2018 Year in Review — The Citizen

As each year comes to an end, it is a tradition of The Citizen to take a look back at some of the most memorable stories from the year. Some of 2018's highlights included: businesses expanded and celebrated anniversaries, the White Bear Lake Area High School Drumline performed for Super Bowl Live, a Centerville man won $10,000 from a retweet, the White Bear Lake lawsuit continued, St. Andrew's Lutheran Church opened Washington County's second homeless shelter in Hugo, and much more.


Centerville mulls tweaks to water usage structure (1.18)

CENTERVILLE—Once the growing season begins, water users in Centerville will likely see one more reason not to water their driveways or soak their lawns until water runs down the street. During winter, it might be a good idea to let the water run in a trickle while brushing your teeth instead of a roaring gush.

That running water could soon be draining pocketbooks.

Although council tabled action to institute adjustments to the water usage rate tier system at its Jan. 10 meeting, it will likely approve adjustments in the 2018 Fee Schedule after looking closely at how much increased revenue the city needs for doing so and how much incentive water users need to conserve.

Think before you flush (1.18)

What do wet wipes, dental floss, beach towels, marbles and cat litter have in common? They've all been flushed down the toilet.

And that's only just the beginning. Add pharmaceuticals, paper towels and diapers to that list.

Of the many things people are throwing down their drain lately, flushable wipes are giving public works crews the biggest headaches.

Country Video Barn: Putting a little weekend in your week (1.18)

Despite the widespread availability of streaming services and movie rental kiosks, a local family-owned business has managed to keep its doors open for 19 years and counting. Country Video Barn, located at 14869 Forest Blvd. in Hugo, is one of the last few full-service video stores to remain open in the state.

Brian and Mary Jo Wurzer bought the property in 1999; at the time, they were told the video store had been existence for around 15 years. The building was originally built in 1961 as one of the first drive-in restaurants in the state.


Members of the White Bear Lake Area High School Drumline performed on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis during the first night of Super Bowl Live Friday, Jan. 26. The ongoing event features a variety of local and nationally recognized musicians along with various displays and interactive exhibits.

One assistant fire chief says goodbye, one says hello (2.1)

HUGO — The Hugo Fire Department (HFD) rang in the new year by saying goodbye to a longtime firefighter and welcoming a familiar face to a new position.

Assistant Chief Jim Fordham retired Jan. 1 after serving on HFD for 10 years. Before achieving the rank of assistant chief, Fordham held the positions of safety captain, chief engineer and fire marshal.

Dance studio 'happy place' well into 6th decade (2.15)

CENTERVILLE — After 59 years of dancing and 50 years of teaching, a local studio owner has no plans to retire anytime soon.

Laurie Sanftner (formerly Griemann), of White Bear Lake, has owned Laurie's School of Dance in Centerville since 1999. Before building her own studio, she taught in White Bear Lake and Forest Lake for 31 years.


Sprouts instills lifetime of healthy smiles (3.1)

For many people, going to the dentist can be an unpleasant, dreaded experience. Sprouts Pediatric Dentistry in Hugo aims to change that at a young age while equipping children with the knowledge they need to have a life full of healthy smiles.

Dr. Meredith Kurysh began her practice in 2013 when it was located in a leased space near Festival Foods. In December 2017, Kurysh's dream to open her practice in her very own building became a reality when Sprouts moved into a brand new space located at 14722 Victor Hugo Blvd.

State of the City Address: How is Hugo doing in 2018? (3.15)

HUGO — Unemployment rates, business expansions, housing, population and happiness levels were just some of the many topics Mayor Tom Weidt touched on in his 2018 State of the City Address Feb. 27.

Community members, business owners, Hugo Business Association (HBA) members, City Council members, city staff, Washington County Commissioner Fran Miron and Washington County Sheriff Dan Starry all attended the event.

Post Super Bowl: Forever 52 keeps volunteer spirit alive (3.29)

Around 10,000 volunteers dedicated their time for 10 days leading up to the Super Bowl in February. After the big game was over, one local volunteer, along with many others, was not ready for the volunteer spirit to be over.

With a background in volunteering and passion for football and the state of Minnesota, Hugo resident Joan Tabak signed up to be a member of Crew 52. A core group of eight people organized Forever 52 with the mission of sustaining the spirit of Crew 52 volunteerism by mobilizing volunteers and connecting them with existing organizations to meet community needs.

Centerville man's retweet earns him $10,000 (3.29)

Centerville resident Curt McKay uses Twitter solely as a news feed to keep up with local sports happenings. He never imagined his third retweet on the social media platform would result in a $10,000 cash award. After the NCAA men’s basketball brackets came out March 12, the Saint Paul Saints came up with the promotional idea to give away $10,000 if a No. 16 seed knocked off a No. 1 seed, something that had never been done before in 132 tries entering the 2018 tournament.

