Maurice and Gail Smith of DragSmith Farms will open for retail sales to the public starting today. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. It is located at 1304 16th Ave., Barron.
“We have tulips and other bulbs in pots, some are blooming, succulents and other plants, vegetable and flower seeds, produce, spices, specialty items and other treasures,” Gail Smith said.
The new venture comes after a site visit March 25 and a 90-minute discussion Monday by the Barron County Board of Adjustment, which unanimously approved special exceptions for them to operate a retail operation and host special events at their greenhouse business north of Barron. Also present at Monday’s meeting was a neighbor, Walter Herrman, who said he was in favor of the Smith’s plans.
The special exceptions include bringing the front parking lot for customers up to grade with employee parking at the back of their business. No on-road parking is allowed. Special event parking, portable toilets, and tents for food and/or music will be based in an acre and a half in the northwest corner of a field to the north of their business. They can operate seven days a week between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., spring through fall, with a maximum of 300 people for outdoor events, 30 for indoor events.
Farm experience must allow for food
It took awhile for the Smiths and board members to untangle all the hopes and dreams for the farm, which Maurice Smith insisted must include food.
He shared that they have plans of adding another greenhouse and already have the supplies for it, remarking that finding the time to put it up has been the issue. That way they have another option for small groups, like garden clubs, should the other greenhouses be full.
Gail Smith said they need flexibility because their produce and products change daily. “That’s greenhouse life,” she said.
Maurice Smith agreed. “Everything changes with the seasons,” he said.
Land Services director David Gifford advised that their special exceptions can be modified at a later date based on growth of the different parts of the business.
“A lot of the aspects, the applicants want to look into,” Gifford said. “If nothing else, this is a starting point. They can come back and make modifications. Right now, they have a lot of things on the table, some may not pan out, depending on what customers want.”
Gail Smith said, “We want to create an experience where people can have a farm experience and see where their food comes from, or should come from.”
Maurice Smith said that’s why they need some leeway to see what works.
“Confining us to strict limits is difficult when we are trying to figure this out,” he said.”Things move around so much, it’s hard to restrict.”
Board member Pam Fall remarked, “I think they’re in a learning phase of what might work.” She noted the owners know best which greenhouse is most suitable when hosting groups.
Board chair Walt Organ agreed with allowing them the flexibility to use any of the greenhouses, one event at a time. He said the design or layout of the main building also gives them options for different uses at different times.
Maurice Smith said he didn’t want to get in trouble but would like the option to serve products from time to time made in their kitchen, once it is certified, like freshly made bread and jam, as an eatery. Fall said the term eatery can be anything. She asked if he was envisioning a deli with to-eat-in or to-go options. He said to have fresh food in a cooler for customers to see but not eat is too limiting.
“I want to be able to feed people,” he said. “Why spend $25,000 to build a kitchen if I can’t use the darn thing?”
The board then discussed what is and is not a restaurant and reminded the Smiths that the property is zoned Ag-2 not Commercial.
“I don’t think a restaurant would be compatible with land use,” board member Amy Kelsey said. “It would have to be in connection with a special event. It can’t be ongoing.”
Gifford said the Smiths were not necessarily envisioning a meal, like what is available at a restaurant. He suggested authorizing them to produce and sell specialty food items and leave it somewhat open or general.
“I understand the concept,” he said. “You are trying to create a unique atmosphere. You want the experience, with different items at different times of the year.”
Fall agreed. “I like Dave’s idea, the sale of specialty items in the retail area.
Gail Smith said it would be similar to selling caramel apples at an orchard. She agreed with Gifford’s assessment. “That fits the bill really well,” she said.
Gifford reminded them that the next step is working with Public Health to meet their requirements. Fall said if they get great response and need licensed and certified people to meet the demand, then they can do what is necessary to provide that. Nelson made the motion to approve the special exceptions with the stipulation that all necessary permits are obtained.
The April 6 election will decide who represents three districts on the Rice Lake City Council, three seats on the Rice Lake School Board and two seats on the Cameron School Board, and fill the office of state superintendent of public education and a seat on the 3rd District Court of Appeals.
Incumbent Keith Moffatt and Bruce Willers are vying for the District 1 alderperson seat, Gina Sookiayak and Robert Brueggen seek the District 2 seat being vacated by incumbent Dan Schwab, who chose not to run, and incumbent Doug Edwardsen is being challenged by James Muller for the District 4 seat.
