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Several departments respond to grass fire

Smoke billows from a Tuesday evening swamp fire behind the residence at 1495 110th St. SE between Watertown and Delano.

Smoke billows from a Tuesday evening swamp fire behind the residence at 1495 110th St. SE between Watertown and Delano.

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, MN – A discarded cigarette led to a large grass fire in a swamp between Watertown and Delano Tuesday, according to Watertown Fire Chief Wade Stock.

His department was called to the fire at 1495 110th St. SE in Franklin Township around 4:25 p.m.

Fire departments from Delano, Montrose, Mayer, St. Bonifacius, and Victoria provided mutual aid, as did the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources helicopter.

Smoke from the fire was reportedly visible from as far west as Hutchinson and as far north as Maple Lake, just one indicator of the size of the blaze.

“It was 60.5 acres,” Stock said. “I only know that because the helicopter took GPS footage. It’s hard to tell when you’re standing on the ground. We had the DNR helicopter out there, so it was taking GPS of the whole burn area. They did water drops with it. That’s what put out the majority of it.”

Nearly 70 firefighters responded to the scene, with some going on foot or by ATV to attack the fire with blowers and water, while others parked fire engines on neighboring properties and stood by to protect them.

No injuries, property damage, or property loss was reported.

Stock said the scene was cleared at 7:41 p.m.

He used the incident to remind residents of the current fire risk.

“Everybody just needs to be cautious with the dry conditions out there,” Stock said. “It will be a busy spring until we get rain and things green up. We encourage no burning whatsoever. It wouldn’t take much to get away from you.”

He believes official burn restrictions will be in place soon, noting that the DNR helicopter, based in Princeton, responded to five fire calls Tuesday alone.

UPDATE: Single-vehicle crash claims life

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, MN – Area residents are mourning the loss of David Sabourin, 49, of Loretto, who was killed in a single-vehicle crash late Thursday evening.

David Sabourin

David Sabourin

According to the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, the communications center received a report of a single-vehicle crash near 5836 65th St. SE, also known as Wright County Road 17 near the Delano Sportsmen’s Club.

Deputies located a 2005 Chevrolet Suburban that had collided with a tree, causing extensive damage to the front end of the vehicle. Sabourin was the lone occupant.

Delano Fire Department responded to assist with extrication.

Sabourin was pronounced deceased at the scene.

Sabourin’s vehicle had been northbound on County Line Road when it failed to negotiate a curve at the County Road 17 intersection, leaving the roadway and striking a tree.

Investigation of the cause of the crash is ongoing, according to the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office and Delano Fire Department were assisted by Ridgeview Ambulance, West Hennepin Public Safety, and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.

Read more about Sabourin in the March 27 edition of the Delano Herald Journal.

Barn destroyed by fire

This barn at 2365 Nelson Rd., Independence, was a complete loss following an early morning fire Thursday.

This barn at 2365 Nelson Rd., Independence, was a complete loss following an early morning fire Thursday.

INDEPENDENCE, MN – A barn that was less than a year old is a complete loss, and the animals it contained perished, as result of an early morning fire Thursday.

West Hennepin Public Safety Department and Delano Fire Department were dispatched to the fire at 2365 Nelson Rd., Independence, at 6:02 a.m.

WHPSD officers arrived and observed a detached barn engulfed in flames. Because the barn was about 200 feet from the residence, it did not pose a threat to other buildings.

Homeowners Steve and Ruth Clark confirmed no people were inside the building, but animals were. A total of three ewes, three lambs, and 13 chickens perished in the fire. Ruth Clark noted the barn also contained decks for a lawn mower and brush cutter, three sheep fleeces, and 180 hay bales. She stated that a backhoe was used to remove the hay bales so they could be extinguished, and also to take down a portion of the roof for safety reasons.

Firefighters from Maple Plain and Watertown assisted the Delano Fire Department, and Nelson Road was closed for a period of time.

Ruth Clark said she smelled smoke in her garage, but nowhere else on the property, at 12:30 a.m.

