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2010: A rocky ride of ups and downs

The year 2010 was a rocky ride of ups and downs in Douglas County. There were tragedies - an off-duty police officer died after a snowmobile crash; a 6-year-old Carlos girl drowned in a hotel hot tub; a Brandon man died in a construction accident...

Top Ten
Some of this year's Top Ten stories include Bug-A-Boo Bay, tornado aftermath, Douglas County Hospital expansion and the invasion of zebra mussels.

The year 2010 was a rocky ride of ups and downs in Douglas County.

There were tragedies - an off-duty police officer died after a snowmobile crash; a 6-year-old Carlos girl drowned in a hotel hot tub; a Brandon man died in a construction accident; and bad crashes claimed several other lives.

There were triumphs - local events were shining successes, including a Polar Plunge to help Special Olympics, Jingle Bells to help less fortunate families and fundraisers to help the Haiti earthquake relief.

There was crime - three robberies in Alexandria, a stabbing over a pet iguana, arson at an antique store and a meth bust in Evansville, to name just some.

There was growth - several public buildings were remodeled, expanded or constructed, including an Alexandria police station, a new county jail, a hospital addition, a courthouse renovation and an incinerator expansion.

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Here's a month-by-month look at some of the stories that the Echo Press reported about in 2010:

JANUARY

Two once-popular restaurants, Bug-A-Boo Bay and Trophy's, closed at the start of the year.

The fight against zebra mussels is escalating. The Douglas County Lakes Association plans to submit three grant applications to the state. One would pay for inspections at public accesses.

An Alexandria doctor, Steven Radjenovich, was credited as a whistleblower for triggering a federal investigation of Medicare fraud. The case resulted in a settlement of more than $846,000.

Eight of the 10 candidates who were seeking the DFL endorsement in Minnesota's governor race were in Alexandria.

Alexandria shut down its disc golf course after complaints of players trespassing onto private property and causing other problems.

Ice dams were a common sight in Douglas County because of fluctuating temperatures and melting snow.

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A long-time Alexandria postal employee, Mike Schmidt, was spotlighted. He wrapped up a 35-year career.

Hearts and helping hands went out to the victims of the massive earthquake in Haiti. Dozens of volunteers showed up at Luther Crest Bible Camp to box up supplies.

A convicted drive-by shooting suspect, James Brown, was sentenced in Douglas County District Court to nine years and three months in prison.

Alexandria firefighters responded to 212 calls in 2009 - the most in at least a decade.

The state turned to school districts to help solve its cash crunch, delaying the payments that the districts expected to receive.

A former aid of Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen was implicated in a plot to bug the office of a U.S. Senator in New Orleans.

An off-duty Alexandria police officer, Patrick Callaghan, died from the injuries he suffered in a snowmobiling crash on the Central Lakes Trail near Liberty Road.

FEBRUARY

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Time Square Bagels on 22nd Avenue West closed after nearly 13 years of business.

More than 100 law enforcement vehicles from throughout the state were part of the funeral procession for Alexandria police officer Pat Callaghan, who died after a snowmobiling crash.

More than 200 people in Douglas County attended caucuses and selected their preferences for governor. Republicans favored Marty Seifert while DFLers leaned toward R.T. Rybak.

The Minnesota House approved a bonding bill that included about $12 million worth of funding for Alexandria Technical College renovations and an expansion at Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management.

The Ice Fishing Challenge on Lake L'Homme Dieu Saturday lured about 2,500 anglers out on the ice.

An armed robbery was reported at Papa Murphy's in Alexandria. The suspect was wearing a mask styled after the movie, Scream.

Twenty-two people with 739 years of service to the Alexandria School District are retiring this year - an unusually high number.

MARCH

More than 200 people took a dip into the icy waters of Lake Darling for Special Olympics Minnesota.

A second armed robbery was reported at Papa Murphy's in Alexandria. The suspect was again wearing a Scream mask.

The Garfield Fire Department purchased two pieces of equipment that could save lives - a mini rescue truck and a Jaws of Life extrication system.

The Alexandria City Council approved the design plans for a new police station that will be built along 3rd Avenue West.

More than $1 million dollars worth of improvements were invested in the Viking Plaza Mall.

Township elections throughout Douglas County took place. Only three of the 19 townships had contested races.

Animals inspired a Garfield hobby farmer, Kathy Sletto, to write a book, Keeping Watch.

A robbery was reported at Tio's Mexican Grill. The suspect's description didn't match the one who robbed Papa Murphy's twice the previous month.

Darrel Kuhnau, an Alexandria Post Office employee who was always quick with a joke and smile, retired after 26 years of service.

Famous Footwear opened at the Viking Plaza.

Panther pride was flying high in Parkers Prairie as the girls' basketball team made its first-ever appearance in the state tournament. The team wrapped up its best season in the program's history with a third place finish.

