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FOLEY – The Foley High School community packed a hot, muggy gymnasium June 3 at the school in Foley to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2023 Foley High School seniors. As graduates walked across the stage, grabbed their diplomas and flipped their tassels, and as friends and family fanned themselves with programs, Foley’s senior class put a cap on their high school academic careers. In some instances, the graduation ceremony was a solemn celebration. But, for the FHS senior class, in line with its motto, “A sweet ending to a new beginning,” there were plenty of moments of enthusiastic celebration for their accomplishments.

FOLEY – When it came time to memorialize fallen veterans – those who have given their lives in service of the United States of America – the Foley American Legion Post 298 led the charge May 31 at the Foley High School auditorium. Legion member Duane Walter emceed during the service, which brought people together to honor veterans, especially those who passed since last year’s Memorial Day service. Those fallen include Donald Corrigan, buried in the cemetery at St. Lawrence Church of Duelm; William Samsa, St. John’s Catholic Church in Foley; Louis Kutz, other; Norman Brunn, St. Lawrence Church; Roger Jurek, St. Lawrence Church; Bruce Zabloski, St. John’s Lutheran Church in Popple Creek; Tom Latterell, St. John’s Catholic Church; Wayne Seppelt, other; Robert McDowell, other; Merle Stowe, St. Francis; Jerry Thiem, Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery in Little Falls; Ray Otto, other; Gene Hinz, St. Lawrence Church; Dale Lewandowski, Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Gilman; Michael Watercott, Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery; John Stawarski, Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church; Maurice Corrigan, St. Lawrence Church; and Roland Bergstrom, Maywood Cemetery in Ronneby.

Community Stars

Benton County marriage application – Daniel Edward Lund , of Foley, and Ashley Nicole Hoium , of Ham Lake.   Foley area students make dean’s list WILLMAR – …

FOLEY – Some people in Foley see Dewey Street as one of the last strongholds for thriving businesses at the heart of what used to be a bustling downtown. It is a place where, for decades, excitement flourished as memories were imprinted forever at Foley Fun Days. Simultaneously, it has served as an unforgiving corridor for businesses come and gone. Katrina Scheele does not see Dewey Street as either of those things. Coming from the Twin Cities area, Scheele was mostly unaware of the heralded history of the street and the ghosts of businesses past. Now having bought what was formerly the Foley Wellness Center and the adjoined apartments upstairs, Scheele sees 401 Dewey St. as the first steps in a dream come true. Scheele bought the building in early May and plans to open her new business, Culure8, June 16. “This building was love at first sight,” Scheele said, who is now living in the upstairs portion of the building. “I didn’t know anything about Foley, but so far, I love the community. Everybody’s been so welcoming, and people come by and tell me how excited they are.” When Scheele opens the doors to customers, they can indulge in the full treatment of a package deal, starting with a 20-minute oxygen bar experience. “The oxygen bar relieves stress, headaches, hangovers, and it’s an amazing, relaxing session,” Scheele said. “It’s inhaling oxygen that has different aromas you can control, and 15 minutes in a nice, brand new massage chair.” Customers will get 15 minutes in a massage chair, inhaling oxygen while lying in a massage chair and listening to relaxing music in a secluded room. The last five minutes of the session will be at the oxygen bar with a scalp and neck massager, complete with an energy shot and a water. Ice cream is also a part of the picture. Scheele knows how much customers enjoy the session because it is not her first time providing the experience. She worked for seven years at an oxygen bar called Oxynate at the Mall of America; it was the same business she eventually bought and turned into Culure8. Culure8 will also be an art gallery and gift shop. Though her primary work involves being on the road frequently selling fences for Home Depot, Scheele is an artist at heart. At the grand opening, she will display mostly her own art but will eventually display art from local artists as well. The name, which is pronounced “color eight,” is representative of Scheele’s love of all cultures and colors. She thought of the name when she was dreaming of owning such a store when she was 18 years old, and the name was stuck in her conscience forever. And even though the business atmosphere in Foley can be challenging, she is unconcerned about how or why so many Foley businesses have given way to the pressures of the modern economy. Scheele said her day job pays the bills, and since she lives upstairs, she said she is fortunate to be in a position where she does not need to hit a quota to keep the business afloat. “I’m going to last here because this is also my house,” Scheele said. “I’m pursuing my dream, and I don’t need a ton of money to do it. … This allows me have an art studio and chase the dream.” Even though Scheel does not yet have a concrete schedule or much of an idea of what day-to-day life is going to look like for Culure8, she is confident she made the right move not only in pursuing her dream but to be doing so in Foley. “This is my brick mansion called Culure8, and I’m so happy to be here,” Scheele said.