Sgt. Rick Denneson said, “We are glad that no one was injured in the fire and sorry for the Clarks’ loss of their animals in this structure fire. Thank you to all the neighbors who came and helped where they could. We as a community are very lucky ,and appreciate the fast and professional response of the Delano Fire Department to this fire.”

A West Hennepin Public Safety Department officer took this picture of the fire in progress.

A West Hennepin Public Safety Department officer took this picture of the fire in progress.

Firefighters quickly snuff out grass fire

Delano firefighters were called to a grass fire at 1:40 p.m. Monday at 3810 Lake Houghey Rd. in Independence. The firefighters used water and air blowers to extinguish the fire. Flames were reduced to smoke by 2 p.m. It is believed a burning pile of leaves ignited the swamp nearby. West Hennepin Public Safety also responded to the scene.

Delano firefighters were called to a grass fire at 1:40 p.m. Monday at 3810 Lake Haughey Rd. in Independence. The firefighters used water and air blowers to extinguish the fire. Flames were reduced to smoke by 2 p.m. It is believed a burning pile of leaves ignited the swamp nearby. West Hennepin Public Safety also responded to the scene. (This post was updated to correct the spelling of Lake Haughey Road.)

Two injured in Highway 12 crash

This 2004 Ford Explorer driven by Nicholas Sweeney, 33, of Waconia, pulled out in front of another vehicle on Highway 12, causing a crash at 7:25 a.m. Monday.

This 2004 Ford Explorer driven by Nicholas Sweeney, 33, of Waconia, pulled out in front of another vehicle on Highway 12, causing a crash at 7:25 a.m. Monday.

INDEPENDENCE, MN – A crash at Highway 12 and Hennepin County Road 90 left two people injured Monday morning.

According to West Hennpin Public Safety, a 2006 Subaru driven by David Kenison, 52, of Delano, was westbound on Highway 12 at 7:25 a.m. when a 2004 Ford Explorer driven by Nicholas Sweeney, 33, of Waconia, pulled out into the lane of traffic trying to cross the highway. Kenison was unable to stop and struck Sweeney’s

The driver of this 2006 Subaru, David Kenison, 52, of Delano, was injured in the Monday morning crash.

The driver of this 2006 Subaru, David Kenison, 52, of Delano, was injured in the Monday morning crash.

vehicle.

Kenison was reported unconscious after the crash, but was alert when WHPS officers arrived. He was treated at the scene by North Memorial paramedics and transported to North Memorial Hospital for further treatment. Sweeney was treated at the scene and refused transport.

Sweeney was cited for failure to drive with due care.

“We are fortunate nobody was killed today, but yet another crash on Highway 12,” WHPS Chief Gary Kroells said. “Both drivers were wearing their seat belts, which saved them from serious or fatal injuries.”

In addition to the drivers wearing seat belts, airbags in both vehicles deployed.

Both vehicles were heavily damaged and towed from the scene.

Assisting WHPS officers were police departments from Medina, Minnetrista, and Orono; the Maple Plain Fire Department; and North Memorial Ambulance.

Barfknecht elected back on to Franklin Township Board

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, MN – Despite his name not appearing on the ballot, former Franklin Township Supervisor Mike Barfknecht was elected back on to the board during Monday’s election, defeating incumbent Chair DeWayne Bauman by an unofficial count of 91 votes to 77 votes.

After Clerk/Treasurer Stephanie Russek announced the results at the annual meeting, moderator John Tackaberry and others wondered allowed if Barfknecht would accept the position.

Barfknecht confirmed to Russek after the meeting that he would return to the board.

He was first elected to the board in 2007. He filed for re-election in 2010, and was successful. In 2013, he did not file for re-election, but was elected as a write-in candidate. He did not run for re-election in 2016.

Bauman was first elected to the board in 2011, and was re-elected in 2014.

Levy and budget

Franklin Township residents will see the township’s levy decrease 5.8 percent, from $860,000 to $810,000, after the residents at the meeting unanimously approved the levy and a budget of $931,096 during Tuesday’s annual meeting.

Initially, the township was planning a levy of $860,000, but Supervisor Bill McMullen suggested budgeting only $50,000 for 40th Street – rather than the $100,000 in the original budget – with the knowledge that the township is eligible and applying for state funds because Crow Spring Park is located on the road. That grant application is due in November, so the earliest that project could be completed would be 2018.

