Friday, March 14, 2008

Balancing the Budget No Simple Matter

Former Governor Arne Carlson criticized Governor Pawlenty for some of the budget cuts suggested because of a $935-Million shortfall. Carlson's wife founded a fetal alcohol syndrome program that began with a $7-Million budget and could wind up with $1.2-Millions if Pawlenty's cuts are left alone. The negotiating continues. House Minority Leader Marty Seifert said over all, the cuts suggested by the governor could be generallly acceptable. Seifert said ending up with a balanced budget is sort of like going to heaven; everybody wants to do it but not too many are willing to do what it takes to get the job done. The budget has be balanced no later than Juen of 2009 but if lawmakers can't work out solutions, the Governor will 'un-allot' the money at the end of the biennium.

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Bonding Bill Stalls

Governor Pawlenty wants a bonding bill no larger than $825-Million and St. Paul Lawmaker Alice Hausman agrees with the Governor that a public works bill larger than that would put the state's bond rating in jeaopardy. Glyndon State Senator Keith Langseth had insisted on a bill of at least $965-Million, agreed yesterday to come down $40-Million, but then said it was the Governor's turn to make a counter-offer. Until the three can agree on a total dollar figure, the bill is essentially stalled. Negotiations continue.

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Bill Favors Trial Lawyers

The Minnesota Senate may take up a bill on Monday that would increase attorney's fees for a variety of civil cases, primarily against insurance companies. Attempts to find an administrative compromise over the last year has failed, so far. Those opposed to the bill are considering a public information campaign over the Easter Break but those in favor of the bill may try to pass it on Monday before the break, before opposition can build. Some say that increased legal fees for litigation means higher insurance premiums for consumers. The bill is SF 2822 and is sponsored by Trryl Clark from St. Cloud.

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Maple Syrup Lessons

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will offer lessons on how to make maple syrup at various state parks between now and the middle of April. The DNR's Pat Arndt said collecting the sap from trees and turning it into syrup has become a popular family activity for many Minnesotans. Arndt said its a great family activity and kids of most any age can get into the act. The schedule of maple syrup programs at Minnesota State Parks plus an instruction sheet on how to tap and make maple syrup are posted on the DNR web site at

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New Catholic Parish in Baxter

Officials of the Diocese of Duluth have authorized a new Catholic parish, the first in forty years. Deacon Mike Knuth the new church will be on Carson Lake Road west of Highway 371 north of Baxter. Knuth said they expect the first building, a prayer chapel to be ready to use by May of this year. The last new parish was St. Andrews in Brainerd established in the early 1960s.

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Klobuchar Speaks at Blue-Green Conference

Bemidji Lawmaker Mary Olson recently introduced a bill that would exempt school districts from a sales tax on converting buses to propane. Olson said she's also interested in changing the property tax landscape. The State Senator for District Four said she supports a bill that would remove an exemption for recreational land owners. Brainerd Lawmaker John Ward has introduced a bill in the House that would do that. State Senator Rod Skoe has introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Jenkins VFW St. Pat's Day Dinner on Friday

The Jenkins VFW Post will celebrate St. Patrick's Day a little early, on Friday, March 14th. Midday Deejay John Collins talked to Post Commander Roger Ortloff who said the corned beef and cabbage, carrots and potato meal will cost you $5.95. Serving runs from 2pm until the food runs out. Proceeds from the meal goes to help veterans.

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Koering Introduces English-Only Bill

Fort Ripley State Senator Paul Koering is about to introduce a bill that would make English the official language of the state of Minnesota. Koering said English is the language by which we communicate officially now and that should be encoded in law. Koering said people who can't communicate in English are at a disadvantage and enabling them to continue speaking in a native tongue doesn't help. The bill states that English must be used by state and local governments. Government officials and employees must use English in the scope of their employment. All government documents and records must be recorded in English.

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PL Police to Hold Public Forum

Pequot Lakes Police Chief Jerry Braam told the Jenkins City Council that he intends to hold a public forum about public safety at the end of the month. Braam told the Lake County Echo that the purpose of the meeting is to offer citizens the opportunity to ask questions and express their opinions about law enforcement. Bramm said there have been rumblings out there and the forum is to openly discuss their concerns. The public safety forum will be Monday, March 31st at 7p in the Gathering Room at the Pequot Lakes High School.

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Pequot Lakes Festival of the Arts

Tonight's the night (Thursday, March 13) for the 26th Annual Pequot Lakes Festival of the Arts. Instructor Dave Guenther said just about everything is ready for a very exciting, very communty-friendly festival. Guenther said it used to take a couple of hours to set up the two-hour show. Now it takes at least 16 hours for a festival that runs from 5:30-8pm. The festival is a night to get together to appreciate the arts and includes visual and performing arts. Activities in the high school theater will include performances by high school and grade school students. Visual art displays and activities for kids will be in the gymnasium and other areas of the school.

