Top news stories of 2012 include soldier’s death, city’s growth

The year 2012 was a year to remember in many ways. There were a lot of big stories in the area, whether they related to growth in the city, accomplishments and sadly, several notable deaths in the final weeks of the year.

It’s hard to put a ranking on these events, but here is one person’s thoughts on the top stories of the past year.

1 - New Prague Marine killed in Afghanistan. Lance Corporal Dale Means, a 2007 graduate of New Prague High School, was killed by an improved explosive device (IED) while part of a convoy in Afghanistan on November 18. While his death is a tragedy for the community in general and his family in particular, the local reaction to his death was inspiring. More than 100 volunteers gathered the day before his funeral to place more than 1,500 American Flags along the route the funeral procession would be taking to St. Patrick Church, and hundreds of people lined the route to pay respects for the fallen Marine as Means’ body was taken from Bruzek Funeral Home to the church.

2 - Chart Industries breaks ground on new expansion. Early in 2012, Chart Industries began working with the City of New Prague on a financing package that resulted in the company breaking ground in October on a $23 million expansion project at its New Prague facility. The new facility will allow the company to manufacture large tanks for storage of LNG (liquid natural gas) and will result in 80 additional jobs in the community.

3 - Election brings change. The 2012 general election season saw several changes. First, in February, new district boundaries were announced that split the city into two Congressional Districts and guaranteed New Prague new representation in St. Paul. New district boundaries in Le Sueur County also resulted in three new faces on the county board, and finally, Pat Scripture was elected to the New Prague City Council.

4 - Longtime coach, teacher dies of heart attack. Matt Shetka, a 33-year teacher in the New Prague schools, who coached teams in two sports to five state championships, died of a heart attack on December 9.

5 - New Prague couple killed in Kansas crash. Tom Kerber, 25, and Melissa Kerber 24, were among five members of the Kerber family who died when the motorhome they were riding in plunged into a ravine along Interstate 35 in Kansas. Thirteen others survived the crash.

6 - Bus driver’s reaction avoids tragedy. New Prague school bus driver Larry Kotek was credited with possibly saving the lives of his passengers and the driver of another vehicle that rearended his bus on June 4.

7 - Golf in January. The unseasonably warm winter of 2011-12 led to a January golf tournament held at Creeks- Bend Golf Club. About 100 golfers took part in the January 10 event, which was a benefit for paralyzed Benilde- St. Margaret hockey player Jack Jablonski.

8 - City sees jump in housing starts. Through he first six months of 2012, the number of housing starts in New Prague was double that of all of 2011, as an improving economy and a stronger housing market encouraged people to build new homes.

9 - Fireworks crew goes out with a bang. The New Prague Pyrotechnics Team, also known as New Prague Fourth of July Celebrations Inc., gave its final show on July 3, ending a tradition that began in the 1970s. The group said it was getting harder to raise money for the event and it was time to hand over the celebration to another group. To date, no group has taken on the task for 2013.

10 - Kauzlarich signs on for another year. Larry Kauzlarich, who was hired as interim superintendent for the New Prague Area Schools in July, agreed to add a second year to his contract, committing to the district through the 2012-13 school year.