Friday, February 22, 2008

Pequot Lakes School Works Toward Strategic Plan

The Pequot Lakes School Board hired planning consultants Roger and Kay Worner to develop an Organizational Analysis Study and involve a number of community groups in the process. Superintendent Rick Linnell said the next step is a community meeting next Wednesday, February 27th. The meeting will run from 7-8:30pm in the Gathering Room at Pequot Lakes High School. The final document should help run the district for the next five years.

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Amazing what the threat of a jail sentence will do for a person's motivation. Potential 'jailbirds' from the Lakes Area met at the Northland Arboretum on February 13th to contact friends and acquaintences and convince them to bail us out. The money raised during the MDA Lock-Up went for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Parole Officer Kim Parmeter said the event raised more than $34,000 so far, roughly $13,000 more than last year. Parmeter said all the talk of a tough economy didn't seem to affect people's generosity.

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Crow Wing County Nurse Joyce Mueller said flu season is not over yet and some new strains have been showing up. The county health nurse said influenza has started to take hold in Minnesota this last week according to reports from the Minnesota Department of Health, from schools and long-term care facilities. Mueller added that even though the new strains are not matched perfectly with existing vaccine, getting a shot will protect against more common strains and help with some symptoms against the newer ones. Symptoms to watch for include fever, nausea, or muscle aches. Flu usually lasts between three and seven days. So far, the county health department has gotten reports of outbreaks only in schools. Flu is worst for the very young, the older among us and those with chronic illness. Mueller suggests if you get the flu, stay home and get well rather than mingle among your co-workers, friends and neighbors. She recommends the vaccine and frequent hand washing as the best ways to prevent the disease. The Crow Wing County Health Department has plenty of vaccine and holds clinics every day from 3-4pm and on Friday also 9-1pm.

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The Pequot Lakes Community Theater Comedy How The Other Loves opens its second weekend of shows Friday night. Actor Bob Spear plays the part of Bob Phillips. Spear said his character is a jerk, a womanizer, and is having an affair with the boss's wife. Bob said his wife in real life said he is nothing like his character on the stage. He credits his director Erick Steen for inspiration. How the Other Half Loves runs Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30pm and Sunday afternoon at 2pm in the Pequot Lakes High School Auditorium. Get tickets ahead of time at the Pequot Lakes Community Education Office at 568-9200.

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Brainerd School Board Chair Bob Nystrom said the sale of the former Franklin Junior High School has been finalized. Nystrom said the money's in the bank and Artspace officially owns Franklin. Nystrom told the Brainerd Dispatch that the money goes into the school's capital fund and can't be used for general fund expenditures without state legislative approval. The District got approval to move $750,000 from the capital to the general fund last year.

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The Minnesota House and Senate have approved this year's version of the Transportation Finance Bill. Governor Pawlenty has said he will veto the bill because it increases the state gas tax by 8.5-cents per gallon, adds to a metro-area sales tax by 1/4% and creates a wheelage tax. Brainerd Lawmaker John Ward said the bill will spend roughly an additional $440,000 for Brainerd area roads, $300,000 for Baxter area roads and bridges and add about $1,000,000 to Crow Wing County's highway budget. Royalton lawmaker Al Doty said he didn't know anybody who was happy with the bill passed by the House last night but everybody would be in years to come. Bemidji State Senator Mary Olson said the Transportation Bill is mostly about safety. Elbow Lake lawmaker Torrey Westrom said the bill spreads the cost of metro light rail and transit systems to taxpayers state-wide. Two House Democrats voted against the Transportation and six Republicans voted in favor. House Leaders said if this Transportation Bill isn't signed into law, they won't write another one this year. Lakes Area Lawmakers who voted in favor of the bill include Representatives John Ward-Brainerd; Al Doty-Royalton; Larry Haws-St. Cloud; Loren Solbert-Grand Rapids; Senators Mary Olson-Bemidji; and Tom Saxhaug-Grand Rapids. Those voting no included Bill Ingebritson-Alexandria; Paul Koering-Fort Ripley; Mary Ellen Otremba-Long Prairie; Larry Howes-Walker; Dean Simpson-Perham.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008


