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Dylan Valentyn

Dylan Valentyn led a scorching Faribault offense during Sunday’s 21-11 victory at the St. Benedict Saints. Valentyn homered twice in addition to a double to drive in a total of eight runs. (File Photo)

Administrator provides guidance for discussion of chicken ordinance

In a pair of memos to the Faribault City Council, City Administrator Tim Murray laid out the potential next steps for city residents interested in keeping chickens within city limits.

In the first memo, Murray provided an answer to a question raised by Councilor Elizabeth Cap about whether pet or urban chickens might actually be legal under a loophole contained in Section 6-81 of city code. Under section 6-81, city residents are allowed to keep small, non-domestic animals as pets, so long as they are “continuously” contained in a cage. Cap had argued that since the chickens owned by the Klecker family are contained within an enclosed coop, they could be exempt.

However, Murray said that Section 6-81 is linked to another in city ordinances, which only exempts non-domestic animals. Chickens are classified as domestic animals, meaning they lack that same protection.

In a section regarding “Animal Sanitation,” chickens are barred from residential areas along with livestock and other farm animals, allowed only in manufacturing, open space/agricultural or transitional urban development districts.

Expanding the protections to chickens would be an option for the council, though it would require a second portion of the ordinances to be amended as well. The council could choose to implement a broader regulatory framework, as proposed by city staff during prior discussions in 2017.

At that time, a proposal to allow pet chickens failed to gain the support of the city’s Planning Commission, but councilors were sufficiently interested in the proposal that they asked staff to prepare a draft ordinance that would allow the legalization of urban chickens. In response, some residents raised concerns about smell and noise issues. More troubling to the council were concerns from Jennie-O, one of the city’s largest employers, that an outbreak of bird flu could have catastrophic effects on operations.

Just one year prior, avian flu had affected 108 farm operations in 23 Minnesota counties and prompted the killing of over 9 million turkeys. More than 225 workers at Faribault’s Jennie-O were furloughed, and county and state fairs disallowed birds from celebrations that year.

Faced with those concerns, Councilors ultimately decided that they couldn’t proceed with the ordinance proposed by city staff, even though it included a number of measures designed to mitigate nuisance concerns and reduce the risk of avian flu spread.

Family concerns

The issue was raised once again this year after Kathy Klecker and her 11-year-old son Zach asked councilors to consider a change to the ordinance. The Klecker family has raised chickens for more than two decades, but city officials recently told the family to get rid of the chickens because they’re not allowed in city limits.

The Kleckers enjoyed strong support from Councilors Cap and Jonathan Wood. Both visited the Klecker residence and came away even more assured that the city could and should allow the Kleckers and other families to keep chickens on their property.

Wood has said he believes the concerns of chicken critics are largely overblown. He noted that during the bird flu pandemic, the vast majority of outbreaks took place in commercial poultry facilities, not among small, family owned flocks. He added that it’s important to have a thorough regulatory framework, but expressed skepticism that city staff would really have to spend that much time enforcing such an ordinance, arguing that only a small number of chicken owners would likely request a permit.

While Wood and Cap both criticized current code as an example of unfortunate government overreach, a majority of the council ultimately did not agree. At its June 12 work session, the remaining council members said they weren’t interested in discussing the matter.

One week later, the council partially reversed itself, voting to extend the amount of time the Kleckers have to move the chickens from their property. However, Murray said that discussion of the issue in general has not thus far gone through the proper channels.

“Addressing topics such as this at work sessions or under “Other Discussion” is inappropriate, as we need to ensure that items are actually given full consideration and provisions for public input are part of the process,” he wrote in the memo. “Applicants don’t actually get an official council position nor should they be able to get an “answer” from the council (as no binding decisions are made at work sessions or for non-agenda items anyway) without the matter being properly vetted.”

Different approach?

Murray encouraged the Kleckers to apply for a change in zoning ordinance through the Planning and Zoning Division. However, with the council expressing reservations about pet chickens, it’s not clear whether such a measure could proceed.

The city would also need to decide whether to modify yet another portion of the city code, which limits the total number of adult animals to three unless the animal owner has a kennel license. With six pet chickens and a dog, the Kleckers would be in violation of this ordinance as currently structured even if chickens were permitted as pets.

One alternative suggested by Cap and explored by Murray could be a citywide referendum — the topic of Murray’s second memo. In order to get on the ballot, an initiative would need the support of 1,734 registered Faribault voters, 1/5th of those who voted in the last mayoral election.

Should the signatures be successfully collected and certified as valid, the council would decide whether to place the issue on the ballot during the next general election, or hold a special election specifically for its consideration. Councilors would also have the option of simply enacting the request.

