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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When Dave Hovel started as a city building inspector in 1997, he said River Falls averaged 40-50 new single family homes each year. When the Great Recession hit in 2007-08, the city's housing market started to drop, though it didn't really hit its low until 2011, Hovel said. Now, he said, the city's housing market is pretty much back where it used to be. "The last few years we've been hanging around 50, if I'm not mistaken," Hovel said.
For the past several years, a Fly Fishing Film Festival has made its way to River Falls. This year it starts Friday evening in the UW-River Falls University Center Ballroom with a film festival that includes, in addition to several fly-fishing films, a pre-event social gathering with fly fishing demonstrations, auctions, food, beverages and more. The proceeds support the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust. The nonprofit works with landowners, private organizations and governments to preserve the Kinnickinnic River.
Non-city residents will pay slightly more to use the Glen Park pool this summer. The City Council voted 4-3 to amend the city's 2017 fee schedule for pool use during its regular meeting Tuesday, Feb. 14. The price changes are slight; for example, daily prices go up by .50 cents. That means that while residents will still pay $2.50 to visit the pool, a non-resident would bay $3. A 10-visit package will cost a nonresident $22. And after 5 p.m. prices will be $2 for a nonresident rather than $1.50.
The top two vote-getters in the District 1 City Council primary were Bill Stuessel and Sean Downing. The two tied for the most votes with 104 each, according to unofficial results. Candidate Eric Amundson recieved 54 votes, Kevin Swanson recieved 49 votes. There were no write-in votes. Stuessel and Downing will advance to the April 4 spring election.
River Falls' recent "State of the City" video looking back at 2016 declared it "The Year of Wow." The city especially had a "banner year" when it came to economic development, according to City Administrator Scot Simpson. "It's a good indication for the health of the local economy that there's people making capital investments," Simpson said. "I think what that means is we're doing something right as a community." What constitutes a "banner year?" River Falls had $47,595,221 of construction in 2016 — that's according to building permits issued in 2016.
Some 22 River Falls Youth Hockey Association Mites skaters ages 5-9, and 18 adult chaperones, went to the XCel Energy Center recently to sell programs to raise money for the RFYHA. River Falls native James Bohn, the Minnesota Wild's official anthem-singer found the group and asked to take a photo with the group.
One local group celebrated its 50th anniversary recently with a "Murder in Margarita" mystery. The River Falls chapter of the Women of the Moose staged the mystery event at the Moose Lodge, where the group also honored its anniversary with a dinner catered by the Loyal Order of the Moose (LOOM) men's organization. Several original charter members were special guests at the celebration: Donna Wilcoxson, Rose Leary and Betty Rustad. Charter Women of Moose members who weren't able to attend included: Ped Pechacek, Alice Spear and Evelyn Young.
The UW-River Falls University Center Ballrooms were filled with people whose outfits sparkled during the Denim and Diamonds-themed annual Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet Thursday, Feb. 2. This year's winners include: Citizen of the Year - Carole Mottaz Ambassador of the Year - Monica Wright Non-Profit of the Year - Forward: The River Falls Public Schools Education Foundation Small Business of the Year - Fox Den Used Books Large Business of the Year - Best Maid Cookie Company Chamber Champion - Leadership River Falls, Class of 2015-16.
Marharyta Teslenko never thought she'd move to a small town. The 16-year-old junior exchange student said her home city of Dnipro, Ukraine, has a little under a million people — that compares to 15,000-plus in River Falls. "That's a good experience for me," she said of her exchange trip and living somewhere much different. But though River Falls is much smaller, Teslenko said it's easier to get around in Dnipro — thanks to the good public transportation system there.
Molly McLagan Foley was surprised when she heard her accomplishments being described at the River Falls Fire Department's annual banquet last month. That was when she began to realize she was about to be named River Falls Firefighter of the Year. "It's just an honor," Foley said. "I'm proud of what I do, so it was kinda fun to receive it." Foley said she was completely surprised by the honor. Her husband Tom Foley was not surprised. He is also a firefighter and was named Firefighter of the Year in 1992.