BIG LAKE FOOD SHELF PRESIDENT Judie Zaske gave a report on the food shelf’s activities in the last year at Wednesday’s city council meeting. (Photo by Bill Morgan).

BL food shelf remains a busy place in 2013

Staff Writer
Bill Morgan
Judie Zaske, president of the Big Lake Food Shelf, attended Wednesday’s Big Lake City Council meeting to provide an update on the Big Lake Food Shelf. Zaske also provided statistical information relating to the Big Lake Food Shelf and the March food drive campaign.
Food Shelf
Zaske said most are well aware the national economy is changing and that America’s middle class is significantly decreasing. She said more than 554,000 Minnesotans — or one out of every 10 people in the state — receive federal food assistance. Jobs are limited,  she said and benefits are not readily available. Minimum wages don't support the increase in many essential services.
Zaske said she and her volunteer board do their best to bring the food shelf organization to the next level by increasing and enhancing the services they provide, by formulating and sponsoring projects that will self sustain and improve the overall well being of those who utilize the food shelf, by increasing their working relationship with community partners and by focusing on their financial substantiality so that we may continue to be there for those in need within the Big Lake community.
Zaske pointed out incoming food donations increased by 13% from 2012. The program’s purchasing of food was down 14% due to an increase in donated foods and the generosity of those involved in the food rescue program.
Zaske said the three main programs of hunger relief in Minnesota are food stamps, food shelves and subsidized school lunches, which all saw record levels of use in 2012. She also pointed out that a low income family of four lost $36 a month in payments which began last November.
During the 2013 legislative session, a group of Minnesota lawmakers challenged one another to try to eat for a week on the average SNAP budget of $1.29 per meal. Not one of them made it.
Mayor Raeanne Danielowski read aloud a document proclaiming the month of March as Minnesota Food Share Month.
Fire Benefit Request
Firefighter Ken Halvorson submitted a request to council to approve an increase to the maximum benefit amount from $3,000 to $3,400 per month. Halvorson said the approval of the request would not impact the city nor the fire department’s 2014 budget, just the fire relief association.
The benefit increase will go into effect Jan. 1 of this year.
Quinn Donation
Big Lake resident George Quinn presented Public Works Director Mike Goebel with a $100 cash donation to be used towards non-budgeted items.
Quinn said he was impressed by Goebel and his crew for all the hard work they’ve done over the winter season keeping area streets and sidewalks clear and for dealing with all the frozen pipes in the last month or so.
“During the past month or so, I’ve observed staff of the public works department performing their duties above and beyond,” said Quinn. This winter has been very challenging and difficult for all and during it all the department has been highly professional.”
Quinn said he noticed Goebel and his staff were very supportive and helpful in the restoration of water to him and other homeowners in his neighborhood when their water lines froze.
“Although it was a difficult time and other citizens were dealing with the same issue the public works department was always friendly, understanding and helpful.”
Fire Dept.
The fire department has started receiving applications for four paid, on-call positions with interviews to follow soon;
The BLFD will be conducting training March 20 and 25 for dealing with oil tankers and the hazards associated with transport and possible accidents. BNSF will be on hand to aid in the training.
Police Dept.
The BLPD had an active February in which they attended to 591 calls for service (compared to 514 last year). Three juveniles allegedly responsible for spray painting vandalism to city property and businesses were apprehended and arrested. 
Security updates are taking place at city hall in which there will be proximity locks on all exterior doors, a glass barrier at the front counter and new ID cards for staff.
Nathan Hayes of Baudette is visiting the BLPD to get experience working the streets and the office of the department before going back to Baudette to start his career.
A couple police officers have volunteered to test out a couple external vest carriers that will aid the officers and disperse the weight of all the utilities they carry in their everyday movement. Police Chief Joel Scharf said the vest are designed to provide better comfort, hold a higher volume of gear and should help alleviate some of the worker’s compensation claims due to lower back issues with a utility belt.
Other News
•Economic Development Manager Heidi Steinmetz said the lease to lock in the new micro-brewery business is close to a “done deal”. The brewery would operate at 570 Humboldt Drive;
• Steinmetz also said a new dental office — Lake Dental Care — will be opening soon in the Commons Building;
• Goebel said he and his staff serviced 63 water issues since Feb. 1 and said they have a “pretty good handle on things now. Goebel said people are “not out of the woods yet” and continued to stress homeowners keeping water running from taps until the frost goes out.
The next Big Lake City Council meeting is March 26 at 6 p.m.


OFFICER JOSH PESTA is the newest member of Big Lake’s police department. He hails from Long Prairie and started on the job last week. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

TOM GEROLD of Alive! Lutheran Church of Monticello met with the Big Lake Twp. Board Wednesday to outline plans for moving their church to a Co. Rd. 11 site, just west of the former River Inn. Looking over the plans were Supervisors Bruce Aubol, Norm Leslie, Larry Alfords and Steve Pfleghaar. (Photo by Gary W. Meyer)

DIRECTOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES Gordy Vosberg is excited about the expanding role of paramedics in keeping people at home in the community through the Healthy At Home follow-up care program and offering the best emergency services to those in need. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

Construction of the Oak Savannah Learning Center started March 25, 2015. The new learning center is located up the hill from the Old School House site, south of Co. Rd. 9. (Submitted Photo)

WH served 2,295 meals at its 78th Annual Meeting.