Hello to The Confluence, farewell to the Hastings Creamery

2023 was a landmark year in Hastings community

Compiled by John McLoone
Posted 1/3/24

2023 was a year of some really big things in Hastings. Several things could be considered the top story in the community. First, there was the opening of The Confluence in downtown Hastings. …

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Hello to The Confluence, farewell to the Hastings Creamery

2023 was a landmark year in Hastings community


2023 was a year of some really big things in Hastings.
Several things could be considered the top story in the community. First, there was the opening of The Confluence in downtown Hastings. Considered a bookend that will spark even more development, crowds are flocking to the historic 77-unit hotel, as well as Missi’s Sip & Savor. It was a 14-year community labor of love from when the City of Hastings took over the Hudson Manufacturing building in 2009 until the building opened in early fall to significant fanfare.
Then, there’s the Hastings Creamery. The 110-year institution in the span of months was kicked off the municipal sewer, went out of business and burned to the ground.
As a backdrop to all of it is the City of Hastings war on PFAS forever chemicals. It’s a battle that will be fought for decades at an overall price approaching $100 million. Is it 3M’s fault? Will the city get grant funding to help defray the cost?
We’ll have to tune into 2024 to find out.

Here’s a look back on a big year!


Inclement weather forced the cancellation of the Hastings School board’s annual organizational meeting. It was finally held Wednesday, Jan. 11. Lisa Hedin was elected board chair, defeating Carrie Tate for the leadership position by a 5-2 vote.

With an unusually snowy start to the year, it was interesting to note that the Hastings Public Works Department plows roughly 100 miles of Hastings roads with 11 operators, six plow trucks and a few other pieces of equipment. Each truck tackles plowing duties on roughly 17 miles of roads each time it snows, making multiple passes.

Dakota County Attorney Kathy Keena announced that Leon Bond, 19, of Burnsville, pled guilty to two counts of murder in the third degree in connection with the fatal crash on County Road 42 in Burnsville on April 4, 2021 that killed 22-year-old Taylor Nicole Garza of Woodbury and 22-year-old Dalton Lee Ford of Burnsville. Garza and Ford were 2017 graduates of Prescott High School. The two were driving to a nearby Caribou Coffee on Easter morning when the crash occurred. Bond and his sister, Camille Dennis-Bond, were drag racing at speeds near 100 mph when Bond’s car hit the car driven by Ford. While Bond was nearing his 18th birthday at the time of the accident, a Dakota County judge rejected a petition to try him in adult court.

Mark Peine’s 35-year journey working with the City of Hastings came to an end with his
retirement as of Jan. 31. “35 years…I’ve pretty much done it all,” he said. He worked in various city departments, finishing as Public Works Superintendent.

A “life cycle” housing development was planned so neighbors can get a glimpse at Walden of Hastings, located on Hwy. 316 at Michael Ave. LandEquity Development introduced plans for 500 units, from apartments and townhomes to single family homes and senior housing on the site. The property needs to be annexed to the city.

A packed house was on hand Thursday, Jan. 26 at the Little Log House Pioneer Village as the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce celebrated the past year’s success, while honoring its community award winners at its annual dinner. Honored were educator of the year Colleen Thome, volunteer of the year Heidi Langenfeld and business of the year Barb Hollenback and SC Toys.

Negotiations between ISD #200 and Service Employees International Union 284 stalled, and workers went on strike after rejecting the district’s “last, best and final offer.” SEIS represents 35 food service workers at Hastings school. The group took to picket lines near schools and held community meetings.

The Black Dirt Theater of Hastings debuted an all-new dinner theater experience at the beautiful Hastings Art Center after its previous venue, The Onion Grille, closed. The group’s production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” played to packed houses in February.

It was reported that Dakota County’s population was growing, while the populations in Hastings dipped slightly. Dakota County’s population increased 9.3% from 2020 to 2021, from 398,552 to $435,863. The Hastings population was 22,063 in 2021, down 2.5 percent from the 2019 figure of 22,738.

