William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009.
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The "Elwell Elves" came bearing gifts to the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital on Dec. 10. Dolls, toys and games were handed out by volunteers from Newport Masonic Lodge 118 and Queen Esther Chapter 26 of the Order of the Eastern Star. They bought the items earlier this month as part of their annual Santa Project, which is funded by donations from individuals and businesses. This year, they also purchased a PlayStation system and games that hospital staff can lend out to patients.
COTTAGE GROVE — The Cottage Grove McDonald's welcomed customers to its grand re-opening Dec. 20. It's a completely new, expanded, modernized facility, built on the site of the old 1973-vintage building, which was demolished in August. Features on the new building include self-service kiosks and meals delivered to tables by staff. There's also curbside service, where customers can order from their vehicles using a mobile phone app.
The District 833 School Board approved the final tax levy for 2019. The unanimous vote at its Dec. 13 meeting followed a public hearing where two residents presented questions to the district. The increase means the owner of a home worth $250,000 would pay about $49 more in the school portion of their property taxes in 2019, finance director Dan Pyan said. The increase was driven by a slight jump in enrollment, which necessitated more levy dollars, and by more than doubling funds for the alternative teacher compensation program from $700,000 to $1.5 million.
NEWPORT — Newport residents will pay roughly $10 more per year in the city portion of their property taxes. City Council approved a 4 percent levy increase at its Dec. 6 meeting, with a general fund balance proposed at $2,099,849. The 2018 general fund was $2.4 million. The biggest expenditure is money set aside for future construction of the aging City Hall and fire station. The levy increase also will fund several smaller projects including: • A new roof on the library • Maintenance and new garage doors for the public works building
COTTAGE GROVE — The majority of homeowners in Cottage Grove will not pay more for the city portion of their property tax in 2019. City Council unanimously approved a 3 percent levy increase at its Dec. 5 meeting. It remained unchanged from the preliminary levy adopted in September. But the hike won't impact 83 percent of homeowners in the city, Finance Director Robin Roland told the council. The increase is offset by a spike in new home construction, which helped increase the tax base by about 9 percent.
Lights, Santa, action. A chilled but excited throng greeted the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train on Monday, Dec. 10. For 16 years, Cottage Grove has been a whistle stop for the light-bedecked transcontinental train, which collects donations for those in need.
Snow - the kind that falls in old black and white movies like "It's A Wonderful Life" - began to sift down from the dark winter sky just in time for the Dec. 5 holiday tree lighting at Cottage Grove City Hall. Mayor Myron Bailey officiated with the help of Santa and Mrs. Claus and his grandson, Easton Bailey, 4. Benjamin O'Connor directed the Park High School Chamber Choir. Videos and photos by William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia
COTTAGE GROVE — More than a dozen homes were nominated for this year’s Winter Lights & Decoration Contest, a partnership between the City of Cottage Grove and the South Washington County Bulletin. The displays were evaluated on effort, originality and attention to detail. This year’s winner, Shane and Amy Seif, made a psychedelic, rapid-change LED tree the focus of their display at 6788 Cattail Ave.
Three hundred and sixty-four days a year, this stretch of West Point Douglas Road is a place most people rush past on their way to somewhere else. That won't be the case Monday, Dec. 10, however, when the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train rolls into Cottage Grove. The train is expected to arrive at 5:15 p.m. along West Point Douglas Road just south of the 80th Street bridge, near the Youth Service Bureau building. Once the train stops, a boxcar door will drop open to reveal an elevated stage with live entertainment by Canadian hard rockers the Trews and blues guitarist Willy Porter.
Santa took time out from his busy schedule to visit with kids Sunday, Dec. 2 at the Newport Masonic Center in St. Paul Park. Zac Cummins, 6, entered into negotiations with St. Nick. "What do you want for Christmas?" Santa aksed. "A gun," Zac replied. "A nerf gun?" "No, a real gun." Santa was nonplussed until Zac explained that he wanted the gun to hunt ducks with his father. Perhaps Zac might have to settle for an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle.