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Portion of County Road 32 closed through Thursday, July 9

ROCKFORD TOWNSHIP, MN — The Wright County Highway Department has announced that a 1.5-mile segment of Wright County Road 32 east of County Road 14 in Rockford Township will remain closed until about 5 p.m. Thursday, July 9, weather permitting.

A deteriorated centerline pipe underneath the roadway is being replaced. The work began Monday. A detour route wasn’t posted and drivers are asked to use alternate routes.

Anyone with questions about the project are directed to contract Wright County Highway Maintenance Supervisor Steve Meyer at steve.meyer@co.wright.mn.us or call 763-682-7374 during regular business hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday).

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Griebel retires from DMU after 32 years

Jim Griebel has retired from Delano Municipal Utilities after 32 years.

Jim Griebel has retired from Delano Municipal Utilities after 32 years.

DELANO, MN – Jim Griebel still remembers the first time he worked to restore power in Delano 32 years ago.

“It was in the middle of the night and everything was dark,” Griebel said. “ . . . It was on a pole and there was a fuse out. I cleared the line and put a new fuse back in. It was cool to throw it in and watch the lights come back on.”

Griebel, who retired as Delano Municipal Utilities foreman Tuesday, has worked to restore power in a wide variety of conditions.

“People ask me, ‘Are you going to miss all the storms, hot weather, and cold weather?’ Yeah, I’m going to miss it,” Griebel said. “I’ve always loved being out in the weather. There’s something about being out on the street during a blizzard. Everyone’s at home and we know we’re the only ones out there. It’s a feeling of satisfaction.”

While Griebel’s attitude toward the outdoors has not changed, other aspects of the utility have.

The most noticeable change was the burying of the power lines, which is part of what brought Griebel to the utility in the first place.

Having worked for Economy Gas, “It was a natural fit to come to the electric company because of their desire to bury every line in town,” Griebel said.

Even his boss at the propane company agreed that it made sense to make the switch.

“I interviewed at 10 a.m. and started working at 1 in the afternoon,” Griebel said. “My employer said, ‘If you can get in with the city, that’s a great deal. You don’t have to give me a two-week notice.’”

Retired DMU General Manager Hal Becker remembers seeking out Griebel after hearing that he was considering a career change.

“After I figured out what his qualifications were, I asked him if he wanted a job,” Becker said. “We were really glad to get him.”

So, Griebel started installing underground lines. He’s proud to have been a part of that improvement to Delano’s infrastructure.

“We used to have outages weekly for sure, everything from squirrels shorting out a line to lightning,” Griebel said. “Unless there’s a vehicle collision or dig in, we have very few outages.”

Another change included the installation of four engines at the power plant during his time at the utility. He said he and his crew were never intimidated by such large projects, including the installation of Generator 9, which took about 18 months.

“There were two generator projects we took over from the contractors,” Becker said. “That’s where Jim was really instrumental in getting those projects completed successfully.”

Griebel said project work has been his favorite part of the job, “being able to do every part of it, from drafting up to design work, to helping them fabricate stuff, to finishing up painting.”

He enjoys working with his hands, something he learned while working at a sawmill in the Motley area while in high school.

“The guy I worked for was one of those guys who could build anything,” Griebel said. “He built his own sawmill. I got that knowledge that these two hands can do anything. That’s what I’ve followed through with. Every time we had a big project, I’d tell the guys, ‘It’s one step at a time and we’re going to do it by ourselves.’”

“He’s done a great job transitioning some of that knowledge and succession planning,” DMU General Manager Paul Twite said. “We’ve worked in the last couple years to make sure he doesn’t walk out the door and everyone shakes their heads, saying, ‘What do we do now?’ He’s got a diverse amount of knowledge in his head.”

Griebel gained that knowledge through on-the-job training.

He took everything one day at a time, not thinking he’d be working for DMU for more than 30 years.

“I didn’t know how long I’d last,” Griebel said.

His career was nearly cut short by a serious accident in 2002, which put him in a coma for 10 days.

He spent six months focusing on physical therapy and recuperation, going back to DMU as soon as possible, despite other people’s opinions and advice.