The opening of the Quarry Taphouse at 106 2nd St. E. was reported in the former location of the Fireside Social House. The spot promised to be a blue-collar focused restaurant and bar with American food and a fun family atmosphere. Owners are Randy and Sara Stenger.

The State of the Community event was held at the Hastings Public House Feb. 8, with Hastings School District Superintendent Dr. Robert McDowell and Hastings Mayor Mary Fasbender talking about highlights from 2022 and their vision of the coming year. Chamber President Kristy Barse said the organization appreciates its partnerships with the school district and the city.

United States Rep. Angie Craig visited striking Hastings School District food service workers on Feb. 17, offering her support of their fight for improved wages. She spoke to workers picketing near Todd Field.

The Hastings City Council got a sneak peak of plans to rebuild Hwy. 61 in Hastings. The project is a rebuild of the road and many intersections from 4th Street to 36th Street. In many areas, bike routes will be on adjacent Streets. It was reported that in the last five years, there have been 300 accidents on the road, with 51 of those at or near 10 Street and Hwy. 55 intersections. Under the plan, 10th Street would be closed.

The Hastings Parks and Recreation Commission met with new members and a new chair. Wendy Loomis, Ceil Strauss and Dwight Smith took their Oath of Office, and Bruce Karnick was elected commission chair.

Hastings drinking water is safe to drink, and the City of Hastings is exploring options to fight PFAS forever chemicals in the water. Hastings officials pledged filtering out PFAS would be a priority for the city.

“CHAMPIONS” the page 1 headline blared over a picture of the Hastings High School wrestling team with its State Championship trophy after the team win over St. Michael-Albertville. This is Hastings’ second-ever tam to win the wrestling title.

In the midst of a month-long food service strike and with a referendum vote looming in November, the Hastings School Board undertook a search for a new superintendent after Superintendent Dr. Bob McDowell announced he was resigning at the end of the school year. McDowell took the helm at the district on July 1, 202. In his three years, he had to navigate the district through the COVID pandemic, and many school board meetings were contentious.

Residents and business owners sounded off on the planned rebuild of Hwy. 61. Many of the ideas for changing the roadway did not sit well with local business owners. One major area of concern was the Midtown District, especially the closures of several left turn lanes as well as parking lot access for businesses between Hwy. 55 and 14th Street.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Shane Hudella of Hastings to provide $78 million in state funding to renovate the Hastings Veterans Home is on hold until allegations by caregivers at the facility about an alleged culture of workforce harassment and ignoring safety concerns. Hudella later in the month expressed pleasure that things were being done to address problems, and he would again push for project funding.

The Hastings Economic Development and Redevelopment Authority (HEDRA) approved the purchase of the building at 418 Vermillion St. for $350,000. HEDRA is working to get ownership of all buildings in the block, which is being targeted for redevelopment.

On Thursday, March 9 at 3:47 p.m., Hastings Police Department officers responded to a bank robbery at First National Bank of Hastings, 1400 North Frontage Rd. An unknown female handed the teller a note demanding money and then fled westbound on Hwy. 55. An Inver Grove Heights officer traveling eastbound on Hwy. 55 saw the fleeing car and was able to read portions of the license plate. Nikki Cornelious, 29, Eagan was arrested at 4:59 p.m.

Dakota County Attorney Kathy Keena announced the indictment of Kyle Steven Williams, 34, Red Wing, in the May 23, 2021 death of Jelly Joe Marie Kocurek of Hastings. Kocurek was staying at a Hastings Motel waiting to go into an inpatient treatment facility. Kocurek’s mother said she brought her daughter a suitcase at the motel where Williams was with Kocurek. Her mother expressed her desire that Williams not be there. On the drive home, she received a call from Williams that Kocurek was not breathing. An autopsy showed she died from asphyxiation and had facial injuries that could not be self-inflicted.

An agreement was reached between food service workers and the Hastings School District. Under the agreement, workers will receive wage and step improvements, a one-time $800 payment and a continued contribution to health insurance. Food service employees that had been on strike were set to return to work March 30.

