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Recreating history on the city's original Ford garage

For years, Bob Peterson would go down to the old Second Street garage, play cards and pool, and imagine what the old ad on the east side of the building might look like.

But that was before he bought the building.

Now, after three years of planning, the Firestone tire ad painted on the brick more than a century ago is back.

“I’ve seen that sign up forever,” said Peterson. “I didn’t know I was ever going to end up with the building.”

After being able to connect with Mike Meyer of Meyer Signs in Mazeppa, Meyer was thrilled to begin working with Peterson. They researched what the original ad looked like since they couldn’t make out all the writing. Peterson knew the building was built in 1916 as Fox’s Garage and says that was likely the same ad that was on the building shortly after it was built since it appeared in many magazines that year.

Meyer uses some techniques that were used in the old days like transferring the image with patterns of small holes and charcoal.

“That’s how a lot of stuff was done back then, and it’s still done today,” said Meyer of the pattern transfers. “I’ve seen the newer technology where they try and put a sticker on a bill wall like this, and it just doesn’t work because the weather gets behind it and peels it up.”

He also used another technique, called “cutting in,” which separates two colors by only using the paint brush, and without masking tape or another aid. Meyer used water-based acrylic paint instead of the long-lasting but hazardous lead paint.

Meyer recalls seeing the wall for many years, and never knowing who owned the building until Peterson contacted him. He also enjoys tracing back into history, especially in cases like this when recreation is involved.

“All we could see is the “R” and “B,” so I did some research and I found the ads,” said Meyer. “Firestone is now red and white, but in the early days it was blue and orange. You’ll see a lot of porcelain signs that are both colors, but this is how it was.”

While painting Thursday and Friday afternoon, he even dressed the part of a sign painter from those days, complete with a top hat, cigar, long-sleeve button down shirt, suspenders and an old Studebaker filled with his painting equipment.

“Part of it is entertainment, it really is,” said Meyer his old time garb.

The top of the ad features the words Fox’s Garage, the name of the building when it was first built. Peterson says from 1916 to 1958, the building housed the original Ford garage and it was strictly a Ford garage from the late 30s to 1958.

On the west side of the building, Peterson wants to paint another sign with the building’s former names, including Feeley Ford or Viking Auto. He also hopes to have a mural of Kenyon’s Main Street from the 1920s-30s painted on the remainder of the wall. Those plans have been put on hold as Peterson has been unable to get permission from the owner of the neighboring lot.

“I was glad to get this sign done just the way is was originally,” said Peterson.

Peterson says he’d like to turn the old garage into a museum where he can display more of his memorabilia. Currently, he has items in other locations like the Kenyon Fire Hall and Gunderson House.

“It’s slowly getting in shape, but it all takes money,” he said.

City of Kenyon hosts groundbreaking ceremony for new endeavor

After at least four years of planning, Kenyon officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 7 to usher in a project they hope will spark community growth.

The Kenyon Business Park groundbreaking ceremony was Oct. 7 at the site. A few members of the community gathered with those involved in the project to honor the event, four years in the making. (Michelle Vlasak/southernminn.com)

The Kenyon Economic Development Authority developed an approximate 30 acre area, on the southeast corner of the city along County Road 12, for new light industrial, warehouse and related types of businesses. The site will be served by all utilities including three phase electric, gas, sewer, water and high speed broadband.

During the ceremony, Mayor Doug Henke said he hopes the process will now move at a faster pace. Former Mayor Mike Engel is seen as instrumental in contacting the property owners of the land and finalizing the purchase process. Engel’s work was part of his vision for Kenyon which involved bringing new businesses to downtown and revitalizing current storefronts through the EDA’s facade improvement program. To honor his memory and leadership in the project, the City Council voted at a previous meeting to name the 750-foot street that will run through the project Engel Drive.

Those involved with the Kenyon Business Park in some way, shape or form, pictured from left, City Engineer Joe Rhein, EDA member Ann Sviggum, EDA member Mary Bailey, City Council member John Mortensen, City Administrator Mark Vahlsing, Mayor/EDA member Doug Henke, City Council/EDA member Tom Gard, Engineer Derek Olinger, City Council member Dan Rechtzigel, and CEDA members Abby Wright and Chris Giesen. Not pictured are City Council member Richard Nielsen and EDA member Stu Campbell. (Michelle Vlasak/southernminn.com)

City Administrator Mark Vahlsing showed gratitude toward Engel and his involvement in the project.

“We have to give a lot of credit to him for finding this area. This area worked out well as far as the acquisition price,” Vahlsing said. “The city also received about a $800,000-900,000 dollar grant from the (Minnesota) Department of Employment and Economic Development through the (Business Development Public Infrastructure) program.”

Vahlsing said the city began the process of looking for land around the second day he first started as Kenyon city administrator, which was in the middle of January 2013.

“That’s when I started the whole direction of looking for more commercial space, more lots, a business park or industrial park,” Vahlsing said. “The city has been looking at this probably going back 15 years. There’s been different proposals and locations and things, but we found a very difficult time trying to find land and things around the periphery of the city.”

To celebrate the groundbreaking event, those involved threw their shovels of dirt in the air. Pictured from left, City Engineer Joe Rhein, EDA member Ann Sviggum, EDA member Mary Bailey, City Council member John Mortensen, City Administrator Mark Vahlsing, Mayor/EDA member Doug Henke, City Council/EDA member Tom Gard, Engineer Derek Olinger, City Council member Dan Rechtzigel, and CEDA members Abby Wright andChris Giesen. Not pictured are City Council member Richard Nielsen and EDA member Stu Campbell. (Michelle Vlasak/southernminn.com)

Vahlsing also thanked all those involved in the project, including Bolten & Menk, the City Council, EDA and the Chatfield-based economic development agency CEDA.

