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Tech club seeks to educate and collaborate with local techies
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Borderland residents looking to learn more about technology can do so at the I-Falls Tech Club.

Meeting the first Saturday of every month at Ballan’s iSpace (401 4th St, International Falls, MN 56649), the I-Falls Tech Club seeks to teach people of all ages and skill levels about various technology.

“It’s a chance for us to get together and learn about technology,” club co-founder Todd Ojala said. “Computers, networking, 3D printing and basically anything we consider high-tech.”

Ojala recalled when he was younger and learning about computers, saying folks now get most of their technical know-how through the screen.

“These days a lot of people watch videos on tech on YouTube and play online games,” he said. “For me, the problem is that tech can be so addictive, like playing games and doing stuff on social media is so addictive that it almost prevents you from learning how technology works.”

That was when Ojala got the idea for the I-Falls Tech Club.

“I thought this would be a good way to get people together, like we did back then to network and learn about technology,” he said.

Although the club has only had three meetings so far, Ojala said they have already had many great discussions.

“We’ve really discussed 3D printing, which Ian (Hall) is really knowledgeable about and he’s demonstrated some of his stuff,” he said. “I’ve talked about computers on a theoretical level. People can come here and basically talk about whatever they know about technology.”

“We really got to nerd out,” co-founder Hall agreed. “We talked for like an hour on the history of computers and technology in the area, and how important it is to bring technology to the forefront of Northland.”

Hall credited the local companies that helped get the club off the ground.

“We got support from Small Town Tech, Soundnorth and Ballan’s iSpace,” he said.

Ojala said the club also looks to help the Borderland community.

“We got a computer that was donated to the club, so we’re going to put Linux (a software program) on it and donate it to someone who may need a computer but can’t afford one,” he said.

Hall said he hopes the club will grow as time goes on, and that it will become a place where people can show off their projects, as well as a place where people aren’t afraid to ask questions.

“We’re trying to build a community here, like a Reddit (an online message board) community but in real life,” he said. “We want to stress that we’re not a tech class, nobody is expected to teach here, but we will encourage you to learn more about whatever problems you may be having.”

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FHS graduates: Overcoming challenges, ready for the future
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They may have been socially distant, but the Falls High School Class of 2021 graduated together, among invited guests, in Bronco Arena Sunday.

Instructor Karla Line welcomed graduates, telling them that the word “commencement” is an appropriate word to use, because the day represents new beginnings and a promising future

Line reminded the class that they didn’t make it this far alone. She urged them to consider their parents, family, friends, faculty and staff who made a commitment to help them realize their dreams. And she told them to take out their phones, and text a thank you to someone special in the room.

Line spoke about the past year, which she said helped them all learn that life is not always perfect, but that great things can be accomplished, regardless of what is thrown at them.

The message was echoed by student speakers Ella Bahr, Anna Windels, Jocelyn Klocek and Bryant Koenig.

Bahr, who will study aerospace engineering at New York University, served as student president, and student school board representative in her four years of high school, noted Principle Tim Everson, in making introductions.

Bahr said class members had been pushed to their limits, faced challenges no other classes had faced and can now go into the world confident in their abilities.

Feeling a range of emotions, including exhilaration and exhaustion, Bahr said graduation allows them to imagine their future in a world they can and will create.

Windels, who will study environmental science at the University of Minnesota, said the day represents the end of an incredible journey on a long and difficult road.

She described the past year as chaotic, exhausting and extremely demanding. But said she would focus on the future, which is each of theirs to fill.

Their education has provided them with the growth and skills necessary to take on the word, Windels said.

Celebrate today, and one another, she urged her classmates.

Klocek, who will study high school social studies and music, said the classmates had watched one another change and grow into adults.

She urged each of them to stand up for themselves, to be proud of who they are, and to feel confident in being themselves, despite sometimes being afraid, angry or hurt in life.

Koenig, who will seek a degree in mechanical engineering, and play baseball at Viterbo University, told his classmates they are the master of their own destiny. And only they, themselves, can stand in their way of their destiny.

He urged the class to turn its celebration into determination to continue on the path of life.

“You get to decide what to do with your life as you leave Falls High School,” he said.

Koenig noted an empty chair among their class for beloved classmate Carter Herberg, who died in December.

Herberg showed up at school each day with a smile on his face, which Koenig said he misses. “You’re memory will live on within all your friends here today,” he said.