A 15-year-old lifeguard rescued a drowning swimmer at the Discovery Middle School pool.

A 17-year-old runaway was seriously injured after leading police on a high-speed chase in a stolen van. He was later released from the St. Cloud Hospital and charged.

A month-long drug investigation broke up a meth-dealing operation in Evansville and led to two arrests.

Mark Andrew Ruder, the driver involved in the snowmobile crash that resulted in the death of off-duty Alexandria Police Officer Patrick Callaghan, was sentenced. He was fined $90 and will pay another $85 in court fees.

APRIL

Bug-A-Boo Bay was sold to new owners and will re-open in May.

Zion and Good Shepherd Lutheran Churches' annual Passion Drama drew big crowds - more than 2,800 in two days.

About 120 soldiers from the Charlie Battery stationed in Kuwait returned home Saturday, including a couple from the Alexandria area.

Changes are in store at the Young People's Place. It's moving its three locations into one building, the new YMCA.

A 49-year-old Minneapolis man was arrested after a stabbing in Alexandria. It was triggered over a dispute involving an iguana.

An Alexandria man triggered a media firestorm when, dressed as Jesus for the Passion Drama, he went to his local health club to take a shower to wash off fake blood.

Alexandria's two city-owned liquor stores reported a vintage year, turning a combined profit of nearly $500,000 - about $100,000 more than the stores made in the previous year.

A first ever "Eco Fair" in Alexandria took place on Earth Day.

The Alexandria Sertoma Club bestowed its Service to Mankind Award on Jennie Hevern.

An early-morning fire gutted a house on Hope Road near Osakis. A mother and four children escaped injury.

A 55-year-old Prior Lake man was killed in a two-vehicle crash near Brandon involving a motorhome.

A 47-year-old Alexandria man was arrested for having an indoor marijuana growing operation in his basement.

Jennie Lake near Evansville will be drained and then re-flooded in an effort to improve the water quality and waterfowl habitat.

Even though state funding fell through, it's full steam ahead for a $20 million incinerator expansion at the Pope Douglas Solid Waste management facility.

A driver accused of road rage ended up in a lake near Brandon Saturday.

The Alexandria City Council agreed to issue up to $5.1 million in general obligation bonds to pay for a new police station. It also agreed to serve as a conduit - at no cost to the city - to help Knute Nelson obtain up to $27 million in a revenue bond and note for a senior living campus near the intersection of 50th Avenue and Pioneer Road.

MAY

A 6-year-old Carlos girl, Kortni Botzet, drowned in the hot tub of the Holiday Inn on May 2. It was accidental.

At least eight local salons joined a non-profit public charity's efforts to clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico using "hair booms" made out of donated nylons, human hair and pet fur.

A new medical helicopter base opened in Alexandria that's expected to save lives with speedier response times.

A plan was announced to make Alexandria's 3rd Avenue safer to cross. The project includes a new crosswalk.

An Alexandria man pleaded guilty to a scheme that defrauded mortgage lenders and others out of more than $800,000.

The site was cleared for a new police station on 3rd Avenue West. The old, round sewer plant building was demolished.

Alexandria was named the fastest growing micropolitan in the state and 17th in the nation.

By a split 3-2 vote, the Douglas County Board decided to restrict the lake channel between Lakes Geneva and Victoria. Another channel between Cowdry and Darling is also restricted.

Curt Felt, a Douglas County sheriff's deputy who was shot and killed in the line of duty nearly 33 years ago, was remembered at the State Capitol.

Dozens of bicyclists pedaled silently down Broadway in Alexandria to pay tribute to those killed in bicycling accidents.

State Representative Mary Ellen Otremba, DFL-Long Prairie, announced her retirement from the Minnesota House after serving seven terms in office.

The Awake the Lakes celebration sizzled in Alexandria over the weekend with big crowds and good weather.

Memorial Day was observed in Alexandria. The guest speaker was Loni Barnes of Alexandria, whose son has served in Iraq and other locations for the Marines.

JUNE

It was announced that Bill Flaig, a long-time administrator at the Douglas County Hospital, is retiring in August 2011.

Larry Shellito of Alexandria announced his retirement as the leader of the Minnesota National Guard.

Alexandria pastor Grant Aaseng was a contestant on a Norwegian reality TV game show. He found himself doing all sorts of odd and wacky things, like eating a sheep's eyeball.

The winner of this year's Business and Industrial Appreciation Day award was announced - Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association.

Jefferson High School graduated nearly 300 students at commencement exercises.

Movie-going in Alexandria is taking on a whole new dimension - 3D.

A former Spruce Hill Township resident, Violetta Botzet Luetgers, overcame a stroke to publish a book about two Indian boys growing up in Minnesota.