Area newspaper stories suggested that the alternate chairman of the Emily Planning and Zoning Commission Si Brannon was so unhappy with a city council's decision,he resigned. Brannon said that's not the way it happened. He admitted he was not happy with the council's decision to require an environmental impact statement on a housing project on Roosevelt Lake and he spoke up at a recent council meeting about it. Shortly after his response, Brannon announced his resignation because his health has not been the best lately and this past year had been very stressful for him. Brannon said he's enjoyed the years he's spent on the commission, as a member and as an alternate chairman filling in for others. He said he would never go public with a statement like that and the inference the stories left with readers was not accurate. The Northern Lights over Roosevelt Lake is a 45-lot development near State Highway 6. The project developer has since sued the city of Emily and wants council members to reverse their decision.

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Todd County Sheriff Peter J. Mikkelson said the Sauk River Watershed District reported the theft of a solar panel from a collection box. A district spokesman said they've had a number of panels stolen in other counties as well. If you have information about this incident, call the Todd County Sheriff's Department.

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Fort Ripley State Senator Paul Koering said today he intends to vote against the Omnibus Transportation Finance Bill because it raises taxes and its a bad time to be doing that. Koering said he sent his constituents a survey recently and 79% of those who responded said they didn't want to see a gas tax increase for any reason. Koering said District 12 has seen a lot of recent highway construction and his travels around the state looking at bonding projects left him with the impression that Minnesota's roads are in pretty good shape. Koering said Democrats have enough votes in the Senate to override a governor's veto but not in the Minnesota House. The Transportation Omnibus Bill is to be debated and voted on Thursday.

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Democrat House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher has submitted a bill that would spend $3-Million on the pre-design the redevelopment of Orchestra Hall and Peavey Plaza near downtown Minneapolis. Improvements include new electronic equipment, more backstage rooms and instrument storage space. The bill could be included in this year's bonding bill. A similar bill has been introduced in the Minnesota Senate.

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The House Taxes Committee approved changes to the Minnesota tax code yesterday that would apply tax forms filed this year even though a third of Minnesotans have already filed their taxes. The bill would conform Minnesota's tax code to federal rules and allow state taxpayers to take advantage of recent laws passed by Congress. The Tax Committee's bill doesn't include all of the new federal deductions. The committee decided that deductions for college tuition and teacher classroom expenses would be too expensive for the state this year. Deadline for the bill is the end of the month. If its not passed and signed, taxpayers will have to wait for Federal tax conformity until next year.

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Tax Time at the Hallett Library

You can get help with your taxes again this year at the Hallett Library in Crosby. Head librarian Peggy Beseres said you have to make an appointment but the service is free and designed for senior citizens and middle-income patrons but she's never seen anyone turned away. Patrons and staff are celebrating the library's 30th anniversary this year with displays and information, commemorating the date when Crosby philanthropist E.W. Hallet built the library in memory of his wife Jesse Fern. Call for a tax appointment at 546-8005.

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American Cancer Society spokesman Matt Floury said death rates from breast, prostate and colon cancer in Minnesota and the rest of the country have gone down. Actual numbers have gone up slightly but that's because Minnesotans are living longer. Floury said cancer is still the leading cause of death in Minnesota and lung cancer accounts for one in four cancer deaths in the state.

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The Minnesota House narrowly passed a bill Thursday that would require a permit to operate a large-scale dog or cat breeding operation. Democrat Frank Hornstein said the bill was an attempt to connect a patchwork of existing regulations and address issues of humane treatment of animals. The permits would cost $900 and the bill would allow unannounced inspections. There are roughly 500 dog and cat breeders in Minnesota.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Legislative Auditor Report on Transportation

Legislative Auditor James Nobles report on Minnesota transportation indicates that MnDOT has been spending more money on new construction and less on preservation in recent years. It also indicated that Minnesota highways need more attention. House Majority Leader Tony Sertich said the Transportation Funding Bill now making its way through the House and Senate is necessary to the future of Minnesota's roads and bridges. Sertich said the bills could be on the floor of both House and Senate for debate by tomorrow.

