A PLACE CALLED HOME: BEST OF THE CRACKER BARREL
Writer and editor Craig Nagel came to the Lakes Area in the early 1970s and taught school for a couple of years when friends of his asked him to start a newspaper. Nagel was the founding editor and later owner of the Lake Country Echo and when he sold it, the new owners asked him if he would consider writing a column. He called it The Cracker Barrell and he said "26 years later and I picked out the best of some 600 columns." Nagel called the book A Place Called Home, "as Robert Frost put it, if you ask them, they have to take you in." Nagel was born in Chicago but developed a love for Northern Minnesota somehow. He said his dream was to "live inexpensively and write novels. I managed to live inexpensively but no novels published, yet." Nagel has written hundreds of essays and articles and is working on another novel. Get more information or order the book at www.craignagel.com or check out your local book store.
MN REPUBLICAN SENATORS WANT OUT OF NCLB
A group of Minnesota Republican State Senators announced Thursday that they will introduce a bill next year to try to get the state out of federal No Child Left Behind requirements. Princeton Senator Betsy Wergin said the law has become more trouble than its worth. Wergin said anytime you try to create a system for the thousands of cities and towns across the country, its really not going to fit anybody. The Princeton Senator said only one Minnesota congressman voted for NCLB when it was introduced and "that was I belive, Jim Oberstar. You had the range of Betty McCollum to Jim Ramstad voting against it." Wergin said the bill was put together by Ted Kennedy and George Bush and "if you're trying to fill a gamut that wide, you're going to end up pertty muddy, and its a muddy piece of legislation that's not working and we want out." Wergin said there is a downside to getting out of the requirements; they come with $150-Million in federal funds. She said most of the school representatives she's talked to say the requirements of the bill cost them more than its worth.
KINSHIP PARTNERS DRIVE IN FINAL DAYS
Kinship Partners is in the final days of its drive to sign up 100 mentors in 100 days. With five days left, they still need eight more to make the goal. Executive Director David Downing said he expected the drive to start off slow and then build quickly but not to stretch out like this. Downing said this last week has been wild and one day brought in 11 applications. He said all sorts of people are applying from retired couples to young couples with families. To get an application, sign on to the webpage www.kinshippartners.org, go under the "Be A Mentor" coulumn and select the 'download an application' link.
REMEMBERING MINNESOTA SENATORS
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar has decided to remember the men who used to hold her job, representing the state in Washington, D.C. This week, she unveiled the addition to her web site that highlights the life and work of all 38. Klobuchar commissioned the project in connection with next year's Sesquicentennial. The brief biographies include stories like a Minnesota Senator whose claim to fame what that he had once challenged Abraham Lincoln to a duel. Check it out at www.klobuchar.senate.gov and look for the Minnesota Senators Through History button.
PEARL HARBOR DAY
Minnesota flags will fly at half-staff Friday to commemorate Pearl Harbor Day. Governor Pawlenty said 84 Minnesotans were serving as naval reservists on Pearl December 7, 1941 when naval forces of the Japanese Empire attacked the base in Hawaii. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack, 1,100 suffered injuries.
YOUNG MAN DIES IN THIEF RIVER CRASH
The State Patrol said a man driving a Chevvy Suburban pulled out to pass another vehicle on Highway 32 near Thief River Falls yesterday morning and collided head on with a man driving a Ford Crown Victoria. The Crown Vic driver, 21-year old Jesse Lian of St. Hillaire died at the scene and had to be extricated from the wreckage with the jaws of life-device. Lian's girlfriend was reportedly following him in another vehicle and saw the crash at just after 8:30am. The Suburban driver was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
ASHBY MAN DIES ON FREEWAY
The young man who struck a Good Samaritan's vehicle on I-94 near Alexandria Tuesday night has been identified as 18-year old Jesse Griep. He apparently lsot control of his car on the snowy roadway.
WARBA ATV DEATH VICTIM IDENTIFIED
The State Patrol has identified the ATV driver who pulled out of a driveway and into the path of a school bus as 75-year old Darrell Campbell of Warba. He died at the scene around 3pm when he was hit by a bus from the Northern Lights Charter School. None of the 24 students nor the bus driver was injured.
