CHELSEY'S HEROES POSTPONED
The holiday fund raiser for Chelsey's Heroes scheduled for Saturday, December 1st at Camp Knutson has been postponed. Spokeswoman Julie Peterson said she's concerned about the first winter storm of the season and decided to postpone the event until later. The Chelsey's Heroes fund raisers send care packages to military men and women serving overseas. Peterson said the event will be rescheduled.
WILLMAR MAN SHOT NEAR MILACA
28-year old George Francis Walley remains in serious condition at North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale after he was shot by police officers near Milaca on Monday. Walley entered a Paynesville home, held up occupants, stole their vehicle and fled east through Waite Park and St. Cloud on Highway 23. State patrol officers gave chase, at times up to 100 miles per hour. Stearns County prosecutors have charged Walley with Frist Degree Burglary with a dangerous weapon and fleeing a police officer. Four state troopers and two Mille Lacs County Deputies have been placed on routine administrative leave in connection with the shooting.
COUNTY BUDGET SET NEXT MEETING
Crow Wing County Commissioners had agreed earlier this year on a 5% increase in the county levy. Commissioners told county staff on Tuesday, by a vote of 3-2 to work up a budget based on a 3% increase. Commissioner Doug Hauge voted against the request because he thinks the county needs at least a 5% increase. Hauge said Crow Wing is a growing county and that means county services and that means people to do the work. Hauge also said there are reserve fund balances that haven't been addressed and that a 3% increase would only postpone. The new commissioner said he would rather have a level county levy in the future rather than one that goes up and down with time. The board meets again on December 11th to set the budget for next year.
KINSHIP PARTNERS 100 MENTORS 100 DAYS
As of yesterday, 70 new people have signed up to become mentors to children in the Kinship Partners program. The current campaign is looking for 100 new mentors in 100 days and the organization has twelve day left. 10-year old Elizabeth Stiernagle enjoys spending time with her mentor Sue Hearst just doing stuff. She said being in the program has made it easier for her make friends in school. 14-year old Nick Seiverson said spending time with his mentor Dan Frank is like spending time with a dad. He said Frank has a shooting range in his back yard, he's gone up in a small plane with one of Frank's friends, and some of the time they just hang around the house and play board games. If you’d like to mentor a child, call Kinship Partners. In Pequot Lakes, the number is 568-4015, in Brainerd, 829-4606.
BRAINERD COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS CLOSING ONE SCHOOL, RE-USING ANOTHER
The Brainerd School Board Finance Commmittee voted on Thursday to recommend closing Whittier Elementary and re-using Lincoln Elementary for the Minnesota Learning Center site. The committee also approved the non-renewal of 57 teacher contracts, re-drawing the district's bus schedules, and closing open enrollment. The board has to reduce its budget by more than $5-Million by the end of June next year. Board member Reed Campbell said the actions were inevitable. Finance Committee Chair Bob Nystrom said the heat will be turned down next year at Whittier and it could be used again in 3-5 years. Nystrom said an up-tick in live births in the area in the last couple of years indicates more kids in the future. All 57 teachers will be told their contracts will not be renewed for school year 08/09 but Superintendent Jerry Walseth said some of them will probably be hired back depending upon their qualifications and position on the union seniority list. The final decision to close schools will be made the full board in December. Public hearings will be held on the closings in late December.
TRUMPETER SWANS STILL AROUND
Department of Natural Resources Small Non-Game Specialist Pam Perry said most birds are long-gone for the season, spending their time in the tropics. But not all have left. Perry said trumpeter swan family groups are still flying from lake to lake, looking for open water and food. Perry said its a rare opportunity for Lakes Area birders to catch a glimpse of the largest waterfowl in North America. Pam said we're in a big change time; some birds dependant on open water are still here but some begun to move toward milder climes. Perry said its all about finding food.
CLC WOMEN'S BASKETBALL COACH 'RELEASED'
Central Lakes College President Larry Lundblad released Raiders women basketball coach Brad Amundson Wednesday. Lundblad did not announce the name of a replacement. The Raider women are 1-5 this season. Amundson has compiled a 15-41 win/loss record in his three years as coach. Lundblad told the Brainerd Dispatch that the change is based on a difference in philosophy and the administration is exploring a number of options. Assistant coach Nate Hanson was also released. Amundson said in an email message that he and Hanson need "to move on to bigger and better things." The Raiders scheduled game Thursday night with North Dakot State College of Science has been canceled and forfeited. Officials say they should have a coach by Saturday's game with Fergus Falls.