Hugo joins municipalities appealing court-ordered changes to water permits (3.29)

HUGO — Like other communities impacted by the White Bear Lake level lawsuit, the city is appealing court-ordered changes to the volume of water drawn from the Prairie du Chien aquifer.

At its meeting March 19, the City Council formally objected to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) amendments to two well permits: one for the municipal water supply and one for Hanifl Fields Athletic Park.

White Bear Township and the cities of White Bear Lake, Lino Lakes, Vadnais Heights and Lake Elmo are all contesting the court-ordered changes to water permits and demanding a hearing with an administrative law judge.


North Campus library refreshed for future (4.12)

WHITE BEAR LAKE — While the new bright orange, blue and lime green furniture in the North Campus media center might look like a mid-century throwback in style, it's actually bringing students into the future of libraries.

High school libraries are no longer places where a few bookworm students dig deeply within the Dewey Decimal System looking for a treasure. At White Bear Lake Area High School – North Campus, students now often come to the media center to do homework and group work, and teachers use it as an alternative classroom.

Teacher of the Year is Hugo native (4.26)

Oneka Elementary fifth-grade teacher Maggie Clark, a native of Hugo and alumna of Hugo Elementary School, is the 2018 White Bear Lake Area Schools Teacher of the Year. Clark was nominated by more than 20 former and current students, said Principal Teresa Dahlem. Students also surprised her by joining the audience in the South Campus Theatre.

Horse show at State Fairgrounds exhibits the best (4.26)

If you’ve never attended a horse show, you’re missing out. At least, that’s what Stephanie Peterson will tell you. Peterson, a longtime equestrian enthusiast, joined the hosting committee behind Friends of the American Saddle Horse Show, or F.A.S.H., as insiders call it, in 2001 — the first year it was held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. She is now the show manager, but has also participated in the show. This year’s annual event will take place May 10-13.


Longtime Hugo mail carrier retires (5.10)

HUGO — April 28 marked the last day 500 residents along a 64-mile route saw a friendly, familiar face deliver their mail and packages.

Hugo resident John Monaghan retired from the Hugo Post Office after 14 years. His co-workers threw him a party for his years of service, both to the post office and in the military, and presented him with an artist easel with an engraved plaque.

Impacts of devastating tornado still felt 10 years later (5.24)

HUGO — Although it was 10 years ago, May 25, 2008 is a day that is vividly imprinted on the memories of many residents in Hugo, Lino Lakes, Blaine and surrounding areas.

That day, supercell thunderstorms produced large hail and tornadoes from the North Metro to western Wisconsin. Four tornadoes touched down in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin. The strongest tornado was an EF-3, which hit Hugo, killing a young child and destroying houses, businesses, trees, barns and silos.

Hugo company gets OK for phased expansion (5.24)

HUGO — Schwieters Properties LLP got the city’s blessing to begin a major expansion across the street from its current headquarters in the Bald Eagle Industrial Park. The process required city approval of a final plat, text amendment, site plan and conditional use permit.

At its May 7 meeting, City Council members approved a final plat to be known as “Roy Molitor 3rd Addition” to create one lot and one outlot at 13676 Fenway Blvd. North. The 30-acre property was owned by the Molitor family. It includes 11 acres of wetland.

Planner Rachel Juba said the applicant was also requesting approval of a site plan for a 144,000-square-foot manufacturing/warehouse building with associated parking and exterior storage on the site, a conditional use permit for the exterior storage and a conditional use permit for a campus development to allow multiple buildings on one parcel.


St. Andrews to serve homeless population (6.7)

Later this month, Washington County's second homeless shelter will open its doors to make a difference in the lives of families who are facing homelessness.

The vacant rectory next to the Church of St. Genevieve – St. John’s Campus in Hugo, formerly known as St. John the Baptist Church, has been the recipient of more than 2,500 hours of volunteer work to transform it into a safe haven for homeless local families.

St. Andrew’s Church in Mahtomedi will operate the new family shelter as part of its Community Resource Center (CRC).

Good Neighbor of the Year helps those who need it (6.21)

HUGO — Those who live near Rick Kissner have likely had their driveway snowplowed, borrowed tools from him or even had things fixed by him. Kissner, who has lived in Hugo for 31 years, was nominated by a neighbor (who will remain anonymous) to be the 2018 Good Neighbor of the Year.

Since 1995, when the tradition began, at least one person — not necessarily a Hugo resident — has been recognized during Good Neighbor Days for their importance to the Hugo community. Occasionally, it has been a couple; in 2008, it was an entire family. Kissner is the 24th recipient.

