John R. Russett
John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts.
You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett
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TOWN OF ST. JOSEPH — RV Horizons district manager Rod Engh promised Town of St. Joseph officials they were at the end of a two-year struggle to get the Colorado-based real estate company current on its payments to the town. The pledge came just moments before Thursday night's unanimous Town Board vote to reinstate the operating license for RV Horizons-owned St. Croix Meadows RV Park.
Houlton, Wis. — When Ronda Moline moved to St. Croix Meadows in November 1997, she planned to stay for one year. In April 2016, after nearly two decades in the front row of the 50-lot mobile home community off Main Street in Houlton — and 12 straight months without running water — she stopped paying rent. One month later, she was served with an eviction notice and taken to court. Moline's story is indicative of a nationwide trend. In a number of manufactured home communities, residents feel relegated to the fringes.
In Polk County, Wis., a man — young by most standards at no more than 23 or 24 — picked up the phone, dialed 911, then sat down on the couch next to his gun and waited for an officer to arrive. Little more than an hour's drive north of Spring Valley Police Chief John DuBois' office — up through Baldwin, past Pine, Bear Trap, Wapogasset and Deer lakes — sits the town of Centuria. Years before he became a chief, DuBois patrolled the streets of Centuria with its roughly 950 residents, anxious and unsure, awaiting a solitary call.
On a good day, Trish Nolan never would have met the man. It began as a group of four. They would sit around and talk regularly, usually until around 2 a.m., as music from the employee lounge permeated the halls. He kissed her behind the scenes when he thought no one was looking. He lied to her about his alcoholism. He lied to her about his marriage. He got her phone number. Then he showed up at her apartment and raped her. "It was like," Nolan paused, "going into hell."
Far from a new issue, law enforcement and mental illness have become increasingly more entangled since state governments began to close their mental health hospitals in the 1950s, continually taxing the agencies tasked with responding to those in crisis.
In late December 2016, a failure in the pumping system at Emerald Sky Dairy began leaking manure. At the same time, in response to Emerald Sky's pursuit of nearly tripling its animal units to more than 8,800, the newly formed St. Croix County Ground and Surface Water Quality Study Group was preparing for its first meeting less than two weeks away. The spill went unreported until March 29. Owner Todd Tuls, who took ownership of the dairy in March 2016, said conditions made prevention and detection all but impossible.
RED WING, Minn. — By the time the flurry of back-to-school bedlam begins to subside, the proverbial dust begins to settle, and the sun sets on the final day of summer freedom, many teachers have dipped into their own pockets to purchase supplies for their classrooms. On average, according to education publishing company Scholastic, educators spent an average of $530 of their own money for classroom items last school year.
Aside from the issues at Emerald Sky Dairy in St. Croix County, Tuls Dairies has dealt with infractions before. A search of public records showed: • In June 2014, a worker at Double Dutch Dairy in Nebraska was struck and killed by a front-end loader hauling hay. An investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration revealed the driver had an obstructed view. In November of that year, the dairy was cited and fined $22,500 by OSHA for four "serious violations," according to an OSHA news release.
St. Croix Valley Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Wisconsin's St. Croix Valley Branch has been honored for years by the support of County Materials Corporation. Their support helps Big Brothers Big Sisters Northwestern Wisconsin to serve children in St. Croix and Pierce counties. In fact, last year the program staff in the St. Croix Valley matched 173 children with caring adult mentors from the community. This programming is only possible due to support from organizations such County Materials Corporation.
On a 3-2 vote, the St. Croix County Community Development Committee last week sent a proposed moratorium on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) to the county board for consideration at its November meeting. Technically, though no agenda has been set, the board could act on the moratorium at its November meeting, though community development committee chairperson Agnes Ring said an informational session for the board is planned in December.