. The contract settlement will cost the district $1.317 million over the two years of the contract, a 4.13


percent increase. The contract contained no wage increases but teachers will continue to earn step and lane increases and payments for those at the top of the pay schedule. It also included significant retiree benefit reform for teachers hired after Jan. 1, 2009. Steve Lund, director of business services, said in September it was the lowest contract settlement in at least the last 24 years in the records he searched. The average settlement during the past 24 years was more than 8 percent for a two-year contract, Lund said. In early October, the district and its educational assistants reached a contract agreement, the final union group to settle with the district. Educational assistants had been without a settled contract since June 2008. JODIE TWEED may be reached at or 8555858.

Education Minnesota Brainerd board member Rick Aulie closed the envelope containing the Riverside Elementary School teacher votes on the teachers’ contract Sept. 17.

Talk of budget cuts talk of the town By MATT ERICKSON Staff Writer


udget cuts dominated Brainerd city government for much of 2010. As early as mid-February the Brainerd City Council talked about the need to reduce its 2010 budget because of the anticipated loss of local government aid. On March 16, with a proposed reduction of $683,000 in local government aid, the council passed several budget reductions to erase potential deficit, including a step to eliminate its full-time fire department equipment operators and lay off employees in the parks department for several months out of the year. The votes resulted in packed city council and park board meetings for several months while residents expressed their concern over the cuts. Ultimately, with the news that local government aid cuts would be less than expected, the council voted


The votes resulted in packed city council and park board meetings for several months while residents expressed their concern over the cuts.

against laying off full-time firefighters and restored the parks department’s budget. Several of the cuts, however, remained. About 450 of the city’s

street lights were shut off to gain a $91,000 reduction in the budget. The action was opposed by many residents. Other budget cuts were achieved through cutting supplies,

accepting early retirements, cutting funds and reorganization. MATT ERICKSON may be reached at matt. or 855-5857.

Republicans, the rematch and the race By MIKE O’ROURKE Associate Editor


he 2010 election year saw a Republican resurgence, a spirited rematch in the Crow Wing County sheriff’s race and fourway race for the District 12 Minnesota Senate seat. The roster of area legislators saw Republicans prevail in most contests. Newcomers Mike LeMieur of Little Falls defeated Rep. Al Doty, DFL-Royalton, and John Carlson of Bemidji defeated Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji. It was LeMieur’s second run against the two-term incumbent and Carlson’s first run for the Legislature. Former Rep. Paul Gazelka of rural Brainerd won the Republican endorsement as incumbent Sen. Paul Koering struggled to regain his political footing after Koering’s dinner with a gay porn actor drew criticism from Minnesota Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton. Gazelka defeated Koering in the Republican primary and fought off three candidates to convincingly win the gener-


al election. He beat Koering, who ran as an independent; DFLer Taylor Stevenson and Stephen Park, the Constitution Party candidate. Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl won re-election by defeating Eric Klang 14,062-12,083. Four years earlier Dahl unseated thenSheriff Klang by a 10-vote margin. The contest this year featured substantial advertising and spirited letter writing campaigns on the part of both campaigns. Two events also kept the sheriff’s race in the news. In September, union representatives of Law Enforcement Labor Services Local 14 announced the results of a no confidence vote taken against Dahl. Seventeen of the 31 members of the bargaining unit voted no confidence in Dahl. Klang didn’t attend the meeting when the vote was taken but Dahl labeled it as politically motivated. A union official denied that charge. In October a threejudge panel dismissed a complaint See ELECTION, Page 4N

Former Rep. Paul Gazelka (center) of rural Brainerd won the Republican endorsement as incumbent Sen. Paul Koering struggled to regain his political footing after Koering’s dinner with a gay porn actor drew criticism from Minnesota Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton.

Brainerd Dispatch |


Wednesday, December 29, 2010


A scary night at the speedway By MATT ERICKSON Staff Writer


wo North Central Raceway officials were seriously injured after being struck by a race car June 16. The accident happened during the second of three feature races of the RACEMN Mod Series. Coming down a straight-away into Turn 1, two race cars began bumping, sending one cart-wheeling over the wall near the pit exit area. Keith Nelson, the Turn No. 1 flag man, and Timothy Boeder, the promoter of North Central Speedway, were standing at the pit exit area and were struck by the race car as it vaulted over the wall and fence. Both were immediately airlifted from the scene to a Twin Cities hospital. Both men suffered serious head injuries. Boeder stayed in the Twin Cities for treatment until the end of July. Nelson remains in the Twin Cities, undergoing therapy at a St. Paul facility. The driver of the race car, James Eblen of St. Cloud, also was injured and treated at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale.


MATT ERICKSON may be reached at or 855-5857.

Two North Central Raceway officials were seriously injured after being struck by a race car June 16.