COOKED BOVINE TB DEER MEAT IS SAFE
DNR Wildlife Program Coordinator Lou Cornicelli said bovine tuberculosis is a bacteria like e-coli and "if you cook the animal, you have very low risk of getting sick," and very few people have gotten sick from eating the tainted meat. The DNR has authorized another deer hunt in Northwestern Minnesota, an area where three deer carcasses were found with the disease this fall. The season begin in late December and hunters can use any 2007 license. Cornicelli said the danger to humans occurs whtn it travels to dairy herds because the disease can be transmitted in unpasteurized milk. Eight cattle herds in Rosseau and Beltrami Counties have been identified as infected.
BRAINERD LAWMAKER FAVORS MAKING SCHOOL LEVY REFERENDUM ILLEGAL
District 12 State Representative John Ward said he likes a bill being worked up by Bemidji lawmaker Frank Moe that would make school levy referendums illegal and doing away with them totally. Ward said Edina School District voters recently approved an $1800 per pupil issue and "Brainerd, Crosby and Walker can't pass a referendum, creating a system of have-nots." Ward said Moe is on the right track. Ward sits on a legislative committee charged with examining the school funding system in Minnesota. The committee meets again in January.
NEW YORK MILLS CRASH VICTIM ID'D
The State Patrol has identified the 80-year old New York Mills woman who died Tuesday. Eunice L. Rantala pulled onto Highway 10 in Otter Tail County and failed to stop for for an eastbound pickup truck. She died at the scene. The other driver was not injured.
COLD SPRING DRIVER DIES
The driver of a 2003 Taurus apparently pulled out in front of an International Tandem Semi on Highway 23 in Stearns County Wednesday night just after 8pm. The Taurus driver died at the scene of the crash near Cold Spring. The truck's driver was not injured. The deceased's named won't be released until relatives are notified.
WHA SCHOOL OFFICIALS CONSIDER WHAT NEXT
Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School District officials are thinking about what to do now, beyond cutting the $10-Million budget. WHA's levy referendum lost by 18 votes on Tuesday. Superintendent Wallace Schoeb said the election lost by less than 1% and said he wants to get a legal opinion first. Schoeb said he will make the first of the cuts, $650,000 and then ask voters in another referendum "we made our first round of cuts. How much do you want us to cut the second time or are you willing to support us?" Schoeb said he would rather wait until later next spring to run another referendum because he needs a breath of fresh air. But part of the effort seemed to please him. Schoeb said "apparently what we did worked, but it didn't work good enough." WHA's enrollment is now just over 900 students. Officials expect it to drop to 750 by 2012.
CROOKSTON TEACHER CHARGED WITH CRIMINAL SEXUAL CONDUCT
Crookston substitute teacher 38-year old Kellie Ann Lundon-Cormican has been charged with four counts of criminal sexual conduct for allegedly having sex with a 14-year old boy. Lundon-Cormican allegedly told authorities she thought the boy was 16. The two hooked up a couple of times in August, once in late September and twice last week. School Superintendent Wayne Gilman said she hasn't worked at the school since early November. The suspect is to make her first court appearance on Wednesday, December 12th.
THE MANY USES OF DUCT TAPE
DNR Conservation Agent Lisa Kruse received a tip towards the end of firearms deer season that a hunter had registered two antlerless deer but pulled away from the registration site with a doe and a buck in the trailer. Kruse went to the hunter's home and found two does in the trailer but one had antlers duct-taped to its head. The hunter told Kruse that his friends wanted him to feel better about his hunting abilities.
NEW LATE WINTER DEER HUNT AUTHORIZED
The DNR has authorized another hunting season later this year in the northwestern corner of the state. Researchers said three deer carcasses tested positive for bovine tuberculosis and the agency would like to thin out the deer herd in area 101 and prevent further spread of the disease. Any hunters with a 2007 license from any zone can participate in the hunt between December 29th and January 13. If hunters don't take enough deer, the agency plans to hire sharpshooters to reduce the numbers. Bovine TB was discovered in Roseau and Beltrami Counties two years ago. Since then 13 wild deer and eight cattle herds have developed the disease.
A VERY SUCCESSFUL DEER HUNT
The DNR said hunters will bag more than a quarter-million deer this hunting season, lower than the record 290,000 in 2003 but still respectible. 234,000 have been registered so far. Muzzleloader season is open until Sunday and archery hunting continues until December 31st. The final numbers will be available in mid-January.