HOSPITAL WORKER'S DEATH INVESTIGATION CONTINUES
The husband of a Willmar hospital worker at first told the Star Tribune that a filing machine fell on his wife and killed her. But later he said that wasn't the case. Minnesota Occuplational Safety and Health Administration Spokesman James Honerman said he would comment until the state's investigation is completed. 51-year old Susan Leukam was found alone and unresponsive in the hospital basement on the Friday after Thanksgiving. She died Monday at Hennepin County Medical Center. Her funeral will be Saturday morning in Belgrade.
SERTOMA WINTER WONDERLAND
Brainerd Noon Sertoma's outdoor Christmas light display continues into its second week. More than a thousand cars passed through the Northland Arboretum last weekend. Winter Wonderland project co-chairman Steve Mau said the more than 70 displays, some of them 30-40 feet tall is an incredible sight to see. One woman told him that she was happy she was blessed to live long enough to such beauty in Brainerd. Winter Wonderland is open from 6-9pm Wednesday through Sunday nights until New Year's Eve. The charge is $8 per car to drive through the displays. $3 discount tickets are available at a number of businesses.
SUPERINTENDENT'S LETTERS RECOMMEND WHITTIER, LINCOLN TO CLOSE
Brainerd elementary students from Harrison, Lincoln, Nisswa and Whittier schools took notes home with them Wednesday afternoon. Notes from Superintendent Jerry Walseth printed in the Brainerd Dispatch said he will recommend to the school board finance committee at Thursday's meeting that they close Whittier and Lincoln schools. The district has to reduce its budget by more than $5-Million by the end of June next year. The meeting Thursday morning starts at 11:30a at the Washington Administration Building on Oak Street. The finance committee will recommend action to the full school board which may decide what to do next month.
CHAMBER SUPPORTS THROUGH PEQUOT 371 ROUTE
The Brainerd Lakes Chamber has decided to support the through-town route for the Highway 371 expansion in Pequot Lakes. In an un-signed letter on Chamber letterhead, business officials said the timetable for building a bypass is uncertain, starting no earlier than 2015, may take up to ten years to finish, and may never be built. The Chamber letter predicts "stagnation of the community" if the bypass is built but a through-town route would result in business confidence and cause local businesses to improve existing structures. One survey quoted said 23-percent of Pequot Lakes businesses would expand if the highway remained where it was. The city council has approved resolutions supporting both routes. Officials said a council decision could be made next month.
TODD COUNTY BREAK-INS
The Todd County Sheriff's office reported a number of break-ins and burglaries that apparently happened Monday night and Tuesday morning. Sheriff Peter Mikkelson said an old 12-guage shotgun and some clothing was taken from a cabin on the north end of Lake Osakis Tuesday morning. Two cabins were broken into on Mound Lake earlier Tuesday, and someone broke into a home in Leslie Township but nothing was taken from any of those break-ins. And a rural Grey Eagle farmer reported he was missing five head of 450-pound cattle that he last saw north of Grey Eagle. If you know anything about the cattle or the break-ins, call the todd County Sheriff's Department.
STAPLES WOMAN MAY FACE DOMESTIC DISPUTE CHARGES
The Staples woman arrested after a five-hour police stand-off early Tuesday remains in the Wadena County Jail. A police negotiator convinced 30-year old Deborah Lee Weidt to put down her weapon and surrender around 6am. A Staples police officer had responded to a domestic dispute just after 1am and a man said he had been assaulted and that the woman in the apartment had a weapon. 30 people were evacuated from the apartment building. Wadena County Attorney's office may file charges.
CROW WING COUNTY PAY RAISES
Crow Wing County Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to hand out raises to the county sheriff, attorney, auditor, recorder and treasurer. Raises ranged from $3-7,000, become effective next year and are part of a move to a new 'pay matrix', an effort to standardize future pay increases. Commissioner Paul Thiede voted against the raises. He said this was an opportunity for elected officials to demonstrate they were serious about this budget, "that they would be willing to hold the line on their salaries, but that didn't happen." County Human Resources Director Tamra Laska recommended that commissioner's salaries be raised by about $1,000 a year but the motion to approve that increase died for lack of a second. The commissioners also voted 3-2 in favor of a 3% increase in spending next year instead of the 5% earlier approved. Thiede said no matter what some are saying, a three percent increase in spending is not a budget cut. Commissioners will make the final decision on next year's budget at the December 11 board meeting.