FOLEY – After the Highway 23 road construction that consumed the summer of 2022 in Foley, the contours of the highway have given way to a safety-focused overhaul. Leaving the city with its first roundabout on its most popular road, the Minnesota Department of Transportation reported that the alterations in traffic control have been effective thus far. MnDOT completed a speed study on Highway 23 at the end of last year, and it found that driver behavior changed in reaction to the roundabout and reduced lane width, among other alterations, with reduced speeds. Even though MnDOT has attempted to reduce speeds in the past with signage changes, crashes and other traffic incidences continued apace. However, after construction was completed for the year, MnDOT intentionally did not place speed limit signs along the highway. As the state’s transportation department studied driver behavior, it found that the changes in the context of the roadway – the roundabout, narrowed lanes, sidewalks, and curb and gutter expansion – proved more effective than signage. Even without signs indicating what speed drivers should be traveling, traffic slowed; whereas, without the context changes and with speed limit signs, traffic speeds remained too fast. “Signs alone don’t change driver behavior,” said Ken Hansen, a MnDOT traffic engineer. “We really try to change roadway context and geometry so you don’t have to have a patrol officer out there continuously to get speeds to what we and the citizens want.” For example, one of the reasons roundabouts have become so popular is because the geometry of a roundabout forces drivers to slow their vehicles to feel comfortable driving through them, Hansen said. He also said elements like the number of buildings and entrance points, the distance of building setbacks and pedestrian activity also influence driver behavior more effectively than signage alone. “It’s hard to get drivers to change behavior without outside influence,” Hansen said. “We want the roadway to self-enforce, which is a newer concept. We don’t want the speeds to be driven by (police officers) enforcing those.” An example relevant to Highway 23 is the stretch of the road between Foley and Ronneby. Hansen said the areas along the roadway are wide open, with few houses and an abundance of agricultural land and trees. Drivers are more likely to reach speeds above the limit in that area. West of Highway 23, which travels through a more urbanized section of Foley, Hansen said the roundabout has proven effective at slowing speeds for both eastbound and westbound traffic near Foley Public Schools – a victory for concerned citizens in Foley. In collecting data, MnDOT technicians used a radar device to track the speed of passing vehicles from a nearby parking lot, or an area that would not influence the speed of passersby. Although the study wrapped up in December 2022, MnDOT ensured driving conditions were perfect – no snow, ice or sand on the roads to influence driver behavior. Hansen said it was important to study speeds during a typical weekday rather than on a weekend or a Friday, where Foley often serves as a popular passage for weekend travelers. MnDOT looks to set speed limits around the 85th percentile of what motorists feel comfortable driving, meaning that the highest speed that 85% of drivers feel comfortable traveling is approximately the speed limit MnDOT will set. As for the efficacy of the safety changes as it relates to crashes and traffic incidents, Hansen said MnDOT does not yet have enough data to support an effective or ineffective result. Hansen said the state uses about five years of traffic data to make an assessment.