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It's nearly the end of the ice-fishing season. Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Nikki Shoutz said the end of February is a day to remember. That's the day when your house should be off the ice. Shoutz said new regulations from the Department of Public Safety require that fish houses be hauled with trailers and that the trailers be registered. Shoutz said the season began with rather 'iffy' ice but there's nothing 'iffy' about ice on most lakes now, up to 15 and 20 inches in many areas.

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Ah-Gwah-Ching Closing

The state facility at Ah-Gwah-Ching near Walker will close on March 14th and the state of Minnesota wants to finalize the sale to Cass County 30 days later. But Cass County officials would prefer later closing date. County Commissioners suggested 30 days after lawmakers approved $400,000 more for demolition and $1.9-Million for water and sewer connectins to the city of Walker. So far, the legislature has approved $4-Million for demolition and will sell the property to the county for $1. County Adminstrator Robert Yochum told the Brainerd Dispatch it will buy the land. County officials plan to move government offices to the site over the next 30 years near the proposed critical access hospital.

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Negotiations on a new Farm Bill appear to be going nowhere. President Bush says the $283-Billion price tag is too high. And small-farm lobbyists like Dan Owens from the Center for Rural Affairs say too much money goes to big operations. Owens said Congress should help family farmers and stop mega-subsidy checks. The lobbyist said without a real payment limit, the Farm Bill under discussion is not worth passing. Supporters of the current payment system say it keeps consumer prices down. The current farm bill has been extended to mid-March.

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Bemidji State Senator Mary Olson has introduced a bill that would establish a cell phone user bill of rights. The Minesota Wireless Telephone Consumer Protection Act regulates how companies share information to consumers like telling the total price of the service at the time of purchase, tell customers if their monthly charge will change in the future and by how much, provide customers with accurate coverage maps at every location the service is sold. Olson's bill is similar to one passed in 2004 but was deemed unconstitutional because of Federal law. Olson said the bill doesn't want companies to change the way they run their company, only how they tell customers about billing and service agreements.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008


State researchers have found Bovine Tuberculosis in herd number eleven, the fourth since last October. Minnesota State Veterinarian Dr. Bill Hartmann said this will probably mean a downgrade of Minnesota's Bovine TB status and require all cattle shipped out of state to be tested more stringently as well as the herd the shipped animal came from. Hartman said all the infected herds found in the last two years have been in the northwest corner of the state. Bovine TB had been eliminated from cattle in the 1970s. Hartmann said he will ask the University of Minnesota to do more research into how the disease is transmitted. Meanwhile, DNR sharpshooter recently killed another 46 wild deer in the targeted area in Beltrami County and those animals will be tested for the disease. Animal Health Board members recently voted to consider dividing the state into cattle growing segments to more isolate the infected area and allow other non-infected areas to enjoy a TB-Free status.

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Brainerd State Lawmaker John Ward introduced two bills concerning public school funding last week. Ward and sits on the E-12 and Education Finance Economic Competitiveness Finance Division Committees. One bill would repeal the seasonal property tax exemption for school operating levies. The other would outlaw operating levies based on property taxes. Ward said the school funding formula is broken and needs to be fixed because schools have cut all they can. Ward is a retired school teacher.

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The Northland Arboretum will host a cooking show Wednesday night. Chef Sharon Wettyland and Master Gardener Orv Haustad will talk about cooking with fresh herbs. Wettyland said she will whip up a number of delicious items like pesto tortalini with fresh pesto, pork skewers in lemon-sage cream, and thyme-scented rice pilaf, and baby carrots in honey and fresh dill. Those who attend will get copies of the recipes as well as samples. Haustad said he will talk about both medicinal and culinary herbs. The show starts at 7pm Wednesday night at the Northland Arboretum in Baxter on Excelsior Road just north of the Movies Ten movie theater. Cost is $20 for non-members and $10 for members.

