AL FRANKEN ENJOYING WHAT HE SEES
US Senate Candidate Al Franken said his campaign swing through northern Minnesota is going well, so far. Franken said his organization hasn't done a lot of polling yet so he doesn't have specific percentages. The candidate said he has made it to Fargo for a meeting before appearances in Moorhead. Recently, he spent time in Grand Rapids, Onamia and Crookston and many have signed up to speak for his candidacy in precinct caucus meetings next Tuesday, February 5th. Franken is competing with only two others now for the Democrat endorsement and then to compete with incumbent Senator Norm Coleman. Minneapolis attorney Jim Cohen announced Thursday that he was dropping out of the race.
WINTER DRIVING CAUTIONS
Minnesota State Patrol Sergeant Curt Mowers said for some strange reason he's noticed too many drivers are forgetting some basic safe-driving techniques. Mowers said traffic crash fatalities are running way behind last year's pace and he'd like to convince you to keep it that way. Mowers said some drivers are forgetting to use their turn signals and stay in the side of the lane toward which they're turning. He said others are forgetting to replace their head or tail lighes when they burn out or not cleaning the ice and snow off. Mowers said simple tips like these will help reduce the number of deaths on the highway as well as the aggravation levels of other drivers.
VINTAGE SNOWMOBILES AND FISHING CONTEST IN CROSBY
Vintage Scorpion snowmobiles will crowd the ice on Serpent Lake in Crosby Saturday, February 2nd for this year's annual Scorpion Homecoming. Randy Harrison's father and grandfather with businessman Glen Guttsman started the Trail-A-Sled company in 1959. Harrison said several hundred collectors and vintage machine owners will have their snowmobiles on display. Harrison said machines from the earliest 'air sled' to the Scorpion Squadron races will be on the ice. Randy added that these aren't dusty old sleds that have been sitting in someone's back yard for the last 30 years but meticulously restored machines that in many cases look better now than they did sitting on the show room floor. The Scorpion brand was bought by Arctic Enterprises in 1978 and the Crosby plant employed 360 people in 1979 but fell on hard times and closed in 1980. The chamber will hold it's annual fishing contest at the same time, from noon to 3pm. Get more information about the Scorpion Homecoming at www.trailasled.com.
SUSPECT ARRESTED IN FISH HOUSE BREAK-INS
Todd County Sheriff's Deputies have arrested a man they believe broke into a number of fish houses on Sauk and Fairy Lake recently and stole fishing items. Sheriff Peter Mikkelson said the man tried to pawn the stolen items in Little Falls. He added that the items have now been recovered but some of them have not been reported stolen in the first place. If you have a house on Sauk or Fairy Lakes and are missing things, bring a detailed list to the Todd County Sheriff's office in Long Prairie to collect your belongings.
SEXUAL ASSAULT CHARGE CLOSES KIDS QUEST
The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe have closed the Kids Quest child care centers in the wake of news that a 3-year old boy may have been sexually assaulted at the site at Grand Casino Mille Lacs. The alleged attack happened on Wednesday, January 23rd. The suspect is a boy between 8 and 10. Mille Lacs County Prosecutor Jan Kolb said she has not reviewed the case for possible charges yet. She said Minnesota law doesn't allow for sexual assault charges for alleged attackers under 10 years old. New Horizon Academy runs the day care centers. The company filed a written statement saying that it regretted employees had failed to follow procedures to keep children safe.
PEQUOT LION PROGRAM HELPS RETURNING VETS AND FAMILIES
Pequot Lakes Lion Bruce Billington started Project New Hope recently, a program to help returning combat veterans and their families get life back to what it was before their military experience. Billington said families are invited to spend a weekend at one of three camps in Minnesota to talk to counselors, other combat vets with similar experience or just to chill out and go fishing with the kids. Billington said after the retreat, members of Project New Hope keep in contact with the veterans and military families, to finetune the program. Lion Billington said something he's heard more than once is that its nice to know other military families are having the same issues, the same hurdles that they're experiencing. Pequot Lakes Lions are selling wristbands emblazoned with the words "Project New Hope" to raise money for camp expenses. Billington said there is no charge to military families and the exercise is all-volunteer. Bruce said program organizers are looking for Vietnam Vets and combat vets from other wars willing to share their experiences. Contact him through the program's website, firstname.lastname@example.org.