Members of the school board, who handed the new graduates their diplomas, provided Herberg a diploma in memoriam.

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Journal, North Star Publishing to end operations

The International Falls Journal and North Star Publishing will close all its operations at the end of June, with the last edition of The Journal published on June 24.

Like many businesses this past year, the impact of the pandemic on The Journal and North Star Publishing has been dramatic. These challenges, when combined with other difficult economic trends, have forced us to make this difficult decision.

We thank the employees for their tremendous work this past year, and the community for its many years of support.

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Kostiuk hired as police chief; Triathlon a go for August
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International Falls will have a new police chief next month.

The Falls City Council Monday approved Mayor Harley Droba's appointment of Mike Kostiuk, who now serves as Falls police captain.

The council also authorized a meeting with Kostiuk to negotiate a salary within parameters, and to advertise for candidates to fill the captain position.

The move for Kostiuk is effective July 6 with the retirement of Police Chief Rich Mastin.

City Administrator Betty Bergstrom described the hiring process, explaining that three applicants who met the minimum requirements responded to the advertisement and were interviewed and ranked by a hiring committee.

Droba called each candidate and made a recommendation, and now asked the council for concurrence with his selection to fill the position.

Droba told the council, following the vote, that he did not ask the committee for its rankings of the candidates, until after he had made a decision.

The No. 1 candidate from the hiring committee matched Droba's, he said.

“It's clear Capt. Kostiuk is the best choice for police chief,” Droba said.

Triathlon Aug 21

Also Monday, the council approved the Great Up North Triathlon and 5K, as proposed by Ashley Hall and Evolve U Fitness and Wellness.

The Aug. 21 event will begin at 8 a.m., with most of it at City Beach and similar to how the 2019 event functioned.

Droba said the event, canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, was a good one, bringing people into the area.

“I look forward to not participating this year,” he joked of the challenging-for-most-people sports event that calls for competitors to swim one quarter mile, bike ride 15-miles and run.

Information provided to the council said the event would use the basketball court as the transition area, the water in front of city beach for the swimming portion, and the parking lot for check-in, event activities and some parking. Athletes and spectators will also park on the road.

Evolve U will have volunteers in the water watching and assisting athletes, volunteers and water stations along the route and people riding the route to ensure the safety of the participants.

The Great Up North Triathlon will be insured through Borderland Insurance, and each participant will be required to sign a liability waiver; Evolve U Fitness & Wellness LLC assumes all liability.

The Monday council agreed by vote to delete from Monday's agenda, a recommendation from the Human Resource Committee to approve hiring a human resources/safety director position in the Administration Department.

Information provided to the council from Bergstrom said her hiring as the administrator left a vacancy in the department, and a heavier workload.

The discussion at and prior to the May committee discussion has been prompted by the idea the city has an average of 54 full-time employees and 76 part-time employees at any given time, illustrating a need for the position.

Other business

In other business, the council:

  • Heard from Droba an update of the July 4 festivities. He said the committee continues to seek a band to play at the street dance July 3.
  • Heard from resident Curt Wagner about concerns he has about the 15th Street project. After discussion, Droba said the concern will be revisited at the June 21 meeting. “Let us try to get this right and get this fixed,” Droba asked.
  • Approved a $32,762 quote from Midwest Playscapes for playground equipment, border, and installation of the equipment at City Beach.
  • Approved the $5,817 low quote from Complete Comfort Systems for installation of a unit heater in the street garage.
  • Will request Ranier Recreation Commission remove the piano from under the pavilion at City Beach due to its poor condition.
  • Approved low quote from Adam McIntyre Painting for painting of 50 street light poles and repairs/painting of Smokey Bear statue, as budgeted items.
  • Heard from Bergstrom that she is consulting the city's home rule charter and the League of Minnesota Cities, and will recommend how to handle the city's legal notices in light of the announced shutdown of the county's legal newspaper, The International Falls Journal, at the end of June.
  • Approved the following low quotes on purchases for Fire Department equipment, following background provided by Fire Chief Adam Mannausau: Extrication equipment, as budgeted items at $32,865 from Grand Forks Fire Equipment; Rescue Struts at $3,800 from Grand Forks Fire Equipment; and lifting bags, 5 bag set with controls at $6,695 from Alex Air Apparatus.