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For more than 20 years now, a soft-spoken UW-River Falls English professor has been sharing karate secrets with locals. Ron Neuhaus, who's a 2nd-degree black belt, teaches the martial art in a quiet basement room on the UW-River Falls campus. "I'd always been interested in karate, but there weren't classes in River Falls until 1981," said Neuhaus. "Now there are probably about a dozen places in the area to study it." Two other karate masters named Anita Bendickson and Joel Ertl teach the River Falls classes.
The Jensen brothers have been gone since June 2004, serving in Iraq most of that time. Last week, 22-year-old Jesse and 20-year-old Paul, returned home for good. "It feels kinda weird to be home," said Paul. "It's like there's not enough time to do everything, like I'll have to go back." He adds with a smile, "But I don't have to this time." Jesse's been home barely a week but has been busy.
The River Falls City Council approved capital improvements for 2006 at its meeting last week. Capital improvements may be better understood as big, expensive projects and equipment. With them comes the challenge of figuring out which ones take priority, since no city has money for everything that everyone would like. River Falls' capital improvement plan (CIP) runs from 2006 through 2010. Although everything has been figured out for next year, the other years are more of a wish list for now. Each year, the council meets to hammer things out.
Most folks never give methane a second thought, but ominous forecasts about gas supply and prices have everyone worried about heat. The local truth: Prices are headed up, but there's plenty of gas to keep residential and small-business customers toasty warm this winter. "We see no problem meeting the supply requirements for our service territory," said the majority stockholder of St. Croix Gas, Don Piepgras. "We have been advising our customers that rates will, on average, be 40%-70% higher than last winter.
Mayor Don Richards began Tuesday's night's City Council meeting saying he had received several critical phone calls. Callers had expressed disappointment that the city isn't organizing an event for returning troops. One caller said the city should be organizing something - not the citizens. "It's not a matter of the city not caring," said Richards. "We admire and appreciate (the troops') service." He said the police department is involved with parade planning and that the city is cooperating with its committee as much as possible.
A chilly, misty-gray, end-of-October day seemed the perfect time to visit Kinnickinnic Cemetery. A multi-colored carpet of leaves lay on manicured grass, and wind through the graveyard's tall trees was the only sound. The cemetery sits just around the corner from the Kinnickinnic Church on Cemetery Road. While the two are unrelated, about a century and a half of history comes with each one. The sign in front of the three-acre cemetery says "Kinnickinnic Cemetery, Founded 1865, Restored 1990." The oldest, legible grave stone is dated 1856.
"It's only an idea now," said River Falls Fire Chief Bob Schwalen. "All we're doing is thinking out loud." Schwalen was responding to questions about the fire department's September meeting minutes, which mentioned a fire hall expansion. The notes said there were plans to talk with an architect soon. Nobody has met yet, but when they do, they'll talk about the concept of expanding the existing fire hall on Second Street. That discussion will be the very early stages of looking into the cost and feasibility of an expansion.
Samantha Bluhm and Christopher Bye were both working separately toward launching their own business. Bluhm used to work for the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Bye used to be director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at UW-River Falls. He did a seminar at the Hudson chamber, and it didn't take long for them to meet, compare notes and say, "Hey, we should pool resources." The two combined talents and have been developing the Navigator Group concept for a year.
Designer Doors in the city's industrial park made its big move last week. The company had bought the 35,000-square foot building that Smead Manufacturing used to occupy before it closed last fall. Designer Doors took that space and converted it into a huge woodshop where workers carve specialty garage doors, shutters and gates out of wood. Next the company added a 5,700-square foot office addition onto the front of the old Smead plant. It lacks a few finishing touches but is almost complete. Staff members officially moved in Friday.
River Falls has a new addition to its list of historical landmarks - the Glen Park Municipal Swimming Pool. At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, all but one council member voted in favor of designating the site. The pool opened in 1937. Historic Preservation Committee members Jeanne Zirbel and Ursula Peterson spoke to the council about the pool's historic significance.