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Organizers consider 2019 Defeat of Jesse James Days a success

Organizers believe this year’s Defeat of Jesse James Days was a successful event.

The five-day festival drew an estimated 200,000 people into Northfield to partake in a variety of activities.

“It went very well,” DJJD General Chair Galen Malecha said. “We had very nice weather. We were able to have a carnival back where it’s been. We didn’t have any water issues.”

That Northfield can host such a highly attended event is made possible by the more than 500 volunteers who work during the weekend. Those volunteers are from the DJJD committee, Northfield Rotary, Northfield Shares and Sundowners Car Club.

This year’s rodeo sold out both nights. Large crowds flocked to downtown Northfield throughout the weekend for re-enactments of the 1876 First National Bank of Northfield robbery on Division Street, and food vendors lined Bridge Square.

“Our numbers were probably up through the whole weekend,” Malecha said.

He estimated attendance on Sunday was relatively low because of rain prior to the parade. The festival is weather-dependent, Malecha said, as heat and cold can drive people away. Temperatures last weekend, however, hovered in the 60s and 70s, making for comfortable weather for those in attendance.

Malecha said many Northfield businesses see a “decent economic impact” throughout the weekend due to the influx of people into the community.

“Tourism is a big economic driver for the city of Northfield, and the Defeat of Jesse James Days is one of those economic drivers for the city of Northfield,” he said.

A meeting for the committee to wrap up the season is scheduled next month, and planning for next year will begin in October.

Ambassador Scholarship Program Chairwoman Julie Eddy also spoke highly of the weekend. She was with the 2020 Ambassadors who were crowned last month as they visited events throughout the festival.

“It was a great weekend,” she said. “The weather held out for us. The Ambassadors had a great time. They help out at a lot of events.”

To Eddy, a unique aspect of DJJD is the variety of community groups who help, from church groups to Rotary, Lions Club, civic groups, fire and police departments, the Northfield Hiliners Dance Team, youth groups and YMCA.

“It really is a community celebration, and the whole city gets involved in doing it,” Eddy said.

“It’s very unique that Northfield can do that.”


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Four underpasses in roundabout project get council OK

Option 2, with a $3.32 million price tag and four underpasses, was the council’s preference for the Jefferson Parkway/Hwy. 246 roundabout. (Image courtesy of the city of Northfield)

The Northfield City Council on Sept 3rd. unanimously decided to have four grade-separated underpasses below the planned Highway 246/Jefferson Parkway roundabout.

The decision opens the door for the $3.32 million project to begin next May/June. Bonding for the project is expected to raise taxes about $20 on a $200,000 home.

Other options the council had considered included two underpasses, one on the west side connecting the school campus, the other on the south side connecting the Mill Towns Trail and a $2.97 million price tag. Another, $3.36 million option included underpasses to the center of the roundabout and another alternative, featuring only at-grade crossings, was $1.9 million.

Councilors on Tuesday decided to further evaluate two bumpout options in association with the project at a future meeting.

In a public forum before the vote, Ryan Malecha said underpasses will increase the safety of Jefferson Parkway and Division Street. He predicted any increased traffic flow will make it more difficult for motorists to get to the roundabout, causing more congestion.

Northfield resident Kari Gross said she does not support the roundabout option and instead favors traffic signals. She asked the council how the tunnel will be kept safe from graffiti and drugs, and how the city plans to pay for maintenance costs.

Councilor David DeLong expressed concern that although traffic flow will likely speed up after the roundabout is installed, blockages will be re-directed to other parts of the community.

“A roundabout seems like overkill to me, especially when we could have explored other fixes to the problem,” he said.

DeLong

Although he expressed concern over the project, DeLong said having four underpasses was the safest option.

“I will begrudgingly support option 2,” he said.

In a 2012 complete streets policy, the city committed to planning, funding, designing, constructing, operating and maintaining streets to accommodate all users.

A 2016 intersection control evaluation report identified the need to alleviate peak-hour congestion, improve pedestrian and bicycle access, improve the entrance and exit from nearby schools, improve safety for all users and install a single-lane roundabout.