CAREY ON CAUCUS
Minnesota Republican Party Executive Director Ron Carey is doing what he can these days to convince as many citizens to go to their precinct caucus meetings next Tuesday night. Carey said he and DFL Executive Director Brian Melendez have even made joint public appearances to try to sell the message. Carey said too many Minnesotans believe a small, dedicated core of party faithful make all the decisions in politics but because so few show up to caucus, a relatively small number end up forwarding party platform ideas and suggesting candidates. Carey said technology has made finding your precinct caucus location easier than ever. Go to the Minnesota Secretary of State's web site at www.sos.state.mn.us. Independence, Republican and DFL parties will caucus on Tuesday, February 5th. The constitution Party will caucus on Saturday, February 2nd. The Green Party will caucus on March 4th.
BENTON COUNTY DRUG DOG DISPUTE
Benton County authorities are holding an on-line contest to name their new drug dog and one deputy may have ruined it all. The deputy went to an on-line chat room and mentioned his favorite name. Votes for that name shot up shortly after. Some county residents think he may have influenced the vote but the deputy insists it was an innocent mistake. Voting ends on January 31st. Students in the DARE program suggested the names; Ben, Chase, Cody, Copper, Max and Sarge. The one who suggested the winner will get his picture taken with the dog. You may still be able to get in your vote. Check it out at www.co.benton.mn.us.
PINE RIVER MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO MURDER
19-year old Matthew Michael Martin pleaded guilty this week for the murder of 15-year old Molly Jean Rice of Backus. Court documents say that Martin stabbed Rice in the head, then found a .22-caliber pistol and shot her in the early morning hours of August 4th. Her body was found four days later. The Lake Country Echo reported that Martin will be sentenced on March 21st. A first-degree murder charge can carry a penalty of life in prison.
OBJIBWE POLICE INVESTIGATE SEXUAL ASSAULT
Mille Lacs Objibwe Tribal Police are investigating the possible sexual assault of a three year old boy last week at the Kids Quest child care center at Grand Casino Mille Lacs. The lawyer for the tribe said the suspect is another boy who is between 8 and 10 years old. The attorney for the victim said the 3-year old had bruises on his arm and finger marks on his neck and face. A doctor who examined the child the next day said there may have been a sexual assault. The child care facility is operated by a private firm that leases the space from the casino.
MICHIGAN MAN CHARGED WITH MURDER
40-year old Richard Derek Wright of Belleville, Michigan was charged Wednesday with the strangulation death of 40-year old Sonya Marie Hennagir of Park Rapids. Wright allegedly strangled the woman early Tuesday morning, then allegedly attempted to sexually assault her child. A friend of Hennagir's said she had gotten a frantic text message, found the dead woman, discovered Wright upstairs with the child, and was struggling with him in the driveway when police arrived. Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne says Wright had worked as a foreman for a Park Rapids area pipeline company and knew the victim. He's waiting his next court appearance in the Hubbard County Jail on $750,000 bail.
C-I BOARD CUTS $750,000
The Crosby Ironton School Board official trimmed its budget for next year by $750,000 at this week's meeting. Superintendent Jamie Skjvelund and Business Manager Bill Tollefson had suggested cutting more, at least $1-Million and maybe even $1.3-Million in order for the board to re-institute an adequate 'rainy day' fund balance in case of emergencies, but the board decided the lower amount was all they wanted to trim. Skjvelund said the lower amount will have to work and that the cuts came up to the board's expectations. Skjvelund added working in a district that's going through hard times would seem a bit depressing to some on the outside. Superintendent Skjvelund said that's hardly the case in Crosby-Ironton because people in the community are stepping forward, every day, and asking "how can I help?" The Crosby Ironton School Board removed the district from statutory operating debt in the recent past with a positive fund balance.