The City of Hastings approved the annexation of 71 acres of land at Hwy. 317 and Michael Ave March 20 for the “life cycle” Walden of Hastings development. Life cycle refers to housing for every stage of life. A proposed 500 units will be developed on the site, which was annexed from Marshan Township. An environmental assessment and traffic study need to be completed for the development. Neighbors of the development are concerned that with the number of new housing units, the already congested Hwy. 316 won’t be able to handle the additional traffic.

The City of Hastings was bracing for possible flooding of the Mississippi and Vermillion rivers. Predictions show that a couple weeks into April, there was a 50-75 percent chance of rivers reaching moderate flood state of 17 feet.

The City of Hastings’ quest for a “no wake zone” on the Mississippi River was declared dead in the water. Police Chief David Wilske told the Hastings City Council, “Dakota County Sheriff’s Office and Washington County Sheriff’s Office are not interested in having this stretch of river be now wake.” The sheriff’s offices didn’t believe that the normal river levels were causing erosion, and that they haven’t seen safety issues.

Gov. Tim Walz visited the Hastings Riverfront April 14 to discuss flood preparedness and said the state is ready to help communities in need du to rapidly rising waters along the Mississippi. He said the Minnesota National Guard was ready to deploy if that call is made. Flooding continued to close roads around Hastings, with the predicted crest pushed back to April 29.

A proposal to require a bigger share of lawful gambling profits to be spent in Hastings drew the ire of non-profit organizations that oversee the sale of pull tabs at bars in the city. The city council held a first reading of a proposed ordinance change that would increase from 50 to 75 percent the amount of net profits that need to be spent in the Hastings trade area. Ten percent of that money would go into a charitable contribution fund managed by the city. Representatives of several non-profits spoke out against the change.

The Hastings School Board decided there will be no additional discussion at this time about changes in district policy about materials available to students in its libraries and media centers. Board member Carrie Tate asked for the matter to be included on the agenda for the April 24 meeting. In an October 2022 meeting, the school board was met with dozens of residents who held a silent protest. Placards were directed to board members throughout the meeting. Some of the signs contained graphic illustrated images of sexual acts from the book, “Gender Queer a Memoir” that is available at the Hastings High School Media Center. Board Chair Lisa Hedin said there wasn’t a consensus from the board that the matter should be put back on an agenda.

The United Way of Hastings held an education event May 4 highlighting the dangers of opioids and illicit fentanyl poisonings. The event is the sixth public fentanyl poisoning awareness and education event presented by UWH in the last 13 months.

Proposed changes to the City of Hastings local gambling ordinance were sent back to committee after complaints from non-profit organizations that sell pull-tabs at local establishments.

The Hastings Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, May 4 drew a record crowd of 175 for the event, held by the Hastings Ministerial Association and hosted by the Starkson Celebration of Life chapel.

Two Hastings officers were honored with Meritorious Service Awards for saving a woman’s life during a violent dog attack last year. Officer Michael Schmitz and Officer Nate Wood were honored at the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Conference. The two responded when police received a call Aug. 30, 2022, from a juvenile caller stating their family dog was attacking her mother. Officers had to force entry through the front door of the home and had no choice but to shoot the dig in the entryway of the home, most likely saving the homeowner’s life.

It was reported by Community Development Director John Hinzman that development in Hastings is continuing at a record pace. Development downtown expected to come to a close this year changes the landscape dramatically. Lake Isabel Flats is an 89-unit apartment building on the former UBC site that the city acquired in 2006. On the end is The Confluence which plans hiring fairs in June. “This and The Confluence are going to serve to provide a major bookend to the downtown area,” said Hinzman. ‘In fact, it’s some of the largest, most significant change we’ve had in our downtown area in 40-50 years. Those types of facilities are likely to spur other types of development in and around the downtown area and the city itself.”

Hastings ISD#200 interviewed its two finalists to be the next superintendent. The board voted to offer a contract to Dr. Tamara Chama, superintendent of Pine Island Schools. The vote to hire her was unanimous, and the board entered into a three-year contract with Champa

Retiring Hastings High School math teacher Cindy Oppold was voted as Hastings School District Employee of the Year. Oppold taught at both Hastings Middle School and Hastings High School in her career. She taught in the district for 24 years. “It has meant a lot. I’m honored,” she said of the recognition.

