William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009.
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COTTAGE GROVE — Parents shouldn't delude themselves when it comes to the potential for their children to fall prey to sex traffickers, said the head of the Washington County Attorney Office's major crimes division. Prosecutor Imran Ali said there have been cases where an underage girl's own boyfriend coerces her into sexual slavery — under the noses of her parents.
Cottage Grove Imran Ali turned over a few rocks Sept. 29 at Cottage Grove City Hall. However vile and disturbing the things that squirmed beneath, it was preferable to blissful ignorance, he told his audience. The assistant Washington County attorney was the featured speaker at a sex trafficking forum organized by the Cottage Grove Public Safety Board. His message: It was dangerous folly to deny that the buying and selling of children for sex was taking place — with alarming frequency — in Cottage Grove, Woodbury and other communities.
Too much waste is going to waste at Bielenberg Sports Center. Mixed in with the tons of trash generated at the busy sports complex are materials that could either be recycled or composted. But the city of Woodbury will upgrade its outdoor recycling operations with some financial assistance from the county. At their Sept. 27 meeting, the Washington County board of commissioners approved a $70,000 recycling grant. The money will help pay for 87 new outdoor double and triple bins at Bielenberg. New educational and promotional material will also be posted.
When millions of Monarch butterflies migrate south this autumn, their number may include a few who were born and raised in Woodbury. Rachel Drost, 16, can't get enough of the orange-is-the-new-black beauties. For several years, she's raised and released Monarchs at her Woodbury home. Last year, she successfully hatched and released 13 butterflies.
The Black Box Theatre is a suitably somber setting for the fall production by Woodbury Community Theatre. "Songs for a New World," which opens Friday at the Merrill Community Arts Center at East Ridge High School might be subtitled "There but for the grace of God, go I." Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown wrote the musical revue, which examines that gut-check moment when a sudden disaster obliterates the familiar and bounces us into unknown terrain. The "new world" in this case is a place to be avoided.
Voters - too few of them - heard from a pair of aspiring county commissioners Tuesday evening at Central Park amphitheatre in Woodbury. Candidates Cheryl Anderson and Stan Karwoski each are seeking election to the District 2 seat that was left vacant by the death of County Commissioner Ted Bearth earlier this year. They spoke at a candidates forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Woodbury-Cottage Grove. The audience numbered about a dozen.
Homecoming season got under way last week in Woodbury. New Life Academy and Woodbury High School celebrated with pep fests and parades. The rally featured Roar, the Royals' mascot, and a soundtrack that included "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince. The school band, cheerleaders and drumline whipped up the crowd, and even some of the teachers got into the act with a choreographed dance routine.
A pedestrian bridge will connect Radio Drive in Woodbury to Inwood Drive in Oakdale and allow cyclists, runners and walkers to cross safely over Interstate 94. At their Sept. 20 meeting, Washington County Board of Commissioners hired the design firm of Kimley Horn and Associates. They approved a $667,490 contract for the preliminary design and due diligence phase of the project. The stand-alone span will run parallel to Radio Drive (aka County Road 13). It will connect with the current pedestrian trail network along the route.
Visitors to Washington County parks should expect to pay more next year for vehicle permits. The permits are required for cars to enter some county parks, including Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park and Lake Elmo Park Reserve. At their Sept. 6 budget workshop, county commissioners considered a request from public works director Don Theisen to increase the annual pass from $25 to $30 and the daily pass from $5 to $7. The hike was part of the funding requests submitted by Theisen for his proposed 2017 department budget.
Things were bad for Kellen Giddings. Until they got worse. A brain tumor robbed him of his vision in his left eye. Doctors removed most of the tumor, but Kellen contracted meningitis after the surgery, which triggered a stroke. He essentially had to relearn how to use his arms and legs. All this for a kid who is barely four years old.