A year of fun & festivals, a year of growth, a year to say farewell to an old friend and welcome to a new one!
Here’s to an even better 2022!
We made it! It’s 2022, Week 1, and it’s going to be an exciting year for Hastings.
We’re going to get through this pandemic, and we have a feeling this is going to be our year! Regardless, we’re thankful for the tireless efforts of Dakota County’s Department of Health and local clinics and hospitals, as well as schools and emergency services personnel. We appreciate your efforts at guiding us through the twists and turns of COVID-19.
This past year, Hastings worked hard to get back to normal. The Chamber of Commerce held its Rivertown Days festival, and downtown rocked with crowds for three days in July. On the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attack on America, the Hastings Rotary marked the occasion with a flyover at its huge Rivertown Live event, which featured national country acts that packed Levee Park with two stages of entertainment.
But it certainly wasn’t all partying. Hastings said goodbye to one of its oldest friends, Emily’s Bakery, which closed after decades. And our community will meet a new corporate friend next year. Fleet Farm announced in the fall that it will open a store in fall of 2022 in the former Target store that has been empty for years.
Here’s a look back at 2021.
Dakota County worked to slow the spread of COVID-19. The county received its first COVID vaccine doses and started vaccinating health care workers. The first shipment was for 2,100 doses. Following health care workers, emergency personnel were set to be vaccinated. *** United Heroes League opened a full-size NHL sized sheet of ice at its Hastings facility, which is a resource for military families. UHL President Shane Hudella received a call that the rink and Zamboni were being donated to UHL late last year and work progressed in setting up the rink, that’s also used by local teams.
The Hastings Journal celebrated a successful first year with a donated of more than $1,100 to Hastings Family Services. The newspaper donated all proceeds from a subscription drive to help the Hastings organization.
The Hastings Chamber of Commerce went virtual for its Annual Meeting & Awards Program. Chamber President Kristy Barse acted as Master of Ceremonies at the event, introducing speakers and providing her viewpoint, with the Hastings Chamber “in the trenches” of the COVID-19 battle and continuing – even through the pandemic – of making the Hastings business community stronger. “I would give anything to be in-person with all of you right now, enjoying a night of drinks, good food and celebration,” she said. “The day will come, and it will be one epic bash.” *** Hastings School District Superintendent Dr. Robert Mc-Dowell noted the creation of an Equity Action Team at the schools. “Our community and our schools are becoming more diverse: Dakota County is projected to grow from 19% to 28% people of color in the 20 years from 2015 to 2035. Much of that growth is in our young people. While the City of Hastings From Page 1
is approximately 6% people of color, our schools are approximately 15% students of color. With that diversity comes different lived experiences, different cultures, different learning styles and needs,” said McDowell. “Many local and national events in the past year have been a clear reminder that systemic racism is a potent, negative and divisive force that affects all of us, including our students. Our call as a school district is to be anti-racist and equity-focused.” *** The Hastings Police Department served a warrant that resulted in the arrest of two on various charges, including related to making explosive devices. The arrests took place at a residence in the 800 block of !0th Street West. The St. Paul Bomb Squad and Dakota County Drug Task Force completed a search of the residence, and a device found in the home was taken for safe disposal. *** Mayor Mary Fasbender kicked off the State of the City virtual presentation. “The theme of this year’s address is responsive- ness and resilience to the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “This has been a very difficult year for our community, for our schools, employees, employers, families and service organizations as we have had to pull together to respond to the realties, executive orders and needs of the community.” It all came down to this for Hastings and every community: “We’ve had to pull together,” said Fasbender. She credited city council members including Joe Balsanek who finished his term in office after 12 years on the council. “He was part of many projects throughout the com- munity,” she said. She thanked the organizations the city worked closely with, elected officials U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, State Sen. Karla Bigham and State Rep. Tony Jurgens for pulling together with Hastings. She gave credit for partnerships with Dakota County and community organizations like the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce “for working with our in support of our community.”
“Last but not least, thank you to our staff,” she said. “Every department in the city re-engineered and re- imagined the way it provided its services to the Hastings community.”
To staff, Fasbender said, “You are all to be commended for your service.”
And while there were challenges, there were “bright spots.”
