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Lonsdale Scout completes Eagle project at city archery range
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The Lonsdale Archery Range has three new tables where archers can set their bow cases, and it’s thanks to Scouts BSA (Boy Scouts of America) Troop 327 member Brianna Harper.

A senior at Tri-City United High School, Harper enjoys archery and recognized a need for the tables from her own experience. When visiting the archery range with other families, they often fought over the limited picnic tables stationed further away from the targets.

On track to earn her Eagle, the highest ranking in Scouts BSA, it made sense for Harper to build three tables at the archery range as her Eagle Scout Service Project. She brought her idea to the city of Lonsdale and the Scouts BSA District for approval by Oct. 1, planned the project and gathered materials, and completed the three tables by Oct. 18.

The three tables don’t function as picnic tables and don’t include benches, so their purpose is to give archers a place to set their bows and arrows. They’re waist-high, and Harper painted the metal parts as part of her project.

“It needed to be sturdy and maintenance free, so we tried to make it high enough for a mower to go underneath but also not too high for youth to put their cases on,” Harper said. “Also we had to get special composite decking wood so it wouldn’t rot.”

Before officially earning her Eagle, Harper needs to earn a few more merit badges. Every Scout needs to earn at least 21 merit badges in order to become an Eagle, and Harper said her favorites so far were in scuba diving and photography. She also needs to meet the time requirement for being involved in her current rank. Although she has two months remaining, the paperwork won’t be completed until Feb. 8, 2021, when she and others in her troop will be admitted to the Inaugural Class of Female Eagle Scouts.

“I’m really honored to do it,” Harper said. “I saw my brother get [his Eagle], and it was something I kind of wanted to do, but obviously Scouts didn’t have it for girls at that time. So working to receive it is kind of like a dream.”

Harper’s involvement with Scouts started in Venturing Crew, a co-ed program of Scouting BSA that allows members to participate until they turn 21. After Scouts BSA started a female troop in Lonsdale, she transferred to that troop.

“I’ve learned a lot actually,” Harper said of her time with Scouts BSA. “I went to Gray Wolf, a national youth leadership program, and learned how to be a leader there. I also went to Jamboree (in West Virginia) and learned to communicate effectively and learned more about culture.”

After earning her Eagle rank, Harper hopes to return to Venturing Crew and go to the various camps offered, including the next World Scout Jamboree, which will take place in South Korea in 2023. In the meantime, she’s also pursuing her Order of the Arrow membership, which is similar to a National Honors Society for Scouts. She has already completed her first step in the process as an Ordeal and can then advance to Brotherhood Membership and Vigil Honor if she chooses.

Scouting BSA Troop 327 Scoutmaster Nancy Zellner said Harper is hard working and dedicated. Like the others in her troop, she joined Scouting BSA as soon as the option became available for girls Feb. 1, 2019.

“She’s got a positive attitude and she’s a good inspiration for young women,” Zellner said.

County engineer, City Council discuss intersection realignment at CR 4/Hwy. 19
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A reconstruction project for Rice County Road 4 is planned for 2022, and in finalizing plans, the county sought input from the city of Lonsdale on fine-tuning a non-typical intersection.

Rice County Engineer Dennis Luebbe met with the Lonsdale City Council during its Thursday meeting to discuss the city’s preferred way of aligning County Road 4 (Railway Street) with Hwy. 19 (West Central Street). It’s at this intersection that Third Avenue SW also serves as an access point to Hwy. 19.

In May, city staff presented the City Council with the Lonsdale Planning Commission’s recommended realignment, which showed Railway Street SW curving onto Hwy. 19 rather than intersecting it. The City Council instead preferred to keep the alignment the same but instead curve Railway Street to make it intersect at a 90-degree angle with Hwy. 19.

The county recommended other options to consider in addition to the city’s preferred alignment, such as a closure at Third Avenue SW to prevent traffic from accessing Hwy. 19 at that intersection, which is located just outside Smoke BBQ. The city may also go the route of having a cul de sac on Third Avenue SW just south of Hwy. 19 with Railway Street the only point of access to Hwy. 19 at that intersection.

“The issue is interrupting current access to essentially all three of the commercial properties in that corner,” Luebbe said.

In reviewing options, Luebbe said it came down to crash rate. However, he pointed out that there is no crash rate at the subject intersection.

Councilor Cindy Furrer said Lonsdale residents are likely extra careful at that intersection because they know it’s a dangerous access point to the highway.

Councilor Steve Cherney agreed that the intersection is dangerous but disagreed with looking to the crash rate as the criteria; he said, “We need to figure this thing out to make it conducive to have a safe, reasonable intersection.”

Said Mayor Tim Rud: “I think the fact is, when you do your traffic studies, you rely on crash rates. I don’t think you want to close Third Avenue. I think people would be upset with that; it’s not workable.”

Luebbe recommended a temporary close to Third Avenue SW at its point of access to Hwy. 19 as a trial, which would allow the city to collect feedback from the community and take note of traffic patterns. This would send traffic to Alabama Street SW from Hwy. 19. He recommended the temporary closure to take place after the winter season.

“There’s a very low cost to that,” Luebbe said. It might surprise us all. Maybe not, but we don’t know. It’s something to consider, and we would have time to do that … It wouldn’t affect our 2022 project.”