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The provision in the 2008 Transportation Finance Bill that would have increased the gas tax every year for the next ten years has been removed. The House Tax Committee approved the bill after the provision indexing the gas tax increase to the comsumer price index was removed. The bill still includes a 5-cent per gallon increase and now a gas tax surcharge of 3.5-cents per gallon to repay $1.8-Billion worth of constuction bonds. The estimated cost of the $8.4-Billion dollar bill has now been revised down to $7.8-Billion over ten years. The House version is to be in the Ways and Means Committee Tuesday. The Transportation Bill could be debated in both the full House and Senate on Thursday. Governor Pawlenty said legislators believe he is irrelevant to the discussion and they want to pass a bill that will override his veto.

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Television stations will switch from analog to digital signals next year. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar said she's concerned that some viewers will be left staring at a blank screen. Klobuchar sits on the Senate Commerce Committee and suggests viewers pick up a government discount coupon for a converter box. Check it out online at Klobuchar said Minnesota has one of the highest percentages of households that still pick up over-the-air broadcasts, 21%. Minnesota Broadcasters Association Executive Director Jim du Bois said the move is not unlike the change to color TV or the introduction of FM radio but this one it taking place overnight.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Underdog's Second Public Safety Meeting Scheduled

A group of concerned Pequot Lakes, Breezy Point and Jenkins citizens will meet for a second time this weekend to compare notes and research on law enforcement rules in Minnesota. Area businessman Bill Moen said at this point, the group is at the 'information gathering' stage. Moen said there are two reasons a police officer will pull someone over, either the motorist is breaking the law or driving behavior leads an officer to believe the driver may be impaired. Moen said "a courtesy stop is just propaganda." Moen said members of the group are looking into law enforcement procedures, accountability and financial information. He said this could someday develop into a county-wide group of citizens concerned about law enforcement.

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Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl continues to warn motorists that winter's nasty bite hasn't let go yet, that the bitter cold temperatures we're living through could be deadly. Dahl said if you operate a vehicle, make sure its in good running order and the gas tank has something inside beyond fumes. Dahl said county squad cars are usually kept as close to topped off as possible, to avoid getting stranded somewhere and also to be ready for the ocassional 'lights and sirens run'. The Sheriff said there are a lot of fairly desolate areas in the county that wouldn't be a good place to become stranded.

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Minnesota Democrat leaders are claiming a quick and successful first week for the legislative session. Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher said the much-needed Transportation Bill is being heard in committees and moving along well. This year's version includes a gas tax hike, a metro-area sales tax increase and an increase in some car license tab fees. Last year's version was vetoed because it raised too many taxes. House Majority Leader Tony Sertich said its been a good week with a successful start. The Legacy Bill could lead to a constitutional amendment that would raise the state sales tax by nearly .5%. The money could then be applied for in grant form, cleared by conservation or arts advisory boards and then appropriated by the legislature.

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Former Chairman of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Peter D. White has been charged with 17 counts of accepting illegal gratuities in a federal case against businessman Craig Keith Potts. Prosecutors accuse White of taking roughly $19,000 over a four-month period when he operated a check cashing business on the reservation near Walker. Federal authorities said White asked for and received money from Potts in $1,000 and $1,500 increments that were not documented as loans and record of repayment doesn't seem to exist. White was the Band's chairman from February 2003 to June of 2004.

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Public negotiations on the 2008 US Farm Bill could begin again this week. Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson sounds hopeful. He said both House and Senate have offered versions while the President remains convinced both are too expensive. Peterson said the parties are talking again and that's a start. And if a compromise can't be reached, there's still time for an extension of current farm price supports before a deadline that would revert prices to those set 60 years ago.

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