Six biggest stories of 1996

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 12/30/96.

As the year draws to a close, we often find ourselves looking back and reflecting on events which have taken place.Paynesville has had its ups and downs in 1996. The business scene shows several new establishments opening and the community bid farewell to others.

In glancing through The Paynesville Press, several stories stand out among others. They are:
1) The Bertram brothers, Joe and Jeff, were both called before the ethics committee in the Minnesota House and Minnesota Senate.
2) Former city administrator Kevan McCarney filed a discrimination suit against the city of Paynesville.
3) Appeals Court reversed ruling on Scott Hegstrom. Hegstrom was tried for vehicular homicide in the deaths of Milo and Zelpha Brossard, and Iva Burr.
4) Airport committee was given hope for getting the Paynesville airport back into the state system.
5) Support growing for making Highway 23 a four-lane highway from Willmar to St. Cloud.
6) Paynesville Landfill closed properly by state.
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1) The Bertram brothers, Joe and Jeff, were both called before the ethics committee in the Minnesota House and Minnesota Senate.

Prior to Senate Ethic Committee hearings on Jan. 9, Senator Joe Bertram, 41, resigned his District 14 Senate seat. Local residents testified before the Senate Ethics Committee on Jan. 3 concerning shoplifting and alleged bribery charges against Senator Bertram. Senator Bertram pled guilty to reduced charges of shoplifting in Stearns County District Court on Sept. 29 but the Senate Ethics Committee wanted to learn more about the alleged bribe which he had made to Chuck Koshiol, owner of Zapf Leather and Western Wear, Paynesville.

Following his resignation, Governor Arne Carlson set Feb. 6 as a special election to fill Bertramís seat. A primary election had to be held on Jan. 23 as 10 candidates filed for his seat. Lynn Schurman, DFL, Cold Spring, and Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, emerged as the top two candidates in the primary. On Feb. 12, Fischbach was sworn in as the new District 14 Senator after defeating Schurman 5,800 to 5,457. In the fall general election, the special election was repeated, Schurman and Fischbach ran again with the same results. Fischbach won a full term to the Senate.

After almost a year out of the political scene, Bertram is now working for a California legislator.

In March, brother Jeff was censured by the House of Representatives and forced to apologize on the House floor to his constituents and members of the House. Allegations of harassment and abusive behavior had been growing against Rep. Bertram since January 1996.

The investigation on Jeff Bertram started after Chuck Koshiol, owner of Zapf Leather and Western Wear, testified before the Senate Ethics Committee about Bertramís role in getting Koshiol to keep quiet about the shoplifting charges against former Senator Joe Bertram. The investigation quickly expanded when constituents called Republican staffers to report Bertram had harassed or threatened them.

In May, Rep. Bertram announced he would not seek re-election to the legislature, a seat he held since 1986.

In the fall general election, Doug Stang, R-Cold Spring, a June college graduate, and Paynesville Mayor Joe Voss, DFL, ran for Bertramís House seat. Stang came out on top to represent District 14B.

Jeff Bertram continues to farm with his father near Spring Hill.

2) Former city administrator Kevan McCarney filed a discrimination suit against the city of Paynesville in U.S. District Court.

McCarney asked for compensatory damages, punitive damages, court costs and other such relief deemed just and equitable by the court.

McCarney was employed by the city as administrator from Feb. 13, 1989, until Sept. 1, 1994. He was reassigned with a decrease in pay during an August council meeting to economic development director which became effective Sept. 1, 1994.

Prior to the demotion, the city hired consulting psychologists to assist in assessing the allegations and evaluating city hall management. At press time, Dec. 30, the suit was still unsettled, but was expected to come to a close in the near future.

3) Appeals Court reverses ruling on Scott Hegstrom. Hegstrom tried for vehicular homicide in the deaths of Milo and Zelpha Brossard, and Iva Burr.

It took nearly a year for the case to close on Scott Hegstrom. In February, Judge Donald Spilseth dismissed the vehicular homicide charges against Hegstrom. A panel of three judges overruled his decision, stating the trial court clearly erred in dismissing both counts charging him with grossly negligent driving causing death and driving under the influence of a controlled substance.

With Kevin, Verna and Jerry Burr and Ron and Donald Brossard, Paynesville, sitting on the House floor in April, it sent the message that the family wanted zero tolerance for controlled substances. The change in the law will make it easier to prosecute drivers who use illegal drugs. The drugged driving bill came about as a result of the death of their parents.

In July, Hegstrom and three others from New London and Spicer appeared before a U.S. District Court on charges of conspiracy to possess a controlled substance, methamphetamine, with the intent to distribute.

The case finally came to a close in October, after a week of testimony in Kandiyohi County District Court. It only took the jury five hours to decide Hegstrom, 37, New London, was guilty on all counts of criminal vehicular homicide in the January 1995 deaths of three Paynesville residents, Milo and Zelpha Brossard, and Iva Burr. Delmar Brossard was seriously injured in the accident.

4) Airport committee given hope for getting Paynesville airport back into the state system.
Ron Lloyd, airport engineering specialist, offered the Paynesville Airport Committee hope that funds could be available after July 1997 for upgrading the Paynesville airport.
The local airport was opened in 1946 as a public airport. In 1982, the city lost its certification as a public airport due to runway restrictions placed on the airport by the state aeronautics division. The airport is currently classified as publicly owned but privately used.

5) Support growing for making Highway 23 a four-lane highway.
A task force was formed to find out if people using Highway 23 had complaints about the highway and if it was feasible to develop a four-lane highway from St. Cloud to Willmar. MnDOT already has plans in place to upgrade Highway 23 to four lanes from St. Cloud to Richmond starting in 1998.

A road rally was held in October to show legislators and MnDOT the intense support of area residents for a four-lane highway. More than 250 vehicles took part in the rally. Vehicles kept joining the rally as it passed through Spicer, New London, Hawick, Paynesville, Roscoe, and Richmond. Organizers termed the rally very successful.

MnDOT dedicated $100,000 for SRF Consulting to study the Highway 23 corridor and find problem areas and possible solutions. At a December meeting, Spicer and Paynesville were identified as having traffic problems which needed to be addressed. One possible solution to Paynesvilleís problems is to by-pass the community. SRF is exploring two or three routes to see which is more cost efficient and feasible. The findings of the study will be reported at the Highway 23 steering committeeís next meeting.

6) Paynesville Landfill closed properly by state.
Work started in May on closing the Paynesville Landfill after several years of inactivity. Niles Fellows, overseer of the project for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said Mathiowetz Construction, Sleepy Eye, and Chris Kreger, former landfill owner, started reshaping the large piles of garbage. By July, the project was nearly completed. Mathiowetz moved about 40,000 cubic yards of garbage while Kreger moved another 25,000 cubic yards.

As part of the project, 11 gas vents were built into the hill to properly maintain gas seepage from the garbage. The state is responsible for maintenance of the landfill now that it is closed.

The landfill was first permitted in September 1976. Some time prior to 1984, the owner filled a wetland adjacent to the landfill property. In 1986, the landfill owner agreed to enter into a stipulation agreement to bring the facility into compliance.

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