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"We just love creating something that people enjoy," said Gary Betlach. He and his wife, Marilyn, have been carving wood together for about seven years of the 17 they've been married. It started as a hobby and evolved into part-time work. Gary recently retired from the Hudson post office after 30 years. Marilyn used to work at River Falls Area Hospital and has done medical transcription work at home in recent years. Now, they work together in business as the Couple Carvers.
The chainsaw-wielding Couple Carvers, Marilyn and Gary Betlach, know people remember their monkeys. Marley or Charlie often came with them to showings in River Falls and other areas. The couple has a married daughter named Rachel and two grandsons living in Maplewood, Minn., and another married daughter named Jenny who lives in Baldwin. But Marley and Charlie became like their children through a unique and interesting program. "Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled," is a program and institute based in Boston, Mass.
Comforts of Home asked City Council at Tuesday night's meeting to consider reducing impact fees for its new senior and assisted living development named SouthPointe. The request seemed more about who uses how much of what impact fees pay for - infrastructure like water pipes, sewer lines, roadways, parks, library usage and fire service - than anything else. In this case, Comforts of Home asked for a impact-fee reduction of roughly $92,000 -going from $138,925 to $46,271. The new seniors housing units will be built be at the corner of County Road FF and Hwy.
The Jensen brothers have been gone since June 2004, serving in Iraq most of that time. Last week, 22-year-old Jesse and 20-year-old Paul, returned home for good. "It feels kinda weird to be home," said Paul. "It's like there's not enough time to do everything, like I'll have to go back." He adds with a smile, "But I don't have to this time." Jesse's been home barely a week but has been busy.
For more than 20 years now, a soft-spoken UW-River Falls English professor has been sharing karate secrets with locals. Ron Neuhaus, who's a 2nd-degree black belt, teaches the martial art in a quiet basement room on the UW-River Falls campus. "I'd always been interested in karate, but there weren't classes in River Falls until 1981," said Neuhaus. "Now there are probably about a dozen places in the area to study it." Two other karate masters named Anita Bendickson and Joel Ertl teach the River Falls classes.
Some soldiers who recently returned to River Falls will join the American Legion Post 121 as it commemorates Veterans Day on Friday morning. As the Journal reported last week, the Legion makes rounds to all the schools every Veterans Day, ending at UW-River Falls. A few of the troops who just got back will be there as the Legion group gathers on the lawn of UW-RF's North Hall at the flagpole. The ceremony will include an invocation, flag raising, a rifle volley and the playing of taps. Come springtime, a big community picnic will be held to honor troops who served in Iraq.
The River Falls City Council approved capital improvements for 2006 at its meeting last week. Capital improvements may be better understood as big, expensive projects and equipment. With them comes the challenge of figuring out which ones take priority, since no city has money for everything that everyone would like. River Falls' capital improvement plan (CIP) runs from 2006 through 2010. Although everything has been figured out for next year, the other years are more of a wish list for now. Each year, the council meets to hammer things out.
Mayor Don Richards began Tuesday's night's City Council meeting saying he had received several critical phone calls. Callers had expressed disappointment that the city isn't organizing an event for returning troops. One caller said the city should be organizing something - not the citizens. "It's not a matter of the city not caring," said Richards. "We admire and appreciate (the troops') service." He said the police department is involved with parade planning and that the city is cooperating with its committee as much as possible.
Most folks never give methane a second thought, but ominous forecasts about gas supply and prices have everyone worried about heat. The local truth: Prices are headed up, but there's plenty of gas to keep residential and small-business customers toasty warm this winter. "We see no problem meeting the supply requirements for our service territory," said the majority stockholder of St. Croix Gas, Don Piepgras. "We have been advising our customers that rates will, on average, be 40%-70% higher than last winter.
A chilly, misty-gray, end-of-October day seemed the perfect time to visit Kinnickinnic Cemetery. A multi-colored carpet of leaves lay on manicured grass, and wind through the graveyard's tall trees was the only sound. The cemetery sits just around the corner from the Kinnickinnic Church on Cemetery Road. While the two are unrelated, about a century and a half of history comes with each one. The sign in front of the three-acre cemetery says "Kinnickinnic Cemetery, Founded 1865, Restored 1990." The oldest, legible grave stone is dated 1856.