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Washburn targets chronic problem properties

Washburn could adopt an ordinance Monday to give police a way to persuade property owners to reign in illegal or nuisance activities on their properties.

Several crimes — possession of drugs, battery and theft for example — could get a property declared a chronic nuisance. So could bad behavior such as accumulation of junk, misuse of emergency phone numbers, and loud and unnecessary noise. An exception would be made in certain situations of domestic abuse, such as if the victim is requesting assistance.

Noise complaints made years ago about several apartment buildings in the city prompted Washburn Police Chief Ken Johnson to begin researching chronic nuisance property ordinances in other communities.

"Those issues have long since been corrected as the apartment buildings changed owners," Johnson said. "I do not currently have any significant issues with chronic nuisance properties in the city."

But when the city began working on a sex offender ordinance earlier this year, Johnson believed it was a time to reconsider a chronic nuisance ordinance to address future problems.

The proposal says that if the chief of police determines that two nuisance activities occur at a property on separate days during any 12-month period, the chief may warn the owner the property is in danger of being deemed a chronic nuisance.

If three nuisance activities take place on three separate occasions during any month or four times during a period of 12 months, the chief can say the property is a chronic nuisance, Further violations could then result in a special charge against the property.

The proposal doesn't yet include fines or fees — those will be determined case-by-case based on the actual cost of the time staff had to devote to the call, City Administrator Scott Kluver said.

Property owners can pay the bill up front, Kluver said. If they don't the property will be levied a special assessment.

The larger purpose of the ordinance is to enlist the aid

of landlords to put an end to nuisance behavior, Johnson said.

"Although we don't have any current issues to apply this ordinance to, our goal is to have it available as a tool to be able to more quickly maintain the peace and quiet in our neighborhoods," Johnson said.

The Washburn City Council meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

Tiny house, meet tiny farm store
New family-run business opens south of Ashland

For years it has been a dream of Jenny and Bill Lavasseur to open a small country store at their farm home on Highway 112 about three miles south of Ashland.

For the past 10 years, they have sold everything from organic beef, pork and eggs, raised with non-GMO feed, at their farm. Sales were done on the honor system, right off their front porch. They also sold vegetables in season at the Ashland Farmer's Market.

While the products sold well to a devoted customer base, the couple always felt that what they really needed was a real store from which to sell their products and those of other small producers in the area.

"We always said down the road we would open a farm store. We've been looking and waiting, but it was always something for later on," said Jenny Lavasseur.

Later on arrived a few weeks ago. They purchased a 12-foot by 24-foot tiny house from Carlson Builders in Ashland that they placed on their front yard along Highway 112.

"We looked at a lot of buildings. One day my husband asked me to come out to Carlson's and look at this tiny house. It was ready to go and I looked at it and fell in love right away. It was perfect," Lavasseur said.

Certainly their customers appreciate the new store building.

Carleen Lulich-Theis of Mason has been buying products like soap and meat from Lavasseur for years, pronouncing the organic hamburger "awesome."

"Now that she's got this store in there, it's even cooler; she's got more fun products in there," she said. "It's a great deal for the community and for everyone who wants to have good-quality products at affordable prices that are also earth-friendly."

Lulich-Theis said she has become increasingly suspicious that regular supermarket hamburger makes he sick. She said there was a huge difference with the product she bought from Bear Trap Creek Farms.

"It's just like eating it from back in grandpa and grandma's day," she said.

The new store has a rustic country feel to it — "old style and comfy," she said.

Two refrigerators hold organic meat. Vegetables produced on the farm, home-packed jellies and jams, honey, soap and candles line nearby shelves. Gifts and goods including wood crafts, pottery and alpaca wool socks, as well as some quirky items like handwoven African market baskets, complete the product line.

Lavasseur is a graduate of the Green Wisdom School of Natural and Botanical Medicine in Alma in Wabasha County. She has completed the master of herbalism program and plans to teach courses in herbalism alongside classes in soap-making at the store.

The store will operate all year around, seven days a week, Lavasseur said. For much of that time, she won't actually be around. Instead, customers will find what they need on their own and pay on the honor system.

"We've been doing it that way for eight years and we've had really good results with it," Lavasseur said.

