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Giving a hand up, not a handout

It would be a tall order for one student to raise $12,000 to attend high school. But if the work was split among 10 people, it just might be possible.

That's the mentality two New Century Academy students are bringing to a fundraiser. (Due to the forecast of a winter storm, the art fair scheduled for SaturdayJan. 18, has been postponed. The new date is 2-6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, at the school, 950 School Road S.W., Hutchinson.)

"We are having an art fair," said 10th-grader Mackenzie Henning. "People can rent our tables in our gym for the full four hours. They can sell their art and keep any profits they make."

Money raised from $20 table rentals will go toward the portion Henning and sophomore Kareena Collette are gathering. This past summer they joined eight other Minnesota students on a trip to Kenya to learn about rural service projects. There, they visited Ngulot Boys Secondary, a school students can access after finishing primary school if they score high enough on a test, or if they can't reasonably attend another school designed for students who didn't score as high. But each student requires $12,000 to pay for four years of tuition at Ngulot Boys Secondary. For the most part, that money comes from scholarships, such as the one Henning, Collette and the eight other students are trying to fund.

While visiting Ngulot Boys Secondary, Henning and Collette were impressed by the diligence and knowledge of the students, but also by their dedication. Henning recalls students quickly solving chemistry calculations that were difficult for her. They were also surprised to learn the active 4 a.m.-10 p.m. day at the boarding school was a compromise. Students had wanted to keep the schedule even more full, but the teachers demanded they sleep longer.

THE TRIP

The opportunity to visit Kenya came as a surprise to New Century Academy students last year when they were recognized for their many community projects.

Students worked to make their school more accessible for visitors with disabilities, brought awareness to human trafficking and bullying, and helped Common Cup Ministry. The efforts caught the attention of a WE Schools Program manager, who urged the school to seek recognition by the Stillman Global Leadership Program. WE Schools encourages students to address local and global issues. Collette and Henning were among the students to apply for the trip from a handful of Minnesota schools recognized by the program. The visit to Kenya was one of what is known as a "Me to WE" trip.

"The idea behind it is changing thinking from self-centered to helping other people and working together," Henning said.

The 10 students flew out of Minneapolis for the July 12-21 trip and landed in Nairobi. They were in the capital one night before a drive to the Great Rift Valley — a series of natural trenches spanning 6,000 miles. From there, they visited the Kishon Health Centre, a hospital founded by Stillman and WE, schools and villages.

At one school, the students stopped to help with construction for a day, mixing concrete, moving rocks and laying a foundation for a building for teacher accommodations. Henning and Collette walked with a group of women to a local river they used to visit four times a day for water. The construction of a well provided easier access to water for a school, and the water was cleaner as the river was also used by livestock.

"Now they only have to go a couple times a week," Henning said.

One detail about the trip that particularly stood out to Collette was how important it was for everyone to help each other.

"We were in a village and they were constantly aiding each other," she said. "It was like one big family in a village. There were little girls getting water for their classroom. People walked with someone even if it was the opposite direction from where they needed to go. People helped with chores. Kids helped with farming."

WE told the students that it was better to give things that would help people help themselves, instead of simply giving away donations.

"There was a specific rule that we were not to give anyone anything," Collette said. "They believe strictly in a hand up, not a handout."

It's that lesson that led to the 10 students' desire to raise funds for a scholarship, as it makes sure a student is able to pay for an opportunity they worked for.

Henning and Collette know it will take more fundraisers to garner the money needed by September. While more ideas are in the works, students at NCA are helping with Penny Wars. Each advisory class has a jar to collect pennies, and each penny is worth a point. Classes can sabotage others by adding higher denominations of currency, which subtract from the points in the jar.

"It's a competition to get the most points while raising money," Collette said.


Local
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What condition are Hutchinson's streets?

Road maintenance, or lack thereof, is a common complaint among Hutchinson residents. To here some tell it, Hutchinson’s 90.8 miles of roadway — about 13.3 miles of which are state or federal roads — are falling apart. According to the city's own Pavement Condition Index, however, that is not the case.

PCI is based on a 100-point scale (100 is a brand new street with no distress, while 0 is a fully deteriorated street). The city has used this system since 1996. Every three years, the index is determined by a city employee who walks more than 80 percent of Hutchinson’s streets and conducts a physical survey that identifies and catalogs pavement distresses.

On years between physical surveys, a standard decay curve is used to estimate the condition of roads. The purpose of the system is to help city staff and the council make the best use of Hutchinson’s money by showing them when it is more economical to schedule certain streets for projects. Those projects get scheduled into the five-year Capital Improvement Plan city leaders update each year.

“It’s a good document to show the public that we’re aware of the streets, we’ve got a plan to approach it, and we follow up and follow through on those plans," City Administrator Matt Jaunich said during a City Council meeting back in November. "There’s always that debate of, 'Can we do more?' And that’s when the council comes in.”

According to the system, of the 74.8 miles of rated streets in the city’s PCI, 31.1 miles are rated excellent (a score of 86-100), 16.6 miles are good (71-85), 12.3 miles are adequate (51-70), 5.8 miles are marginal (36-50) and 8 miles are poor (0-35).

Hutchinson 2019 PCI

The city’s goal has been to maintain an average systemwide PCI of 65-75. In 2017, the last time a physical evaluation was completed, the systemwide PCI was 76. In 2019, it was 74. The next physical evaluation is this year, and Public Works Manager John Olson expects that number to go up.

“I am anticipating we will see a significant increase in our average PCI,” he said. “The reason I say that is, if we look historically back at what we’ve projected and what we’ve actually come in to, the roads that we’ve sealed and seal coated tend to do better than what the decay curves are.”

