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Miss Shamrock candidates perform at county St. Patrick’s talent show
Carson Hughes / By CARSON HUGHES chughes@lesueurcountynews.com 

Allison McCabe performed a skit, told a story about her family’s journey to America and sung “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears” for the Queen Candidates Talent Show. (Carson Hughes/Le Sueur County News)

Each of the Miss Shamrock candidates were hoping they had the luck of the Irish on their side at the Queen Candidate Talent Show Saturday. The show, held at the Le Center American Legion Post, was a chance for the community to learn more about the 2020 St. Patrick’s royalty.

The event began with a welcome by Grand Marshals Don and Mary Louise Hayden, of Le Center, and a meeting of the candidates — St. Peter High School senior Allison McCabe, Le Sueur-Henderson senior Erin Schultz and Cleveland senior Brooklynn Anderley. But before they shared their talents, the attendees were treated to a performance by Hudson Irish Dance, who have competed at regional, national and world championship levels.

Carson Hughes / By CARSON HUGHES chughes@lesueurcountynews.com 

The Hudson Irish Dance troupe performs a stepdance for the attendees of the Queen Candidate Talent Show. (Carson Hughes/Le Sueur County News)

Allison McCabe was the first to take the stage, escorted by Cecilia McCabe. The queen candidate is known for her athletic talents as a captain of the Saints varsity volleyball, basketball and softball teams, but McCabe brought her knack for stand-up comedy to the Le Center stage with a set about the struggles of being short and Irish.

She then told the story of how her family had arrived to the United States during the Irish Potato Famine. Her great-great-great-grandmother had to deal with incredible hardship during the trip to America and had to bury her sister Alice at sea, who McCabe and the other Alices, Alicias and Allisons in her family take their names from. McCabe ended with a performance of the song “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears” by Irish songwriter Brendan Graham.

“This whole experience has really taught me a lot about my heritage in a fun way with all these girls and learning from them from each other,” said McCabe. “You really just get to inspire people and it’s a fun thing to do if you’re interested in it To see how you became who you are today.”

Carson Hughes / By CARSON HUGHES chughes@lesueurcountynews.com 

Cecilia McCabe, Ruthie O’Malley and Maggie Closser introduce themselves as this year’s escorts. (Carson Hughes/Le Sueur County News)

McCabe has a number of achievements under her belt as a student at St. Peter High School. She has been on the A Honor Roll, National Honor Society, a class officer and a student council representative. In her athletic career, she’s lettered all four years, received an All-Conference award in volleyball, All-Section and All-State awards in softball and played on the state basketball and softball teams in 2019. Beyond athletics, McCabe participates in choir, was a Saints Ambassador, Project for Teens Leader and Courage and Kindness Retreat Leader. She works as a PCA and volunteers as an altar server and is involved in the youth group at the Church of Nativity in Cleveland. When she graduates, McCabe plans to attend Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville, IA to pursue a degree in Special Education and further her softball career.

Carson Hughes / By CARSON HUGHES chughes@lesueurcountynews.com 

Erin Schultz performs an Irish stepdance at the Miss Shamrock Queens Candidate talent show. (Carson Hughes/Le Sueur County News)

Erin Schultz was escorted by Ruthie O’Malley to dance to her own choreographed Irish step-dance. Schultz has been dancing ever since she was four years old, whether it was at daddy-daughter dances, the Center Stage Dance Company or as the sole Le Sueur-Henderson student on the joint LS-H and Tri-City United dance team, the Black Diamonds. On the team, she’s lettered for three years and won an All-Conference award.

“It was an opportunity for me to learn about my Irish heritage more,” said Schultz on why she pursued becoming Miss Shamrock. “I’ve always wanted to take part in something like this and be a leader in my community and represent a community.”

When she’s not dancing, Schultz participates in the Target (DARE) program, the Bakers Dozen singing group, works as a lifeguard and teaches religious education and bible school at the First Lutheran Church in Le Sueur. Her Irish heritage traces back to the O’Rourke family of County Sligo and the Schied family of County Ulster. Once she graduates, Schultz plans to attend St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul to pursue a degree in nursing.

