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Soft spot for animals

For the past 4 years, the only toys written on Amara Ostenson's birthday wish lists have been for chewing and chasing, much to the delight of the dogs and cats of the Humane Society of Barron County.

Amara, 10, asks family and friends to gift her animal shelter necessities, which she then donates.

This year's haul amounted to about $250 worth of pet supplies.

Amara's generosity began when her grandfather adopted a dog, Wrigley, from the shelter.

Her mom, Jodie, said Amara couldn't believe there were unwanted animals, and when she heard the shelter needed kitten milk, she asked for it for her birthday.

The next year, she asked for all of her gifts to be shelter related: dog food, cat food, treats, litter, toys, garbage bags, blankets and gift cards.

"It feels really great to give animals what they need," she said, riling up about eight kittens before being scratched.

But that, she admitted, comes with the territory.

Amara's family supports her affinity for animals to the point where her dad, Ryan, allergic to cats, will bravely sit in a rocking chair as a cat climbs on him.

The Ostensons have five animals at home.

Amara named their hamster, Meeka.

Their fish, Otis, is in good waters; Jodie said she once had a carnival fish live for 20 years.

Fish are popular. The family currently has five or six in their freezer/morgue waiting for a more respectable burial than seven laps around the toilet.

They have two cats, Hermy and Bailey—who was adopted secretly pregnant and had kittens in the undercarriage of a stroller.

The family also has Max, their white lab.

One animal Amara said she's always wanted is a horse, but she has a deal where she rides at a local stable in exchange for shoveling out stalls.

Her favorite animal? All of the above.

Amara sees a future as a veterinarian. She watches animal vets on television and likes to observe animal behavior in the wild when she goes hunting with her dad.

One day she will use her vet skills, but that's going to take some school, which, as the family left the shelter, it was time to shop for.

But first, Amara said, "I want to walk a dog."

The Humane Society of Barron County can be reached at 715-537-9063, and a list of its most needed items can be found at

New highway department building in the works

The Barron County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution to begin the process for a new Highway Department Facility at its Aug. 20 meeting.

Highway Commissioner Mark Servi told Supervisors the next step would be to hire an architect, who would then begin a needs assessment.

Servi had led Supervisors on a tour of the Highway Department's more than 70-year-old building earlier in the evening.

During the tour, Servi explained some problems with the brick, concrete and wood building.

In the winter, the heat never gets shut off due to poor insulation.

Despite heat seepage, the building's ventilation is poor, he said. There is only one door large enough for trucks, which besides creating a bottleneck, makes it difficult to ventilate the haze generated by running vehicles.

The building has seen its share of additions and repairs. Add-ons were constructed in 1983 and 1999, and the roof was replaced in 1996 at a cost of $39,000, according to the department.

The roof now leaks, and a recent quote for a replacement was over $100,000.

"It's not like we're trying to let the building dilapidate so we can get a new building," Servi told Supervisors.

He explained that better lighting has been installed and insulation methods have been tried.

Building maintenance costs have increased as years have passed, Servi said.

He said the ideal building would provide a roof for all 13 dump trucks and 27 snow plows the department runs.

When the trucks sit outside, Servi said, their condition deteriorates which affects performance and the price the County is quoted when the vehicles are traded in after 10 years of service.

According to past County Board meetings, funding for the new building would be available starting in 2023.

Teen boy dies when tree falls

A teenager died Aug. 16 while cleaning up storm damage outside Chetek after a falling tree struck him, the Barron County Sheriff's Department said in a news release.

The teen was identified as Floyd Lehman, 14, of Melrose.

Lehman was assisting in storm cleanup with a large group of people, did not see a falling tree and was struck.

Life-saving measures were attempted at a residence outside of Chetek but the teen died at the scene.

Cop gets jail in sex sting case

Jeffrey Masek

A former Minnesota sheriff's deputy will spend 8 years in prison after being sentenced for attempting to meet a 15-yearold girl—actually a Rice Lake Police officer—for sex in April 2018.

Jeffrey J. Masek was sentenced on Aug. 15 in Barron County Circuit Court for child enticement and attempted second degree assault of a child.

Masek, 61, had a law enforcement badge in his wallet the night he was arrested. He was a deputy for the Hennepin County Sheriff's Department in Minnesota at the time.

Before the court hearing began, Masek grasped hands with two pastors from his church and hugged his wife.

He would not touch them again.

"Jeffrey Masek crossed the line from fantasy to reality when he got into his car and drove to Rice Lake," Judge James Bitney said.

Police had discovered roleplaying chats on Masek's phone involving the fantasy of having sex with a daughter or granddaughter. Masek has no children or grandchildren.

Before sentencing, Masek told the court he was sorry and stated, "I thought I was above the law and I wasn't. I was well below the law."

Since being arrested, he has found faith and has witnessed a plethora of miracles, including marrying his wife 2 weeks ago, he said.

Masek read Romans 12:21 to the court: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

He said that is what he's been doing.

His supporters spoke to his transformation and asked the judge for mercy.

Masek's attorney, Eric Nelson, stated his client had a support system he'd been lacking and was a low risk for reoffending,

and that the public would be protected by putting Masek on probation that included internet monitoring.

Assistant District Attorney John O'Boyle asked for two 4-year confinement sentences—followed by probation—to be served consecutively because Masek had attempted to text with who he thought was a 15-year-old for nearly a month, often not being replied to.

Bitney described Masek's text messages as being hard to read due to their graphic nature.

Messages referenced a slang term describing unprotected sexual intercourse and included his statement, "I will treat this like a fun sex education night."

Bitney said he took into consideration the read-in charge of using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime, which carries a 5-year minimum sentence upon conviction.

"The sexual exploitation of children is only a mouse click or two away," the judge said. For child enticement, Masek was sentenced to 6 years in prison consisting of 3 years initial confinement and 3 years probation.

For attempted second degree sexual assault of a child, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison consisting of 5 years initial confinement and 5 years probation.

The sentences will be served consecutively, meaning Masek will be incarcerated for 8 years and then spend 8 years on probation. He was given 11 days of jail credit.

Upon release, Masek will not be allowed unsupervised contact with females under age 18, and he is required to register as a sex offender for life.

Masek is the ninth man to be sentenced as part of Rice Lake Police Department's sex sting operations that began in February 2018. The investigations led to charges against 14 men.

Of the six men who have been sentenced on plea deals, Masek's is the longest by 3 years.

Masek pleaded guilty in March and has been the only man to be sentenced to consecutive sentences.

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)