Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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Less than two weeks remain to cheer for Park Rapids in a national contest. Park Rapids has remained in seventh place for most votes in America for the "We Hear You America" contest sponsored by Reader's Digest but other towns are quickly gaining votes. The hope is to win financial and promotional support. By Tuesday morning, Park Rapids had 391,597 votes. Others aren't far behind. Edinburg, Va. is in eighth place with 375,079 votes, Concord, Mich. with 352,460 and Newberry, Mich.
Two more requests were made to the city of Park Rapids for reduction in water and sewer billing. Requests have been coming to the city regularly throughout the winter. The reasons for the requests vary, such as someone having a high bill because a leak occurred while someone was out of town. At Tuesday's Park Rapids City Council meeting, one request came from a Park Rapids couple. In a letter to the city, they said they returned to Park Rapids after being out of town for several weeks to find their water softener full of water. Their latest bill was $1,400.
Construction started this week in downtown Park Rapids with layers of asphalt removed from side streets between 2nd and 4th streets. Removal of sidewalks and underground utilities will start this week, with businesses being switched to temporary water. The tentative completion date for Phase two is June 30. Granite inlays of area lakes will start to be installed this week, as well. Project engineer Jon Olson didn't have much to report this week as construction was just beginning.
Solar energy usage has been increasing in the Park Rapids area due in part to rebates and local contractors. Energy from the sun is clean and free and virtually unlimited but needs photovoltaic technology in order to become electricity. West Central Telephone Association, of Sebeka and Menahga, has been installing solar throughout the area. Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels are made of silicon cells, which when hit with light ("photo-") release electrons ("-voltaic"). The released energy from each of the cells is collected and delivered as direct current (DC) voltage.
A Century School Community Garden is on schedule for planting to begin this summer. Master Gardeners Dr. Maurice Spangler and Sally Shearer presented the concept to the school board this week, gaining a nod of approval. The mission, Spangler explained, is to improve students' health by encouraging families to grow and eat healthier food. Community Education intends to contribute to the initiative by offering a healthy eating class in conjunction, said director Jill Dickinson.
Emily Rodrick has a motto she advises people to follow when painting: "You can do it the fast way or you can do it the right way." Rodrick is a paint expert at Park Ace Hardware. She has been working in the paint department for 19 years and said she has seen many changes over the years. "It used to be that paint was paint, was paint," she said. One thing that hasn't changed is the need to use primer before painting, even though some newer paint brands have products that say they have primer and paint in one.
Removal of asphalt and underground utilities on downtown Park Rapids side streets starts Monday, April 25. Phase two of the Main Avenue reconstruction project includes 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 8th streets between Pleasant Avenue and Highway 71. The side streets will be asphalt instead of concrete like Main Avenue. The tentative completion date for Phase two is June 30. Crews will also be finishing up some of the Phase one work, including pavement markings, irrigation, street signs and light poles.
Park Rapids high schoolers have logged more than 300 hours of volunteer work as peer mentors since October. The mentors were recruited in the fall to help Century middle schoolers with homework and interact on a social basis during 8th Hour. "The peer mentors started out as a project from the high school sociology class," said 8th Hour coordinator Mari Jo Lohmeier. It's become more than a class project for many of the students, though. "They keep track of their hours and once they reached 10 hours, we didn't see much of a drop off" in attendance, she said.