The City of Hastings decided to move forward with much-needed repairs to the Hastings Civic Arena in 2024. Parks & Recreation Director Chris Jenkins asked the city council to commit to the project now because of the long lead time to get necessary equipment. The city is hopeful to get some support of the project through state bonding. The project would replace the west rink roof, as well as the lobby and varsity locker room roofs, as well as replacing the outdated refrigeration system. Solar panels will be installed on the west arena roof, and lighting will be upgraded to LED. Project cost is in the neighborhood of $4 million.

The Hastings Creamery has been a staple in the community for over 100 years. Due to a problem with product entering the sewer service, the Met Council issued a permit suspension order June 1, stating the Hastings Creamery would be blocked from using the city’s wastewater sewer system of Midnight June 4. A meeting was held with Met Council, state and city officials to see what could be done to get the Hastings Creamery into compliance as soon as possible. A temporary solution was arrived at where the Hastings Creamery wastewater was pumped into a portable tank and trucked away for disposal.

No action was taken by the Hastings City Council on a proposed interim ordinance on cannabis that city staff had sought to give the city time to review state legislation legalizing marijuana. The new state law will dictate how cannabis is sold and will set license fees. The majority of city councilmembers were in opposition to the city placing further restrictions on sales.

After 20 years in Hastings, Green Mill restaurant closed its doors as of June 30 at the end of its franchise agreement. There are no current plans for the space.

The Hastings School Board exercised authority granted by the State Legislature in voting to extend one of its operating tax levies that raises an additional $670.70 per pupil for another 10 years. The new law allows the board to vote for one extension of levies for additional operating funds.

City councilmember Trevor Lund submitted his resignation from his Ward 4 seat. Lund was first elected to the city council and was re-elected in 2020. His term runs until Dec. 31, 2024.

New Hastings School District Superintendent Dr. Tamara Champa received a warm welcome from the community in her first days on the job. “I would say people have been incredibly welcoming and gracious. It’s just been a really warm welcome. I’m grateful for that,” she told The Journal.

Preparations were underway for Hastings Rivertown Days 2023, a time for the community to come together and celebrate. The three day bash featured bands, food and fun throughout the downtown area and huge crowds were reported.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, celebrated the completion of the Pool 2 Wing Dam Modification Project with a July 25 ceremony at Lock and Dam 2 in Hastings. The $324,000 project provides better habitat for fish. The project included notching 17 wing dams. A wing dam is a rock structure that diverts the water to the center of the river channel. Portions of the wing dame were taken out of the rock structure to encourage depth and make a better river habitat for fish.

Lifelong Hastings resident Timothy A. Lawrence was selected from seven candidates to fill the Ward 4 seat on the council vacated by the resignation of Trevor Lund. Lawrence took the oath of office Aug. 7. He is a sergeant with the Metro Transit Police Department. He has also served in the Hastings Police Reserves. “Being a lifelong resident of Hastings, I want to make a difference in the city that I call home,” said Lawrence.

The Minnesota Department of Health with support from the Department of Natural Resources and Department Pollution Control recommends that certain people should avoid eating fish caught in the Mississippi River from the Ford Dam in St. Paul to the Hastings dam and Lake Rebecca in Hastings. People who should avoid eating fish from these locations include children under age 15, people who are or could become pregnant and those who are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Long-term exposure to PFAS found in the river could cause health problems.

Hastings Community Development Director John Hinzman led HEDRA on a trip down memory lane, recounting the events that have led up to The Confluence development ready to open its doors. It was reported that room reservations were being taken as of Sept. 1. The Confluence features 77 hotel rooms, a bar and restaurant named Missi’s Sip & Savor, a 3,500-square-foot ballroom and nine loft-style apartments. In addition, the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau leases space near the main entrance. Hinzman credited the city council and HEDRA for their dedication to seeing the project to fruition since the riverfront parcel was purchased from Hudson Manufacturing in 2009.