Father-son duo find Spike — again (6.21)

HUGO — For the second year in a row, a father and son teamed up to find the Golden Spike in Hugo’s annual treasure hunt that takes place during Good Neighbor Days. This year, it was found in McCollar Park in Fable Hill.

Searching for Spike has become a family tradition for Sean Noren and his son Mason, who will be a sixth-grader at Central Middle School in the fall. Last year, Sean and Mason were accompanied by Sean’s wife Kerry and Mason’s siblings, Ava and Noah, when they found Spike in Lions Park.


Centerville family humbly serves those in need (7.5)

Jason and Addie Pfingsten have travelled to Belize, Alaska, London, Texas and Puerto Rico, all in hopes of making a difference in the lives of others.

The Pfingstens have lived in Centerville for four years with their three daughters ages 13, 9 and 6. Thirst Missions, founded by Jason, helps churches of all denominations from across the country plan their groups’ visits and ministry services. Thirst Missions is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

28th annual Fete des Lacs boasts 'Cougar Pride' theme (7.5)

This year’s Fete des Lacs “Festival of Lakes” marks the 28h annual celebration in Centerville. While many popular attractions remain this year, some new attractions have also been added to the docket.

The celebration is sure to offer something for everybody with traditions such as Music in the Park, Public Safety Night, Bald Eagle Water Ski Show, softball tournament, fireworks, 8K/5K/Kids Run and KidsFest.

Family-oriented circus coming to town (7.19)

Two golden tigers, one African lion, a draft horse, a miniature horse, American Eskimo dogs, along with a dwarf cow, miniature alpaca, goats and ponies will soon fill Lions Park in Hugo.

Culpepper & Merriweather Circus will return to Hugo July 21. Culpepper & Merriweather is one of three active circuses that call Hugo, Oklahoma, or “Circus City USA,” home. For many years, the Hugo Lions Club has sponsored the circus every other year as a fundraiser. The proceeds raised from the event support two scholarships given to high school seniors during Good Neighbor Days.

Animals spur memories for seniors (7.19)

Seniors in Hugo and Lino Lakes recently received a special visit from a horse, pony and miniature donkey.

White Bear Lake resident Kim Wycislak has been bringing the team of three to Lino Lakes Assisted Living & Memory Care since 2014. From May through September, they typically visit the facility once a month. For the first time, she also brought them to Keystone Place at LaValle Fields in Hugo Tuesday, July 3. She hopes the visits will turn into a monthly event.


Retired engineer has trains in his blood (8.2)

After a 43-year career driving trains, a local engineer says trains “are in his blood.”

Bruce Lemay, a longtime resident of Hugo, made his final trip with Amtrak and retired on July 10. Lemay is a third-generation “train guy.” His grandpa was a traveling storekeeper and his father was a floorman in the car department for Milwaukee Railroad.

Another restaurant option may come to town (8.30)

HUGO — For many years, residents of Hugo have been asking for more restaurant options right in town. That may just happen, as the city is trying to come to an agreement with the owners of Cozzie’s Tavern & Grill in Stillwater.

Chris and Jennifer Cosgrove attended the Hugo Economic Development Authority’s Aug. 22 meeting to present a preliminary business plan proposal. The second location, called Cozzie’s Lakeside Grill, is proposed for city-owned property on Forest Boulevard, on Egg Lake right across Hwy 61 from City Hall.


Hugo resident pursues 'sweet' baking adventure (9.13)

HUGO — After Uptown Girl Cupcakes & Desserts closed shop in White Bear Lake, a local resident had to decide what was next in her baking adventure. Robin Udstuen worked at Uptown Girl for two and a half years under Melynda Harjes.

Udstuen thought about potentially becoming a baker at a store but didn’t want to join a “cookie cutter” production. After some encouragement from Harjes, her husband, and friends and family, she decided to open a business in her home and named it Sugar Fairy.

District brainstorming renovations (9.27)

White Bear Lake Area Schools is seeking community members to join facilities committees this year to brainstorm how its buildings could be updated in the future. There is 1.8 million square feet of building space in the district, said Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Tim Wald at a board meeting Sept. 10.

The district is considering a facilities referendum to provide needed updates. But first, priorities will need to be identified by community members and staff. Updates are needed due to increasing numbers of students and other changes, Wald said. The district has added about 600 students in the last six years.

Memory Café launches in Hugo (9. 27)

HUGO — A concept that originated in the Netherlands is slowly seeping into the U.S. and becoming more and more popular in Minnesota. Every fourth Wednesday of the month, FamilyMeans hosts a Walking Memory Café from 1:30-3 p.m. at Rice Lake Centre, 6900 137th St. N., Hugo.

