The American-News welcomes letters of opinion from our readers. Letters regarding current local and national news items are encouraged. All letters are subject to editing for length and style. Letters containing potentially libelous or obscene statements will not be published. Letters must contain name, address and phone number for verification and in case of questions. E-mail letters to: Letters may also be mailed to: Editor, Montevideo Publishing, P.O. Box 99, Montevideo, MN 56265

The American-News welcomes letters of opinion from our readers. Letters regarding current local and national news items are encouraged. All letters are subject to editing for length and style. Letters containing potentially libelous or obscene statements will not be published. Letters must contain name, address and phone number for verification and in case of questions. E-mail letters to: Letters may also be mailed to:  Editor, Montevideo Publishing, P.O. Box 99, Montevideo, MN 56265


Blood is life

Are you aware that young people 16 to 24 years old give up to 20 percent of our total United States blood supply? Thank them for their gift of life and bravery. Each pint contributed is saving up to three lives.


Please also participate — and those who participate — in our local blood drive at the TACC on Thursday, April 24. Be an angel and help out those in need of this precious gift.

—Dave Swenson



Glad to learn more

I attended the council meeting on April 7 and appreciated learning more about the history and current status of the seven acre subject property.


I previously was employed by the Milwaukee Road in both its engineering department and then its real estate and industrial development departments. I am very familiar with most of the cities along the former main line from Chicago to Seattle through Montevideo. Very few locations along this 2,200 mile route have the potential to develop an outstanding historic depot and railroad yard museum. However, Montevideo is a unique exception. Your city has the opportunity to create something very special — a truly historic railroad complex. I believe the Milwaukee Road Heritage Center can lead this project with the cooperation and support of the city, the Chamber of Commerce, the Historic Chippewa City Museum, the Minnesota Historical society and the Milwaukee Road Historical Association.


The seven acre property in Montevideo has the following major advantages:


1.) The property is located along an operating railroad, so railroad cars and equipment can move in and out. The existing site collection of passenger cars, freight cars, two diesel locomotives and the huge crane would be difficult to duplicate at another location.


2.) The seven acre site is highly visible, being near downtown Montevideo and close to Historic Chippewa City.


3.) The existing railroad structures are in good serviceable condition. The model railroad building was given to the MRHC by the city and now features a replica layout of the tracks through Montevideo. I believe the depot and the house are on the register of historical buildings.


4.) The concrete foundations for the former 26 stall round house, coal dock, cinder pit, water tank and power plant are in place and easy to identify.


5.) The 90 foot long turntable is still in use. This operating turntable is very rare and is a real gem!


6.) Approximately 40 parties have already donated money to rebuild a portion of the round house. This addition will provide space to display more Milwaukee Road artifacts and memorabilia.


I have been collecting such Milwaukee Road items for 65 years and will be happy to share them with the Heritage Center for display purposes. I am currently displaying Mulwaukee Road memorabilia at the Marriot Depot Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.


In my opinion, the highest and best use of the seven acre property is a fully developed Historic Railroad Park Museum. The railroad park in partnership with the Historic Chippewa City will attract many visitors to Montevideo. It is my wish that the city council will support the goals and plans of the Milwaukee Road Heritage Center.

—Bob Lark

Eden Prairie


About doing the right thing

The Montevideo City Council should not allow private industry to use the railroad site used by the Milwaukee Road Heritage Center (MRHC) unless the MRHC consents and approves of the proposed use.   On land leased from the City for over 20 years, the committed volunteer members of the MRHC have been working to preserve local railroad history, donating their own time and resources to the effort.  This site has historical significance.  Once this history is gone it is gone forever and cannot be recaptured.


Economic Development and associated job creation/retention is very important for our community and schools.  A business that desires to grow, especially one that has a proven track record in Montevideo, should be supported as much as possible in finding a way to make the expansion happen.  It just shouldn’t happen at the MRHC site.  As I intended to point out at the public hearing and didn’t do a very good job of stating clearly, this is about doing the right thing and not turning our backs on 20 years of effort because there is another proposed use for the site.  It is my hope that this issue can be resolved to the satisfaction of both interests, with the MRHC retaining their site and continuing their work to preserve our history while a suitable alternate location can be identified to allow a growing local business to expand in or very near Montevideo.

—Scott Hinde



Not opposed to history

I volunteer in various ways with a number of organizations in Montevideo. Many people in town know me in some capacity and I’ve always been genuinely interested in making Montevideo a better place to live. I feel the need to say this because in the past weeks I’ve been stopped numerous times by people offended by my support of using the Milwaukee Road Heritage Center lot for a business. One person anonymously called me at work to basically tell me I was akin to the Spawn of Satan.