ENVIRONMENTAL SEMINAR THURSDAY NIGHT
The Brainerd Area Environmental Learning Network will sponsor a presentation Thursday night on how ecosystems connect from one area to another. Mike Duval is the Lakes Management Coordinator of the DNR's Fish and Wildlife Division. He said there will be three speakers talking about how the Brainerd Lakes Area fits into the larger global environment. The seminar runs from 7-8:45pm Thursday night at Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd. Doors open at 6pm. There's no charge for the program.
FARM BILL DEADLINE TWO WEEKS AWAY
Both US House and Senate have passed new farm bills but so far, the differences have not been ironed out and President Bush has threatened to veto the bill if it's cost is higher than he wants to spend. Minnesota Farm Bureau President Doug Peterson hopes the new Farm Secretary, former North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer can help. Peterson said Schafer is familiar with the crops grown in the Midwest and that's an advantage. Peterson hopes to gain access to the new Secretary and thinks he's a fair man but understands he's part of the administration that's threatening a veto. If there is no new farm bill by March 15th, farm policy reverts to a 60-year old Agriculture Law, which both Peterson and House Ag Committee Chair Colin Peterson say is not a bad option.
WHITE BEAR LAKE SNOWMOBILER DIES SUNDAY
The St. Louis County Sheriff has identified the woman who died Sunday afternoon in a snowmobile accident. 25-year old Jessie Lynn Arnsdorff of White Bear Lake drove off the Arrowhead Snowmobile Trail about five miles northwest of Cook. She was taken to Cook Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
CASS COUNTY HOSPITAL TAKES ONE STEP FORWARD
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid announced this week that the proposed hospital in Walker can use an adjusted mileage standard when applying for a critical access hospital. Current rules say hospitals can't be closer than 35 miles; Walker and Park Rapids are 32 miles apart. Task Force Chairman John Warren said because the main roadway between Walker and the nearest critical access hospital in Park Rapids is not a major roadway, CMMS said a 15 mile separation factor can be used in the application. Warren said this is a great step forward but just one more step. Both Walker lawmaker Larry Howes and US Senator Norm Coleman said there seems to be no more governmental obstacles for the hospital.
PARK RAPIDS WOMAN MURDERED
Hubbard County Sheriff's Deputies arrested 40-year old Richard Derek Wright from Bellville, Michigan Tuesday morning in connection with what may be a murder in a Park Rapids home. Officers were called to the home around 3:45am Tuesday morning. When they arrived, they witnessed the suspect struggling with a woman in the driveway. The woman said she had just returned to the home and found a dead woman in the living room. Suspect Wright is in the Hubbard County Jail waiting charges. An autopsy has been scheduled to determine cause of the woman's death. Sheriff Gary Mills said he won't release her name until her relatives can be notified.
MN BUDGET GAP MAY GET BIGGER
State Economist Tom Stinson said Minnesota tax revenues continue to lag and the projected $373-Million shortage forecast in November may become larger. Stinson said he won't be able to make a good budget prediction until the next economic forecast numbers are released in late February. Stinson told those attending a Minnesota Council of Nonprofits meeting yester that there will certainly be less money flooding into Minnesota government but the question is how much. The state ecnomist said he'll have a better idea when he gets a look at last month's sales tax totals and some income tax numbers from this month.