A memory café is a welcoming place for individuals with Alzheimer’s or any type of dementia or other brain disorders, as well as their caregivers. Whereas some cafés focus more on education, others may implement activities. A unique element of Hugo’s café is that participants will get a little bit of exercise.


New owner takes over Michele's Paw Spa (10.2)

CENTERVILLE — Michele Whitney has decided to sell her business, Michele’s Paw Spa, after nine years of operation. Whitney owned two shops, one in Centerville and one in Little Canada. Although she sold the business, she is by no means closing its doors.

Both locations have new owners. Whitney decided to sell the business to spend more time with family, however she still works there a couple of times a week. As of Aug. 31, Lino Lakes resident Christa Weber took over the Centerville business, which will now be called Christa’s Paw Spa.

JL Schwieters selected as 2018 Business of the Year (10.11)

The White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce announced its selection of JL Schwieters Building Supply Construction Inc. of Hugo Oct. 2 as its “Business of the Year” for 2018.

The highly prized honor is awarded each year to celebrate an individual business that contributed to the local economy and community in an outstanding manner, including economic impact, employment growth and civic engagement.

Resident nearing 4 years cancer-free (10.25)

When Lino Lakes resident Lori Hoffman went in for her routine physical exam at the age of 41 in October 2013, she had no idea something was wrong. Less than a week later, she was given the news that she had invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), sometimes called infiltrating ductal carcinoma. According to the American Cancer Society, IDC is the most common type of breast cancer—about 80 percent of all breast cancers are IDC.

Several weeks later, Hoffman started chemotherapy and underwent a total of six rounds. In August 2014, she was finally able to have the double mastectomy, which allowed her to forgo radiation. December will mark four years Hoffman has been cancer-free.

Bus tour at a glance (10.25)

Around 45 people, including elected officials, commission members, residents and city staff, boarded a bus earlier this month to see what has transpired in the city over the last year and what is still in the works.


Wrapping veterans with comfort and healing (11.22)

HUGO — Five Quilts of Valor, five Cold War Medals and two Victory Medals of World War I were presented during a special Veterans Day Ceremony Saturday, Nov. 10, at Keystone Place at LaValle Fields.

For a couple of years, Alan Anderson has visited Keystone Place on a monthly basis to talk with the residents about military history. Anderson has a master’s degree in military history and a doctoral degree in war studies. He often helps residents track down information about their relatives and ensures veterans get the medals they so deserve.

Dog provides nonjudgmental reading practice (11.22)

Pippy the therapy dog is becoming quite the celebrity around Washington, Anoka and Ramsey counties.

Three-year-old Pippy, who is thought to be a border collie-cattle dog-whippet mix, is a part of the Dog Gone Reading program at the Hardwood Creek Library in Forest Lake, which takes place from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. the second Thursday of each month.


A community comes together to say thanks (12.6)

HUGO — The Hugo American Legion Banquet Hall served as a gathering area for the first-ever “Thank You For Your Service Event” celebrating local veterans, active military members, firefighters, police officers and volunteers Nov 16.

An outpouring of support from the community allowed this festivity to commence with local businesses and restaurants all pitching in. Cub of White Bear Township, Delta Dental, Manitou Grill, Blue Heron Grill, Maplewood Chiropractic Health Center, Schwan Super Rink and Victory Links all donated prizes for attendees to get a chance to win by raffle. Eight restaurants helped cater the event, including: Blacksmith Lounge, Blue Heron Grill, Sal’s Angus Grill, Wiseguys Pizza & Pub, Donatelli’s, Burger Bar, The Meet Market and Tria.

District chooses land for new school in Hugo (12.20)

HUGO — The district has chosen land for a new school in Hugo. The school board approved purchase agreements for three parcels of land on Everton Avenue N. just north of Frenchman Road in closed session Dec. 10. Details of the offers were not released.

The three parcels are currently zoned residential. A proposal for a school on the land has not come before the Hugo City Council. The district wants to secure land for possible construction of a school due to the growth it has seen in the Hugo area, reported Marisa Vette, director of communications and community relations.

Boy oh boy: Minnesotans ride out Alaska earthquake (12.20)

When the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck 8 miles outside of Anchorage, Alaska, on Nov. 30, it should have been no surprise to the Wittkop family. Hugo natives Jim and Kazandra Wittkop have lived in Alaska for more than 10 years. The day after their wedding at St. Genevieve’s in Centerville, they moved to the remote village of King Salmon after Jim accepted a job as a federal law enforcement officer and pilot for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

After eight years or so, the family relocated to live on the road system 30 miles north of Anchorage in Chugiak — which happens to be 10 miles north of the quake’s epicenter. The Wittkops have three children, 4-year-old Will, 2-year-old Hollis and their newest addition, Rockney, who was just one week old when the earthquake struck.

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