While discussing the budget, it was noted that the township spent just $654,356 in 2016, despite a levy of $860,000, resulting in a closing balance of $1,630,851 at the end of 2016. Of the surplus, $121,096 will be included in the 2017 budget, for a total of $931,096.

The budget includes $145,700 in general fund spending, compared to $151,384 in 2016, with the difference largely due to the fact that there is no general election in 2017, Clerk/Treasurer Stephanie Russek said.

The road and bridge fund will increase from $270,177 to $373,200, due in part to more granite-hauling fees because the Delano location is no longer an option, $20,000 for the township’s portion of a box culvert being replaced on Meridian Avenue, and the township’s portion of a $30,000 guardrail on the north end of Farmington Avenue.

Dust control is budgeted at $100,000, compared to $108,906 in 2016.

Seal coating and bituminous is budgeted at $193,000, compared to $49,038 in 2016. Of that amount, $75,000 is set aside for a fog coat or seal coat on Farmington Avenue, and $50,000 is earmarked for 40th Street.

McMullen explained that a seal coat or fog coat will need to be applied to Farmington Avenue, which was reconstructed two years ago, to help preserve the integrity of the road.

“It’s an expensive road,” McMullen said. “Paved roads are not cheap.”

Tackaberry suggested that 40th Street – which is a double chip seal road – be returned to gravel.

Resident Huns Vanderlinde, who was a supervisor when the road was double chip sealed, said, “That road lasted longer than any road in the township.”

Supervisor John Czanstkowski said granite for the road would cost about $29,400, plus almost $2,000 annually for dust control, on top of maintenance costs.

Estimates for paving the road range from less than $100,000 to about $160,000 McMullen said.

A resident also noted almost 800 cars per day travel the road.

McMullen said it would be frugal to apply for state funding. Tackaberry suggested asking Rep. Joe McDonald (R-Delano) to “go to bat for us,” and McMullen agreed that would be a good idea.

The Farmington Avenue fund will increase from $42,964 in 2016, to $112,900.

“Last year, when we did the levy, we thought the first principal payment on Farmington Avenue would be due,” Russek said. “Just the interest was due.”

The vehicle budget will remain nearly unchanged at $31,506, compared to $31,886 in 2016.

Odds and ends

In other business, the township:

• approved the township’s donation of $7,376 annually for 2017 and 2018 to the Delano Area Senior Center, a 3 percent increase over the 2016 funding level. Resident Mary Ann Bernat made the motion, noting the township will save 3 percent in 2018 by locking in the donation amount now. Of the more than 3,130 individuals who utilized the senior center in 2016, 345 individuals – about 11 percent – were from Franklin Township, while the township’s donation makes up less than 4 percent of the approximate $200,000 budget.

• discussed the township’s solar ordinance, which bans large solar projects on the top four categories of agricultural land, limits projects to one power pole, requires 150 percent of the decommissioning cost to be in a bond or letter of credit, and caps the contract length at 25 years. Solar projects for personal use may be allowed on individuals’ properties with a process similar to approving an outbuilding, McMullen said.

• discussed internet service in the township. Russek said she spoke with Frontier Communications Area General Manager George Meskowski, who was scheduled for the March 6 township meeting but did not attend. Russek said Meskowski had been called away to deal with situations caused by high wind in Nebraska and Iowa. He told Russek he had learned that repeaters were not spaced correctly throughout the township and would be moved once frost is out of the ground. He also told Russek he has worked with customers who have contacted him, including waiving a $200 disconnect fee.

• with one resident opposed, approved a motion not to rent out the town hall.

• recognized 101-year-old resident June Sutton for her annual attendance at the annual meeting and shared a cake in honor of her 101st birthday, which she celebrated in June. She thanked the township for the surprise and said her parents would be proud to know how long she has lived.

• authorized the State Bank of Delano as the official bank depository and the town hall as the official place for posting notices.

• set the next annual meeting for 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 13, 2018, following the township supervisor election.