SLEEPY EYE - Two dozen Bridging Brown County Leadership Day participants got a taste of Sleepy Eye Thursday, touring government buildings, businesses, industries and a church.
Twenty-five participants toured city hall, Sleepy Eye Stained Glass, the new city water treatment plant, Mark Thomas Company, Railway Bar & Grill, the Depot Museum, Haala Industries, Sleepy Medical Center and Arneson Distributing.
Sleepy Eye Stained Glass owner Mike Mason said his current projects include 88 windows for a Mankato church.
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
Mike Mason, far right, of Sleepy Eye Stained Glass provides information about his business to members of Bridging Brown County on Thursday.
For 25 years, Mason has worked with architects, interior designers and other people on churches, commercial buildings and residences to produce windows that have as many as 5,000 pieces.
His business includes classes for beginners, intermediate and advanced stained glass work.
A $5 million water treatment plant was built on the south edge of town with the help of a $1 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds enacted by Congress in 2009 for "shovel ready" projects plus $948,000 in grant funds.
Water Superintendent Jeff Moldan and water operator Mike Hardin led the tour.
"This plant does an excellent job reducing nearly all iron and manganese from city water," Moldan said. "We used to get rusty water complaints so often, we were almost afraid to answer the phone."
Lillian Stimpert detailed the history of the St. Mary's Catholic Church.
"People who toured the church have cried when they told me their church was similar to ours until it was destroyed," Stimpert said.
She said the parish wanted to repaint the church interior in 2000, but a contractor said the paint was in such good condition, it was washed instead.
The sanctuary's original hardwood floor was discovered and restored after tiles were removed.
Stimpert said parishioners have been perpetually praying for humanity for a number of years. She feels in her heart that faith saved the community from the tornado that destroyed parts of St. Peter and much of Comfrey in April 1998.
"I remember hearing the windows rattle and a rumbling sound that faded away as the storm moved south of Sleepy Eye and southwest, away from town in 1998," she said.
Mark Thomas company owner Mark Beito said 2011 was his best year yet and 2012 has been even better so far. His firm began selling carved wood funeral urns last fall.
"We added a couple more employees last year and hire high school and college kids each summer," Beito said.
The business includes a garden that donates its produce to the Sleepy Eye Area Food Shelf.
Sleepy Eye Depot Museum features include restored hardwood ceilings, many historical photos and detailed exhibits including several Nazi items seized in World War II.
Depot hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, May 1 to Dec. 15 and by appointment.
Haala Industries, featured on a "Today In America" national television segment for its effective use of technology including robotic welding, continues to offer custom fabrication, production and plasma work, welding gas sales, re-bar full bundle sales and portable welding.
Semi trucks ship Haala Industries goods to both coasts. Much of its re-bar is used in concrete road construction in Minnesota and Iowa, in particular.
"We've found niche markets. Some of our products like (skid loader) buckets and other attachments like Root Rippers are on eBay and Craig's List," said office manager Jodie Marotz.
Haala Industries built a 12-foot steel ramp for snowmobile jumps recently at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo.
The shop operates 10 hours a day, Monday through Thursday, occasionally on Friday, if necessary.
At Sleepy Eye Medical Center, Director of Nursing Sue Schweiss said two new physicians will be added to the staff this fall.
"Specialty doctors come in every day of the week," Schweiss said.
Other new features are an electronic pharmacy that operates around the clock, in-house sleep-apnea treatments and sharing hospice services with Redwood Falls Hospital.
"We're always looking to add services if we can," Schweiss said.
Arneson Distributing was founded in 1972 by Al and Rae Ann Arneson. More recently, 1919 Classic American Draft Root Beer and Buddy's original sodas were developed for them at August Schell Brewery.
Another venture acquired the Hauenstein Beer label from the G. Heileman Brewery.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at email@example.com).