PAWLENTY PESSIMISTIC ABOUT FORECAST
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty said he "predicts bad news" in Friday's economic forecast and said he expects a hit to the state budget. The governor said the ailing housing market, credit crunch and high oil prices are making him pessimistic. The forecast combine spending projections and estimates tax revenue. Minnesota is six months into a two-year, $34.5-Billion budget.
SAUK RAPIDS MAN CONVICTED OF MURDER
Benton County Judge James Hoolihan convicted 24-year old Timothy James Peterson for shooting 45-year old Howard Hines nearly two years ago. Peterson admitted to shooting Hines several times while he was parking his car. The defendant had told investigators he had not planned the killing but acted in a split-second. The judge disagreed. Defense attorneys will now try to convince the judge that Peterson is mentally ill and didn't understand the nature of his crime. Benton County Attorney Robert Raupp told the St. Cloud Times he expects testimony on Peterson's mental state to continue through Thursday.
BRAINERD'S WHITTIER, LINCOLN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS MAY CLOSE
Brainerd school district administrators held meetings at all four elementary schools on the short list for possible closing Tuesday afternoon. The school board has to trim $5-Million from the budget by the end of June next year. District officials announced at the last board meeting that Nisswa, Harrison, Whittier and Lincoln are on the list for possible closing but the Brainerd Dispatch reported this morning that Whittier and Lincoln are the two that will be closed. The official announcement will be made at the school board finance committee meeting tomorrow morning at 11:30am. Assistant Superintendent Steve Razidlo told the Dispatch that sealed letters will be sent home with students from the four affected schools on Wednesday, November 28th. Thursday morning's finance committee meeting will be at the Washington Administrative Building on Oak Street.
THANKFUL FOR SAFE THANKSGIVING
Only one Minnesota county - Washington - reported a highway fatality during the long Thanksgiving weekend between last Wednesday and Sunday. Department of Public Safety spokesman Dennis Smith said the weekend was one of the least deadly on record and a dramatic reduction. 32 motorists were killed in Minnesota over the last three Thanksgiving holidays making it the state's deadliest holiday travel period.
PINE RIVER CRASH VICTIM IDENTIFIED
Cass County authorities have identified the man who died Monday afternoon just after 5pm in a single vehicle crash . 44-year old Mark Humphrey's vehicle left Cass County 114 about six miles south of Pine River. The vehicle overturned several times. The investigation continues. An autopsy has been ordered.
MISSING DOG TAGS FOUND
People living close to the old WWII American bomber base near Papua, New Guinea recently found Brainerd WWII vet Alva Clark's dog tags, buried in the jungle along with almost a hundred other GI ID tags. Retired Northwest Airlines pilot Brian Moon spends his days searching for missing in action American soldiers and received a confederate's call about the dog tags along with tales of US plane crash sites and executed Japanese war prisoners. Clark's tags had a Brainerd address on them and Moon wondered if the soldier had gone to war and not returned but Alva's son Kent said Dad had come home after the war and continued on with his life. Alva Clark died in 1974. His wife Doris, whose name was also on the GI dog tag, died six years later. Moon said he's going to travel to New Guinea next June, to examine other remains and supposed evidence of missing American GIs and said he'll make sure Clark's dog tags are brought back to his son. Son Kent said his father was stationed at the base near Papua during the war attached to a transportation division. But Kent Clark said he has no idea why his dad's dog tags are still there. Clark said "Dad didn't like to talk about the war." Moon expects to get more answers, and the dog tags next June.
POLICE DEFUSE DOMESTIC DISPUTE
Staples Police chief Kyle Huber said a domestic dispute early Tuesday morning has resulted in the arrest of 30-year old Deborah Lee Weidt. Huber said one of his officers answered the domestic call just after 1am. A man told the officer he had been assaulted and that the woman in the apartment had a weapon. More Staples officers, the Wadena Hubbard Emergency Response Team and officers from Wadena County and Verndale surrounded the apartment building and 30 people were evacuated. A negotiator talked the into surrendering around 6am. Weidt is in the Wadena County Jail waiting charges by the county attorney's office.
WILLMAR HOSPITAL WORKER DIES
51-year old Susan Leukam of Belgrade died Monday from injuries she sustained when an automatic filing machine fell on her the day afer Thanksgiving. Co-workers at Rice Memorial Hospital found the medical records worker near the machine. She was revived and airlifted to Hennepin County where she died. Leukam's husband Don said she wasn't scheduled to work Friday but volunteered to cover other shifts while co-workers went Christmas shopping. Hospital CEO Lorry Massa said Occupational Safety officials are investigating.