“Families decorated their doors and garages with hearts, store fronts were filled with positive messages and sidewalks were deco- rated with chalk art. School buses delivered lunches to kids at home. Restaurants got creative with take-out menus. Many of our businesses and organizations pulled together on food and donation drives,” the mayor continued. “Our staff innovated to develop online park programming…Our firefighters brought fire safety to elementary schools outdoors. We looked for creative ways to share important ant me sages, like partnering with the Chamber of Commerce with an advertising campaign with a masked Raider to encourage safe shopping. We engaged with the United Way to get the word out about funds for non-profit organizations that were impacted by COVID-19.”
“I choose to look at the good I see throughout the community. Bravo Hastings,” she said
According to information obtained from the US Attorney’s office in St. Paul, Maryann Helen Stoffel, 70, of Hastings, was charged in US District Court on one count of wire fraud for allegedly misappropriating more than $650,000 of Vermillion Township funds over the course of nearly eight years, December 2012 to October 2020. During her time as city clerk, an elected position, Stoffel had signature authority over the townships bank account. One of the requirements of the township bank accounts is two signatures to process payments. Stoffel allegedly worked around that by forgery and deceit. *** Hastings Tastings is an annual fundraising event for Hastings Family Service (HFS) that happens each spring during MN Foodshare. This year, HFS is suggesting a reverse Hastings Tastings Takeout instead that supports the area restaurants that have made 24 years of Hastings Tastings events possible. Hastings Family Service will highlight area restaurants/establishments on their Facebook page each week throughout MN Foodshare, providing links and any specials they are offering for Hastings Tastings Takeout. “The only way we can get back to a typical Hastings Tastings event is for our area restaurants and establishments to survive and thrive,” said Kelly Carter, HFS Development & Community Relations Coordinator. *** The Hastings City Council was being asked to support a no wake zone, on the recommendation of its Public Safety committee. The ordinance would make the portion of the Mississippi River from Lock and Dam 2 to the Hastings Marina a “No Wake” zone. The matter was discussed by the Public Safety committee last summer and again at its March 4 meeting. The matter would need approval of Dakota and Washington Counties with approval of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The “no wake” ordinance would be helpful to stop erosion along the Mississippi River Shoreline. Tom Day of Hubs Marina and the Friends of Hastings No Wake Zone said public safety is the biggest reason for the ordinance. The wakes can knock over people on docks and swamp small boats. *** A body of a man was found in a vehicle parked for an extended period of time in the Wal Mart parking lot. The RV the body was located in was towed from the parking lot, and the Medical Examiner was reviewing the situation. It was believed the man died of natural causes. *** With all that happened in 2020, there was a lot more that did not happen. Rivertown Days, the yearly town festival, was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic. This year, the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce, the organizers of Rivertown Days, is moving forward with the planning of this year’s festival. The event is scheduled to take place July 16th to July 18th.
Local lawmakers voted in support of legalization of marijuana, they said in a virtual town hall meeting. Representatives Tony Jurgens and Keith Franke expressed reservations about the matter but are hopeful their concerns can be addressed as the bill moves through committees.
“Representative Jurgens and I both voted for it out of committee,” said Franke.
“Excellent,” replied Senator Karla Bigham. Franke said he voted for it “not because necessarily that I think it’s the right thing to do 100 percent. I’m still on the fence on that.”
He said the bill would free up the minor marijuana cases in the state court system. He does fear the effects it will have on the Department of Health Services budget because of increased addiction. *** An announcement made on April 12th has Hastings schools making a return to the Hybrid learning model following a rapid rise in COVID cases within the schools. Here is the letter from Superintendent Robert McDowell: Said Superintendent McDowell, “As I shared in the Raider update yesterday, we monitor the COIVD-19 situation in each of our buildings daily. We had another significant spike in quarantine numbers at the high school today, bringing us to approximately 200 students. Today alone, we had to quarantine 60 students. The speed of this spread is causing us to move the high school back to hybrid learning. The hybrid model shifts us back to 6 ft of distancing for quarantines and reduces the number of students in the building at any time. However, it allows us to keep kids in our buildings at least two days per week.” *** Construction got underway on the rebuild of Hwy. 316 on April 16.
According to the project website, the first section that will see work is between Malcolm Avenue and Tuttle Drive. The second section to see work should be continuing out of town from Tuttle Drive to Michael Avenue. What does that mean for traffic trying to get to Red Wing? The official detour is 10th Street/Ravenna Trail to Glendale Road/Nicolai Avenue to 316. Thankfully, that detour is only about half a mile further than driving through town. *** The construction of hundreds of new homes at several new developments is scheduled for this year in Hastings.