The city has conducted outreach this summer on the project, including discussion last month at the city pool, FiftyNorth and City Hall. An online surveyconducted from July 31 to Aug. 23 identified the approved option as the preferred route.


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Tavern of Northfield could reopen by November

The Tavern of Northfield is now pegging November/December as a possible re-opening date after a kitchen fire in an upstairs restaurant caused significant water damage in June.

The Tavern has been closed since the June 30 fire, which was caused by an unattended cooking fire at Chapati Indian Restaurant. A pot on a stove with food on it became on-fire after heat was applied.

Restaurant equipment, a majority of it damaged, has been moved out of the Tavern. Kitchen flooring, walls and ceiling were soaked in water following the fire and need to be replaced. Insurance claims are being evaluated, and insurance adjusters have evaluated the restaurant space.

Archer House and Tavern of Northfield Co-Owner Brett Reese said the restaurant has served an important role in Northfield for 35 years and is one of the few local establishments that offer a full-service breakfast.

“The space is set up ideally for a restaurant,” he said.

“It’s just a matter of time,” he said of when it will re-open.

Reese said Chapati sustained less damage from the fire. The restaurant recently re-opened.


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Sheldahl employees picket for better wages, union health care

Sheldahl employees picket Thursday afternoon at the intersection of Hwy. 3 and Hwy. 19 to call for union health care and higher wages from their Northfield employer. (Sam Wilmes/Northfield News)

A group of Sheldahl employees picketed Thursday afternoon to call attention to what they say are low wages and insufficient employee health care.

The three-hour picket, consisting of members of the UNITE HERE! Local 17 union, took place at the corner of one of Northfield’s busiest intersections less than a month before their union contract is set to expire. There were approximately 20 union members picketing a little after 1 p.m.

A bargaining session is scheduled for Friday. A majority of the approximately 200 union Sheldahl employees must approve a three-year contract extension for ratification.

Approximately 20 union members are seen picketing shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday along Hwy. 3 in Northfield. (Sam Wilmes/Northfield News)

Union organizer Cliff Martin said Sheldahl has negotiated “some really bad contracts” over the years, resulting in deteriorating working conditions. He noted union members believe the health insurance plan they’re requesting would reduce deductibles to zero and lower health care costs. Martin says the improved benefits are needed in an industry they believe can cause cancer and other adverse health conditions.

Martin said union members picketed after Sheldahl, a flexible circuit manufacturer, refused their contract demands, which included a provision they be paid for the couple weeks a year when the plant shuts down.

To Martin, the company has a difficult time hiring and keeping employees because of low starting wages — $13 to $17 per hour — that make it impossible for workers to afford to live in Northfield.

Packaging employee Sarah Blow said she picketed because she was “trying to fight for better wages, better health care.” She said Sheldahl is proposing 35 cent per hour raises for employees. Blow wants a $1 per hour increase.

“The raises are definitely not high enough for the cost of living going up,” she said. “They’re not willing to give us enough raises every year.”

Blow said she was “not very confident that they (Sheldahl) are going to go for everything that we are asking for.”

“I wouldn’t vote for it,” she said of the position she would take if the company does not meet all of the union’s demands.

Blow, a nine-year employee, said she has not been diagnosed with cancer, but believes other adverse health impacts have been caused by her work at Sheldahl.

“I’ve experienced headaches and nausea and sore throats from chemical smells and stuff being in the air,” she said.

Picketers held signs calling for union strength and for Sheldahl to show greater respect at the bargaining table. (Sam Wilmes/Northfield News)

Martin alleged that the company’s lawyer has told them Sheldahl can afford the union’s demands but is not doing so because it believes the union is asking for too much.

A press release states a majority of the union’s members are women and immigrant workers.

To Martin, working conditions at Sheldahl are decreasing employee morale.

“This used to be a good place,” he said. “Lots of members are currently looking for somewhere else (to work). It’s hard for Sheldahl to keep new people in the door when there’s barely any benefits, and awful starting wages and a hazardous work environment.”

Sheldahl has not responded to requests for comment.