NAFRS budget likely to be approved; school district to gather feedback from voters; Age-friendly Northfield to offer internet skills courses | Panda Anku

NAFRS will likely approve a full-time position as fire chief

By Cait Kelley

The Northfield Area Fire and Rescue Service (NAFRS) budget for 2023 is awaiting a final vote of approval from the NAFRS board in October.

The three entities that are part of the joint powers arrangement that NAFRS formed in 2014, the City of Northfield, the City of Dundas and a board from seven surrounding communities all approved the budget. NAFRS Interim Fire Chief Tom Nelson personally attended Northfield and Dundas City Council meetings to explain the budget proposal and answer questions. He also recently met with the Northfield Fire Protection Area Board, which consists of representatives from the seven communities served by NAFRS, and received approval for the new budget from them as well.

NAFRS has been operating under a two-pronged budget plan for the past year or so. The budget for the first year since Gerry Franek retired in January 2022 included a part-time executive position. The second year was earmarked as a larger budget to accommodate a full-time fire chief, a move, argues interim fire chief Tom Nelson, is urgently needed.

The NAFRS Joint Powers Board is expected to approve the 2023 budget and in anticipation of this a job description and salary range for a full-time fire chief has been developed and is ready for publication. The position will be advertised internally and Interim Chief Tom Nelson is expected to apply for the full-time position if approved by the Board.

“Salary range is fixed. The goal, if decided in October, would be to go with a full-time boss who could hit the ground running and have a job description. There was a board action many months ago that said it would be an in-house position, but there will be a full interview committee, a full hiring committee for any candidate who applies from within.”

If the budget proposal for the full-time boss is approved in October, the full-time position would begin on January 18, 2023.

Listen to Jeff Johnson’s full interview with interim NAFRS Fire Chief Tom Nelson here.

school district to poll voters

The Northfield High School building was the talk of the district for the past few months, and now the school board has decided to ask the public for their collective opinion.

Last spring, the district called a 40-person task force and asked them to self-evaluate the building and identify the updates and renovations they felt were necessary.

The task force report came back with a graded set of recommendations. All in all, the total cost of the recommendations would be between $87 million and $90 million. Any construction projects related to the school would require a unifying referendum to be voted on by constituents in the district, and the board has found it difficult to agree on the best course of action.

Northfield Superintendent of Schools Dr. Matt Hillman said the decision was made to find out from people in the district what they want and what they want from the high school.

Hillmann said the school has “good bones” and the electrical system was modernized a few years ago. Despite that responsibility, he said, time has taken its toll on the facility.

“We took very good care of the high school, but it was in the late 1960s when it was built with additions since. There are parts of the building that certainly need a refresh; they need mechanical work, things like that. And then think about what kind of learning space we want for our children in the 21st century.”

The county has contracted with Morris Leatherman, a market research group in the Twin Cities, to conduct a “randomized, stratified sample survey” of about 400 voters. The survey will have 35-40 questions and will help the district better understand the district’s appetite for spending on the building.

A referendum will most likely be presented to voters after the information has been gathered and analyzed. Hillmann said very quickly that the referendum, which will be held in November, is not about the high school itself, but about financing building maintenance and technology. The bigger question of what to do with high school will come later.

Jeff Johnson’s full interview with Northfield School Superintendent Dr. Matt Hillman, can be heard here.

Age-friendly Northfield offers digital literacy courses

By Cait Kelley

Age-friendly Northfield offers internet and device literacy courses aimed at older adults community.

CC Linstroth, a member of the Age Appropriate Steering Committee, presented a mid-year report on the organization’s work at Tuesday night’s city council meeting. A major area of ​​interest for the organization is helping older adults understand how to make better use of internet-connected devices.

Linstroth pointed out that before the pandemic, there was a bigger gap in older adults who didn’t have devices to begin with, but with so much of life happening online, that’s less true and the problem is instead making sure that everyone feels comfortable using their devices.

Not only has the pandemic pushed people online, but Northfield is currently working with internet service provider MetroNet to build a “fiber optic network accessible to more than 85% of Northfield residents and businesses,” according to the City of Northfield’s website.

As most people have internet-connected devices, and broadband will soon be more accessible than ever, Linstroth and Age-Friendly Northfield believe the next step is to provide education on how best to use internet-connected devices used efficiently and safely.

Classes would focus on practical skills such as managing files, making better use of browsers, understanding social media platforms, connecting to Zoom and other video conferencing apps, managing banking apps, and the increasingly important question of the protection of personal data on the Internet.

For Linstroth, it is important to help older community members to navigate the Internet comfortably. She argues that as online skills become more important in society, it is important to close digital divides.

“Everyone is working on DEI, diversity, equity and inclusion. Everyone is trying to figure out how to proceed. Technical skills are one of the possibilities. If we can narrow the digital divide out there; We’re making the internet available now, people are getting access to devices, but what are they doing with those devices now? That’s the next big question.”

To deliver these digital literacy courses, Age-Friendly Northfield will work with community partners such as Northfield Public Library and Northfield Schools.

To learn more about Age-Friendly Northfield’s work, visit

Listen to Jeff Johnson’s full interview with Age-Friendly Northfield’s CC Linstroth here.

Cait Kelley is the KYMN News Editor. Contact them at

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