The Hastings City Council has cleared the way for more than 250 housing units to be built this year. In future years, plans call for 100 more units.
The first edition of May was an important milestone, as it marked the one-year anniversary of the publishing of the Hastings Journal. The newspaper held a monthlong celebration with giveaways and an event at Coborn’s Foods.
“We are officially marking edition 52,” said Publisher John McLoone. “We were excited to start our new community newspaper here one year ago. In the onset of the pandemic, the former Hastings Star-Gazette folded, and we believed Hastings deserved a local newspaper.” *** “Thankfully on many fronts, the economy is looking much better than it did before when we were developing the budget,” City Administrator Dan Wietecha told the city council at a recent He said revenue has been stable, despite fears to the contrary.
“Property tax payments were on target,” he said, of last year’s bills.
The council gave the go-ahead for a plan of using half of the city’s $1.5 million set aside in the budget for projects.
“Staff is comfortable saying ‘Let’s not wait. Let’s not tie our hands,’” said Wietecha.
Projects on the list include planning for the city hall dome project, which the State of Minnesota earmarked $2 million toward in its bonding legislation.
The city also has to identify projects eligible for funding through the American Rescue Plan.
“Whether it might be eligible, it could impact some of the projects on the priority list,” said Wietecha.
Staff recommended projects “with particular attention to deferred maintenance items,” a member from Wietecha to the council stated.
Recommended City of Hastings capital projects will total $1,075,202, with $750,202 coming from Local Government Aid and the city capital funds. *** The United Heroes League in Hastings broke ground on a huge monument at the corporate offices on Saturday, May 15th. The monument is shaped like the UHL logo and will feature three walls. Each wall will be 60 feet long and six feet high able to hold 2,160 4” The north and east walls will hold 4,320 bricks exclusively reserved and dedicated to military service members. *** With two school years dramatically affected by the pandemic, the staff at Hastings Senior High gave their departing seniors one last gift before graduation. Students were given a block of time to drive through the high school parking lot to pick up a box of good-es, they were greeted by many of the staff members that have been with them on their high school journey. Teachers, counsellors, custodial staff, kitchen staff, office staff, all lined the side- walk, many holding signs, all cheering for the Class of 2021.
The smile on the students faces were hard to miss as they made their way past the ex- cited crowd to grab their box. The box contained their yearbook supplements, commencement booklet, candy, a USB battery pack, a lunch, immunization records, their cap and gown, personal letters from teachers and their diploma.
This year’s graduation ceremony is going to be one of the first truly normal events for the Seniors. The ceremony is scheduled for June 4th, 7:00 pm at Todd Field. The weather forecast calls for a beautiful day with a high of 87 degrees, so it could be a little toasty. There are no limitations on the number of guests that can attend aside from the capacity of Todd Field.
Thirteen months after the start of the Hastings Journal, the local newspaper was named by the Hastings City Council as the city’s Official Newspaper.
The Journal replaces the Pioneer Press in that capacity.
The council vote on the matter – within its consent agenda – was unanimous. *** A proposal was made to allow backyard chickens in residential areas in Hastings. Councilmember Lisa Leifeld made the motion to bring the ordinance back to life.
“We’ve been talking about this a number of years. We should be fully informed,” said Leifeld.
Councilmember Mark Vaughn said he has the same questions that weren’t answered when the matter was tabled in 2019. One of those is how will homeowners’ associations deal with the ordinance.
“I don’t want to pass an ordinance they have to react to,” he said.
The ordinance passed later in the summer. *** An investigation was underway into the death at a Hastings motel in late May of Kelly Kocurek.
Kocurek was staying at a motel for a few days while she waited to be picked up for trans-
Photo by Bruce Karnick.
From Page 2
port to treatment. Kocurek is a Hastings native who moved to Red Wing but still spent a lot of time with friends in Hastings. According to her mother, Kocurek had recently become engaged.
According to Kocurek’s mother, the last person to see her alive was Kocurek’s fiancé. *** The Hastings City Council is coming back to work!
Well, let’s be fair and honest: Since COVID19 has forced meetings to the Zoom platform, municipal government has had to work overtime to make public meetings work and work efficiently. They’re actually coming home. As of July 1, all city meetings will be in-person.
Mayor Mary Fasbender ended Monday night’s city council meeting with a declaration of her own, with excitement in her voice.
“We will not be ‘Zooming’ anymore,” she said. “We will be in our council chambers, and I’m looking forward to it as I think we all are.”