2 landmarks gone in same day in fires By MATT ERICKSON Staff Writer



he Brainerd area lost two landmark restaurants to fire on the same day in April. The first to go was the Carlsona Beach Supper Club on Mille Lacs Lake on Highway 18 west of Malmo in Aitkin County. The fire was reported about midnight on April 26. No one was in the restaurant at the time of the fire and all that was left standing of the log building following the fire were a few charred walls. According to the Carlsona Beach Supper Club web site, Carlsona Beach traces its beginnings to Carlsona Beach Resort, built and operated from the 1930s to 1970 by Harry and Sally Carlson and able to lodge more than 100 people. In 1985, Bill and Lila Loomis bought Carlsona Beach. The current owners are Ron and Jenny Wise. The Wises couldn’t be reached for comment this month. Twelve hours later, fire destroyed TJ’s on the Cove on Serpent Lake in Deerwood. The fire was first noticed by Deerwood firefighters who were in their fire trucks to serve as escorts in the funeral procession for a longtime firefighter. Firefighters were unable to save TJ’s on the Cove, with only two walls left standing, but the restaurant owner’s attached home was spared. The location had been the site of an outdoor dance pavilion in the early 1900s and was later enclosed as a dance hall. In 19491950 Polich the crumbling old building was rebuilt into a private club called the Sportsmans Club and later TJ’s on the Cove. The state fire marshal’s office is investigating the causes of both restaurant fires. In an e-mail in late November, Kristine Chapin, public information officer for the state fire marshal's office, said the cases were still open and no determination had been made. The deputy state fire marshals investigating the cases, Mark Germain and Kevin Mahle, could not be reached for comment. Other notable fires in 2010 in the Brainerd area include the July 30 fire at Bjerga’s Feed Store in downtown Brainerd that caused about $25,000 in damage to a loading dock area; and the Nov. 21 blaze that destroyed the South Long Lake Presbyterian Church on Church Road near Highway 25 south of Brainerd. Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek said arson is believed to be the cause of the Bjerga Feed Store Fire but the state fire marshal’s office is still investigating. The cause of the church fire also hasn’t been determined and the investigation has been turned over to an insurance company. For the year, the Brainerd Fire Department responded to about 470 calls as of early December. Those calls include fires, crashes, gas leaks and other alarms.

Fire destroyed TJ’s on the Cove on Serpent Lake in Deerwood. The fire was first noticed by Deerwood firefighters, who were in their fire trucks to serve as escorts in the funeral procession for a longtime firefighter.

MATT ERICKSON may be reached at or 855-5857.


Brainerd Dispatch, Wednesday, December 29, 2010; Neighbors Weekend Edition, Friday, December 31, 2010

Brainerd Dispatch |

PR-B community grieves for kindergartner By JODIE TWEED Staff Writer


t was a tragedy that not only deeply affected the Pine RiverBackus School District, but also the entire community. Evan Lindquist, a 6-year-old kindergarten student at Pine RiverBackus Elementary School, was struck and killed March 22 by his school bus after the boy had gotten off the bus in front of his home. Counselors and clergy from the community were on hand at the school the following day, moving between the bus garage, the elementary, middle and high schools and the alternative learning center. Evan’s mother, Melanie, is a teacher in the high school and was on maternity leave when the accident occurred. “It’s been hard,” Garney Gaffey, PR-B School Board chair said in March following Evan’s death. “I don’t know of too many people who wouldn’t tell that life sucks right now. That’s not very poetic but it is. We’re a really close family in this district and the community, too. It’s kind of hit everybody like a ton of bricks. Things like this don’t make sense to you — a little guy like Evan being taken like that. We’re just trying to rally around Erik and Melanie (Lindquist) and love them as much as we can and help them through this.” Evan loved being outside, whether it was playing ice hockey on their frozen river, hiking around the woods tapping maple trees for homemade syrup, fishing, swimming, canoeing or simply running, according to his family.


The death of 6-year-old Evan Lindquist in March deeply touched many in the Pine River-Backus School District. Lindquist died when he was struck and killed by his school bus.

In September the school district dedicated a memorial garden at the school to remember those who are gone, including Evan. The garden includes a four-foot waterfall and a seven-foot by 12-foot stream. Westal Maine, Lindquist’s bus driver, pleaded guilty in Cass County District Court in August to a misdemeanor charge of moving a

school bus without ensuring the child was out of the way. Maine resigned from the district following the accident. Cass County Attorney Christopher Strandlie said following Maine’s sentencing that the Lindquist family was aware of how difficult the accident has been on Maine and they know it wasn’t an

intentional act. “Both the family and the offender have strong Christian faiths and I think that’s helping them work through this,” Strandlie said. JODIE TWEED may be reached at or 8555858.

After 1 percent of ELCA churches elected to cut ties with their denomination, Immanuel Lutheran Church in Crosby followed suit.