CASS COUNTY PREPARES FOR PRECINCT CAUCUSES
Cass County political parties are also getting ready for precinct caucuses. DFL County Chairman Dan Bye said this is his first year of taking on the top job. Bye said unfortunately the job doesn't come with an instruction manual but he did learn quite a bit when his parents were involved in county politics. Bye said this year, there are 11 precinct caucus locations. The Cass County Republicans are going through some re-organization themselves and state party official Tim Gould said his team is seting up the four locations in Cass County. To find your precinct caucus location, call your county auditor. If you have computer access, check the Minnesota Secretary of State's page or the county auditor's web site.
2008 MISS NISSWA PAGEANT
10 senior high school girls and 18 Nisswa and Pequot Lakes second graders will glide across this year's 36th annual Miss Nisswa Scholarship Pageant Saturday, February 2nd. Nisswa Women of Today spokeswoman Penny Stomvoll said the contestants have been rehearsing the opening number and they're ready to go. Stomvoll said the pageant is pretty much like it was last year and the year before as far as the program is concerned. The Nisswa Women of Today have been able to raise the total amount of money for scholarships to $5,300 this year, $2,000 goes to the winner of the pageant. The event begins at 7pm at the Lutheran Chruch of the Cross in Nisswa.
FAIR TAX PROGRESS
Supporters of the Fair Tax proposition continue to work toward more public exposure for the idea. The Fair Tax would abolish the Internal Revenue Service and other federal taxes and replace them with a nationwide sales tax on purchases of new products. Ashby resident Dick Grinnell is one of three area managers in Minnesota. Grinnell said the number one roadblock for the Fair Tax is elected officials. Grinnell said federal politicians don't want the Fair Tax because it would take away erode their ability to reward their friends and punish their enemies with the tax code. The Fair Tax amendment was first introduced in the US House of Representatives in 1999 by Georgia Congressman John Lindner and co-authored by Minnesota Congressman Colin Peterson.
LEGISLATURE COMMITTEE DEADLINES ESTABLISHED
The 2008 hald of the Minnesota State Legislature begins in two weeks but House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and House Majority Leader Tony Sertich announced yesterday that committees already have deadlines to get potential laws approved. Committees are supposed to "act favorably" on bills that originate in the House by March 14th and by March 19th on bills that come from the Senate. Committees have until March 28th to act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills. Lawmakers are to return to session on Tuesday, February 12th at noon and committees are to begin meeting. They won't meet the next day until 3pm because of the State of the State address in St. Cloud. House leaders have scheduled an Easter Break from March 19th to the 25th.
FARM ACCIDENT KILLS SWANVILLE MAN
52-year old Daniel Elmer was apparently cutting down a tree on his property near Swanville late Saturday afternoon when he was struck by a tree limb and killed. His body was discovered by a neighbor. Todd County Sheriff's Deputies assisted in removing Elmer's body just before 6:30pm. The incident is under investigation.
TWO MEN ARRESTED FOR METH POSSESSION, USE
A Todd County Sheriff's Deputies noticed a car driving erratically on Highwy 71 south of Long Prairie Friday afternoon. Deputies stopped the car and arrested 36-year old Mark Lester Johnson of Park Rapids and 33-year old Timothy Eugene Richards of Menahga for possession of methamphetamine. The men spent the weekend in the Todd County Detention Center, had their first court appearance yesterday, and are back in the jail waiting for their next appearance.
SOME BIG DOCK ENFORCEMENT BUT NOT TOO MUCH
Department of Natural Resources Pulic Water Hydrologist Tom Hovey said the dock size permit announced last week is meant to fine-tune the rules about lake shore dock walkways and platforms that have been on the books for decades. And because the rules are not new, didn't require public hearings. Hovey also said lake home owners should expect Conservation Officers targeting larger docks, primarily because there won't be any new personnel. CO's will still be the same people assigned last year and they still have the same priorities and workloads. Hovey said much will depend upon which county they're in and how County Attorneys want to react to this. Hovey added that if someone has as oversized dock platform and if a neighbor complains about nother neighbor who has a dock that's too large, "I suppose they are susceptible." Hovey said he doesn't expect "loads and loads of citations will be written" but large docks are more noticeable now. The dock size rules went into effect last week and restrict docks and platforms to be no larger than 120 feet square, 170 feet square including a walkway no more than five feet wide.