While voters always have the right to amend the city charter through the referendum and initiative process, the charter provides a very high bar to clear. Murray said that he isn’t aware that any such referendum has taken place in Faribault since 1976.

The COVID-19 pandemic could make the collection of signatures for any petition even more difficult. Electronic signature gathering within the city would be very difficult, and Murray said it’s not clear under city code whether it would even be permissible.

School Board talks mission, vision and priorities for strategic plan

One-hundred and eighty community members, students and Faribault Public Schools employees completed surveys in the spring, and 226 later participated in virtual planning sessions, all to guide the district in its strategic planning process.

Soon enough, those participants can see their input reflected in the district’s final strategic plan. But first, the board wants to do some tweaking and make some additions. Using feedback on what the district does well and which areas need improving, the strategic plan will serve as a road map for Faribault Public Schools moving forward.

During the School Board’s June 2 virtual meeting, Community Relations Coordinator Matt Steichen presented the district’s prospective identity statement, mission statement, visions, core values and priorities. These elements, which Steichen developed with administrators and the Big River Group strategic planning service, were presented to gain the board’s feedback, not approval.

The identity statement Steichen presented reads:

“Faribault Public Schools serves approximately 3,500 students in our high school, middle school, three elementary schools, and an Area Learning Center. Our early childhood center, adult education and community education serves learners of all ages.”

The mission statement, in its current stage of development, reads:

“Faribault Public Schools provides a safe and caring learning environment for all students. Our team of educators guides meaningful co-curricular opportunities and innovative educational programs that challenge and empower every student, helping them develop the skills they need to become successful citizens and life-long learners.”

Steichen said the administration team believed it important to establish an emotional connection with families in the mission statement’s wording. Families participating in the planning sessions said they feel strongly about having positive relationships with teachers and wanted that priority reflected in the mission statement. Words like “guide” and “helping” were included to highlight staff working with families rather than simply “talking to them,” said Steichen.

The team also wanted to use the word “all” when referring to students in the first sentence to emphasize the district’s role of being there for everyone and wrap up the entire statement with a goal. Sentences or fragments of the statement, said Steichen, are still malleable.

Board member John Bellingham felt that the mission statement doesn’t read like a mission statement the way it’s worded right now. Board member Carolyn Treadway agreed the statement is too long and “… does not clearly define what we’re about in the way that most mission statements are very succinct.”

Board member Yvette Marthaler suggested a couple board members become involved with the development and verbiage of the mission statement, and Board Chair Chad Wolff agreed up to three board members may work on that.

Students, community members and employees also shared what they want the district to be recognized for in five years. While the visions are set in stone, Steichen said the corresponding sentences are alterable.

As they are currently, the vision statements read:

“Providing a school environment focused on student well-being and meeting the needs of all students. Our Vision: Mental Health and Safety.

“Creating an equitable environment where every child has the opportunity to succeed. Our Vision: Equity.

“Developing innovative and creative ways of addressing student achievement, including pathways and project-based learning. Our Vision: Innovation.

“Creating a culture of unity, pride and connectedness. Our Vision: Culture.

“Engaging the community in the teaching and learning of students through partnerships with parents, businesses and the faith community. Our Vision: Community Engagement.”

The first three visions describe what the district is doing in terms of education, the second to last vision looks inward, and the last looks outward, said Steichen. One of the next steps in the process is to decide on strategies and benchmarks for each vision statement, which will be discussed further at the July 13 Board meeting.

The strategic planning team also used community, student and employee feedback to establish four priorities for the district. They are:

“Create a training plan for all staff on mental health.

“Develop and implement FPS online learning options.

“Create a training plan for all staff on equity and inclusion.

“Implement parent and community engagement: empower staff, community and students as decision makers.”

A specific member of the Faribault Public Schools cabinet has been assigned to each priority. The next step is to develop a plan of action to bring to the July 13 School Board meeting.

Two charged with providing heroin to OD victim

A heroin overdose June 26 in Faribault has resulted in the arrests of two people who reportedly supplied the victim with the drug.

Kelly Ann Tysdale, 34, of Owatonna, is charged in Rice County District Court with great bodily harm caused by distribution of Schedule 1 or 2 drugs and third-degree drug sales, both felonies. Chad Allen Smith, 32, of Faribault, is also facing the same charges along with felony fifth-degree possession of suboxone, a prescription medication used to treat opioid addiction and considered a Schedule 3 drug.