PINE RIVER MAN DIES IN CRASH
A 44-year old Pine River man died Monday night when the vehicle he was driving left the roadway and overturned several times. The crash occurred just after 5:00pm on Cass County Road 114 roughly six miles south of Pine River. The victim's name is being withheld until his family can be notified. An autopsy has been ordered and the investigation continues.
RITCHIE INVESTIGATION INTENSIFIES
Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles said he now wants testimony under oath in the case of Minnesota's Secretary of State Mark Ritchie allegedly using a state mailing list to solicit campaign donations. Nobles said his decision came after Ritchie first said he didn't know how the campaign got the list. Last week, Ritchie admitted he gave the list of names to his campaign staff himself, and told them to send each a newsletter. Nobles said the investigation could stretch on for several weeks. The results of the investigation could be used to craft law for reform but probably wouldn't carry criminal penalties.
HIGHWAY DEATHS RISING
Fewer people had died on Minnesota highways in the first half of this year compared to last and Minnesota State Patrol Sergeant Curt Mowers said he earlier expected this to be a year of decreasing death on the roadway. That has changed. Mowers said as of Monday, November 26th, 446 people have died on Minnesota roadways during calendar year 2007. 2006 crashes claimed 415 people by this time last year. Mowers said the year began so well, many had their hopes up that this year would show a downward trend. So far this year, 48 motorcyclists have died in crashes so far as compared to 53 last year. 30 pedestrians have died in crashes this year compared to 32 last year at this time.
C-I CITIZENS TALK ABOUT SCHOOL BUDGET CUTS
About a hundred citizens who live in the Crosby Ironton School District offered their suggestions Monday night on how to cut the school's budget. The board has to trim the C-I budget by about $1-Million by the end of June of next year. The crowd was quickly divided into small groups for discussion. Superintendent Jamie Skevlund said the next step is to look at the ideas from last night's meeting, last week's staff meeting, and other public listening sessions and put them all together. He said he will recommend the board announce its budget cuts at the December 17th meeting.
STUDENTS WILL KNOW FIRST ABOUT SCHOOL CLOSINGS
Students at the four smallest Brainerd elementary schools will get sealed notes to take home to their parents Tuesday afternoon. Inside the notes will be Superintendent Jerry Walseth's recommendations to close two of the schools. Walseth told the Brainerd Dispatch he doesn't want to say anymore about school closings until Thursday's school board finance committee meeting. Nisswa, Harrison, Whittier and Lincoln students will carry the notes home. Officials will also tell about a hundred other teachers and staff members about the suggested closings. Board member Bob Nystrom said he's received about 25 letters from Nisswa asking him not to close Nisswa Elementary.
FORMER OBERSTAR STAFFER DIES
The man who was Congressman Jim Oberstar's chief of staff until 1992 died Saturday. Tom Reagan was 81 and died after suffering a stroke the day before. Regan grew up in Crosby and worked in an iron mine while he was in high school. He was a WWII veteran and was a teacher in Aurora-Hoyt Lakes before he started working for Oberstar. Regan managed the congressman's first successful campaign for the US House in 1974. Oberstar said Reagan dedicated his life to public service and focused on serving Minnesotans instead of becoming a political insider.
STAY ON THE TRAILS, PLEASE
The snowfall has not been overly abundant yet but snowmobilers remain hopeful. Department of Natural Resources Trails and Waterways Manager Lowell Jaeger suggests that if you ride the grant-in-aide snowmobile trails, stay on the trail. Jaeger said land on either side of the trail many times is private land and if riders veer off and go exploring, that may irritate the landowner. The state has liability in cases of property damage but more importantly, the landowner may reconsider and not allow the trail on his property next year. Jaeger said snowmobiles clubs invest lots of money into grooming machines and spend a lot of time getting the trails in great shape and the best and safest place to ride is usually the trail itself.
BRAINERD FIRE DESTROYS OLD CHURCH
So far, State Fire Marshall Mark Germain believes the fire that destroyed the old Nazarene Church in Northeast Brainerd on Thanksgiving was not intentionally set. Germain told the Brainerd Dispatch he hasn't been able to determine the exact cause of the fire yet because the area he needs to investigate is not safe to be in. Germain said the fire started Thursday morning on Fourth Avenue Northeast, was put out, then reignited later that night. The old church had been remodeled into seven apartments and all residents got out of the building safely. The owner was taken to the hospital for evaluation. The building was a total loss.