Immanuel Lutheran Church cuts ties to ELCA After 1 percent of ELCA churches elected to cut ties with their hange is never easy, especially denomination, the Crosby church, pastored by the Rev. Paul Mattson, difficult when it comes to was left with a decision to make. questions of faith. Last spring, the church held a The August 2009 Evangelical series of formal meetings to allow Lutheran Church of America deciits members to discuss their viewsion to allow non-celibate gay minpoints on the ELCA decision. The isters to fill lead pastoral roles in ELCA churches created a major stir congregation elected to move forward with a formal vote to decide in ELCA churches nationwide. whether Immanuel Lutheran would Congregations in many cases were remain part of the ELCA or join set at odds over the change including Immanuel Lutheran Church in another Lutheran body of churches. Crosby. After a final meeting with By SARAH NELSON Staff Writer



Bishop Tom Aitken, head of the Northeast Minnesota Synod in Duluth, to discuss Immanuel’s impending decision, the church voted on May 23 to terminate its affiliation with the ELCA. Since the May decision the church has changed its affiliation to the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ. In November, Immanuel Lutheran Church member and retired ELCA Pastor Jim Walth led a series of conversations with Lutheran church-goers to discuss

the possibility of starting a LCMC Church in Brainerd. With interest building, Walth moved forward in seeking help from Immanuel in launching the new Brainerd church. With the full support, including financial sponsorship, of Immanuel Lutheran in Crosby, the Brainerd church held its inaugural service on Dec. 12 at the Brainerd Hotel on South Sixth Street. SARAH NELSON may be reached at or 8555879.

C O N T I N U E D F R O M PA G E 2 N

ELECTIONS / The No. 5 area story of 2010 accusing Dahl of exercising undue influence on a sheriff’s department employee. While dismissing the complaint the panel found Dahl’s behavior and reaction to an employee’s support for Klang “contemptible.” Cass County elected a new sheriff as Chief Deputy Tom Burch

defeated Wayne Tennis, the Walker police chief. A recount set the final margin at 47 votes. In Brainerd, Mayor James Wallin was elected to his fourth term as mayor. His mayoral service was preceded by 21 years on the city council. The totals were Wallin, 1,459; Guy Green, 1,250; Kevin

Stumpf, 846, and Dan Egan, 487. Winning Brainerd council seats were Ward 2 incumbent Kelly Bevans, Dale Parks in Ward 4, and incumbent at-large member Bonnie Cumberland. In Baxter, Rob Moser and Jim Klein were re-elected to the council. The first election for the com-

bined Crow Wing County auditortreasurer post went to Laureen Borden. Rosemary Franzen won reelection to District 4 on the Crow Wing County Board. Commissioners Paul Thiede and Rachel Reabe Nystrom did not face any challengers in their bids for reelection to the board.

Brainerd Dispatch |

Brainerd Dispatch, Wednesday, December 29, 2010; Neighbors Weekend Edition, Friday, December 31, 2010


The Pequot Lakes area got a rare visit from a moose in September. The bull moose spent about a month in the Pequot LakesJenkins-Pine River area.

Area feels the ‘lake effect’ in 2010


months that zebra mussels had been discovered in a popular Minnesota lake. In July, the DNR found them in Lake Minnetonka. In late September, residents of Upper and Lower South Long lakes were embattled with the DNR over a proposed muskie stocking plan for the two lakes south of Brainerd. Residents went before the Crow Wing County Board and wrote countless letters to the media and DNR opposing the plan. A decision is expected from the DNR in early 2011. In May, members of two northern Minnesota Chippewa Indian bands seeking to reclaim hunting and fishing rights under an 1855 treaty protested with some members fishing out of season the day before the state fishing opener. While not on an area lake — the “event” was on Lake Bemidji — the Leech Lake band was

By BRIAN S. PETERSON Outdoors Editor


n an area where the outdoors is commonly front-page fodder, Brainerd area lakes provided their share of Page 1 stories in the Dispatch in 2010. Because of its size, the annual Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza is always big news. But this year’s event was special — a milestone. In its 20th year, the Extravaganza again attracted more than 10,000 anglers to Gull Lake’s Hole-in-the-Day Bay on Jan. 23. Gull Lake again was in the state headlines in October, when the DNR confirmed that Zebra mussels had been found in Brainerd’s most popular lake and that it was designated as infested waters. It marked the second time in four

involved, along with the White Earth band. The event ended quietly. Off the water, the Pequot Lakes area got a rare visit from a moose in September. The bull moose spent about a month in the Pequot LakesJenkins-Pine River area. And on July 21, Terry McGaughey, the driving force behind the creation of the Paul Bunyan Trail and a champion of recreation throughout the state, died at his Brainerd home. In the spring, McGaughey earned a lifetime achievement award from the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota for his more than 25 years of supporting, lobbying and promoting the trail. BRIAN S. PETERSON may be reached at or 855-5864. To follow him on Twitter, go to

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Top 10 Stories of 2010  

The top 10 stories of 2010 from the pages of hte Brainerd Dispatch.