Wright County recognizes citizen heroes

By John Holler

Contributing Writer


The job of law enforcement isn’t easy.

When a citizen contacts the Wright County Sheriff’s Department, he or she is often in an emergency situation. While the response times of law enforcement is a quick as humanly possible, at times it is up to quick-thinking Samaritans to save the day when officers can’t be immediately on the scene of an emergency.

At the meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners, Sheriff Joe Hagerty honored citizens who went above and beyond the call of duty to assist others in need with plaque presentation to the unsung heroes who assisted law enforcement in 2013.

“Today we’re going be recognizing some of our outstanding citizens in Wright County that have helped us perform our role of keeping people safe,” Hagerty said. “I think you’ll be quiet impressed with some of the deeds these folks did.”

Those honored included the following recipients:

George and Elaine Thole — The couple rescued two fishermen (ages 80 and 75) whose boat had capsized on Maple Lake and neither had life vests. The Tholes, an elderly couple themselves, let the victims cling to their larger boat until an emergency rescue unit arrived.

Ronald Bodine — He was duck hunting on Pelican Lake and head someone yelling for help. He found a man clinging to a capsized boat and had hypothermia. Bodine put himself at risk by putting the victim in his small duck boat and bringing him to the boat landing when an ambulance was waiting.

Theodore Laporte – Came across a vehicle on fire in French Lake Township. The driver was in shock and his shirt was on fire. He ripped off the driver’s shirt to prevent any further injuries. The victim was severely burned and LaPorte’s actions may have saved his life.

James Hessler and Paula Paumen – The two came across a rollover crash in French Lake Township. The vehicle had broken through the ice on South Twin Lake and the passenger area was underwater. Hessler got the two occupants out of the car by opening the trunk lid and having them climb out. Both put one of the freezing victims in their cars and wrapped them in blankets until help arrived.

Gail King and Lowell Johnson – King saw a snowmobile on Lake Charlotte that didn’t have a headlight and later heard a cracking of the ice and the taillight on the snowmobile disappeared. He and Johnson got on their ATVs, but Johnson’s ATV broke through the ice. King was able to pull him to safety.

Adam Arnquist and Jerry Brown – The two discovered a neighbor’s home on fire in the city of Otsego. Arnquist and Brown took hoses to attempt to keep the fire contained to the garage, while removing items from the garage. They successfully contained the fire to the exterior of the garage until fire personnel arrived.

Pam Brunner – A dispatcher with the sheriff’s office, Brunner took a 911 call from a woman who said her husband had a gun, shot at her and she believed he was suicidal. She locked herself in bathroom and Brunner kept her on the line for two-and-a-half hours. The information she got from the victim helped in a safe resolution to the conflict.

Hagerty thanked the recipients of the awards, saying, “We’re just ecstatic to be able to recognize these folks and know that they have our back.”

In other items on the agenda, the board:

ACKNOWLEDGED, as part of Wright County Law Enforcement Officers Week (May 11-17) that seven Wright County law enforcement officers that died in the line of duty – Constable Charles Washburn, Sheriff John Nugent Jr., Marshall Rudolph Maurer, Sheriff Paul Kritzeck, Sheriff James Kreitlow, Chief George Rytii and Sheriff Roger Wrobbel.

APPROVED the latest land purchase for the Bertram Chain of Lakes Park. The two purchases, Phases V and VI of the systematic land purchase, come with a price of more than $3.8 million. While much of the cost is picked up through grant funds, the county’s split of the local share (with the City of Monticello), was $795,000.

APPROVED amendments to the county’s parks ordinance, which had last been amended in 1992, as well as the county’s water surface use ordinance, which was amended to include the Bertram Chain of Lakes and restrictions that will be placed on boating on the lakes.

APPROVED a data practices policy for the county dealing with members of the public looking to obtain data from the county. In 2013, the State Legislature updated the Government Data Practices Act and counties needed to update their own data practices policies to address the changes.

LAID over discussion of potentially selling the equipment at the county’s compost facility to the next meeting of the building committee.

APPROVED a series of government land purchases of tax forfeited properties, including the transfer of property to the Cities of Clearwater, Delano, Hanover, Otsego, St. Michael and South Haven.

ACKNOWLEDGED receipt of a Meritorious Achievement Award as part of the annual Governor’s Safety Awards luncheon from the 80th Annual Safety and Health Conference sponsored by the Minnesota Safety Council. The award was presented at the May 8 luncheon and honored the county’s work in risk management and accident prevention.

APPROVED reducing the typical Wednesday committee days for the commissioners from two to one in the months of June, July and August. The dates approved were June 18, July 16 and Aug. 20.