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Three cheers for Falcons: Cheerleading becomes official activity at FHS

As Faribault High School athletes prepare for the fall season, Falcons cheerleaders can now consider themselves part of an official school activity.

The new team makes its debut on 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30 on the Bruce Smith Field when the Faribault Falcons take on the Austin Packers.

Cheer coach Lisa Quimby fondly remembers her years as a Falcons cheerleader, but for many years, her alma mater didn’t offer that same opportunity to students interested in cheerleading because of budget cuts.

“I know how much I loved cheerleading and being that support system for the school,” said Quimby. “You go to games without cheerleaders and it’s not the same.”

Quimby spent three years trying to revive the cheer program. In August 2018, she approached the district’s Activities Department and School Board to advocate for a revival. However, since the start of the 2018-19 school year was fast approaching, it was too late to begin a new school-funded activity. In the meantime, Quimby drew a large interest in a cheer club by sharing her idea via Instagram.

“I didn’t expect her to come up with something so quickly,” said Keith Badger, FHS activities director. “We had 30 girls ready to go the first football game.”

Due to conflicts in scheduling and some students moving away, the squad of 34 dwindled to 20 cheerleaders. But that was more than Falcons fans had seen on the field in a long time. Under Quimby’s instruction, the girls performed football and basketball games as well as the Homecoming Parade.

The success of the cheer club showed the Activities Department and the School Board the community’s strong support for Falcons cheerleaders. Quimby credits these entities and the Faribault Booster Club for bringing the cheer squad back to FHS as a full-fledged school activity.

Cheerleaders in last year’s club paid for their own customized jersey uniforms, and Quimby covered the cost of pom poms and additional materials. This year, $2,000 was allocated to the new cheer fund for jerseys, while $400 was reserved for extra supplies. Quimby plans to utilize previous FHS cheer uniforms that fit the current squad members and order additional sizes through the same company to keep the costs down.

With her experience as a cheerleader and coach, Quimby has a whole repertoire of cheers to teach the new squad. But just like her coaches did years ago, she wants to give the new cheerleaders a chance to choreograph their own formations and write their own cheers. They also use the internet as a reference point for new ideas.

Quimby hopes the cheerleaders not only rev up the team but also draw more community support for Falcons sports. While she’s sticking to football and basketball games this season, she’s interested in taking the squad to soccer games and other sporting events if coaches are open to the possibility in the future.

For now, Quimby said, “We’re going to take it one step at a time.”

Ride and Drive event highlights potential of electric vehicles

The city of Faribault held its first Ride and Drive event, giving the public a taste of a future filled with electric vehicles. Faribault’s own Harry Brown’s Family Automotive joined Walser Burnsville Nissan, White Bear Lake Mitsubishi and Tesla in providing electric cars for test drives.

City Planner David Wanberg worked with Drive Electric Minnesota‘s Joe Cella to organize the event. Facilitated by the Great Plains Institute, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that seeks to transform the energy system, Drive Electric Minnesota is a coalition of energy companies, the Minnesota Departments of Commerce and Transportation, the city of Minneapolis, Nissan and other organizations focused on increasing the number of EVs on Minnesota’s roads and building the infrastructure necessary to accommodate EVs throughout Minnesota.

Wanberg said the city is interested in purchasing an electric vehicle to conduct official city business. Given that city-owned vehicles often rack up a large number of miles traveling short distances, an electric vehicle could make economic sense for Faribault. The city projects that replacing some gas-powered police vehicles with electric vehicles could save more than $10,000 overall.

In addition to Wanberg, a number of city employees, police and firefighters stopped by to inspect the EVs and even take a spin in one of them. “We’ve had hybrids in the home, Toyotas, but I wanted to see what some of the other manufacturers could do,” said city Planning Coordinator Peter Waldock.

Several Northfield Rotary Club members came to the event. The Northfield Rotary Club has worked to position itself as a leader within Rotary International with regard to environmental issues, especially global climate change. Earlier this year, the college city’s Rotary Club offered grants to businesses and other entities interested in installing Level 2 EV chargers.

“A lot of us are very concerned about climate change,” said Rotary Club member Lee Dilley, who owns a Nissan Leaf. “There’s a lot of good things we can do, and electric cars are one of the most prominent.”

Electric vehicles make up only about 2% of vehicles on the road today, a share that is far smaller in Minnesota. However, their popularity has increased substantially over the last decade. In 2018, Tesla’s Model S became the best selling luxury car in the United States, and in the third quarter of 2018, Tesla was able to turn a profit for the first time.

Although much of the power on the U.S. grid is still produced from fossil fuels, driving an electric car still reduces emissions by anywhere from 50-90%. In 2018, transportation was the single largest source of CO2 emissions in Minnesota. Emissions from transportation have remained stubbornly high, falling by just 8% since 2005, while emissions from electricity generation fell by 29% in the same time span.

Cost vs benefit

Many people shy away from purchasing electric cars because of the large sticker price compared to similar gas-engine models, even when federal tax credits are accounted for. However, studies have suggested that the reduced cost of fueling an electric vehicle can partially make up for the higher sticker price.

An analysis from the University of Michigan found that the average Minnesotan could save $577 in fuel costs by switching to an electric vehicle — slightly less than the national average of $633.

Maintenance costs are also significantly lower with electric vehicles. On average, owners save about $1,500 in maintenance costs in the first 150,000 miles with an electric vehicle. As the technology continues to improve and develop, the savings are likely to increase.

