Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.
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River Falls is growing closer to making what has been called one of the biggest decisions the city has ever made. The Kinnickinnic River sits at the center of this decision, much as it does within the heart of the city. The decision centers on the future of the city's two hydroelectric dams. It's the first major decision scheduled to be made as part of the city's ongoing Kinni Corridor Project which kicked off in December 2016.
Though St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity found itself in hot water with the City of River Falls last spring, it's now on better footing. The River Falls City Council voted Tuesday, May 23, to allow the city attorney and City Administrator Scot Simpson call a promissory note given to St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity (SCVHH). The $400,000 loan was given to Habitat in 2012 to fund the Eco Village project, with a 10-year repayment term. Habitat would pay no interest if the loan was paid off within 10 years.
Editor's note: This story is part of a series recapping the top stories of 2017. Read the other top stories here. River Falls residents have a newly-expanded trail system to enjoy this year. Two projects which completed a loop through downtown are now "substantially completed" and open to the public, though some final landscaping work will be done in spring. "It completes the loop for now," said City Administrator Scot Simpson.
The River Falls Public Library hosts a gingerbread contest each year in December. The winners were declared last week and include: Youth Traditional: 1st place - Ellen Somerville 2nd place - Anika Hovland Graham Cracker: 1st place - Emmett Matter 2nd place - Hailey Perfect Adult Traditional: 1st place - Jill Wurdell (also People's Choice Winner) 2nd place - Kim Kiiskinen Youth Whimsical: 1st place - Sebastien Bowden 2nd place - Harvey Bowden Adult Whimsical: 1st place (tie) - Roseanne Olsen
River Falls High School tenth grader Michael Soward got the surprise of his life Friday, Dec. 8, when assistant principal Nic Been arranged for KSTP meteorologist Dave Dahl to come meet Soward at RFHS. "I had no idea that he was even going to come at all!" Soward said. Soward was doing his weekly "Weatherful Weekend" report over the school intercom that Friday. He'd just finished when Dave Dahl walked in, and said, "Michael I'm so proud of you." He told Soward he was honored to be there, and told him he'd done a great job with the weather.
After about 36 years of working, Tony Steiner said he's ready to relax. Steiner, the River Falls City Planner, has worked for the city for close to 28 years. When he started with River Falls in 1990, he found the job via an advertisement in "the Planner's Job Mart," Steiner said. "They were looking for a landscape architect with a planner's background," he said. "I'm both, I liked the area, it sounded like a potential fit so I applied and here we are."
June Cicero was just finishing law school when she first ran for River Falls Municipal Judge. She was running for an open seat as the previous municipal judge had moved. On the advice of someone who'd done political campaigning, she invited about 12-14 of her classmates to come and go door-to-door with her one afternoon. That was some 33 years ago. She's been consistently re-elected every four years since then. But now, Cicero said, she's decided not to file for re-election.
A resolution to dissolve River Falls' two public-access cable channels sparked much discussion during the City Council's regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 28. Four local residents spoke out against the resolution during public comment time. Tim Montgomery, a 15-year River Falls resident with a TV and communications background, is a RFC-TV community producer. He said people stand "to lose a good community-building tool" if the cable stations were axed. He said RFC-TV also provides news and information to local residents who don't have access to the internet.
The City of River Falls budget has officially been set at $41,829,197 for 2018, following approval by the City Council Tuesday, Nov. 28. This is the second year of the two-year budgeting process, said City Finance Director Alan Rolek. "At this time staff is recommending no changes from last year," Rolek said. "As well, we are looking at the same levy that was being considered by the council back in 2016 for 2018."
Several community member and city council members spoke out against a resolution supporting the development of 70 units of housing at 700 S. Main St. The city was approached by Kansas-based development group Cohen-Esrey. The group asked for support of the proposed multifamily housing project at property formerly owned by the McEwen family.