July Hastings Family Service is expanding! Like many other businesses and organizations, Hastings Family Service (HFS) had to get creative during the pandemic. With new and modified programs as well as increased food shelf need, space became an issue. Since March of 2020, HFS’s Rivertown Treasures thrift store has been closed and was converted to pallet storage for food and boxes, and to provide socially distanced food packing and food sorting stations for volunteers.
HFS is re-opening Rivertown Treasures on July 6th and needed to find additional space to continue new programs developed during the pandemic, so the agency has announced the purchase of the building adjacent to their current facility.
“We realized that many of the programs that we started or expanded during the pandemic are here to stay,” said Amy Sutton, HFS Associate Director. “That requires additional space, especially for food, and fortunately, the answer was right next door!”
The additional space provides much-needed warehouse space and will also allow for additional office and meeting space and a dedicated volunteer space. *** The Confluence project in downtown Hastings is full steam ahead coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The renovation of the former Hudson Sprayer complex is being redeveloped into hotel, convention, retail and residential use, and residents will see a beehive of activity around the development this summer, with completion now planned by October 31, 2022. *** Hastings Fire and Police Departments were called to Jaycee Park for what appeared to be a routine dumpster fire. According to a release from the City of Hastings, the fire had spread to the wooden enclosure and had also engulfed the portable toilet in the enclosure. The fire and initial investigation cause the Lock and Dam Road, as well as the walking trail, to be closed until mid-Saturday morning.
HFD began to get the fire under control when a body was discovered. The victim was found dead at the scene. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) was called in to conduct the investigation along with HPD, the State Fire Marshal, and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.
The Hastings School Board voted to begin the school year with a mask mandate in place for all two- year-olds to eighth graders within the district. The mandate will take effect immediately and masks will remain optional, but recommend- ed, for Hastings High School.
The board voted 6-1 in favor of the Health and Safety Measures for 2021-22 that will put the mask mandate in effect for Independent School District 200. In addition to the mask mandates, the Health and Safety Measures plan includes rules on social distancing, a 5 per- cent positivity rate in the district that will mandate masks for everyone if that rate is reached, and a 14-day scale tracing case numbers and positivity rates within Hastings to help guide the board’s future decisions on changes to health and safety measures.
In addition to these measures, the board has also grouped togeth-r moderate and substantial levels of community transmission listed by the CDC COVID Data Track- er as a way to measure community transmission within Hastings.
“We don’t have a right to spread illness. We have an obligation to protect public health,” said Stephanie Malm, school board clerk on her decision- making process for the Health and Safety Measures plan.
Everything is set for the Hastings Area Rotary Club’s 5th Rivertown Live; A Concert for a Cause to be held on Saturday, September 11, 2021, along the Mississippi Riverfront. Tickets remain, although reserved seating is limited. The Rivertown Live committee is excited to announce that this year, the event emcee will be Hastings native Todd A. Langenfeld. The successful even featured headliners Sara Evans, Gabby Barrett and Chris Kroeze with bands playing on two stages. *** Tuesday, May 18, 2021, emergency personnel were called to the Coratel Inn of Hastings for an unconscious person. That person was Kelly Kocurek. Kocurek was at the hotel awaiting transport to treat- ment. She was trying to make her life better when that life was tragically cut short at 36. Kyle Steven Williams was booked into Dakota County Jail at 7:59 p.m. Sept. 21 on charges that he killed Kocurek. His bond was listed at $2 million.
Fleet Farm announced it purchased the vacant former Target store in Hastings and will open for business in Fall of 2022. The 126,000 square foot building has been vacant since Target shut down in Hastings in 2017.
The Wisconsin-based retailer has 47 locations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. Twin cities locations include Oakdale, Carver, Blaine, Lakeville and Brooklyn Park.
Fleet Farm purchased the building that Target vacated in 2018 when it was termed an “underperforming” store. Fleet Farm purchased the property for a reported $2.6 million, Dakota County property records state. According to county records, the overall value of the site is $3.8 million with the building. The Target store was built in 1999. The overall value is down from the current year tax bill value of $4.2 million. The property tax bill on the parcel for 2021 was $134,396.
Property records indicate that the site size is 11.06 acres, and the building is 125,958 square feet.
The store is slated to open in Fall 2022, a company representative said Monday.