Douglas County found a way to deal with deep state cuts to the popular Sentenced to Serve program. It will charge those who use the program.

Douglas County was on the fringe of what was called the most powerful storm to hit Minnnesota in a decade. Tornadoes created a path of destruction in Parkers Prairie, Almora and Wadena.

Big changes were approved for Alexandria Technical College, including a name change to Alexandria Technical and Community College.

Two Osakis men reeled in a heckuva halibut in the deep seas of Alaska. It weighed 430 pounds.

Lakes Jessie and Victoria were removed from the impaired waters list because no zebra mussels were found in them.

Disc golfers heard good news: The Alexandria City Council approved a 10-year agreement with the Alexandria Area YMCA to use a 30-acre piece of its land on the northwest corner of the property for a disc golf course.

The local United Way made some changes in its leadership positions. Jessica Boyer is executive director and Linda Roles is director of fundraising and planned giving.

Brophy Bay Mart is up and running again along County Road 82.

JULY

The Douglas County Hospital's nursery was bustling with activity. Four sets of twins were born in four days.

Joshua Lawson, 32, of Evansville and his 9-year-old passenger, Kara Westhoff of Troy, Missouri were killed in a crash with a semitrailer near Perham on July 5. The man was a decorated soldier with close ties to the Morris area.

Billy Ray Reynolds, an Alexandria man who was on the run from local authorities for nine years, was captured in California.

Shannon Marie Simonson, 31, of Alexandria was killed in a two-vehicle crash near Garfield. She was a mother of three who worked as an aide at senior group homes.

A Relay for Life fundraiser in Alexandria raised more than $105,000 in the fight against cancer.

The Douglas County Board voted 4-1 to pursue a $2 million remodeling project at the courthouse.

Local pilots flew in hope to earthquake-ravaged Haiti, bringing much-needed food and medical supplies.

Tim Bayerl of Alexandria completed a rare accomplishment - climbing to the highest elevation point of all but one of the 50 states.

Don Keith, 87, of Alexandria died from the injuries he suffered in a bicycle-pickup crash north of Alexandria.

John Hawkes, a movie actor who used to live in Alexandria, returned home to appear at a premier of his newest film, Winter's Bone. The event raised money for the Alexandria Area Arts Association.

Alexandria School District 206 plans to spend roughly $5.7 million to fix up two aging schools - Lincoln Elementary School and Discovery Middle School. It will cost taxpayers about $7 a year.

About 1,000 cyclists took off from Alexandria on The Ride Across Minnesota (TRAM) to fight multiple sclerosis.

What may have been a tornado caused severe damage at the Julie and Jim Bosek farm near Garfield. The storm ripped apart their sheds, a grain bin and a barn.

Eight-year-old Jordyn Patrick was credited for coming to the rescue of her uncle, Dan Shea, who was seriously injured in a diving accident on Lake Moses.

AUGUST

Renee and Paul Leighton of Alexandria had their dreams came true when their first mystery novel was published. It's a murder mystery set in central Minnesota.

Portions of County Road 42 in northwest Alexandria were closed because of a major road construction project.

Alexandria broke ground on a new police station along 3rd Avenue West.

A rare incident happened in Garfield - a grain bin at the elevator buckled and began spilling spring wheat.

Paul Anderson and Arlan Kakac survived the primary election for Douglas County Commissioner District 4. Challenger Steve Hensley was defeated.

Three suspects were arrested in Alexandria on felony charges involving assault and property damage that authorities believe were connected to gang activity.

Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels reported about his department's busy year. Officers responded to 15,447 calls for service in 2009. Incidents involving meth, cocaine, marijuana and prescription drugs are escalating. Police are also seeing more gang-related activity.

The Douglas County Fair sizzled - and fizzled a bit - because of the extreme heat over the weekend. The attendance over four days was estimated at 49,000, 2 percent more than last year.

Five suspects, all from the Alexandria area, face felony charges of first-degree burglary, theft of a motor vehicle and possession of stolen property. Authorities believe that one of the suspects has connections with an Alexandria gang known as OVR.

A wind-whipped fire destroyed a barn and several vehicles at the Timothy Anderson farm near Evansville.

SEPTEMBER

A former Alexandria woman, Kristen Grode, formed the first diaper bank in Minnesota. The effort collects unused diapers from throughout the state and distributes them to struggling parents.

A story reported that Lee Motors in Alexandria severing its ties with the troubled automobile giant, GM.

A beautiful new garden and picnic spot with children's play areas, walking paths, a band shell and more is being built behind the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum in Alexandria.

Max J. Beilke, a former Alexandrian who was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attack, received a hero's honor. The Alexandria Veterans Affairs clinic was renamed in his honor. Members of Congress and high-ranking military leaders were at the ceremony.