Carson Hughes / By CARSON HUGHES chughes@lesueurcountynews.com 

Brooklynn Anderley performed a number of Irish folk songs, including “Oh Danny Boy,” “My Wild Irish Rose” and “Irish Washerwoman” on her clarinet. (Carson Hughes/Le Sueur County News)

Last but not least of the queen candidates was Brooklynn Anderley, escorted by Maggie Closser. Anderley played a number of Irish folk songs on her clarinet, includingDanny Boy,” “My Wild Irish Rose” and “Irish Washerwoman.”

“I’m here just for the experience and fun of meeting new people,” said Anderley. “You get to learn about everybody’s heritage and my Irish heritage, meet new people and have fun this summer.”

Anderley’s Irish family tree goes back to the Osborne family from the village of Mullacrew in County Louth. As a student at Cleveland High School, she’s a regular on the A honor roll, a student council representative and a SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) representative. She’s played volleyball and enjoys ice skating and horseback riding. She volunteers for Red Cross Blood drives, food shelf collections and numerous school events and the religious education program and church festivals at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Le Center. She currently works as a dietary aide at Central Health Care and plans to pursue an X-Ray Technician degree at Riverland Community College in Austin.

The queen candidates will receive their crowns and titles at the coronation on Friday, March 13 at 7 p.m at the Le Center Legion.

The scholarships and titles available to the candidates include the $3,000 Ms. Shamrock Scholarship, the Ms. Leprechaun $2,000 scholarship, the Ms. Irish Rose $1,000 scholarship and the Ms. John Gregory O’Connell Memorial Scholarship at $1,000. After the coronation, attendees will be entertained by a DJ and can win prizes in the Luck of the Irish raffle drawing. Admission to the coronation requires the purchase of a $3 button which will be available at the door.Reach Reporter Carson Hughes at 507-931-8575. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All Rights Reserved.

Le Center and Hopkins dads create podcast covering parenting, news stories, safety tips and more
Carson Hughes / By CARSON HUGHES chughes@lesueurcountynews.com 

Co-host of “Really Dad Advice” Dave Flinton shares a seat with his dog Loki, who can occasionally be heard in the background. (Carson Hughes/Le Sueur County News)

Two Minnesota fathers are getting childish about adulthood in a new podcast.

They’re just three episodes in, but Dave Flinton, of Le Center, and David Monson, of Hopkins, are looking to turn their two-man operation “Really Dad Advice” (RDA) into a guide for both dads and non-dads to navigate adulthood.

The podcast is one part humorous and one part educational, as Flinton and Monson discuss and argue everything, including parenting, Disney movies, video games, weird news stories and real-world tips and tricks. Despite what the name may imply, Flinton and Monson emphasized that “Really Dad Advice” isn’t about advice for dads, but dads giving advice for everyone.

“We’re dads, we’re going to give our advice,” said Flinton. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be parenting related things, but that’s just who we are.”

While the podcast debuted this year, “Really Dad Advice” has its origins in a Facebook group. The 63-member group of the same name started in October, 2019, when Flinton, the father of a now 1-year-old girl, was searching for parenting advice from Facebook groups as a new dad. Frustrated with some of the aggressive behavior he saw in the larger groups, Flinton reached out to his friend Monson, the father of two girls, a 5-year-old and 2-year-old, and together they created an online group for fathers to share advice with each other while being supportive of each other. The two eventually saw a chance to build on what they created with a podcast centered around fatherhood and beyond.

“Every time we saw each other, we would get into these interesting conversations, so why not make it a podcast?” recounted Flinton. “If we’re going to talk about it, we might as well record it for the entire universe to see.”

The RDA podcast turned out to be just what Flinton and Monson needed. Between living in different towns, working jobs and raising kids, the two haven’t seen each other in two to three years, even while producing RDA. Now they have the opportunity to make time to talk with each other, while also expanding on their mission to create a place for learning.

“It became an outlet for us,” said Monson. “Not only to talk about the normal stuff. We would talk about everything from the daily news, the world news, funny stories that we read and now that David is a new parent, realizing the fun parts of parenting and exploring those things.”

While Flinton and Monson love to share their opinions, they also love to disagree as well. Monson said that he and Flinton only agree with each other about 60% of the time.

Carson Hughes / By CARSON HUGHES chughes@lesueurcountynews.com 

Co-host David Monson is a co-host of the “Really Dad Advice” podcast which covers a wide variety of topics including parenthood, Disney movies, games and news. (Carson Hughes/Le Sueur County News)

“We try not to talk about politics on the show, but in life in general, Dave’s a lot more liberal with his views,” said Flinton. “I’m more dead center and I swing either way on my views … but I’m an east coast Irish guy so I’m a lot more blunt than Dave is.”

