Making the wRight Choice

In early 2011, Wright County Court Services began a pilot project to help address the issue of high school students who have found themselves in trouble with school authorities and law enforcement. The program was called “wRight Choice” and, in 18 months, it has expanded from Buffalo High School to include several school districts including Annandale, Delano, Howard Lake, Maple Lake, Monticello and St. Michael-Albertville.
“It’s been a really unique opportunity for us to partner with different school districts around the county and the students they serve,” Wright County Court Services Director Mike MacMillan told the commissioners at their July 31 meeting. “From our perspective, it’s been a really positive experience.”
Some of the students who have gone through the program have since become mentors to at-risk middle school students. While teens sometimes bristle at authority figures, learning life lessons from their peers who have “been there, done that” can make a more meaningful impact.
Buffalo High School Assistant Principal Kris Thompson said that the program has seen tangible results and helped make changes in youth who may have been heading in the wrong direction.
“We know that students have good in them,” Thompson said. “Putting them in a position to experience some success and build off that success is pivotal to (the program).”
The wRight Choice program has been one of the county’s more effective projects, drawing comparisons to the MEADA methamphetamine awareness program that helped drastically reduce the drug’s presence in the county.
“(wRight Choice) started as a pilot project a year-and-a-half ago and we’ve been very pleased with how it has progressed,” MacMillan said. “We came into this with an idea of what we hoped to accomplish, and have been very pleased with the results.”
In other agenda items July 31, the board:
* By a 3-1 vote, authorized the parks department to prepare grant applications for Phase 6 of the purchase of parkland in the Bertram Chain of Lakes project. The county will apply for both Legacy Grant and Non-Metro Regional Park Grant funds. The Legacy grants call for just a 10-percent local match, while the regional park grant calls for a 40-percent match. The county is seeking $1.7 million in funding for Phase 6, as well as making a Legacy request for the remaining $8.3 million to complete the Chain of Lakes purchase. Commissioner Jack Russek voted against the proposal, maintaining his long-standing aversion to funding the park when the county is tightening belts elsewhere. Commissioner Dick Mattson was absent from the meeting, which is why the vote was 3-1.
* Appointed Virgil Hawkins as the new Wright County highway engineer, effective Aug. 8. Hawkins replaces Wayne Fingalson, who retired Aug. 7. Hawkins will be eligible for appointment to a new four-year term May 1, 2013.
* Heard a presentation from Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger, who shared some of the public health priorities the state will be pushing in the coming year.
* Set the primary election canvassing board meeting for 8 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 16. Commissioners Russek and Elmer Eichelberg, neither of whom are seeking re-election, will represent the commissioners in the canvassing.
* Accepted the June revenue-expenditure guidelines. At the midway point of the year, the county is at 52 percent of revenue projections and 48 percent of expenditures.
* Approved a one-day special waterfowl hunt for veterans with disabilities at Ney Park Oct. 6.
* Waived an inspection fee for bleachers at the Wright County Fairgrounds at the fair board’s request.
* Approved payment of $13,477 to the consulting firm of Madden, Galenter & Hansen for work performed in July, related to a grievance arbitration hearing between the county and Sheriff’s Department.
* Scheduled a bid opening for the Human Services Center parking lot at 10 a.m. Aug. 21. Because cost estimates could exceed $100,000, sealed bids are required.
* Approved the minutes of the tax forfeit committee and authorized tax forfeit parcels to the cities of Albertville, Rockford and Waverly, giving them a first chance to buy the lots before they are open for public sale.
* Announced changes to the 2013 budget schedule, including a switch for setting the preliminary levy and budget from Sept. 4 to Sept. 10.
* Acknowledged receipt of the Highway Department’s annual report for 2012. Time has been allotted on the Aug. 7 board agenda in case the commissioners have any questions about the report.
* Approved an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation for a trail and sidewalk extension in Montrose. The project is part of Safe Routes to School.
* Appointed Eichelberg to represent the county for the rest of 2012 on MnDOT’s Urbanized Area planning board.