WARD ATTENDS CHILD DEFENSE FUND MEETING
Brainerd Lawmaker John Ward said he'll have to miss Presidential candidate John Edwards appearance to do it but he intends to be at Tuesday night's Child Defense Fund meeting about a child care investment proposal. Ward said he was a co-sponsor of the Children's Health Security Act passed last year by the House. Representative Ward said we made some headway on early child care and he intends to mostly listen and learn about parents who are having difficulty paying for child care. Ward said he's heard of wages that make it difficult for parents to survive, personal stories of hardship he can take to the legislature "and try to improve those areas." The meeting Tuesday night will be at the First Lutheran Church in Brainerd and starts at 6:30pm.
A former Montgomery-Lonsdale teacher and coach was sentenced on Friday to 12 years in prison for having sex with a 14-year old student. 38-year Troy Bernard was a fifth-grade teacher and coached high school track and volleyball. Montgomery-Lonsdale is 50 miles southwest of Minneapolis.
ST. PAUL BASEBALL PARENT CONVICTED
A Ramsey County jury found 47-year Wade Campbell guilty on Friday of making terroristic threats to his son's baseball coach. Court records show that Campbell shouted at his son for striking out in a game last June. Campbell later threatened his son's coach, Noel Ambriz and said he was going to shoot him. Two days later, Campbell allegedly called the coach and said he was going to shoot him down like a dog. Campbell said the coach wasn't giving his son enough playing time. The judge in the case ordered Campbell wait in jail for his sentencing on March 26th.
UPS DRIVER IDENTIFIED
The State Patrol has identified the UPS driver who died when his truck collided with a train last week in Cook. 37-year old James Richard Kiel of Hibbing died at the scene of the crash Thursday afternoon. No one else was injured.
WALKER-HACKENSACK-AKELEY SCHOOLS TRY AGAIN
Voters in the Walker Hackensack Akeley School District will go to the polls on February 12th for a second operating levy attempt this winter. The district's last attempt to raise money failed in mid-December. The ballot measure would increase the school's per-pupil spending by $550 for the next eight years. A taxpayer who owns a $150,000 home would see a property tax increase of $97 per year. The district is in statutory operating debt. The school board has promised to get out of SOD by 2010 and have money in reserve the year after.
THIRD MEETING ON STAR LAKE PROPOSAL
Bemidji lawmakers will hold another public hearing on District 4 State Senator Mary Olson's Star Lake Proposal this week. Olson said she continues to be overwhelmed by the interest and support the plan has generated. Olson said lake shore owners are committed to the health of their lake. The proposal would tap into existing water management expertise and experience and promote the hard work already done by Minnesota lake associations. The meeting on Friday at 6:30pm will be in the Lumberjack Room at Bemidji High School. Lakes associations with the Star Lake designation would get faster assistance from state agencies to help them keep their lake clean.
ROYALTON MAN ACCIDENTALLY SHOT, DIES
19-year old Cody Michael Waytashek died Friday night of a gunshot wound to the chest. Stearns County Sheriff's Deputies went to a home north of St. Stephen around 5pm and found Waytashek and three other young men and a .22 caliber rifle. Deputies said the man who pulled the trigger believed it was not loaded. Waytashek was airlifted to St. Cloud Hospital where he died. Results of the investigation will be forwarded to the Stearns County Attorney.
HENNING MAN DIES IN SNOWMOBILE CRASH
33-year old Mark Allen Shaw of Henning died Friday night when the snowmobile he was driving crashed into a number of trees on the south shore of Big Pine Lake in Crosslake. The Crow Wing County Sheriff said Shaw died at the scene around 11pm Friday.