As everyone looks forward to the fresh new year, it’s time to look back as the year 2012 comes to a close. Here are some of the major stories that had Big Lake residents talking. Rifenberick Resigns After years of scrutiny and insubordination, Big Lake Police Chief Sean Rifenberick submitted his resignation in March with a proposed “buy-out clause” of nearly $160,000. Rifenberick fell under fire after several police officers under his management gathered before city council to plead to have the chief removed from power. An interim police chief was subsequently named (Steve Doran) and a search for a new chief immediately commenced. Joel Scharf, 45, was eventually selected to succeed Rifenberick in August. Commercial Growth Cherrywood Advanced Living opened their doors for business in May. Lake Shopping Center is in development for an office/retial building to the east of Coborn’s, next to Big Lake Lumber. Northern Star Apartments at the rail TOD site should begin construction early next year on a 72-unit apartment complex consisting of two 36-unit, three-story buildings. The Friendly Buffalo Bar and Restaurant is in the process of remodeling their business to accommodate outdoor seating, horseshoe pits, volleyball courts and more. KleinBank began construction on their new building located at Hwy. 10 and Co. Rd. 43. Construction is slated to be finished in the spring of 2013. The Crossings at Big Lake Station Townhomes is open for business and people have already moved in. New Staff Hire Paula Mastey of Becker was appointed finance director for the City of Big Lake, starting the first week in February. Eight applicants vied for the job and Mastey was hired from a field of six finalists in a second round of interviews. City Administrator Todd Bodem also settled into his first full year at the job following his hiring last Christmas. Bodem took over for outgoing CA Scott Johnson who accepted a position with the City of Medina. Fee Issues Big Lake resident Jean McQuay petitioned council in June and later in the fall to have her variance fees reduced for a covered porch project she wanted to complete to her house on Powell Street. McQuay had to pay a $750 up-front fee with a $500 escrow. McQuay argued other area communities are charging closer to $250 to $275. Land Acquisition Wally Coudron of Edina Realty spent time with council members in August discussing the acquisition of the foreclosed Shady River property through the city’s NSP program. The land, located just east of Eagle Lake Road in Big Lake Twp. is proposed to be a future city park. The cost for the procurement was $102,471. Officer Berg Honored Big Lake Police Officer Rich Berg was praised by council and Sherburne County Attorney Kathleen Heaney in September for special work he did on a case involving a juvenile victim. Berg received a certificate of recognition. Community Service Mayor Lori Kampa and Council Member Duane Langsdorf were celebrated in December for their long-serving dedication to the City of Big Lake. Kampa lost a close race to Raeanne Danielowski for the Mayoral seat and Langsdorf lost his seat as he finished third to Seth Hansen and Nick Christenson in the November election. Kampa served the city since 2004 when she was elected as a council member and held that position until she was elected as the mayor in 2008, which she held through her term ending Dec. 31. Langsdorf had served as a council member since 2008. He was also recognized for his contributions to the city and his considerable time and effort sitting on various commissions and committees. Final Tax Levy After months of debates and workshop discussions, the city voted to approve a 1.9% tax increase despite the “naye” votes from Danielowski and Dick Backlund. Danielowski and Backlund voted to approve the levy at 0% with the inclusion of utilizing the expected $156,014 from Local Government Aid (LGA) to offset the 1.9% shortfall. Road Construction Co. Rd. 43, between Hwy. 10 and Co. Rd. 14 received a partial facelift this fall with the completion of the project expected to occur in the spring of 2013. The project consists of new curb and gutter, a new concrete median and improvements to the railroad signal system and widening of the road.