WHA SCHOOL LEVY FAILS BY LESS THAN 1%
More voters in the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School District levy referendum said 'no' than 'yes' in last night's special election; 18 more. The final vote was 992 in favor of the levy increase and 1010 against. The district is in statutory operating debt and will have to cut next year's budget by $1.2-Million. The current district budget is roughly $10-Million. The levy issue would have raised approximately $5.5-Million over the next ten years.
WARBA ATV DRIVER DIES
An all-terrain-vehicle driver pulled out of a private driveway on Highway 2 near Shallow Lake in Warba Tuesday afternoon and into the path of a school bus. The ATV driver died. 24 students at the Northern Lights Charter School were on the bus. None of them were injured. The crash happened around 3pm. Warba is southeast of Grand Rapids. The ATV driver's name has not been released.
I-94 CRASH CLAIMS LIFE
One driver stopped to help another whose vehicle has slipped off Interstate 94 in Douglas County Tuesday night around 10pm. The driver of a third vehicle lost control and struck the Good Samaritan's vehicle. The third vehicle's driver died at the scene. No additional information from the crash was made available until the State Patrol can notify relatives.
RICE, MN DRIVER DIES IN CRASH
A 39-year old Rice, Minnesota driver was trying to pass a car early Tuesday morning when his vehicle collided head-on with a Spee Dee Delivery truck on Highway 23 near Foreston in Mille Lacs County. He died at the scene just before 3:30am. The name of the driver has not been released yet.
WALKER-HACKENSACK-AKELEY LEVY REFERENDUM
Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School District voters decide Tuesday whether the school board will have an additional $5.5-Million to spend over the next ten years. WHA is in statutory operating debt and will have to cut just over $1.2-Million from its $10-Million budget for the next school year if voters say no. If voters approve both questions on the ballot, the board would spend another $2.5-Million to replace the elementary school air handling system and fix up the roof and the baseball field. A taxpayer who owns a $100,000 home would pay an additional $108 a year for the next ten years if the levy is approved. Polling places include the WHA high school in Walker, Hackensack City Hall, and the Onigum and Akeley Regional Community Centers. Polls are open until 8pm.
WINTER DRIVING RETURNS
Minnesota Department of Transportation Brainerd Lakes Area Maintenance Supervisor Tom Rieck said the new snow over the weekend is okay with him because "this is what we do, this is what we get ready for all year, keeping Minnesota roads clear and driveable." Rieck said his 'plowjockeys' are the best in the business and they don't hear that often enough. But Rieck said the rest of us can help. He said a lot of people get impatient when they're following a snowplow. When workers are clearing a roadway, they typically travel at 25 mph, and even slower if sanding or salting. Higher speeds will toss the chemical over the road and into the ditch. Rieck also said too many drivers follow the plows too close and take chances they shouldn't. He said the best advice he could give would be to "don't crowd the plow. Stay back and stay alive."
371 EXPANSION ROUTE DECISION NEARS
Pequot Lakes City Council Member Jim Orascovitch said Monday night's meeting about the future of Highway 371 offered lots of information, some new, some rehashed, but all good. Orascovitch said Region Five did an especially good job with its surveys. He said comparing surveys and questionnaires was also instructive. For example, a postcard survey done by a Pequot Lakes citizens group contacted taxpayers in Pequot Lakes while a business group survey contacted everyone in the 56472 zip code area, many of whom don't live in Pequot Lakes. One survey's results favored a through-town expanded highway route, the other a bypass around town. Orascovitch added that a decision is near and on the city council agenda for December 18th. And in spite of the nearly four-year process, business activity continues. Councilman Orascovitch said nine people have applied for permits this year and two developments, not bad for Pequot Lakes.
PUBLIC HEARING ABOUT SCHOOL CLOSING
The Brainerd School Board will conduct a public hearing at Whittier Elementary to discuss the proposed closing of the school. The closing would be effective at the end of the current school year. The school district has to cut $5.5-Million from its budget by June of next year. The hearing will be Wednesday, December 19th at 7pm. The board is to vote on a finance committee recommendation to close the school on December 10th.
