1) Introducing the new Granite Falls Health

(Published in December) The Granite Falls Municipal Hospital and Manor has received a bit of a philosophical and graphic design makeover. An open house was held on Wednesday, November 30 to announce the hospital’s plan for the future along with some idealogical renovations. CEO Tom Kooiman and Vice President Support Services and Operations Allen Anderson presented together during the open house on a new mission statement, vision, values, the hospital name, and logo. This revamp came about after recommendations by the hospital board to do so for the future of the Hospital.

Kooiman and Anderson wrapped up the presentation with some news on the development of Granite Health’s provider-based clinic. Kooiman explained on Wednesday that, “Starting December 5, Dr. Vicky Moe and CNP Tamala Schmitz will start in our provider based clinic. They are going to see patients three days a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. “

2) Windstorm causes damage

(Published in July) The City of Granite Falls is still cleaning up after it was hit the worst wind-related weather event since the July 25, 2000 tornado Saturday evening at around 8 p.m. “It was an amazing windstorm, very intense and extremely strong winds”, said Mayor Dave Smiglewski. There was little to no warning for the event. The National Weather Service reported straight-line winds of 67-mph, while locally there were multiple eye-witness reports, including a rough cell-phone video of a tornado that appeared to touch down south of the Tjosvold Equipment building, creating a noticeable path through the farm fields of Galen Beckler and Cory Kruger.

The winds caused some trees to uproot and split in-half where they blocked roads and driveways, fell on homes and cars and ripped down power lines. The loss of power was perhaps the biggest concern. According to Smiglewski, the entire town was completely without power for 22 hours, before electricity was incrementally reconnected depending on necessity as well ease of connectivity. “The west end of the city had somewhat less damage due to younger, smaller trees so it was easier for the city’s electrical department to get residents back in service,” Smiglewski stated.

“We had assistance for other area municipal electric utilities including Marshall, Glencoe, Benson and Luverne as well as the Karian Peterson line construction firm,” he said. “From the west end, some of the crews worked their way eastward while some were concentrating on rebuilding the heavily damaged Oak Street double circuit line in east Granite. That line feeds High land Park and other areas of the east side of tow­n and was heavily damaged in the storm.”

3) PPTV Groundbreaking

(Published in June) At twelve noon on Tuesday, June 2 Pioneer Public Television's Board of Directors, Community Advisory Board, staff, volunteers and elected officials joined Ron and Diane Fagen of Fagen, Inc. and their employees in breaking ground for a new 17,500 square foot state-of-the-art television campus to be constructed near the intersection of Hwy. 67 and Hwy. 23 on the former “sale barn site” in Granite Falls.  The ceremony marked a huge first step toward moving the station’s headquarters from Appleton to Granite Falls.   

“Thanks to the Fagens we have begun the work of designing the Pioneer of tomorrow.“ said Pioneer General Manager Les Heen as he hoisted a shovel along with Pioneer Board Chair Patricia Kubly, the Fagens, their employees and several local elected officials including Senators Gary Dahms and Lyle Koenen, Representatives Chris Swedzinski, Tim Miller, Paul Anderson and Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski.

“We look forward to producing more great local programs and improving our service to the region with this new building,” Heen added. “We are very excited to be the catalyst in the upcoming relocation of Pioneer Public Television,” said Ron and Diane Fagen. “Bringing an organization known for their excellent programming with a long term commitment and high quality jobs is important for the growth of the Granite Falls community. We look forward to this project and are ready to welcome this new company and their staff to our community.”

4) Tjosaas receives 78 months for embezzlement

(Published in September) The saga of Kirsten Ann Tjosaas’ embezzlement from Fagen, Inc. came to a close on Tuesday, September 13, as she received a sentence for her charges. Tjosaas was given a 78 month-long sentence for embezzling $5,773,410 from Fagen, where she was formerly employed as the CFO (Chief Financial Officer). She had pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering.

According to Tjosaas’ guilty plea, she issued at least 19 checks and made wire transfers totaling approximately $4.5 million from Fagen to Fairmont Investments from the time frame spanning between 2006 and November 2015. Fairmont Investments is a Nebraska-based corporation that was controlled by defendant Tjosaas. Her guilty plea also stated that after she registered Fairmont Investments, Tjosaas opened a bank account at the Granite Falls Bank in Fairmont’s name to embezzle money from Fagen. 

Tjosaas signed checks using the signature stamp of another Fagen executive without their authority or knowledge and entered false entries into Fagen’s general ledger to disguise her illegitimate checks as payments to Fagen partners or payments to legitimate Fagen vendors. After Tjosass deposited checks into the Fairmont account, Tjosaas transfered the stolen funds into her own personal accounts. According to her guilty plea, as well, Tjosaas also fraudulently issued Fagen checks payable to another company, of which she had control and access to the bank account for.

It is estimated that Tjosaas issued 25 fraudulent checks into the account, for a total of more than $1.2 million.

