The Lake Henry First Responders were formed with 12 of the fire departmentís 22 members completing the course. The First Responders were activated in May. They will be on a one-year probational period, enabling the members to receive extended training. Donations from the Lake Henry Lions and Paynesville Ambulance Service enabled the firemen to make the transition to better serve their community.
The Paynesville Area Fire Volunteer Department purchased a CairnsIRIS unit in June. Major contributors were the Paynesville Lions Club and Paynesville American Legion. Many other donations were also received to raise the $25,000 needed for the purchase.
The unit has saved the department precious time in detecting the general area of fires on several occassions. The unit can pinpoint the hot spots, through metal or wood.
In May, the Stearns County Grand Jury found no reason to file criminal charges against Paynesville Police Officer Joe Schmitz for his role in a chase that killed Gary Westby, new London, in October 1997. John Carl Anderson, 35, Paynesville, was sentenced to 120 months in prison for causing the death of Westby.
In May 1998, Brad Hagen, 37, Belgrade, was sentenced to between 15 and 23 years in prison in Kandiyohi County Court for killing Allen Bloomquist and injuring JoLynn Bloomquist, Hawick, on Aug. 31, 1997.
On Dec. 26, Jaime Wuertz and Juanita Moser had a two-car accident south of Lake Henry which put both ladies in the hospital. Wuertz was transferred to the St. Cloud Hospital with head injuries and was in a coma.
A new bus service was started in Paynesville in March. The Paynesville Area Transit program was made possible with a $7,500 grant from the Central Minnesota Initiative Fund. The bus will make it possible for area senior citizens and handicapped persons to get rides within a 10-mile radius of Paynesville to shop, eat out, make doctor appointments, or to visit friends.
A piece of history was torn down in April in St. Martin to make way for a new Mondloch Hardware Store. The portion of the business torn down dated back 125 years. The store was opened in 1881 by John Mondloch. A new 45 by 100 foot structure was added onto the plumbing shop portion of the business.
On May 1, the Paynesville Bakery officially closed its doors, marking the end of an era for Paynesville. For as far back as many area residents could remember, there had always been a bakery in Paynesville. Tom and Mary Hayenga listed personal reasons for the closing and moved their family to Mankato.
In June, Bill Keller, Regal, won a silver medal at the National Inventors Congress for his invention of the hay cradle. It is a redesigned handcart, made especially to haul square bales of hay.
On Oct. 1, Reed Quarfot took over Gilís Store in Hawick from Harold Paulson, 85, a great-uncle. The store has been in the Quarfot family since 1938 when Reedís grandfather traded his farm for the store.
In October, Louis Industries broke ground for a new 180 by 210-foot plant in the Industrial Park. What started as a blacksmith shop in the 1940s, has grown to a steel service center serving a five-state area.
In October 1997, benzene contam-ination was found in two of the four city wells. In February 1998, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency was busy taking soil samples, trying to find the source of the contamination.
The contamination source was found to be a former service station at the intersection of Highway 124 and Mill Street. Soil contamination was found at this site in 1989. A gas leak was discovered when gas tanks were removed from the former station site. In 1990, monitoring wells were installed. Several years ago, 1,500 cubic yards of dirt containing raw gasoline was removed from the site. However, gas is still found on the water table.
In late July, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued a permit to the city of Paynesville to discharge contaminated water into the North Fork Crow River. With exposure to air, the contamination would have little or no impact on the river by the time it gets there from the city well.
At a December council meeting, the MPCA presented the council with three options: continue to use the present wells but treat the water from well three; dig two new wells south of the wells five and six; or dig two new wells on the western edge of the city.
Each of the options would cost the city one-half million dollars or more.
It had been about 50 years since St. Martin had a water tower on its skyline. In June, over a two-day period, a crew raised a 75,000 gallon water tower over the cityís skyline. The water tower stands about 140 feet above the ground and measures 27 feet in diameter.
The Paynesville City Council and Paynesville Township met in November with the intent of discussing a joint powers agreement between the two entities.
The joint powers board would manage and oversee the construction and operation of a new airport in Paynesville Township. The airport would be located behind Alco and the Country Inn on the western edge of the city. The new airport would replace the present airport which does not meet state specifications to be certified.
An ad hoc committee has been researching the feasibility of a new airport during the year. The committee recommends the new airport be built, according to plans submitted by SEH. The city and township have been sharing equally expenses generated by the study.
Total cost of the project is estimated at $1,257,300. Of that total, the city and township would split $401,350 and the stateís share would be $855,950.
Paynesville Health Care System
In February, the Richmond City Council informed the PAHCS that they approved a 4-0 resolution to join the hospital district.
In April, the board voted to pursue building a new clinic in Richmond. The hospital board remains interested in the city of Richmond joining the district, but the construction of the new clinic is to be pursued independently of that commitment.
The existing clinic is outdated and too small for the current patient load. The hospital board, at the April 22 meeting, voted to purchase a lot in Richmond for the new clinic.
In exploring new services for the hospital, the board is looking at buying Dr. Roger Dreylingís clinic building on Lake Avenue for complementary medicine.
As of Feb. 1, Larry Fleck resigned as school board chairman after serving on the board more than 18 years. Pat Flanders was named to fill Fleckís position as chairman.
Five DECA students earned the right to advance to national competition in April. Qualifying were Craig Keller, Lindsey Moser, Sarah Lahr, Tracy Stang, and Rachel Gifford.
Moser also received one of 10 awards given statewide to ďMarketing Education Student of the Year.Ē
Mackenzie Merrill was named to the All-State Orchestra in May.
In March, the Paynesville Area Elementary School was one of three schools in the state to earn the ďSchool of ExcellenceĒ designation. The award is given to schools where the principal, staff, and community have demonstrated the desire to improve the quality of elementary education.
The Paynesville Area High School Marching Band had a lot to be proud of this year. In their first year of marching, the band earned honors in three of five parades.
In January, dairy farmers were lobbying to change the milk pricing system. U.S. District Judge David Doty in Minneapolis agreed the USDA had set prices in an arbitrary fashion and ordered the government to scrap its system. Rural residents were urging Doty to stand firm in his decision to end discriminatory milk pricing practices that have put many dairy farmers out of business.
Due to the unusually warm spring, farmers were harvesting hay before the first of June.
Corn wasnít knee high by the Fourth of July but five to six feet high as area farm fields received rains in June at crucial times.
By early October, farmers were harvesting what some considered record yielding crops. The harvest was ahead of schedule. Many farmers were through harvesting beans in September and had a good start on corn.
The only negative factor in the harvest was the low grain prices. Corn prices were at a 20-year low at $1.37 per bushel as of Oct. 1 and soybean prices were anywhere from $4.58 to $4.64 per bushel.
In December, hog farmers were struggling to make ends meet with pork prices averaging $7 to $10 for feeder pigs, the lowest in 60 years.
January made up for a mild December when more than 10 inches of light fluffy snow fell during three different weather fronts.
In February, unusually warm weather created icicles all over Paynesville. The spring-like temperatures melted the snow and ice in a few days.
Due to the unusual early spring weather, a majority of the corn crop was planted by May 3.
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