A future roundabout

The Lonsdale City Council has set its priorities on two other intersections that are cause for concern, one being at Hwy. 19 and Eighth Avenue NE, which is southeast of Lonsdale Liquors.

The main intersection causing concerns is the Hwy. 19 and County Road 2 intersection west of town. Between 2015 and 2019, there were 10 crashes at this intersection. In January this year, there was one fatal crash.

Traffic volumes have almost doubled at this intersection in the past few years as well, which increases the risk of crashes. The skewed angle of the intersection (30 degrees) also plays into the risk.

Both Rice County and the city of Lonsdale sent letters of support for a Highway Safety Improvement Project (HSIP) grant application, and if approved, a roundabout could be installed as part of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Hwy. 19 mill and overlay project in 2023.

Rice County already implemented the short-term improvement recommendation of installing a flashing LED stop sign and advanced warning as an immediate response to the January fatality. The other MnDOT recommendation, rumble strips, were already in place.

Community outbreak and staffing shortages push TCU into distance learning
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The TCU School District is preparing for two months of distance learning after COVID-19 related quarantines have left the district short staffed. (File photo/southernminn.com)

As COVID-19 cases in the community spike, Tri-City United students will be learning from home until next year.

At the Nov. 9 School Board meeting, the TCU administration announced a plan to move grades K-12 to distance learning. The school district’s hybrid learning model will end this week on Thursday, Nov. 12 for B group students and Friday, Nov. 13 for A group students. School is out on Monday, Nov. 16 and Tuesday, Nov. 17 to give teachers time to plan for distance learning beginning on Wednesday, Nov. 18. The district will remain in distance learning until at least Jan. 15, 2021.

The plan was debuted as Le Sueur County is reporting record numbers of COVID-19 cases daily. During the first week of November, Le Sueur County saw 121 new cases of the coronavirus. In those seven days, more cases were detected than in the entire month of September.

The communities in Le Sueur County that are part of Tri-City United School district have been hit the hardest by the virus. Le Center and Montgomery lead the rest of the county in COVID-19 cases. In total, 186 cases, about 22% confirmed in Le Sueur County, were from Le Center. Montgomery has reported 165 cases, the second highest amount in the county, making up 20% of confirmed cases.

Le Sueur County’s 14-day case rate, which informs safe learning models for schools, is at a record high in the past three months. At its current rate of 33.23 cases per 10,000 people, the Minnesota Department of Health recommends a hybrid model for elementary students and distance learning model for secondary. From discussions with the Le Sueur County Department of Health, Superintendent Lonnie Seifert believed that cases could rise even further in the coming months.

Meanwhile, in Rice County, where Lonsdale is located, cases are also surging. In a Nov. 5 update from Rice County Public Health, the 14-day case rate was at 40.3, well above the recommended trigger point for distance learning.


School resources are already being strained under the current model, said Seifert. There are six active coronavirus cases in the Tri-City United community and 119 students and staff have been in quarantine due to being in contact with a confirmed case. The quarantines have resulted in a staff shortage.

“It looked like today we were semi-distance learning,” said Seifert. “We had seven to eight teachers that were distance learning, because they couldn’t be in the building. Also in our support services … Mr. Johnson was helping serve lunch today in the high school, because we don’t have many food service people at the high school right now.”

The superintendent worried these problems may continue as the holidays approach. Many of the cases in the past week are being linked to Halloween by the Le Sueur County Department of Health, and major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day could be opportunities for further spread. By staying in distance learning through January, the school would not have to move back and forth between models, said Seifert.

Not all students will have to distance learn. TCU plans to continue in-person instruction for special services students — which may include groups like special education students and English language learners — and pre-kindergarten students. Administration will assess more opportunities for in-person learning as the year continues.

Childcare services will continue to be provided for Tier I workers and district employees. Families requesting childcare services may also receive assistance depending on staffing availability.

The fall sports season, along with fall activities, such as robotics, speech and knowledge bowl, are planned to continue as normal. The Tri-City United fall musical will also be allowed to continue, but with some new limitations. The musical will be held on just one night and will be livestreamed to the community. Students may be given a select number of tickets to give to friends and family to attend in-person and a filmed version of the musical will be distributed for the students to keep.

But for the winter sports season, only varsity teams will play. Seifert said that this will allow for seniors to finish their seasons while limitations on participation would reduce the opportunity for the virus to spread. Each team would also have their own space for practices and games.

Community education and youth groups will still be allowed to use school facilities for classes and practices, but youth athletics will be prohibited from hosting tournaments at the school.

All of the school’s plans for athletics and activities may be subject to change as the year goes on.

“If we start seeing an increase in the participants having issues or our staff having issues that we can’t just do it anymore, we would have to shut it down,” said Seifert. “Because we can’t do that to our staff.”

The proposal drew praise from several School Board members.

“I just want to say I like this plan,” said Ashley Rosival. “I think it’s well thought out. I appreciate the administration putting in their two cents on it since they are the ones that will have to carry it out.”

“These aren’t easy decisions to be made,” said School board Chair Marsha Franek. “We’ll just move forward and hope to get these kids back in school soon.”

TCU teachers Collin Scott (left) Carey Langer (center) and Heidi Veazie (left) were awarded Smart/Mather Education Awards during the district’s Veterans Day program. Scott, a member of the Le Center Legion and a former US Army MP was the school’s guest speaker for Veterans Day. (Photo courtesy of Alan Fitterer)