“It really comes down to two guys who are friends, who really want to stir each other up a little bit,” added Monson.

“He likes to get me riled up too,” continued Flinton. “The more he gets me going, the more the (Massachusetts) accent comes out.”

So far, RDA is a somewhat ramshackle production. Flinton and Monson are recording with each other from miles apart with nothing but a couple of headsets. The show is also mostly unscripted. While the two have a list of topics they want to talk about, the podcast is entirely improvised. Oftentimes, they’ll share stories on air that the other knows little to nothing about.

“It works better if you don’t know the full story and you get each other’s true, candid reactions,” said Monson.

“We did a teaser for the podcast where we both read off a script and that was a nightmare,” said Flinton. “Neither one of us work very well off a script, or even off notes, so each episode we’ve gotten a little more loose with it and it seems to work a little bit better.”

Though the podcast is small now, Flinton and Monson have some ambitious goals. Audience participation is an important part of the show and the two hope that they can build a bigger audience and get more questions from the viewers for substantial discussion. Guest interviews are also planned to be a semi-regular part of the podcast. In their very first episode, the hosts invited a former 11-year fire Lt. Anthony Lawson to speak on fire safety.

The RDA podcast is available to listen to on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and the RDA Youtube channel.

“No matter what anyone says, we’re children at heart,” said Monson. “I’m sorry, but fart jokes are hilarious … This is a way to entertain our immature side. So it’s really for anyone who wants to giggle and laugh about how life is.”

Cleveland basketball player Serena Williams remembered her friend and competitor Jillian Thompson before the Cleveland-TCU game on Friday. (Richard Rohlfing/Le Sueur County News)

Carson Hughes / By CARSON HUGHES chughes@lesueurcountynews.com 

Around 250 voters attended Le Sueur City Hall on March 3rd to vote in the presidential primaries. The city as well as the county and state largely voted to support Vice President Joe Biden. (Carson Hughes/Le Sueur County News)

An ice jam on the Minnesota River near St. Peter on Sunday has raised water levels, forcing the closure of the Highway 99 bridge. (Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Transportation)

Hwy. 112/County Road 22 project may cost more than anticipated
Carson Hughes / By CARSON HUGHES chughes@leusuercountynews.com 

Bids for the County Road 22 (formerly known as Hwy. 112) turnback project came in higher than anticipated, with the lowest bid being $1.5 million higher than the engineers’ estimate. (County News File Photo)

Construction on the County Road 22 turnback project (formerly known as Hwy. 112) is fast approaching, but that work is likely to cost more than expected.

On Tuesday, March 3, the Le Sueur County Commissioners received two bids from construction companies to work on the effort to reconstruct 22, parts of 26 within city limits of Le Sueur and several roads in Le Sueur adjacent to the county roads in a series of phases between 2020-21. The lower bid from S.M. Hentges & Sons in Jordan amounts to $15.2 million, approximately $1.5 million more than the engineer’s estimate of $13.7 million. Northland Grading & Excavating of Webster submitted a high bid of $18.5 million. The commissioners voted 4-0, with Commissioner John King abstaining, to award the bid to S.M. Hentges & Sons, contingent upon approval from the city of Le Sueur.

If the city of Le Sueur approves the low bid at their next council meeting on March 9, the city would pay around $5 million toward the project, covering the improvements to city streets, much of which would be covered by special assessments on benefiting properties. The rest of the costs would largely be shouldered by the county.

In total, construction would stretch over 3.5 miles of roadway and 30 intersections in town, including County Road 22 (112 turnback) from County Road 115 to Ferry Street; Ferry from Elmwood to S. Fourth Street; S. Fourth Street from Ferry to Bridge Street; Bridge from S. Fourth Street to N. Main Street; and Commerce Street from Market Street to the Hwy. 169 ramp. Also covered by the project is Ferry Street between Elmwood Avenue and Kingsway Drive; Ferry between S. Fourth Street and S. Second Street; and S. Second Street from Ferry to Bridge Street.