5) Dr. Patel retires and donates building to Open Door

(Published in June) Clarkfield and Cottonwood residents will have a chance at getting affordable dental care thanks to a new twist to long time area dentist Dr. Pat Patel’s retirement.

Previously, in the June 2 edition of the Advocate Tribune, it was reported that Dr. Patel was donating his Clarkfield facility to the city of Clarkfield. After serving the area for 39 years, Patel and his wife Annette decided that donating the facility to the city was the best course of action in order to both facilitate community generosity and to provide an enticing facility for a new dentist to set up shop in Clarkfield.

However, a non-profit organization titled ‘Open Door Health Center’ out of Mankato caught wind of the donation and stepped up to potentially fill the needs for dental services in both Clarkfield and the Cottonwood area. In a change of plans, the Patel family will be planning on donating the Clarkfield facility to Open Door and the organization has also committed to make the Cottonwood facility its new home as well.

Representatives from Open Door Health Center, Community Development Coordinator Patty Ebnet and CEO Douglas L. Jaeger, alongside both Dr. Patel and Annette, met with the city council to inform them of the plan and to discuss what steps might be necessary in finalizing the process. The Clarkfield council then gave their blessing on the change of plans.

Essentially, the donation was a simple switching of recipients; Open Door was now the recipient of the facility and equipment instead of the city of Clarkfield. However, the expectation stands that if Open Door is to leave the facility in the future that the building will transfer to the City.

6) Minnesota West Celebrates 50 year anniversary (Published in September) The Granite Campus of Minnesota West celebrated its 50th anniversary as it welcomed former and current faculty and staff and community members onto the grounds for a luncheon and a series of presentations. After being treated to a free meal of pulled pork sandwiches, visitors and attendees gathered to the point of nearly filling the campus Auditorium to listen to a presentation from three different speakers: Campus Dean Rebecca Webber, Minnesota West President Dr. Terry Gaalswyk, and Neil Linscheid of the University of Minnesota Extension.

7) George Gerlach, former CEO/GM of Hospital passes (Published in January) After seeing through the completion of the new Granite Falls Manor in November, Granite Falls Hospital and Manor Administrator and CEO George Gerlach stuck around just long enough to be present for his retirement and the Christmas Holiday season before succumbing to long-running health problems at the Mayo Health Clinic in Rochester at the age of 65. For the past 30 years Gerlach was responsible for directing the course of the community’s healthcare system. He came to Granite Falls from Wadena in 1984 where he had been working as a nursing administrator. In nursing, Gerlach said he certainly could have had a rewarding career, but it was the complexities, challenges and opportunities to make change that pulled him toward hospital administration. During his time, the hospital has grown to offer many more health care options that have served to bolster life, and the quality of life–saving efforts including senior living facility, Granite Ridge Place, a Chemotherapy Infusion unit, an Advanced Life Support Ambulance Service, Birthing Suites and the new Granite Manor. The completion of the new Manor certainly marked the pinnacle of Gerlach’s career

8) Kiwanis Popcorn Stand breaks season record (Published in September) According to the Granite Falls Kiwanis Club, throughout the season the stand sold approximately 1,800 lbs. of popcorn. Adding a bit of flavor to all that popcorn, the stand also used 540 lbs. of butter. 440 gallons of 1919 root beer were served to thirsty customers as well. According to Kiwanis, 2016 ended up being a record breaking season.

As to what happens to all the funds raised from selling so much popcorn and other items, the stand gives back the revenue to the community. A statement from Kiwanis read, “As a non-profit community service organization Granite Falls Kiwanis donates all net revenues generated at the Popcorn Stand back to the community supporting local youth organizations and youth activities.” The Kiwanis Popcorn Stand will reopen on May 1, 2017 again. This time, the Stand will be celebrating its 98th year of consecutive operation. In 2019 ,the stand will celebrate its centennial anniversary.

9) New boxcar exhibit at the Fagen WII Museum

(Published in May) The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) partnered with the Fagen Fighters WWII Museum on Saturday, May 21, to present “The Holocaust Boxcar Exhibit” and “Transfer of Memory.” “The Holocaust Boxcar Exhibit” includes a rail car used in the deportation of Jews from Germany and German-occupied Europe to the killing centers in occupied Poland. The Germans attempted to disguise their deadly intentions, referring to these deportations as “resettlement to the east.” The boxcar exhibited at the Fagen Fighters WWII Museum was purchased from Georgenthal, Germany.

10) Four centenarians honored at Clarkfield Care Center

(Published in December) The Clarkfield Care Center was buzzing with activity as four special ladies’s birthdays were being celebrated. Four centenarians were being honored for their long, history filled lives as visitors and family members flowed through the main doors bearing good tidings and birthday treats for the birthday girls. Angie Lee, 110, and Eunice Anderson, 105, were both celebrating their actual birthdays on Wednesday, In addition, Elise Husby, 101, and Grace Larson, 100, whose birthdays are at different dates throughout the year, were also celebrated at the Care Center.