WINTER DRIVING PLEAS FROM THE STATE PATROL
Minnesota State Patrol Sergeant Curt Mowers said too many of us have forgotten what winter driving is supposed to be like. Sergeant Mowers said he's willing to give you a warning this time, but the next time you meet on the highway, he's not so sure. Minnesota drivers are following too closely and driving too fast for highway conditions. And way too often he sees car windshields and lights covered with snow and ice. Mowers said it makes it more difficult to operate the vehicle if you can't see where you're going.
PEQUOT LAKES COUNCIL HEARS CHAMBER PLEA, SURVEYS
The Pequot Lakes City Council talked mostly about the future of Highway 371 at Monday night's meeting. The council heard a presentation by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, survey information from Region Five Development Commission officials, and a recommendation from a school superintendent. Pequot Lakes School Superintendent Rick Linnell told the council he favors the through-town Highway 371 route. Linnell said without overpasses, the bypass option would cause serious safety concerns and the through-town option would better control traffic speed. Region Five Director Cheryal Hills said her organization interviewed 600 people in August and called 306 in October. 44% of those called preferred the bypass and 37% liked the through-town route. In a survey of business owners, more than half said they preferred the through-town route and roughly 35% said they liked the bypass. The council told the Brainerd Dispatch it will make a final decision at its December 18th meeting.
SUSPECTED IDAHO KILLER PLEADS GUILTY
The man who jumped bail on a Detroit Lakes child molestation charge and later kidnapped and sexually abused two children at a Montana campsite has entered a guilty plea to federal charges. Joseph Duncan allegedly kidnapped 8-year old Shasta and 9-year old Dylan Groene and later killed the boy. Shasta was rescued seven weeks after the 2005 abduction when people spotted the girl with Duncan in a restaurant. Duncan's guilty plea could lead to the death penalty. The suspect's earlier guilty pleas have been made in Idaho state court.
THE GOVERNOR SAYS NO TO SPECIAL SESSION, AGAIN
Governor Pawlenty said 'no' to lawmakers again who wanted a special session, for at least the fourth time this year. Minnesota lawmakers reacted to last Friday's economic forecast with a plea for the session to consider a $645-Million bonding bill for construction projects. Pawlenty said the regular session is less than two months away and the cost of a special session would outweigh the benefit. Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark said its like the state is stranded on the side of the road, asking for a jump-start, "and the Governor said 'no'." Last Friday's forecast predicted a $373-Million deficit by the middle of 2009. The state's two-year budget is roughly $34.5-Billion.
MINNESOTA ECONOMIC FORECAST REVERSAL
Minnesota state economists released the budget forecast on Friday. The forecast said the state is $373-Million less than what it needs for its $34.5-Billion two year budget. House Minority Leader Marty Seifert said last November's forecast showed a $2.2-Billion surplus and state government needs to economize. Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller said the Governor should call a special session and allow lawmakers to pass a $645-Million bonding bill to build roads next spring and add jobs and taxpayers. Pogemiller said Minnesota has lost jobs this year and state government needs to spend more. Minnesota's unemployment rate is 4.7%, the same as that reported by US Labor officials.
W-H-A SCHOOL DISTRICT VOTERS DECIDE ON LEVY REFERENDUM
The Walker-Hackensack-Akeley District voters will approve or disapprove a tax increase Tuesday, December 4th that could raise nearly $5.5-Million over the next ten years. WHA is in statutory operating debt and will have to cut just over $1.2-Million from its $10-Million budget for next year if the referendum fails to get voter support. If both questions on the ballot pass, the district will spend $2.5-Million to replace the air handling system in the elementary school as well as do repairs to the baseball field and fix the roof. A taxpayer who owns a $100,000 home would see an increase in property taxes of $108 per year for the next ten years. Polling places include the WHA high school in Walker, Hackensack City Hall, Akeley Regional Community Center and the Onibum Community Center.
HIGHWAY 371 PRESENTATION TO PEQUOT LAKES CITY COUNCIL
The Brainerd Lakes Chamber will give a presentation to the Pequot Lakes City Council Monday night and ask the council to favor the Highway 371 expansion along its current alignment rather than a bypass around town. The chamber announced its preference last week after a summer and fall of meetings and surveys. Chamber spokeswoman Ruth Ann Hanson insists the information they will present was not available for earlier council sessions. The council has passed resolutions in favor of both routes and is to make a final decision on December 18th. Taxpayers will vote at the WHA high school, Hackensack City Hall, the Akeley Regional community Center, and the Onibum community Center from noon until 8p on Tuesday.