Enrollment at the Alexandria Technical and Community College is on track for record numbers. The college also received another piece of good news: It was ranked the 8th best community college in the nation.

Lucille Vogt, 77, of Parkers Prairie died after a head-on crash on Highway 29 just south of Parkers Prairie.

Mitch Brethorst, 35, of Brandon was killed in a backhoe accident in Barrett.

More than 730 people attended the United Way's Chili Cook-Off in Alexandria.

OCTOBER

Two candidates for governor, Mark Dayton and Tom Horner, presented their ideas at a forum in Alexandria.

Nearly 200 new trees were planted along Pioneer Road, the site of what may be a new high school in Alexandria.

An open house was held to showcase the Douglas County Hospital's $31 million expansion project.

The death of a soldier, Army Pfc. Rayne Clark, in Afghanistan sent ripples of sadness through the Alexandria Technical and Community College. He had graduated from the school's law enforcement program.

A bad fire closed Off Broadway Antiques in Alexandria and two suspects were arrested on arson charges.

Rae Danielle Dropps, 18, of Evansville died in a one-vehicle rollover north of Evansville on County Road 1.

New research by Jefferson High School students and the Department of Natural Resources showed that the number of zebra mussels continues to rise on Lake L'Homme Dieu while their size is smaller.

On a 3-1 vote, the Alexandria City Council gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that would allow local bars the option of extending their last call from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. The owners of Bug-A-Boo Bay and Garden Center requested it.

A newly formed Lakes Area Theatre is bringing back old-fashioned radio productions.

Enrollment in Alexandria School District 206 nudged ahead of projections to 3,925.

A local teacher, Elaine Simpson, learned that two of her children's books were selected for publication.

Douglas County residents received an early blast of winter on October 26. A mix of rain and snow was accompanied by strong wind gusts of up to 61 miles per hour.

NOVEMBER

A major upgrade is in the works for Kensington Runestone Park. It includes a new park entry road, a picnic shelter with restrooms, new trails and other improvements.

Elections took place in Douglas County. Chad Larson defeated Chris Karpan in the county attorney race. Paul Anderson, Norm Salto and Dan Olson were re-elected to the Douglas County Board. Newcomer Virgil Batesole was elected to the Alexandria City Council. Sandy Susag was the winner of a three-way race for Alexandria School Board. Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen and Representative Torrey Westrom were re-elected and Republican Mary Franson was elected to District 11B, which has been represented by DFLer Mary Ellen Otremba until her retirement. The local voter turnout was 67.4 percent.

Nordic Meadow Apartments, a new housing option for low-income adults with disabilities, will be available soon in Alexandria.

The Douglas County Housing and Redevelopment Authority was sued over rent increases it has imposed. The dispute was resolved a few weeks later when the HRA agreed to restore the original rent amounts.

Bug-A-Boo Bay closed again. The owner blamed the city for not allowing a one-hour extension to the time when alcohol is served.

Alexandria School District will face some tough decisions in the upcoming months as it deals with budget cuts and flat funding. One cost-saving idea that's raising concern among teachers is to reduce some student options and teachers at Discovery Middle School.

An open house was held for the new Douglas County Jail.

A new event center, The Phoenix, opened in Alexandria. It was once known as the Hillside Club, Toby's, The Scotsman and Michael's Supper Club.

DECEMBER

Mother Nature dropped another four to five inches of snow on Alexandria on December 3-4. It marked the 10th day of snowfall since October.

Spice, also known as K2 or fake weed, is turning up in the Alexandria area. Although the herb is legal for now, it's causing concern.

The annual Jingle Bells telethon raised about $110,000 this year - $3,000 more than last year.

Alexandria native Scott Ellison played a key role in getting the University of Minnesota's stadium ready for the Minnesota Vikings' Monday Night Football game.

A compromise of sorts was reached regarding a scheduling change at Discovery Middle School. Student schedules will be cut from seven periods to six but they'll no longer have to choose between art and music.

Lakes Area Recreation will soon open a new gymnastics center. The need is there - about 200 kids are on a waiting list to get into a rec gymnastics class.

TOP 10 STORIES on the ECHO PRESS WEBSITE

1. Off-duty police officer Pat Callaghan dies after snowmobile crash

2. Six-year-old Kortni Botzet of Carlos drowns in hot tub

3. Shannon Simonson, 31, dies in two-vehicle crash near Garfield

4. Meth bust in Evansville

5. Monster muskie caught on Lake Miltona

6. Lucille Vogt, 77, of Parkers Prairie dies after head-on crash south of Parkers Prairie

7. Rae Danielle Dropps, 18, of Evansville dies in one-vehicle rollover

8. Mitchell Brethorst of Brandon dies in construction accident in Barrett

9. Bug-A-Boo Bay is sold

10. Second armed robbery reported at Papa Murphy's

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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