“I had my lawyer telling me what to do. ‘You don’t have to work anymore,’” Griebel said. “Friends were telling me to do something else. I felt lost without it and ended up coming back. I loved working with the guys, loved the kind of work it is. It wasn’t a hard choice at all.”

Deciding to retire was not a hard choice either.

“If things were different, maybe I would have stayed on longer,” Griebel said. “It’s a high stress job. It really is, especially if you want to do it well. I want everyone there to do well. I want everyone to be safe. It’s a lot of stress. That’s the main reason I’m retiring. I have the chance to do some more personal things for myself and less sitting around waiting for a storm.”

Now that he won’t be on call, he’s looking forward to taking more motorcycle trips.

He’s due for some time off, having been on call for 40 years, including his time working for the gas company.

When asked if he had a message for his coworkers, he said, “Stop calling me,” with a laugh.

While Griebel will no longer be on call, he will remain available as a mentor.

“He’s going to keep in touch with his coworkers,” Twite said.

Twite noted that Griebel stayed with the utility longer than he had initially planned.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began affecting the area, Twite asked him to continue working so the crew of eight could be evenly split into two groups to work at different times.

“We’re going to need leadership and someone with a calm and cool head,” Twite remembered thinking. “I threw myself on the mercy of him and said, ‘Please help us get through the pandemic. This was in March when none of us knew what this would look like. He agreed to stay on. I’m extremely grateful for that.”

Furthermore, he appreciated the attitude Griebel brought to work every day.

“I appreciate that calm and cool attitude he has when troubleshooting problems and getting to the root of the problem,” Twite said. “That’s an incredible asset to have when we’re under the gun or under pressure. That’s what I’m going to miss the most.”

Twite isn’t the only grateful one.

Griebel said his true parting message for his coworkers and DMU as a whole is, “Thanks for the opportunity to work there . . . I never took it for granted.”

Council approves parade coordinated by businessmen

DH.parade

DELANO, MN – While the official 4th of July parade was canceled, two businessmen, with the support of other individuals, have coordinated an effort to have a small parade, and the Delano City Council provided a stamp of approval Tuesday evening.

The parade will be made up of two phases.

Phase 1 will feature the American Legion color guard, support vehicles, law enforcement and public safety vehicles. It will begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the traditional starting point, the intersection of Wright County Road 30 and River Street, and follow the standard route through downtown, ending on Elm Avenue at the Tiger Drive intersection.

“It would be moving to the side of the travel lane or shoulder if available and the sheriff’s office would be providing a public safety escort,” City Administrator Phil Kern said.

Calvin Brandt and Chris Keller submitted an application for a permit for Phase 1, and the council approved it.

Phase 2 will feature more vehicles driving through several areas of town, similar to the Stahlke Bus parade in May. It will travel through Woods Creek, River Street, Elm Avenue, Stahlke Addition, Rebecca Park Estates, Wright County Road 30, River Street, Otto Addition, Parkview Hills (eastern side), Fox Meadow, Parkview Hills (western side), Westridge Hills, and Clover Springs.

It will not include road closures; stopping; walking; interaction with people; political entries; or throwing or handing out candy, pamphlets, or other items.

“We spent a considerable amount of time trying to assess if they need a permit,” Kern said. “We don’t believe they need a permit.”

The council agreed with that assessment and approved the staff recommendation.

Audit

Chris Knopik of auditing firm Clifton Larson Allen walked the council through its audit report.

The general fund has a balance equivalent to seven months of expenditures, or 12 months if including transfers from the liquor store and sewer fund, which is higher than the recommendation of six months worth of reserves.

Revenues increased from 2018 to 2019, with $2.5 million in land sales at the West Metro Business Park playing the largest role in that increase.

Public safety and streets made up the largest increases in expenditures.

Debt service is expected to remain flat through 2022 and decrease in both 2023 and 2024.

Liquor sales reached nearly $3 million in 2019, an increase of about $200,000, with a gross profit percentage of 28 percent, compared to the seven-county metro average of 26.5 percent.

In 2019, sewer access and trunk fee charges increased by about $300,000.

In addition to the financial report, the council also learned about two legal compliance issues. There was one case where a vendor was not paid within 35 days and one case when deposits were not covered by enough collateral.