The Chronotype asked each candidate a simple question: “Why are you running?”
In District 1 Moffatt responded, but Willers did not respond to repeated requests.
Moffatt: The 1st District, the cultural and historic heart of Rice Lake, is having a rebirth! There are newer businesses, we have a new Director for the Main Street Association, classic homes are being remodeled. This district deserves someone that will continue to fight for it— keeping the momentum going.
Last year, the council elected me to fill the Jim Dorrance vacancy. It has been an education and an honor. I sincerely, hope I’ve earned your vote this year.
Retired Engineer 40 years, Honeywell & Textron. Was raised by dedicated civil servants as an Eagle Scout, in a city much like Rice Lake, Chanute, Kan. Served U.S. Army, as a Guided Missile Officer.
Kathy, my wife, and I moved near our daughter, Sara Lawton. She owns Poppy Popcorn Co. on Main Street. Affiliations; Bethany Lutheran Church, Rice Lake Area Men’s Club, Elks Lodge 1441.
Robert Brueggen: I am writing to you today to ask for your vote for City Council in the upcoming April 6 spring election.
Having grown up on our family dairy farm outside of Rice Lake, I am no stranger to hard work. And that is why I am running — to work hard for you, the taxpayers of Rice Lake. After graduating from Rice Lake High School I started a construction company that I have run with my son for the last 30 years building homes in and around Rice Lake. My wife Lisa and I reside at 1532 Park Ave. and have always considered Rice Lake our home.
For the last 15 years I have either served on the board or have been president of the Heart of the North Builders Association. As a business owner and leader of this organization, I know the importance of giving back to the community and making sure Rice Lake continues to be a vibrant place to live, work, and play for all residents.
I love living in the city of Rice Lake and I want nothing more than people to be proud to raise their families here. I look forward listening to your concerns and working hard for you as your next city council member.
I humbly ask for your vote on April 6.
Gina Sookiayak: I want to bring a fresh perspective to city council. I am the wife of Harvey, mom to four children ages 3-13, and an educator. I will bring a voice for working families in our community.
Families look to local governments to provide a safe and welcoming environment to raise their children. We must continue to make Rice Lake a community that is a desirable place for families to work and live. This involves making sure we have affordable housing, ample employment, and great recreation activities like our parks, trails, and library. While these are critical for families, they affect all citizens’ quality of life and impact our city’s potential for growth.
While I bring a new perspective, I’m certainly aware that it is not the only perspective. If elected, I will stay informed about issues facing our community and will take the time to listen with an open mind to the various perspectives of constituents.
Most parents volunteer at church and school; however, having a voice in city government gives us one more avenue to positively impact our children’s future by having a say in policies the city is adopting today. I would be honored to represent District 2.
Incumbent Harlan Dodge is running unopposed in District 3.
In District 4, Muller declined to submit comments.
Edwardsen: At my first Rice Lake City Council meeting in 2017, I felt like someone behind a steering wheel for the first time. What rules do I need to follow? How do we operate this vehicle called local government? I realized that the skills I developed in my 35 years as a business leader and manager would also make me an effective council member. Through actively listening, asking questions, gathering facts, sharing and debating ideas with other council members, and relying on the knowledgeable department managers, we arrive at our desired destination, most efficiently, while consuming the fewest resources.
As a City Council, our top priority must be public safety. I have been an outspoken supporter of our Police and Fire Chiefs to maintain and build their departments’ capabilities to protect lives, property and businesses. I support the work of our Community Services Department to continue upgrading and maintaining our roads, as well as to create family-friendly parks and amenities that residents want. I support initiatives like the senior center and affordable housing to serve our growing senior population. I encourage residential, commercial and retail development to provide desirable places to live, great places to work and interesting places to shop.
Rice Lake School Board
Rice Lake School Board member Lorrie Parkman is not seeking re-election while incumbents Keven Jensen and Steve Bowman are seeking another term. Two district residents have filed as registered write-ins for Parkman’s seat. They are Shari Ann Katterhagen and Sarah Turner.
District Administrator Randy Drost said district residents have until Friday noon if interested in running as a registered write-in. The form is available on the Wisconsin Elections Commission website, called Campaign Finance Registration Form (Form CF-1). Or anyone interested in running may stop at the Administration Office to physically fill out the form.