“We are excited to bring Fleet Farm's unique combination of products and services to the City of Hastings. We are proud to be expanding our store presence in Minnesota, becoming a part of the Hastings community and creating more than 150 new jobs,” Fleet Farm Senior Vice President of Store Operations Nick Widi told The Journal. *** In case you haven’t heard, Hastings is in the midst of what can be termed an epic housing boom right now.
During a Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business Call Friday morning, Mayor Mary Fasbender highlighted the construction going on in and around Hastings.
Construction under way now or in the near future surpasses home construction of the last decade.
“As you can see, the city remains to be very, very busy, and our building of homes and units of housing continues, which is great,” she said. “In the last 10 years, there were only 477 housing units going on through the city. Within the next two years, we will have 600, which is awesome for our community. I personally don’t know that we’ve had a growth spurt like this for a long time, so that’s really exciting.”
Housing on the docket so far includes more than 250 units under construction this year and several other developments on the way.
A new development is also expected to have plans forthcoming, with land near Highway 316 and Michael Street that will need to be annexed.
“I heard rumblings about another housing development south of town. Is there anything you can speak about on that?” asked Chamber President Kristy Barse.
City Administrator Dan Wietecha said that plans call for 157 single family homes in that development.
“There’s some property off of 316 and Michael that was recently purchased. We’ve met with them to see their preliminary layout. The planning committee of the council met with them a couple weeks ago,” said Wietecha. “I expect that they’ll be submitting applications to annex into the city. I think it’s about 57 single family lots, so it’s nice to see continued growth.” *** Regina Hospital announced that it is closing its birth center in Hastings in February. Regina Hospital President Helen Strike said, “The landscape of obstetric services is changing in our city, our state and the nation with a projected birth rate decline over the next 10 years, due to women delaying their pregnancies to later in life and having smaller families. At Regina Hospital, this has impacted us. Our birth center has had fewer than 250 deliveries annually over the last few years.”
Emily's Bakery and Deli in Hastings, a beloved landmark that has called the city home for decades, will be closing later this month.
In a message posted on the business' Facebook page and website Tuesday, owners Norine Bishop and Steve Fox said they made the decision with 'a heavy heart,' and announced Nov. 27 will be the bakery's last day.
'We are so, so thankful and blessed to have been a part of this community,' they wrote. 'We know that many of you will be sad or upset or even mad about this. Please know that we are very sad also. There are many factors involved with this decision and we did not make it lightly.'
Bishop and Fox have owned the bakery since 1988, but the business has been in the family for much longer. And the business' roots stretch back to 1906, when it was first known as Pitz Bakery. In 1946 it was sold to the Walkers — the grandparents of Bishop and Fox. *** The Hastings School District announced it would move the Alternative Learning Center to space within Hastings High School. It currently rents the downtown facility that houses the Alternative Learning Center for $3,000 monthly. *** Winning seats on the Hastings School Board the election Nov. 2 were Jessica Dressley, Carrie Banaszewski and Mike Reis. *** Veterans Day 2021 was a day to remember for the United Heroes League and hundreds of invited guests and visitors. The Heroes Monument at the UHL Hastings site was open to the public for a tour and a ribbon cutting ceremony. The Heroes Monument will be open to the public by Memorial Day 2022. The goal of the United Heroes League is to ensure that children of military service members can afford every opportunity to participate in sports. They have positively impacted over 75,000 military families nationwide and around the world. *** The Minnesota Department of Transportation held a reopening ceremony of the reconstructed Hwy. 316 in Hastings. Local and state officials attended the ceremony. The $6 million project was largely completed, with some minor work planned for spring.
Amy Sutton was named as the next Executive Director at Hastings Family Services. She was chosen from a pool of 51 applicants. She has been with HFS since 2009 and brings over 30 years of experience working with nonprofit boards to the position. She has led resource development efforts at HFS for 12 years, also serving as the Associate Director. *** Several hundred supporters of the LGBQT+ community gathered at the Rotary Pavillion to show support for the Waits family of Hastings, following a CNN report highlighting the treatment of the family during the Hastings School Board election. *** Hastings Police Chief Bryan D. Schafer announced he will retire effective May 29, 2022 after 39 years in law enforcement. He was served 8.5 years as Hastings Police Chief. *** The Hastings School District was forced to make some difficult decisions, as it approved budget adjustments that totaled $1,471,040, including “right-sizing” cuts of several teaching staff positions. Board members warned that the district will face a tougher budget year next year.
…And a hearty ‘Welcome to
Photo by Bruce Karnick.