Court documents state the pair were charged after the Faribault Police Department received a call reporting someone had recently used heroin and was unconscious at about 1:30 a.m. June 26 at Speedway in Faribault. The person was given Narcan and within a few minutes was described as sitting up and talking. Officers believed the heroin contained the powerful opioid, fentanyl.

Later that day, court documents state Cannon River Drug and Violent Offender Task Force agents met with the victim, who reported making a deal with Smith to obtain heroin. Smith allegedly then got into contact with Tysdale. Smith eventually allegedly gave Tysdale approximately one-quarter of a gram of meth in exchange for a one-tenth of a gram of heroin. Smith allegedly then gave the heroin to the overdose victim.

During a search of Smith, agents allegedly found two suboxone strips on him. He reportedly admitted getting the heroin for the victim.

Judge Karie Anderson on Monday set conditional bail for Smith at $25,000 and Tysdale at $5,000. Their next court appearances are scheduled for July 8.

Friday’s overdose was just the latest in a line of opioid overdoses in Rice County.

Faribault police have responded to seven overdoses in 2020, according to Capt. Neal Pederson. That includes three overdoses the weekend of May 15-17, and the overdose death of Cameron Burger. Kylie Rose Brooks, 20, of Faribault, was charged with third-degree sale of narcotics and distributing a drug that caused great bodily harm in connection with one of the non-fatal overdoses.

Jerann Anthony Gainous, 39, of Dundas, and Scott Matthew Tuomala, 25, of Faribault, were charged earlier this month with third-degree murder for providing fentanyl-laced heroin to Devin Herrin shortly before his January 2019 death. Herrin’s was the only overdose death in Faribault in 2019, though police responded to 11 non-fatal overdoses.

Anthoney Michael Fugalli, 29, of Faribault, is awaiting trial on third-degree murder and second-degree drug sales in the death of June 2018 death of Jason Madow, of Faribault. Is trial was set for Jan. 3, but due to the pandemic, has not been rescheduled.

According to Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn, deputies have responded to five overdoses so far in 2020, three in 2019, five in 2018 and one in 2017. Dundas Police Chief Wade Murray says his city has had two overdoses since 2017, neither were fatal.

According to Northfield Police Department Specialist Laura Kraskey, police have responded to seven overdoses so far this year, which is already more than the six they responded to in 2019. In 2018, police were called to four, and in 2017, two.

Numbers provided, which don’t include overdose victims who weren’t tended to by law enforcement, could easily be higher.

Second Faribault prison inmate dies after testing positive for COVID-19

A 71-year-old man incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Faribault, died early Saturday at a local hospital.

The man, identified as Leroy Wallace Bergstrom, 71, had been hospitalized in critical condition since June 16. He tested positive for COVID-19 on June 10. An autopsy by the Ramsey County Medical Examiner to determine the cause of death is pending.

Bergstrom’s death is the second of a COVID-19 positive person incarcerated in Minnesota. The first — Adrian Raymaar Keys, 43 — occurred June 23. Keys was also incarcerated at MCF-Faribault. A third incarcerated person in Minnesota remains hospitalized.

“On behalf of the Department of Corrections and the State of Minnesota, I extend our deepest sympathy to Mr. Bergstrom’s family, loved ones, and friends,” Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell said. “While the department’s longstanding focus has been on public safety and rehabilitation, the COVID-19 pandemic has added a focus on public health as well. Mr. Bergstrom’s death reminds us of the lethality of this virus, and the need for all of us to make sure we’re taking appropriate precautions to prevent spread and mitigate the impact of COVID-19.”

The first case of COVID-19 in the Faribault correctional facility was reported June 3. The Department of Corrections has since been conducting ongoing comprehensive testing of all incarcerated men and staff at the facility. As of June 26, 4,892 tests of incarcerated individuals had been conducted at the Faribault facility, with 206 tests positive. Most who tested positive are experiencing no symptoms. On June 27, 1,718 men were incarcerated at Faribault.

Rice County on Saturday, listed 783 residents who have tested positive for the virus. The 206 MCF-Faribault inmates accounts for more than 26% of the county’s cases. Four MCF-Faribault staff members have tested positive, another is presumed to be positive. All have returned to work, according to the DOC.

The DOC has taken a number of steps across the system to manage the risk of COVID-19 entering correctional facilities and spreading, including: implementing “Stay with Unit” plans, enacting mandatory barrier mask policies, and installing hand washing stations in each facility. Each facility has also taken a number of steps specific to the unique environment of each facility. Those plans can be viewed at bit.ly/3dJgIgN.

In addition, the DOC has implemented efforts to reduce facility population to aid virus containment strategies. As of June 25, the DOC had a population of 7,962 in the state’s prisons down from about 8,900 on March 1.