Knopik said the first issue “relates back to very early in 2019, when the city first converted its general ledger and financial systems.”

He added that the second issue was related to a large deposit.

“If the bank isn’t actively monitoring it, it can cause a lack of collateral,” Knopik said. “We didn’t see any other issues. We happened to catch one month, in December, where collateral wasn’t sufficient.”

The audit showed two common material weaknesses in internal controls: the financial reporting process and lack of segregation of duties. Both are due to the small number of employees who handle financial matters for the city.

Fire department pensions increase

After reviewing the Delano Fire Department’s financial statements, the council approved a $75 increase in pension benefits, up to $2,575 per year of service. For example, if a firefighter retires after 20 years, he or she would receive a pension of $51,500.

“They risk their lives and everything else,” Mayor Dale Graunke said. “It’s kind of a no-brainer.”

The last increase was two years ago, as the fire department did not receive financial statements in time for an increase to be approved in 2019.

Finance Director Brian Bloch reported that the fire department’s pension fund is funded at 121 percent, which prompted the request for an increase.

Spirit of Community Trail

In preparation of the 150th anniversary of Delano being incorporated as a city, a number of groups are working to establish a Spirit of Community Trail which would entail a number of medallions in the sidewalk and plaques along existing trails. The plaques would feature QR codes that would lead to websites with more information about the points of interest.

In order to start the project, the council approved $9,000 for Phase 1 of the project with council members Betsy Moran, Holly Schrupp and Jon Sutherland in favor; Graunke abstained; and Councilman Jason Franzen absent. Graunke said he abstained due to his involvement with the downtown retail group, which is participating in the project.

Phase 1 is focused on the downtown area.

Phase 2 would include areas west of downtown, including Central Park, while phases 3 and 4 would identify other arts and cultural landmarks.

For the next three years, the organizations involved hope to fundraise 20 percent of the funds needed, with the city providing 80 percent.

Organizer Debbie DeBeer said there have been talks about creating such a trail for about 20 years.

The goal is to have 50 plaques highlighting 150 points of history by the 150th anniversary, which will be in 2026.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• approved a final payment of about $121,000 for the West Metro Business Park storm sewer project. Wenck was responsible for the bulk of the cost, about $308,000, because the storm sewer that was installed in 2013 was insufficient. The city’s portion was due to expanding the storm sewer beyond what was initially planned.

• went into closed session to consider negotiations for purchase of a property west of the West Metro Business Park due to interest from a business. No action was taken.

• extended the community health emergency through July 31. The council intends to continue addressing the issue on a monthly basis.

• tabled a request for a $500 contribution to a program that would allow individuals who shop downtown to be entered into a drawing for $100 each week.

Vehicle stolen from Kwik Trip in Delano

DELANO, MN – A vehicle that was stolen from Kwik Trip in Delano Tuesday evening has been recovered.

According to the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were dispatched to the store on the report of a stolen vehicle at 10:44 p.m.

Eric Valen, of Lester Prairie, told deputies he had left his black Ford Escape running while he went into the store, and returned to find that the vehicle had been stolen.

Deputies entered the vehicle as stolen, recovered video surveillance, and searched the area for the vehicle, but did not locate it.

At about 10:22 p.m. Wednesday, deputies were advised that the stolen vehicle had been located in Columbia Heights. Four individuals were found inside the vehicle at the time of the traffic stop. Charges are pending in that jurisdiction.

Delano man injured in crash

MONTICELLO TOWNSHIP, MN – Alcohol is believed to have been a factor in a crash that injured a Delano man Tuesday afternoon, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.

The State Patrol reports that a 2000 Chevrolet Express van driven by Adam Brandt, 40, of Milaca, was northbound on Highway 25 at milepost 65 in Monticello Township when it side-swiped a 1988 Ford Bronco in the bypass lane attempting to turn into a business at about 12:34 p.m. The Bronco was being driven by Mark Lepage, 63.

Lepage was transported to Buffalo Hospital for treatment of noncritical injuries. Brandt was not injured.

According to the State Patrol, Brandt was under the influence of alcohol.

Both individuals were wearing seat belts.

The Wright County Sheriff’s Office and Centracare Ambulance assisted at the scene.