Cameron School Board
Three candidates — incumbents Brandon Olson, Dan Rappel plus Ginger Newland — seek two seats on the Cameron School Board.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Also on the ballot will be Deborah Kerr and Jill Underly, who are running in the nonpartisan election for Wisconsin superintendent of public instruction. The incumbent, Carolyn Standford-Taylor, is not running.
Underly currently serves as superintendent for the Pecatonica school district. She is vying with former Brown Deer Superintendent Kerr for the open state post.
In the primary election, Kerr and Underly earned 486 votes and 417 nods, respectively, in Barron County. In the city of Rice Lake, Underly received 109 votes to Kerr’s 63.
Kerr was the only candidate with widespread conservative support. Underly won the teachers’ endorsement.
Court of Appeals
Rick Cveykus and Gregory Gill are running for the District 3 Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals hears cases appealed from the circuit courts and will only overrule trial court decisions to fix important legal or procedural errors.
Cveykus is an attorney who lives in Wausau. In a statement, he said: “I possess a deep understanding of how the rule of law shapes our society and the need for independent judges. Honesty, fairness, and transparency are what I’m all about and I will bring those characteristics to the bench. In my practice, I have built trust-based relationships with folks of all backgrounds and all who come before me will be treated with dignity and respect.”
Gill is a trial judge for Outagamie County Circuit Court. He said: “For the past nine years, I have served as a trial court judge. I have administered cases ranging from traffic violations to complex litigations affecting hundreds of individuals. Prior to my work as a judge, I worked as a law clerk for the Honorable William C. Griesbach, a federal district court judge. In that capacity, I spent significant time reading, researching and writing. Outside of my work in the legal field, I have maintained a connection to the community through volunteer efforts.”
Voters elect Court of Appeals judges to six-year terms. There is no term limit.
The deadline for absentee ballot requests to be submitted by mail, online, email, or fax. is by 5 p.m. Friday. It’s also the deadline to register to vote or to vote absentee in person at the municipal clerk’s office.
On election day polls are open 7 a.m. through 8 p.m.
A Rice Lake alderman wants a qualified environmental acoustic firm to study noise emanating from a downtown manufacturing business, and the council agreed to ask city staff to develop a formal brief and research whether money from TID No. 5 can be used to pay for it.
But the discussion wasn’t without controversy.
District 1 Alderman Keith Moffatt asked the council at its March 23 meeting to move forward with a brief to allow a study of noise allegedly being created by Birchwood Manufacturing. He submitted a three-page report from his research into the topic.
The study would document noise levels in the neighboring areas and help determine whether the business complies with city ordinance.
“I’ve spent a lot of time researching this, and I’ve talked to Birchwood and worked with them,” Moffatt said.
However, before the council addressed the issue the other candidate for District 1 spoke up during public comment.
Bruce Willers described Moffatt as attacking Birchwood Manufacturing, wondered what business his opponent would harass next and accused the alderman as failing to watch over taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
Moffatt countered those arguments when he presented his proposal. He said he wants to enforce the city ordinance, but first the city needs to conduct the study with an acoustic engineering firm to see if there is a violation. The alderman said he believed the study could come at a relatively modest cost and had no intention of harassing the business that employs 48 workers and wants to expand their employee base.
The plant’s boilers must run 24/7, Moffatt said, but if the noise does not comply with the ordinance, the issue must be dealt with as it can affect the city’s quality of life and the health of some of its citizens.
City Administrator Curt Snyder said the leadership at Birchwood Manufacturing has been trying to address the issue, but a number of people in the community were asking for help.
In Moffatt’s proposal, he remarked that he and his wife experience the issue firsthand. The noise is particularly annoying at night, and depending on atmospheric conditions, the noise can carry several blocks through District 1.
The council voted 6-2 to direct city staff to develop a formal proposal to start the process of finding an acoustic engineering firm. The city attorney will check to see if money from TID No. 5 can be used to cover the cost. The council did not authorize spending money.
Voting in favor were Moffat, Doug Edwardsen, Dan Schwab, Todd Larson, Harlan Dodge and Mark O’Brien, while Cory Schnacky and Dan Lawler voted nay.