The City of Hastings plan to remove PFAS (per and polyfluorinated alkyl substances) from the city water supply will cost upwards of $70 million and involve construction of three treatment plants that will service the city’s eight wells. In addition, it will cost a projected $30 million to operate those treatment plants for 30 years. Minnesota Pollution Control is working to pinpoint the source of the PFAS in Hastings, which is believed to be the 3M plant in Cottage Grove.

The Hastings Creamery shut its doors for good Friday, Aug. 18. The business was disconnected from the city sewer service over infractions of dairy product being dumped into the system. Days later, its new Dairy Store across the street was shut down. “It’s a sad day for the community after 110 years of that business being here,” said Mayor Mary Fasbender. Said State Rep. Shane Hudella, “It is unfortunate to see a Hastings landmark closing its doors for good. My heart goes out to the workers and owners of the creamery and the 45 dairy farmers who will struggle to find somewhere else to bring their milk to for processing.”

The four incumbents for the Hastings School Board – Chair Lisa Hedin, Stephanie Malm, Brian Davis and Becky Beissel – did not seek re-election to the board. Nine newcomers are seeking election Nov. 7 to those open seats. Filing to be on the ballot were Matt Bruns, Matt Seeger, Mariah Ring, Brandy Wentzler, Pam Onnen, Nancy Blanchard, Philip Biermaier, Melissa Millner and Jenny Wiederholt-Pine.

Dakota County leaders and federal and state lawmakers celebrated a pivotal benchmark Sept. 9 for the Mississippi River Greenway. The project launch, held at a Dakota County trailhead along the greenway, commemorated federal funding to complete a 2.4 mile gap in Rosemount. “Once it’s complete, this greenway will safely connect you from the City of Hastings all the way to Harriet Island in St. Paul, Dakota County Commissioner Mike Slavik said.

An 11-arm fire struck the now-closed Hastings Creamery at 1701 Vermillion Street at 10:34 p.m. on Sept. 13. The business closed the month prior amid problems with the Metropolitan Council, which cut the business off the from city sewer in early June. It did not take long for the fire to fully engulf the building in flames. There was also a concern about potential chemicals being the plant. Nearby Kwik Trip was closed for the night because of heavy smoke, as was a stretch of Vermillion Street. A shelter-in-place order was put in place for neighborhoods around the building because of chemicals possible in the smoke. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The tax levy to support the 2024 City of Hastings budget would see a 7.34 percent increase over 2023. The overall city. Budget is projected at just under $39 million, with a property tax levy of $18,649,930.

Rail Safety Week was recognized Sept. 18-24. It features seven themed days to bring awareness to the fact that every three hours, either a pedestrian or a vehicle is struck by a train in the United States. Hastings has three very busy train crossings at 2nd Street East, 10th Street East and 18th Street East.

The nine candidates for four seats on the Hastings School board held a meet-and-greet with the community at The Studio Downtown, 205 2nd St. E. where they spent time talking to district residents and answering many well thought-out questions. All nine did a great job showing their passion for Hastings and the students in their own way.

The Hastings School Board approved a maximum preliminary tax levy for 2024 that is down slightly from last year. The proposed levy is down 0.1% to $19,086,836. A resident whose home didn’t increase in value from a year ago should see a slight decrease in the school district portion of taxes.

When Hastings developer Pat Regan cut the ribbon Thursday, Oct. 5 to officially mark the opening of The Confluence, he immediately pumped a fist in the air in celebration. The dream of Regan, the development team, builders and countless city officials, The Confluence features an upscale hotel, bar and restaurant, as well as event space and apartments. Hundreds of community members, business owners and city leaders were on hand for the ceremony.

The City of Hastings will seek additional bonding help from the State Legislature for the city hall dome restoration project. The legislature included $2 million for the dome project in its 2020 bonding bill. The city had difficulty finding a company to do the renovation of the historic dome and needs an additional $1.8 million for the project.

HEDRA heard a plan at its Oct. 12 meeting about planning for the future of the downtown area. Also in the works is planning for the Hwy. 55/Jacob Avenue area, just west of the current city limits where this is the possibility of residential and commercial development in the future. With The Confluence complete and the 89-unit Lake Isabel flats to open next year, the time is now to revisit a downtown plan to see what kind of impacts those two developments have on the downtown area.

