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Editorial: Alert payoff, private eye, hockey mom and more

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Since 9/11 our awareness for suspicious conduct has grown. We've been asked to remain watchful, to not overlook odd circumstances or assume someone else will see them and respond.

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Of course it's unlikely that in River Falls such vigilance will catch an international terrorist in the act. But keeping watch can pay off in less dramatic ways.

Last month a mother dropping off her child at Meyer Middle School saw a person who seemed to be videotaping the school. The suspect's van was parked in the school lot. The principal was informed, police contacted.

An officer questioned the man -- an Illinois private detective allegedly doing surveillance on a neighborhood house. The sleuth claimed to have no interest for students or the middle school. After his boss was contacted, the man was given a municipal fine for "unauthorized presence on school property." He was told to do his videotape snooping from a legal parking spot on the street.

No matter what the outcome or the suspect's story, credit goes to the middle school parent who noticed something amiss and didn't brush if off. There were no heroics, just alerting a person in charge to get to the bottom of things. It was the right thing to do and it paid off.

On the Journal's online site, www.riverfallsjournal.com, a couple of readers reacted to our story this way:

  • Some private investigators are not the brightest bulbs around although there are some very good ones. I wonder if this one was just doing video surveillance and whomever hired him didn't mention certain things to be careful of when doing this. Actually, they are supposed to be secretive. I suggest this guy find a new line of work!
  • Kudos to the astute parent who reported this guy. It sounds kinda fishy. If he was a real private investigator, he should have known better than to be videotaping in a school parking lot. Just makes me a little nervous. I hope the police department keeps an eye on the area.

    And we take note of the following...

  • Now that the Minnesota Legislature has overridden the governor's veto to pass a higher gas tax totaling 8.5 cents by early 2009, the gas-price divide between Minnesota and Wisconsin will shrink.

    Not good news for River Falls area commuters who gas up when they can in Minnesota, but good news for local service stations. Maybe fewer River Falls residents will wait to fill 'er up in Minnesota and do so locally instead. We'll see.

  • The Hudson-River Falls sports rivalry is always big. Emotions run high but some adults need to chill. After a playoff hockey game between the two high schools in Hudson, a 52-year-old woman was ticketed for disorderly conduct.

    She's the mom of the Hudson team goalie and allegedly was swearing and ignoring a police officer's warning to button up. Then she's accused of going after the cop, grabbing his hand and bending back a finger.

    Ouch! Talk about a hot-tempered parent. Anger-management, anyone? Of course the River Falls Wildcats did win handily, 6-1. Still, it's just a game, people. Aren't adults still considered role models for kids? Or is that another time-honored tradition that's passed?

  • High school science teacher Dan Hoffman's provocative letter about low teacher pay/high superintendent pay drew rebukes from letter writers. However, reporter Vera Roy-Stoeberl, in her column last week, pointed out that new River Falls superintendent Tom Westerhaus will make almost $50,000 more than his Ellsworth counterpart; nearly $40,000 more than his New Richmond counterpart; and some $30,000 more than his Hudson counterpart.

    But as far as teachers' wages, there's no start contrast: River Falls teachers, still laboring under last year's contract, have a pay range of $31,475 to $62,093. Hudson's range, under the old contract, is $31,723 and $60,392; a just- signed contract for this year bumped that low and high in Hudson to $32,199 and $61,798. In New Richmond, where teachers also have an old contract, the range is $30,521 and $62,189. In Ellsworth, teachers are still on an old contract, with a range of $30,087 and $57,094.

    Final word: Hoffman's claim that the new superintendent's wage is skewed by the Twin Cities market influence is plausible. But his claim that teachers wages/benefits are low for this area seems less valid. That calls into question his motives for publicly warning young teaching prospects to stay clear of River Falls.

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