Friday, February 15, 2008

How The Other Half Loves Opens Friday

Pequot Lakes Community Theater is to open the comedy How The Other Half Loves on Friday, February 15th for 6 shows over the following two weekends. The play is about three married couples. The husband of one couple has an affair with the wife of another. The third couple is invited to dinner by both couples and slowly, the truth comes out. Michael Sander of Pine River plays the part of Frank Foster, a successful businessman who is challenged at home and constantly confused by his glamourous wife. Sander said he's enjoying the interaction with other cast members. How The Other Half Loves offers an additional challenge, he said. "Sometimes there are others on the stage and because of the way the play is constructed, we have to ignore them because they're not in the same place as far as the story is concerned. It helps me on my concentration." Set Designer Tim Leagjeld said he wanted to place the two homes on the stage but not side-by-side. Leagjeld said every other wall section is in a different home. An expensive wing-back chair sits nest to a well-worn, overstuffed easy chair, a fashionable sofa and coffee table are in front of a former-hippie's writing desk and her pile of newspaper clippings. Friday and Saturday shows of How the Other Half Loves start at 7:30pm and Sunday matinees open at 2pm. Get advance tickets at Pequot Lakes Community Education at 568-9200. Tickets at the door are $10 for adults, $9 for Senior Citizens 60 and over, $8 for those 18 and under.

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St. Louis Park State Representative Steve Simon has authored a bill in the Minnesota House this year that would set up a different system to elect judges that he hopes would avoid the 'tsunami' heading out way. The Supreme Court struck down Minnesota rules that didn't allow judges to identify their political party when running and restricted the things they could say while running for the position. Simon's system would have judges recommended to the Governor by an independent panel similar to the current system. Once the judges were appointed, they would be subject to a retention election; each would be on the ballot with the question 'should Judge X be retained', yes or no? Simon believes this would avoid the wave of judgeship campaigns that designate political parties, raise large sums of money, and even comment on issues that may come before them in legal cases. Simon's bill would allow Minnesota voters to decide on a constitutional amendment to put the system in place.

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Nisswa Winter Jubilee

The 36th Annual Nisswa Winter Jubilee runs through this weekend. Chamber executive Susan Mazzenga said there is sorts of fun and excitement to be had. She said the good times have already started but the events that run over the weekend include snow sculpture judging, mini-jubilee events at the Nisswa Community Center, broomball tournaments, the $200 Medallion Hunt, and the parade. It starts at noon on Saturday. Susan said the Jubilee is organized and executed by the Brainerd Lakes Area Lions Club with a lot of help from the friendly people in Nisswa.

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Minnesota voters will decide the future of the Legacy Act this fall. Both House and Senate approved the measure yesterday. House Democrat Leader Tony Sertich was the chief author of the bill. If approved in November, the bill would raise the state sales tax by just under one-half percent and raise $276-Million over the next 25 years. Most of the money would be spent on the outdoors, clean water efforts and parks and trails. Nearly 20% would be spent on arts, arts education and arts access grants to nonprofit organizations and handed out by the Minnesota Board of the Arts. Some would also spend money on grants to schools for art education. Don McMillan is the president of the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance and said most of his members are not going to vote for the amendment, primarily because skeptical hunters and anglers wonder if the money will someday be used for something else. The law said lawmakers will decide how the money is spent through the normal legislative process.

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Cook State Senator Tom Bakk said the DNR is thinking about raising fishing license fees and reducing limits again. Bakk said he has a better idea, a part-time license that doesn't cost as much. The Senator said he's calling it a 'conservation fishing license' and anglers would agree to reduce the catch in possession. Bakk said its a way to change the culture of fishing that measures success by a big take rather than a good day of recreation. A similar bill has been introduced in the Minnesota House.

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Fire and smoke damage destroyed most of Barry Feltmann's southeast Baxter home and garage Thursday afternoon around 2pm. Brainerd Fire Chief Fred Underhill told the Brainerd Dispatch that the house on Forestview Drive could be considered a total loss and the garage was completely consumed by the fire. Firefighters fought the blaze in 5-degree temperatures and 12 mph winds. Underhill said all the equipment worked but some of hoses shot water into a column of steam near the fire or ended up as snow on the ground. Feltmann suffered mild smoke inhalation but there were no other injuries.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008


The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe has revoked the vendor license for Kids Quest day care center owned by a separate company, New Horizons. Authorities say a 3-year old boy was sexually assaulted by another young boy last month at the Grand Casino Mille Lacs center. Both centers at Mille Lacs and at Grand Casino Hinckley were closed. The regulatory board's report said Kids Quest failed to adequately supervise the two boys and had failed to conduct a criminal background check on employees. New Horizons can be reconsidered for a license renewal in a year.

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8th District Congressman Jim Oberstar's spokesman said the federal money earmarked to study a fourth Brainerd area bridge over the Mississippi River has been redesignated elsewhere. The $800,000 to study a crossing north of Brainerd had been approved in 2005. Oberstar spokesman John Schadl said the bridge did not have community support and the money could be used elsewhere in the district. Brainerd Mayor James Wallin said he was disappointed the money was taken back. Schadl said the Congressman's staff is anxious to help with transportation projects and planning in the area and would prefer a broad-based regional transportation study.