Le Sueur City Engineer Cory Bienfang reported to the Le Sueur council on Monday, March 2 that there were a variety of factors behind why the bids the county received were higher than the engineer’s estimate. The engineers’ estimate is calculated by analyzing the market and costs of similar projects. Due to the large size of the project and the two-year scope, the final total was more difficult to pinpoint he said. In addition, the push to receive a bid in February at the very start of bidding season, limited the engineers’ ability to compare to bids from this year.

“Bidding in February limits that data pool a little bit, because we were one of the earlier bids,” said Bienfang. “That was certainly something we were targeting. You hear that you want to be an earlier bidder on some of your projects and contractors are hungry to secure some of that work for the upcoming season. There were a number of bids that were opened in early February and this wasn’t the only one that was overestimated.”

Le Sueur City Administrator Jasper Kruggel added that while the bids were higher than expected, they weren’t out of line with what the city expected to pay in case the engineer’s estimate did underestimate the total price. He further stated that the engineers’ estimate being low wasn’t a negative, because overestimating the value of the project can drive up the price of bids.

“The engineer’s estimate is knowledge that the bidder has so an inflated engineer’s estimate could drive the cost up,” said Kruggel. “We want the numbers to be accurate, but we don’t want to overestimate. … If we overestimate that could have an adverse effect in driving those prices up.”

“The bids are what they are, but I think the recommendation to move forward is unwavering,” added Bienfang. “There’s a substantial need there.”

The March 2 Le Sueur council meeting was a work session, so no actions were taken. The council will likely vote on whether to approve the low bid at its March 9 meeting.

LS-H School Board seeks new consultant; August referendum now unlikely

The Le Sueur-Henderson School Board is taking a new direction in referendum planning, and it could mean that a referendum won’t take place until 2021.

On Thursday, March 5, the board met in a special meeting to determine whether they would continue working with SiteLogiQ (Unesco) on the referendum or to hire a new architect manager to develop options for new facilities within the district. Unesco had assisted the School Board with the community survey and the facility task force, but after internal and community frustration with the process, the board unanimously chose to negotiate with a different firm.

“I was very unhappy with the way the task force ran,” said board member Gretchen Rehm. “I was not very happy with the way some communication had been through them. I personally would like a fresh start. I really liked the other companies we spoke with and I do think it would be good to have a little more control over the architecture, engineer and construction managers that we use.“

Rehm’s assessment was shared by the rest of the board, who emphasized concerns that the facility task force, which was charged with making a recommendation on a referendum, was not given enough information to make a decision. This echoed the complaints of many on the task force, which ended without consensus after the final recommendation was delayed into January.

“While I liked Brian, and I liked the people, I feel like they lost our confidence through the task force procedure and sometimes that’s not something you can gain back,” said Superintendent Marlene Johnson. “I feel like our community lost confidence in them. I feel the board lost confidence in them. I did as well. I think they did complete their task. They got it done, but they did not provide the community people with what they needed.”

The board felt that the other architect managers they had interviewed would be capable of providing more complete information. School Board Chair Brigid Tuck added that the other firms would allow the board to pursue hiring local contractors to work on a potential facility, while Unesco would have made the decisions on which contractors were chosen.

Instead, the board made the decision to hire Wendel Companies, a Minneapolis based architecture company. The company was one of three the board interviewed in the past month, including SiteLogiQ (Unesco) and Architects Rego and Youngquist (ARY) and ISG. While the board felt that both Wendel and ARY and ISG would be good options, the board ultimately preferred Wendel because of its local connections and its willingness to work with local contractors.

In addition to an architectural manager, the board is planning to hire a separate construction manager. While the board had planned to hire a construction manager at the special work session, the decision was delayed because only one, R.A. Morton, had been interviewed.

A delayed referendum

With the new architecture manager hired, the August referendum that the School Board had planned for is looking increasingly less likely. Superintendent Johnson noted that many of the firms the board interviewed felt that August was an aggressive deadline for the stage the referendum was at, anyway.

Due to the lack of consensus from the facility task force, a future community survey or mini-task force could be employed to gauge public opinion and stretch the time needed to create a referendum question. At the special meeting, the board discussed the possibility of pushing the referendum back to February 2021.

“I’m afraid what happened in the task force has set us behind,” said Johnson. “If we decide to go aggressive, I’m afraid. There was so much people wanted to know and so much with starting over a new firm. I want to do it right for our community.”