Enshrined after excellence

FOLEY – Growing up as an athlete at Foley Public Schools, Paul Backowski looked up to the members of the Foley Athletic Hall of Fame and one day hoped to be enshrined in the hall himself. Through an incredible athletic career defined by hard work and drive, the 2005 Foley High School graduate achieved his longtime goal, as the three-sport Falcons athlete was inducted into the hall of fame to kick off Foley Night of Excellence May 21 at Foley High School in Foley. “I’m really thankful it happened, and it’s an opportunity to really reflect on how influential coaches, teammates and teachers were on my development both as an athlete and as a person,” Backowski said. Backowski fell in love with sports through his grandfather, who frequently browsed sports sections of newspapers at the local and national level as a huge fan of sports. This made an impression on Backowski, who began a long-winding period of athletic participation in fifth grade, starting with football and basketball but expanding to anything that caught his eye. “When it was pickup basketball, softball, kickball at recess, whatever it was, from an early age, it was fun to play sports,” he said. “I had fun playing any sort of competition.” And as he grew, Backowski developed a physical profile perfect for competing in a multitude of athletics. By the time he arrived on the Foley Falcons varsity football team as a ninth grader, he stood at 6 feet, 6 inches tall, and his large frame made him a strong fit for what he eventually established as his premier position on the gridiron: offensive tackle. “Coach Larry Herm came up to me in practice when I was in ninth grade and said, ‘You like pancakes?’” Backowski said. “I was like, ‘Pancakes? I love pancakes.’ We had pancakes once a week, and I was thinking, ‘Is he going to invite me to breakfast?’” Coach Herm later explained to Backowski that a pancake meant something entirely different in football; a pancake block is when an offensive lineman drives a defender back with so much force that they end up flat on their back. As it turns out, Backowski loved that, too, along with all aspects of football. “There’s 11 players on the field at any time,” Backowski said. “If one person out of 11 goes the wrong way or doesn’t do their job, it doesn’t result in a positive play. But, if all 11 players are working together and execute the plan and play, then as a team, you generally find success.” With Backowski serving as a dominant tackle and defensive end, Foley indeed reached high levels of success. The Falcons made it to the section finals as the Rum River Conference champions during his sophomore season and won the conference title once more during his senior campaign, when he accumulated 52 pancakes and did not allow a sack. For Backowski, it was the product of developing a work ethic and gaining the confidence others had in him. “College athletics was something I wanted to do, but I wasn’t sure if it was attainable,” he said. “There were a lot of coaches and teammates who believed in me before I believed in myself.” This translated into Backowski’s other pursuits as well; along with dabbling in baseball in junior high, he also played varsity basketball and track and field for the Falcons, making it to the Minnesota State High School League State Track and Field Championships in the shot put as a sophomore, junior and senior and qualifying as a discus thrower as a senior. After graduation, Backowski fulfilled his desire to play collegiate football, playing for the University of Colorado Buffaloes and the North Dakota State University Bison. “Foley did a great job of preparing me for what college could look like and would look like,” Backowski said. Backowski’s competitiveness helped him not only in any athletic setting he desired but also in the workforce after completing his education. He has worked for three agriculture companies and is currently employed at Ceres Global Ag in Golden Valley and lives in Mound with his wife, Sara, and infant son, Henry. Through it all, Backwoski has used life lessons taken from his various sport-driven environments and applied it to all aspects of his life. “It’s the culmination of a lot of practice, studying and work,” Backowski said. “It was really understanding if the work is put in, good things will happen.”

SAUK RAPIDS – Property developers, stakeholders, and city and county leaders came together for the long-awaited study on Benton County’s housing infrastructure May 24 at The Clearing in Sauk Rapids. The study showed that the county has a lack of places to live, especially for senior citizens, renters and those looking for single-family houses. Key takeaways from the study, according to Matt Mullins of Maxfield Research and Consulting, which is the company Benton County hired a year ago to conduct the housing study, includes moderate population growth in the county over the last decade. The vast majority of growth is led by millennials and baby boomers, or those born between 1981 to 1996 and 1946 to 1964, respectively. Mullins also reported that the unemployment rate in Benton County is lower than it was pre-pandemic, but he said labor force participation remains down. There are many job openings but fewer workers to fill those positions, which can make staffing senior housing a deterrent to constructing a much-needed housing demographic. Senior housing and standard rental vacancies in Benton County are at 6.2% and 1.5%, respectively – figures Mullins said are “dangerously low.” Mullins said there is pent-up demand for new rental housing. Not only are rental vacancies at a critical shortage, but there is also lack of availability of residential lots. The housing study resulted in a wealth of data that Mullins hopes elected leaders use as a tool for policymaking as well as a tool that will attract developers. The study showed Benton County is ripe for construction. However, the state of the economy may deter developers from choosing Benton County for their projects. For example, former state representative and current government affairs director for the Central Minnesota Builders Association Steve Gottwalt said the issue at hand is not what the data says but rather the regulatory environment in the state. Mullins said it takes, on average, $100,000 more to build an average home in Minnesota than it does in neighboring states. “When you are $100,000 into a parcel of land before you build a house on it, before you turn a spade of dirt – that’s before material costs, before interest rates, before labor costs – that’s a problem,” Gottwalt said. Gottwalt said fees are a major deterrent to building low-cost, affordable homes. Gottwalt said most people view $250,000-$275,000 as an affordable house, and neither investors nor families are going to build an affordable house when a lot costs close to a half or a third of the house to develop. “If the cost just to play is so high that nobody’s going to play, then you’re never going to build the houses you need,” Gottwalt said. “The state, county and local units of government all need to start thinking seriously about how to reduce the burden on the cost of building houses.” Gottwalt hopes government units do their part when it comes to easing the financial burden on developers and families to get them into Benton County, and Benton Economic Partnership Executive Director Amanda Othoudt agreed. Othoudt said regulations like housing density and, potentially, outside-the-box solutions like allowing accessory dwelling units could benefit the county. “Now that this housing study is done, those conversations are what we need to have with individual communities in order to tackle the bigger picture,” Othoudt said. “We need to involve all communities together to continue conversations about housing.”