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A large transportation bill is already working its way through Minnesota legislative committees. This year's version contains many of the same provisions from last year's bill which was vetoed by Governor Pawlenty because it increased too many taxes. Eighth District Congressman Jim Oberstar likes this year's bill and thinks Minnesota needs it. Oberstar said greater Minnesota will be hurt if the bill is not passed, tourism will suffer. Oberstar said there is a cost to failing to invest. This year's bill would increase the gas tax by 5 cents per gallon but would be indexed to inflation. According to House Republican Leader Marty Seifert, if inflation continues at 4% or more, the tax would be the highest in the country in 9 years and total more than 40 cents a gallon. The bill would also increase a metro-area sales tax and increase license tab fees for new cars.

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A Baxter company has teamed up with a Texas firm to build 333 wind turbines in North Dakota. Denali Energy is owned by real estate developer Craig Fink who also owns Denali Companies, involved in developing the former Pine Meadows Golf Course in Baxter. Denali partner Curt Johnson said the marriage of the two worked out perfectly. Denali specializes in land acquisition and Montgomery Energy Partners concentrates on alternative energy development, primarily the harnassing of wind power. The farm will be 25 miles north of Minot, North Dakota along a windy glacial ridge. When its finished, Hartland Wind Farm could produce 1000 megawatts and become one of the largest wind farms in the United States.

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The Pequot Lakes School Board decided this week to allow open enrollment for all grades except kindergarten. The board had closed open enrollment last November after voters turned down operating levy referendums in Crosby Ironton and Brainerd. Superintendent Rick Linnell told the Lake Country Echo that the district has lost 40 students since the beginning of the school year.

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Governor Pawlenty said Minnesotans are concerned about the economy and that's more reason than ever to avoid tax increases. And he wouldn't hesitate to use his 'Taxpayer Protection Pen', the veto to hold down taxes and spending. House Republican Leader Marty Seifert said he thought the Governor's speech was a good road map for how the rest of the 2008 legislative session should go. House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher said she wanted to hear more specifics. Governor Pawlenty highlighted several proposals he had introduced earlier and asked lawmakers to pass and pay for them. Pawlenty asked lawmakers to cap property taxes, restore the relationship between patients and doctors, improve teacher training and evaluation, increase biodiesel standards to 20% by 2015, and said he wants to form the 21st Century Tax Reform Commission to take a futuristic view of how to guide the state to more economic prosperity. Pawlenty also said he expects to sign a bipartisan transportation bill during this session but he asked lawmakers not to add to the economic burden on taxpayers by raising their taxes.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008


House Republican Leader Marty Seifert said he expects the session to begin quickly. Democrats are in the majority in both the Minnesota House and Senate. Seifert said he believes the DFL leadership will introduce and attempt to pass both a bill for arts and the environment and a transportation funding bill quickly. The Environment and Arts proposal would result in a constitutional amendment Minnesotans would vote on in November. Seifert said the transportation bill includes increase in the state gas tax, license tab fees, wheelage tax and a sales tax. Seifert said the sales tax proposal is indexed to inflation. If it passes, Seifert said Minnesota would have the highest gas tax in the nation within 9 years. Seifert said his approach to getting more money into transportation would be for the government to sacrifice rather than Minnesota taxpayers.

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Lawmakers promised a quick start to the 2008 session. Minneapolis Lawmaker Larry Pogemiller said the DFL hopes to approve more money for the environment and the arts soon. A conference committee for a constitutional amendment was to meet on Tuesday, the first day of the session. If passed, the proposition to increase the state sales tax would be on November’s ballot. The session is scheduled to be over by May 19th.

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2008 Legislative Session

The 2008 Minnesota Legislative session has begun. Leaders gaveled in what's traditionally known as a bonding session on Tuesday but some lawmakers want to include policy discussions. Grand Rapids Representative Loren Solberg said transportation funding is at the top of his list, both roads and bridges and mass tansit. Royalton Lawmaker Al Doty said agrees that a transportation funding bill has to be considered and passed. The one introduced on Tuesday calls for a 5-cent gas tax increase, an increase in a metro-area sales tax and increased license tab fees for new cars. Long Prairie Lawmaker Mary Ellen Otremba said her focus is also on rural matters like health care for farmers and an investment package for small and large farmers. The transportation bill was sent to committee on the first day of session. The second day of session won't begin until later in the afternoon because of Governor Pawlenty's State of the State speech in St. Cloud.