Time is money

As one might expect, the options to repair streets back to good shape become more expensive the more a street deteriorates. Catching problems early can spare city taxpayers a bigger bill later. For example, a simple life-extending seal coating costs about $1.85 per square yard. Another minimal project, a mill and overlay — grinding off the top two inches of paving and resurfacing with new material — costs only about $13.50 per yard.

But costs can escalate. A partial reconstruction of a street, including replacing curbs and gutters and some utility work, carries an average price tag of $103.50 per yard. Total reconstruction, or construction of a new street, can cost about $144 per yard.

Over the past five years, the city has addressed 708,787 square yards of paving, or about 9.3 percent of its rated street network. About 78 percent of that was handled with the least expensive options of seal coating or application of a sealant. That work is expected to cost about $740,187 annually in the next five years.

The other 22 percent of street projects involved partial reconstruction, full-depth reclamation or overlay of new pavement over old. New construction was less about 1 percent. Together, that type of work will cost an estimated $2.9 million per year in each of the next five years. Assessments to owners of property adjoining those streets are anticipated to cover about 16.5 percent of the cost, according to Olson’s report.

“One thing we did notice in the report itself, and in the data in particular, was movement toward more patching and maintenance overlay, and some mill and overlay type projects rising to the top,” Olson said. “I think what that is indicative of is that we’ve done seal coating on a regular basis for many years. … So we are at a point now, and the system is recognizing it, that some of the roads we need to work on are in a little poorer condition.”


 Stephen Wiblemo

Local
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McLeod County Board approves 3.5 percent raises

The 2020 McLeod County Board will look the same as it has the past few years, though pay was given a 3.5 percent bump.

At its first meeting of the year Tuesday, the Board selected Joe Nagel as chair and Doug Krueger as vice chair with no other nominations offered and no discussion. This will be the fourth year Nagel and Krueger fill the positions.

The rest of the County Board is also the same as last year, with Paul Wright, Ron Shimanski and Rich Pohlmeier in the other three seats. Nagel and Krueger were re-elected in 2018 without challengers. Wright won re-election in 2016, Pohlmeier won election that year and Shimanski was unopposed.

Shimanski announced late last year that he did not intent do run for re-election this November and will finish out his term, which ends in December.

PAY INCREASED

The 2020 3.5-percent bump for board members came at the County Board's final meeting of 2019 on Dec. 31. All elected officials and employees received the same increase.

"We approached the increase on all elected (positions) no differently than all the rest of the county employees, with the same increase for the year," Wright said.

Pay went up from $30,233 to $31,292 for board members.

Increases for other elected officials were:

  • McLeod County Attorney Michael Junge's salary was raised to $126,237
  • McLeod County Auditor-Treasurer Connie Kurtzweg's salary was raised to $87,975
  • McLeod County Sheriff Scott Rehmann's salary was raised to $96,330
  • County Recorder Lynne Ette Schrupp's salary was raised to $82,392

The county's per diem rate for County Board members increased two years ago from $50 to $75 for a day of work shorter than four hours, and from $75 to $125 for a day of work four hours or longer. It remained the same for 2020. Per diem payments vary from year to year and board member to board member based on the number of meetings their committee assignments require. Per diem is not paid for regular County Board meetings. Per diem payments totaled roughly $50,000 in 2019.

The same per diem rate will be paid to citizen commission members.

Mileage for board members and committee members was set at 35 cents per mile. While the reimbursement is below the IRS recommended rate, it is based on calculations for travel in the county based on the county's own fleet. Mileage is paid when board members and committee members travel by their own means to official business. The County Board's mileage added up to $6,613 in 2019.


Education
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Winsted man arrested in connection with threats to New Century Academy

A 21-year-old Winsted man was arrested Thursday in connection with threats of violence made against New Century Academy.

Several schools in Hutchinson were locked down Wednesday afternoon following reports that Christopher Woodrow Hecksel had allegedly posted a comment that he was “going to shoot up NCA,” according to a press release from Hutchinson police.

“We received a report that a person we don’t know … made a threat with our school’s name in it,” said Jason Becker, NCA director. “I called the police to come over, we put our students into lockdown, and then when we got more information we worked with the police on giving them that information.”

Following the report, police responded to NCA and it was locked down. West Elementary, Hutchinson Middle School, Hutchinson High School, Hutchinson Early Childhood Family Education and St. Anastasia Catholic School also went into lockdown as a precaution. NCA and Hutchinson Public Schools notified parents of the lockdown.

Hutchinson Public Schools Superintendent Daron VanderHeiden said the school district followed its crisis quick action guide when the lockdown alert was given.

“We used our external threat watch. … It gives everybody specific communications on exactly what to do,” VanderHeiden said. “The external threat watch is really set up for an external threat that is outside of the school … and basically we do a soft lock down, so lock all the doors, we position people to view the outside. We also have police presence at the school, but the threat is exterior to the building so the building operates as normal. We remain teaching and operating as we do inside the building, but we do not let students come and go without an escort.”

According to a Jan. 8 press release, police found and spoke to Hecksel and determined there was no immediate danger. The lockdown was lifted at about 2:20 p.m. Afterward, Becker and VanderHeiden said the schools were safe and procedures were executed as planned.

“The staff handled things great, and the police were a big help,” Becker said.

Through the investigation, police found evidence of Hecksel’s threats on social media and he was arrested on a traffic stop at 1 a.m. Thursday. He was taken to McLeod County Jail and is facing one felony count of threats of violence.