To clarify, I have never been opposed to history, and anyone who knows me can attest to that. If we were discussing taking away the Historical Village or Heritage Hill, you can be sure I would be against the abolishment of those establishments.


However, the reason I support a change in stewardship of the MRHC lands is more than one of historical value, it’s one of tangible benefits to Montevideo. When I moved here, I was surprised to hear the site was more than an old, unused rail lot. I’ve also heard comments from my visitors about the shame no one was using or keeping the space up. That’s very telling. If the MRHC lot is supposed to be providing a historical benefit to the city, it’s not always being viewed as such.


There are others that feel the same way. Why don’t they speak up? Partially because they don’t want to be thrown in with Satan, probably.


Through the groups I volunteer with I know for a fact the MRHC has left offers of free funds unused, and passed on opportunities to increase their awareness. I don’t know the reasons why, but I believe it speaks to the forward motion the group currently has and the benefits they can realistically provide to the community.


Simply put, it’s my opinion those lands would bring more to this city in use by an active. More jobs mean more people spending more money and increased tax revenues, not to mention the added benefit spouses and children bring. It is a question of giving Montevideo a trajectory for success and growth. In southwest Minnesota, industry jobs provide the base for other businesses to start and grow. We need these jobs. These jobs will be created, but I believe we should try and keep the jobs and benefits in Montevideo.


The MRHC doesn’t have to cease to exist, and I am fully in support of the MRHC’s existence in Montevideo.


In the end, it’s not my choice to make. I only asked the council to use their best judgment to make a decision, to decide in favor of Montevideo, however they see it.


I believe we are all entitled to have an opinion, and I hope that even if we disagree on what the best plan of action is for the MRHC lands are we can all decide to be united to help Montevideo grow and be a better place for everyone to live, work, and enjoy.                   

—Derrick Schiff



In response

“Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.” Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words spring to mind in the debate about possibilities for the site of the Milwaukee Road Heritage Center.


Kevin Wald, CEO of Montevideo-based Ritalka, strongly advocates turning the land over to his company for an expansion project. In his April 10 Letter to the Editor, Wald presented some curious claims as “undisputed facts.” City Council members weighing the fate of this property deserve light, not heat to inform their decisions.


First, Wald falsely claimed $1 million in payroll has $7 million in annual economic impact. As CEO of his successful company, Wald knows better than to confuse economic impact with currency circulation. While dollars may change hands several times, the cost of making goods bought and sold reduces their economic impact each time.


“Buy Local” advocates have studied consumer spending for years. Their authoritative work shows that every $100 spent on locally produced goods generates up to $45 in secondary impacts. When spent on goods manufactured elsewhere or sold at a chain store, such as Wal-Mart, the economic impact falls to just $14. That means every dollar brought into the community (after taxes and other obligations) generates between $1.14 and $1.45 in economic impact, not the $7 Wald claimed. And when people shop elsewhere (e.g., Willmar or Minneapolis), their economic impact to Montevideo is zero.


Next, he wishfully claimed “for each industry job created, two students show up to a local school.” Perhaps, assuming new jobs are not filled by families already living in Montevideo. Of course, those students won’t arrive at all if workers choose to commute from nearby towns.


But let’s say all 50 students appear. Wald says the State will send $7,500 per student, enough, he claims to close the $300,000 budget shortfall facing ISD 129. Again, Wald knows that this isn’t a zero-sum game. Additional costs always accompany additional students. If not, then the State funding ISD 129 already receives would be sufficient.


As others have noted the current use for the property also has considerable economic and historical value. City leaders should factor this in their decision.


But I have another question, based on Wald’s curious claims: If he never sought this land, why behave so aggressively to dislodge the Heritage Center? There are other equally suitable options in town.


As the City Council continues to work with Wald to explore alternative sites for his company’s expansion, this discussion deserves good facts, honesty and sound judgment. With some common sense and plain dealing, Montevideo can take advantage of economic development opportunities without destroying a cornerstone of its history.               

—Kyle Christensen



A piece of history

I am writing to express my sincere concern about the MRHC.  I was born and raised in Montevideo and the railroad house and yard has been part of my families heritage. My Grandfather and his brother worked for the railroad for their lively hood and it would be such a great loss for everyone not just my family.


It’s important to continue saving and rebuilding this historical site in Montevideo.


The board of the MRHC has been actively restoring this site over the years and it would be a shame to just hand it over to someone who is only interested in making money and changing all the history that has been tied to this community for more then my 50 years.


Please help save the MRHC!  It’s not some run down existence that has been ignored, rather it’s a part of our towns history and held very dear to those of us that remember all the hard work and commitment from past and present board members and the community in general.

—Jodi Dittes