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Walker Hackensack Akeley School District's second attempt to pass an operating levy failed to pass on Tuesday. A referendum failed in December by 18 votes. Tuesday's referendum failed by 160 votes. The second referendum was for less money and less time than the first. Superintendent Wally Schoeb told the Brainerd Dispatch "they told us no so business will continue as usual and we'll make the reductions. The school is in statutory operating debt. The district will have to cut at least $650,000 by next fall and more than $1.2-Million over the next three years. This year's budget was for $9.5-Million.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008


The 2008 Minnesota State Legislature has begun. At the top of the list, in addition to approving a $1-Billion bonding bill, lawmakers will consider bills to increase funding for education, transportation and to raise the minimum wage. Walker Lawmaker Larry Howes said one of the packages Democrats intend to introduce includes a 5 cents per gallon gas tax increase for roads and bridges indexed to inflation, some money to pay debt service for a highway bonding bill, increase license tab fees on all vehicles, and increase a metro-area sales tax for transportation. Howes said the element he's most opposed to is indexing the gas tax increase that would continue to rise. Representative Howes said he could live with a nickel a gallon increase but indexing is where he draws the line. He said if lawmakers have the political courage to raise the gas tax now, they should develop the same courage in five or ten years to become courageous again rather than allow the tax to increase every year. The session is scheduled to end on May 19th.

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Minimum Wage Hike

State lawmakers are back at the Capitol to begin the 2008 session. At the top of the legislative list are bills to fund transporation, education and raise the minimum wage. Virginia Representative Tom Rukavina said the suggested bill would raise the minimum to $7.75 an hour for large companies, $6.75 for smaller ones. And the wage would be indexed to inflation. The bill goes to a House Committee on Valentine's Day, Thursday, February 14th. The Minnesota Senate approved a similar bill last year.

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The curtain goes up again this Saturday at Barnacle's on the north end of Mille Lacs Lake and some of the customers will light up because they're part of the show. Owner Sheila Kromer decided recently to take advantage of the loophole in Minnesota's smoking ban, one that allows actors in a theatrical performance to smoke during a show. Kromer auditioned customers and gave smokers a button to wear. Others who weren't cast were told not to smoke. Kromer said county law enforcement sent an officer to investigate a complaint and he said everything was in order. Kromer said there's another smoking performance scheduled for this Saturday. She said last Saturday was the first night since the smoking ban took effect last October that she had customers in the bar at closing time. Barnacle's is between Garrison and Malmo.

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Monday, February 11, 2008


The 26 fourth-graders in Ryan Rashabe's class at Baxter Elementary will become the first student group to win US Senator Amy Klobuchar's Carbon Buster Award. The students took about a week and a half of Rashabe's science section and recorded a commercial about climate change for the contest. Fourth grader Cody Attonen said the students did most of the work. Some of them wrote script and music for a rap song, others put together an introduction to the song. Student Mara Halvorson remembered some of the song that she said the students wrote themselves; "hey, hey, we got lots to do, global warming is getting bad and its making lots of people mad." So far, only Baxter teachers, the staff at Klobuchar's St. Paul office, and some of the parents have seen the DVD but that will probably change. Student Hannah Hess said her family saw the production and were impressed. So impressed that her parents changed all the light bulbs in the house and "my Dad even changed his filter." Crow Wing Power will take the class to Klobuchar's St. Paul office on March 2nd to claim their award.

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Walker Hackensack Akeley voters go to the polls tomorrow to decide the fate of this operating levy referendum request. The district had one on the ballot in December but it failed by 18 votes. Superintendent Wally Schoeb said this ballot measure is only one question instead of two, will increase per-pupil spending by $550 instead of $600, and will last 8 years instead of 10. Shoeb said voting begins at 10am tomorrow morning and ends at 8pm tomorrow night. Voting will take place at Walker High School, and in the community centers in Akeley, Hackensack and Onigum.

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State Patrol Sergeant Curt Mowers said Minnesotans are doing a pretty good job of staying safe and alive so far this year. Mowers said there were 40 traffic fatalities last year at this time and only 22 so far this year. Three pedestrians have died in crashes this year, the same as last year. Mowers said motorists should continue to use basic defensive driving techniques and taking personal responsible for actions behind the wheel. Mowers has said he hopes for the day when there are no traffic fatalities in Minnesota but we're not quite there yet.

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Area lawmakers area unamimous; there probably won't be any new money for public education from this session of the legislature. Royalton State Representative Al Doty said everything depends on the February economic forecast and it doesn't look good. Brainerd Lawmaker John Ward told the Brainerd Dispatch the Governor, Senate and House will have to work together to find creative solutions to the education funding problem. Walker Lawmaker Larry Howes said he doesn't see how to generate more money if there is no more money. Fort Ripley State Senator Paul Koering said the school funding system is broken, needs to be torn down and rebuilt from brick one. Koering said if he were a school district official, he wouldn't hold his breath.

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The Stearns County Sheriff's office is investigating the death of a husband and wife in Clearwater. Chief Deputy Bruce Bechtold said the 64year old man and his 57-year old wife were found last week. Bechtold said their deaths have been classified as homicides and autopsies will be performed but they are not looking for suspects and the general public is not in danger. The names of the couple have not been released.

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The Minnesota State Legislature begins the second half of this biennium's session tomorrow morning. One issue the Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee will take a look at tomorrow afternoon will be a clean car standard. Jim Erkel is a lobbyist with the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. He said the idea is based on the California model. Erkel said raising emission standards would make cars operate more efficiently, get better mileag and cut carbon dioxide but the cars would probably cost more. Erkel said standards should pay for themselves within one or two years of buying the car. The committee meets at 4pm Tuesday afternoon.

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