“Everything’s been a good partnership,” Vahlsing said of everyone’s involvement. “We wouldn’t have been able to complete anything without it.”

The Kenyon EDA purchased the land in 2017, and EDA member Ann Sviggum said they met a lot during the final stages of the project to get things signed off. After they were planned more project aspects last year, the only thing left was the execution. At the June City Council meeting, the council awarded the project bid to A-1 Excavating Inc. of Bloomer, Wisconsin, the lowest bidder at nearly $1.37 million.

“EDA’s main focus for meetings, topics and work has been on this project. To get to this point, has been literally four years in the making,” Sviggum said. “It’s been lots and lots of meetings, lots of conversations, lots of blueprints, lots of hiccups in getting regulations dealt and to be able to get to this today was awesome, like it’s finally here. It’s exciting for us, for sure.”

EDA member Mary Bailey, who came into the organization late into the designing part of the process, said she was glad to be a part of the “fun” part.

The 31 acres of the future Kenyon Business Park is on the southeast corner of town along County Road 12. (Michelle Vlasak/southernminn.com)

Henke, who’s also on the EDA, said there were a minimum of eight different plans made, options consisting of possible land use and the layout of the site and a nearby street.

Tom Gard, a member of the City Council and EDA, said he anticipates the development of the next phase, which would potentially connect the park all the way to Hwy. 60. There are no definitive plans for that aspect of the project at this time. The EDA is reportedly putting their focus on finishing the park first.

“This is really exciting, growing up in Kenyon, this is a massive deal,” Gard said.

Bailey agreed, adding, “It is a big deal. I hope it brings in a lot of people.”

For some members of the community who attended the ceremony, like Don and Vickie Skillestad, they also hope the park brings more families and businesses to town. Don, who was a next-door neighbor to Engel, described him as dedicated to everything he was involved in.

Luke Berg

K-W senior quarterback Luke Berg, pictured last season, scampered for a 44-yard rushing touchdown Friday night at Goodhue, but that wasn’t enough in a 20-12 defeat. (File Photo/southernminn.com)

District gives larger operating levy a second go


When voters head to the polls next month, they’ll be asked to approve an operating levy expected to provide Kenyon-Wanamingo Schools with another $400,000 annually, money district leaders say they need to improve and expand opportunities and technology, replace outdated curriculum and keep steep budget cuts at bay.

The referendum asks voters to revoke the district’s existing operating levy of $296 per pupil, and to replace that authorization one that’s $800 per pupil, $46 under the state average.

It’s the second time in two years, school officials have asked voters to revoke the existing levy and replace it with a higher one. Last fall, 42% of district voters favored a replacement of $460 per pupil. A second authorization of $300 per pupil fell by a 22-point margin.

What happens if the levy passes?

If the levy passes, K-W will continue to improve and expand on learning opportunities and technology, and purchase new curriculum to replace the outdated curriculum. The district would also maintain sustainability of all resources while keeping class sizes down .

Boysen says the district would not only maintain programming, but also look to the future.

“I’m routinely having conversations with area colleges and universities to see how we can spice up the menu, since we are always looking to see how we can provide better experiences for our students,” said Boysen. “If we want to improve our test scores, we have to update our curriculum that is 10-20 years old, and some even go back to the 1990s.”

The money would also help keep school facilities up to code. There are also other parts of the buildings that need to be watched besides the beautiful, new additions.

“In the bond referendum, the community came out and supported us for that, and now we are asking the community to help support us to sustain what we already have,” said Boysen.

Comparisons of surrounding districts indicate K-W, currently at $296 per pupil has the lowest voter approved authority per pupil unit for the 2020-21 fiscal year. The numbers exclude local optional revenue. Owatonna is at $483 per pupil, Cannon Falls $500, Triton $750, Faribault $767, and Zumbrota-Mazeppa is at $1,749. The weighted state average falls at $846.

“We know that people out there are working hard and some families are struggling to make ends meet,” said Boysen. “We are asking for an amount of money that’ll help us not only sustain but also help us plan for the future.”

As a superintendent, Bryan Boysen says he is constantly looking ahead at the future and planning for it. Public schools play a vital role in communities, Boysen says, many times as the highest employer in the district and calls out to help others in need through feeding families.

“I encourage people to visit our website and see all the things K-W schools are doing,” said Boysen. “I think people are seeing the wonderful things we are doing, it’d be great if our districts were fully funded by the states, but they’re not.”

What happens if the levy fails?

If the levy fails, Boysen says staffing and student services would be reduced in all schools. Less funding would result in the cutting of staff and programming. Extracurriculars, class choices and transportation would also experience reductions. Class sizes would increase. Curriculum and technology purchases would be delayed indefinitely.

“Overall, there would be a reduction in all opportunities,” he said.

Boysen believes the 2019 levy failed because voters didn’t feel they were well informed and didn’t know where the money was going.

To remedy that, Boysen will host two town hall meetings. The meetings are open to the public, and will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Oct. 14 at K-W Elementary School in Wanamingo and from 7 to 8 p.m. Oct. 28 at K-W Middle-High School in Kenyon. Both meetings are available via Zoom. Flyers, which includes a breakdown of how the levy will impact taxes based on a property’s estimated market value, have also been mailed to district residents.

The district has already made cuts following last year’s levy failure. Boysen says former interim superintendent David Thompson led the district through some difficult, but wise decisions to cut programming. One of more noticeable changes the district made is the combining of the superintendent and elementary principal jobs. That’s been filled by Boysen. He says that decision alone has saved the district a lot of money.