The Hastings High School Marching Band won the Class A State Title at the Minnesota Youth in Music Championships Oct. 14 at US Bank Stadium. Hastings claimed the top spot with their performance entitle “Three Wishes.”

The Hastings Real Estate Fund has acquired a two-acre parcel of undeveloped land for a future townhome development. The site is adjacent to Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. The fund is a local community real estate investment fund managed jointly by Hastings community members Rob Barse, Tony Ciro, Dennis Peine, Michelle Tjomsland and Dave Welshons and REVocity of Northfield. In addition, the Hastings Real Estate Fund recently entered into contracts for two additional properties located in the downtown area.

Hwy. 68 from Hwy. 316 east to the Dakota County line in Ravenna Township is now officially Deputy Luther Klug Memorial Highway. Deputy Klug, who lived south of Hastings, was finishing his shift in July 1996 when he heard a Hastings Police call, he thought they would need backup on. He cleared that scene and was headed home when his patrol car was struck on the river’s side at the intersection of Hwy. 316 and 200th St., killing the deputy. The Dakota County Board of Commissioners officially renamed the roadway Oct. 24.

The Hastings Arts & Culture Commission presented Hastings artist Dale Lewis’ latest installation at Levee Park. The installation was unveiled Nov. 8 and is a must-see for all art enthusiasts. The Hastings Arts & Culture Commission is proud to showcase the work along the Hastings Riverwalk.

Voters ushered in a new era for the Hastings School Board, with four new directors poised to be seated in January. Emerging victorious from the nine-person field to claim seats on the school board were Jenny Wiederholt-Pine, Melissa Millner, Matt Bruns and Philip Biermaier. ISD #200 voters also approved a referendum allowing the district to spend $2 million annually for 10 years for technology purposes, allowing for investments in students and staff learning devices and building safety and security. It also allows the district to move technology expenses from its regular budget, opening up funding to be used for other educational purposes.

The United Heroes League added another great asset to their complex at 15211 Ravenna Trail. The complex already has a beautiful memorial and a military training course. Not it also has a regulation-sized hockey rink. The Schools Rink at Traditions Veterans Complex was opened with a ribbon cutting on Veterans Day.

The Hastings City Council voted to opt out of a national class action settlement with 3M and DuPont. Hastings and Minnesota Pollution Control experts are trying to provide a link between the 3M plant just north of Hastings in Cottage Grove and PFAS in the city wells. The company has been forced to pay the expense of water treatment operations in several communities, invading in Cottage Grove. If the city would have stayed in the national settlement, it would have not netted them nearly enough money for its treatment plan to rid the water supply of PFAS. It also would be precluded the city from taking further action against 3M.

Hastings School Boards could be changed to even-numbered years in the future. Right now, they are in odd-numbered years, meaning that voting sites are consolidated into fewer locations because often school measures are all that’s on the ballot. If they are run in even-numbered years, the school district would share election costs with municipalities, counties and the state.

The Hastings City Council approved distribution of an Environmental Assessment Worksheet for the proposed Walden at Hastings development, which would include 511 housing units off of Hwy. 316. That means a 30-day comment period is opened for anyone wanting to comment on items in the report and associated traffic study. The Walden is proposed as consisting of single family, twin home, town home, apartment and senior housing.

State Rep. Shane Hudella of Hastings announced that he will not be seeking re-election in 2024 as the representative for Minnesota House District 41B. “It has been an honor to serve the people of my hometown and all of District 41BV at the State Capitol,” said Hudella.

It was reported that a record $130,000 was raised to benefit Hastings Family Service at the 26th Annual Gobble Gait held Thanksgiving morning. There were over 3,000 registrants, volunteers, spectators and staff on hand for the popular event.

Outgoing Hastings School Board members Chair Lisa Hedin, Stephanie Malm, Brian Davis and Becky Beissel were recognized for their service to the district at their last board meeting in December. Hedin served on the board 12 years, and the rest all served for four years.