Lavasseur said she runs the business with a philosophy of strongly promoting locally produced food, meat and eggs from animals raised on non-GMO feed.

"Everything we have is free range and it's a sustainable, regenerative farm," she said. "We compost, we use no pesticide, no herbicides and no chemical fertilizers. I want it to be a place where people can get good food, learn about the differences in foods and eventually use my herbalism training to do it all in one big circle."

The Lavasseur family farm operates a 90-to 100-head beef herd and also produces hay.

In addition to operating his own farm, Bill Lavasseur works at a neighboring dairy operation, often leaving the house at 4:30 a.m. and coming back at 10:30 p.m. Jenny Lavasseur is the mother of two sons and two daughters, three of whom are adults.

With all her responsibilities, she is kept busy practically all of the time.

"I like it that way," she said. "And I like to continue learning. I like to be open to new ways of doing things, new ways of farming."

Ashland woman thanks crew that saved her

Jennifer Ottman thought it was just a mild case of heartburn.

The 47-year-old Ashland mom of two had been suffering from a vague feeling of distress for the past week in early June, but this night, as she prepared for bed, something was different.

Within 15 minutes was out of bed, sweating profusely.

This was no heartburn. She called 911.

Within minutes an Ashland Fire Department ambulance was on its way, manned by Lt. Matt Spangler, Firefighter Ryan Edinger and Firefighter David Rekemeyer.

When they arrived, Ottman was in a lot of trouble.

"She was seated at the kitchen table and was having chest pains, some shortness of breath," Spangler recalled.

The team took her vital signs and hooked up an electrocardiogram to measure her heart activity.

"It indicated to us that she was having a heart attack," said Rekemeyer.

That EKG set in course a series of events that would see Ottman flown to Duluth for emergency heart surgery, followed by a remarkable recovery and — on Tuesday — a trip back to the Ashland Fire Department to thank the men who saved her life.

Fast action

The ambulance team knew time was of the essence that June 9 night. In emergency medicine, the first hour after a traumatic event is called the "golden hour," when the odds of recovery are best.

Knowing this, the crew immediately called for a helicopter ambulance from Duluth, cutting the time it would take to get to expert care.

During the trip to Memorial Medical Center, Ottman spiraled downhill, her heart failing fast.

"I've seen it go from borderline to progressing, but never in such a short timeframe," Rekemeyer said.

In the crunch, years of training and drilling took over. The ambulance team had been through this before.

Their patient, though, had not. She was bewildered, frightened and in pain.

"I do remember a great deal of what happened and those who helped me make it through it," Ottman said. "I remember the ambulance ride, the ER nurses and the doctors on call that night."

At MMC, Othman's heart stopped two times, and she was saved two times by emergency room staff. She doesn't recall waking up after her heart stopped beating for the first time.

"I remember asking the nurse if I was dreaming, it was so black and so quiet," she said.

She remembered the helicopter crew telling her family they would be "burning jet fuel" to get her to Duluth and the cardiac surgeon who was waiting for her.

The road back

In Duluth, doctors performed emergency surgery to install a stent — a small woven-metal tube — to hold her blocked cardiac artery open.

Over the next few days, Ottman's heart rhythm became more stable, and eventually she was able to come home. It turned out that the EKG readings done by paramedics when they first arrived at her home showed that she had what is known as a QT prolongation, a disorder that can cause an erratic and irregular heartbeat. Unless treated quickly, it can be fatal.

While recovering, Ottman set herself an astonishing goal: By the time she made it to the four-month anniversary of her heart attack, she would be walking four miles a day.

On Oct. 6, she completed her goal, four months to the day after her heart attack; she completed that four-mile walk.

Ottman is well aware of how lucky she is not to have left husband Mark and her two kids behind.

"I really didn't think I was going to make it. But everything happened in such a way that if it hadn't gone that way, I wouldn't be here," she said.

Ottman, an insurance agent by trade, credited those who rallied to her when she needed it most with saving her.

"Too often we tend to overlook what heroes we have in our own community," she said.

On Tuesday, Ottman was among a crowd of Ashland residents at the Ashland Fire Department open house. She went there to thank the men who saved her life, something they deeply appreciated.

"We see more losses than we see wins like that," Spangler said. "It's especially nice when we have the opportunity to see her out and about in the community."

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