FOLEY – Memorial Day serves as a venerated reminder for communities and families that Americans stand proudly on the shoulders of its fallen veterans. With the holiday, there comes a collective understanding that brave men and women have given their lives on foreign soil for the benefit of a country they would never see again. With the celebration of their gift to all citizens also comes the solemnity of their sacrifice – a dichotomy that calls for both triumphant applause and pensive mourning.

2023 Memorial Day program

Join us as we honor our fallen veterans Monday, May 29, 9:30 a.m.

ST. CLOUD – Christine Ellen Grove, 26, of Foley, was charged May 17 with third-degree murder after allegedly selling a controlled substance to an individual who later overdosed and died March 22. The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years imprisonment and potentially a $40,000 fine. The charge suggests Grove did not intend to cause death but proximately caused the death of the individual, who also lived in Foley, by directly or indirectly selling a controlled substance classified as a schedule I or II narcotic.

A commitment to community

FOLEY – When Joe Kaproth accepted the Foley citizen of the year award, he was surprised, humbled and honored. In a brief and impromptu acceptance speech, he mentioned there are many Foley natives who are just as, if not more, deserving of the award. But, after living in Foley for nearly his entire life; serving on the city’s fire department for 38 years, 10 of which as assistant fire chief and 10 as chief; being an active member of the Foley American Legion Post 298, including as commander; and stepping forward as a community volunteer in various ways, especially for C.A.R.E. and St. John’s Catholic Church in Foley, some were left wondering who would have been more worthy of the award than Kaproth.

Community Stars

Benton County marriage applications Kyle Anthony Petersen and Cearia Kay Nelson , both of Foley. Benjamin Jess Gruba and Kelcie Joy Ingle , both of Oak Park.   Foley students …

Pages from the past

75 years ago May 1948

One mantra about budgets states it is never too early to discuss what is coming next. Benton County commissioners did exactly that with their review of two important budget development documents.

Flames on the farmland

FOLEY – The Foley Fire Department responded to a fire on agricultural property May 14. Foley Fire Chief Mark Pappenfus said the department was paged shortly after 8:30 p.m. to the 18100 block of 45th Street Northeast in Glendorado Township for a fire that included a combine and the cornfield it was operating on.

FOLEY – As spring finally ushers in warmer weather and the last vestiges of winter have receded, the rolling farmlands in the Foley area are once again buzzing with activity. Farmers in the area are already hard at work in the fields, tilling the land and nestling seeds that will soon sprout into the corn, soybeans and other crops many in the area are accustomed to seeing.

FOLEY – Sandy Anderson, a pillar of St. John’s Area School in Foley, is bidding farewell to the school she has dedicated 45 years of her life to. As a first- and second-grade teacher, Anderson has left an indelible mark on the school and the countless students whose lives she touched. However, as she steps away from Catholic school education, she does so with a mixture of excitement for what lays ahead and melancholy for what she is leaving behind.

Organizers of Foley High School’s 2023 prom did not gamble on weather disrupting grand march. Anticipated rain showers May 13 prompted a Casino Night venue switch to the school’s gymnasium. Prom adviser Mary Keating said the prom committee started working on the event when school started.

FOLEY – Even though construction crews have yet to step foot in Foley, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has already issued the first Highway 23 road construction delay of the year. Motorists will encounter delays and detours as work resumes on Foley’s most traveled road when work resumes Monday, May 22. MnDOT had planned on getting crews back to work Tuesday, May 16 but delayed a week due to forecasted rain.

FOLEY – St. John’s Area School in Foley is preparing for significant changes at the end of the 2022-23 school year with the retirement of its principal, Christine Friederichs, and paraprofessional, liturgist and office aide Kathy Ross. Friederichs has served as the school’s principal for nine years and has served in Catholic education for 42 years, and Ross has served in her role at SJAS for 15 years.

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