Others stay away from electric vehicles because their limited driving range. However, the latest electric vehicles have driving ranges of more than 200 miles. The EPA estimates that on a full charge, the Nissan Leaf PLUS can drive for up 226 miles, the Chevrolet Bolt for up to 238 miles, and the Tesla Long Range Model S for up to 309 miles.

In a number of countries, including the UK, France and Germany, operating an electric vehicle is now cheaper than operating a comparable gas powered model due to favorable tax incentives, according to an analysis from the International Council for Clean Transportation. Under U.S. law, electric car buyers can get a $7,500 tax credit on each electric car purchase — but once the car manufacturer has sold 200,000 electric cars, the tax credit is phased out over the next 15 months. The tax credit began phasing out for Tesla’s electric vehicles on Jan. 1 and GM’s electric vehicles on April 1.

In April, Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), Gary Peters (D-Michigan) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced the Driving America Forward Act, which would extend a tax credit of $7,000 to a manufacturer’s next 400,000 electric vehicles. The proposal has garnered support from automakers and environmental groups but opposition from the fossil fuel industry.

Finding charging stations

One issue is the limited number of fast charging stations, particularly outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. While Faribault has two charging stations, at Harry Brown’s and Goodwill, these charging stations are only Level 2 charging stations. Providing power output comparable to a dryer or oven outlet, Level 2 charging stations can only add 15-20 miles of charge per hour.

According to the Department of Energy, about 80% of electric vehicle users charge their vehicles at home. Many energy companies offer discounted rates for those who charge their EVs overnight, including Xcel Energy, which charges just 4 cents per Kilowatt, less than half of the standard energy price of 10 cents per Kilowatt.

While it is possible to charge a vehicle through a simple home outlet with an adaptor, this only adds about 2-5 miles per hour to a vehicle’s battery. Installing a Level 2 charging station can ensure that a person wakes up in the morning with their car’s battery fully charged, and costs about $500 to $2,000 to install.

Level 3 fast charge stations can add 180-240 miles of charge per hour. However, there are no Level 3 charging stations along the I-35 corridor south of Minneapolis. The only Level 3 charging stations in southern Minnesota are located in Blue Earth, Mankato, Red Wing and Rochester.

Council advances apartment project, approves I-35 billboard

The Faribault City Council has approved plans to put up a state-of-the-art electronic billboard along Interstate 35 and tear down the old public works building in anticipation of the construction of a new apartment complex.

The new apartment complex is the city’s latest attempt at developing the site located off of First Avenue, north of the American Legion. Due to the old public works site’s history as the city dump, new development would require significant cleanup in addition to the removal of existing structures.

Last year, the city terminated a preliminary agreement with developer Kevin McMenamy of KPM Enterprises to bring an outdoor recreation facility to the site, complete with kayaking, bicycling, a high-ropes course and kayaking, finding that McMenamy violated its terms.

In January, the council selected Coldwell Banker Commercial/Fisher Development group as a new development partner. The Mankato-based commercial real estate group has proposed a five-story, 96-apartment complex similar to the Heritage Bluff Apartments, located just a few blocks south of the proposed site.

On Tuesday, the council paved the way for the project to go forward, accepting a bid from Faribault’s own BCM Construction to raze the existing buildings at the site for a cost of $26,300. This portion of the project is expected by the end of September. The council also moved to rezone site from industrial to commercial. A public hearing on the zoning change was first held July 15. It will go into effect on Friday.

The council also approved two requests from Daikin Applied to enable the company to put up a pair of oversized signs. One will be an informational sign posted outside of Daikin’s existing facility at 300 24th Street NW to enable truckers to more easily find the proper entry locations.

The more prominent of the two will be a state-of-the-art LED sign manufactured by Daktronics, a South Dakota-based firm that has manufactured scoreboards at U.S. Bank Stadium and other prominent athletic facilities. Daikin will post the LED sign along southbound I-35, so that travelers coming from the Twin Cities will hardly be able to miss it.

Instead of selling advertising slots, the company plans to use the sign to advertise its job openings at its Faribault facility. Last year, Daikin announced a $40 million expansion project at its Faribault facility that is expected to add 132 jobs.

In other business

The council approved a liquor license for the Cancun Grill. The new Mexican restaurant is expected to open soon at 24 Fourth Street NW, the site of the former El Rancho Restaurant. El Rancho’s liquor license was suspended Nov. 3, 2016 due to the failure of restaurant owner Jenaro Paz to pay liquor taxes to the Minnesota Department of Revenue, and the restaurant subsequently closed.

On June 9, the city of Faribault received a License Clearance Certificate from the Minnesota Department of Revenue, stating that all debts had been paid and Paz could apply for a new liquor license. Paz’s new restaurant will seek to bring authentic cuisine to Faribault.

Finally, the council voted to fund new paint and carpeting for the library. According to librarian Delane James, most of the library’s interior has not received a paint job since the library was remodeled in 1994. At the library’s request, the council accepted a bid of $50,715 from Faribault’s Roehrick painting to repaint the entire library, save for the third floor Makerspace and certain staff areas which have recently been repainted. The library will remain open during the project, although some areas may need to be blocked off.

Similarly, the library’s carpeting has not been replaced since 2008. With roughly 500 patrons visiting the library each day, the carpeting has begun to show significant wear and tear. At the library’s recommendation, $122,123.76 was allocated to replace the library’s aging carpeting with commercial-grade carpet tiles from Hiller Commercial Floors. In order to minimize disruption, work will take place after regular hours.