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Special Deer Hunting Permits in TB Area

The Department of Natural Resources will issue permits next Tuesday, March 18th for landowners and tenants in northwestern Minnesota to shoot deer. The DNR is issuing the expedited permits to help eliminate bovine tuberculosis from wild deer in management area 101. The permits will be issued at a public meeting at Wassnaska Elementary School that starts at 6:30pm. All deer shot must be taken in for testing. The DNR is seeking approval for an emergency rule to allow landowners and tenants in area 101 to take deer without a permit or license. Officials hope to have that rule in place by the end of the month and be in effect through the middle of May. Bovine TB was first discovered in northwestern Minnesota cattle herds three years ago. Since, 17 deer have tested positive for TB out of a sample testing of 3,000.

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Vietnam Vets Bill Heads to House Floor

A bill to create a Vietnam Veterans Day in Minnesota was approved by the House Governmental Operations, Reform, Technology and Elections Committee and sent to the House floor. The bill as sponsored by Walker Lawmaker Larry Howes would designate March 29 as Vietnam Veterans Day in Minnesota. 1,072 of the men and women listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. are from Minnesota. March 29, 1973 is the official date that American troops withdrew from Vietnam. A similar bill in the Senate is currently in committee.

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Randall Man Faces Assault Charges

Morrison County officials believe that 36-year old Robert Eugene O'Jala of Randall threw his girlfriend's two-year old son Dylan Martin Jr. to the floor on Monday. The child died yesterday at Minneapolis Children's Hospital. Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel told the Dispatch that O'Jala could be charged with first degree assault on Thursday. The suspect is currently in the Morrison County Jail. Wetzel said an autopsy has been scheduled to determine exact cause of death.

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Brainerd Woman Dies of ATV Crash Injuries

56-year old Sandra Nolan was injured Monday around 4pm when she lost control of the ATV she driving. Nolan died Tuesday at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. Crow Wing County Sheriff's Deputies told the Brainerd Dispatch that Nolan hit her head on pavement near her home on Upper South Long Lake. Sheriff's Deputies don't know yet why Nolan's four-wheeler flipped.

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New CDC Report: 1 in 4 Teen Girls Infected with STD

Minnesota teen health advocates say they're not surprised with the results of the new Centers for Disease Control study that said roughly 25% of teen-age girls are infected with a sexually transmitted disease. Brigid Riley is with the Minnesota Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Preventing and Parenting and said the real wake-up call is to the medical community that should be screening for these diseases. Riley added that its very important for parents to understand the role they play in talking about sexual health with their children. The study found that almost half of black teens were infected compared with 20% of white teens. 15% of those in the survey reported having more than one sexually transmitted disease.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ward Introduces Bill On Childhood Obesity

Brainerd Lawmaker John Ward has introduced a bill that make physical education a graduation requirement in Minnesota schools again. Ward said the bill is not about mandating more teachers on the payroll but helping kids, making them become more physically active. Ward said that an active is a healthy child and though there are some opposed to government mandates, this one would result in healthier kids who would have less trouble hitting the books. Ward said this bill would pay for itself in the long run because it would help combat the childhood obesity epidemic sweeping the nation. The bill would establish statewide standards for health and physical education and require students to take a phy-ed class to graduate.

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Feather Critters On The Way

Department of Natural Resources Small Non-Game Specialist Pam Perry said this is a very exciting time of the year for bird watchers. Perry said migratory birds are heading back to their summer homes. Perry said if you want to take a look for yourself, rivers and streams would be the best place to look first because they open up first. She said soon we'll see great blue herons, ducks and geese and all the other critters we haven't seen since last fall. Perry said the last bird club meeting for the Brainerd area will be Thursday night at the Northland Arboretum at 7pm.

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Economist Sees A Positive Future

International Economist Dr. Andrew T. Hook has spent 30 years in banking, finance and economic development and he'll use much of that experience for a presentation on the United State economy on Thursday, March 14th. Hook said too many people look at the short term and try to figure out what the economy will do in the next two or three months. Hook said we lose track of where really are in the longer view, the next four or five years. Dr. Hook said he's not a big fan of quips but Economist John Maynard Keynes said once that "in the long term, we're all dead. And to get to the long term, we have to live through the short term." Hook will speak at noon on Thursday, March 13th in the Chalberg Theater on the Central Lakes College Brainerd campus. His presentation is sponsored by the Rosenmeier Center for State and Local Government and there is no charge.

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State Patrol Out In Force St. Pat's Weekend

Minnesota State Patrol Sergeant Curt Mower said officers will be out in force this weekend. Eleven people died in highway crashes over the last three St. Patty's Day weekends and four of those were alcohol-related. 25 other motorists were seriously injured in crashes. Mower said until motorists begin making safe decisions, alcohol-related crashes will continue to claim lives. Approximately 200 Minnesotans die in alcohol-related crashes every year.

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Doty, Ward Endorsed

Minnesota Senate District 12 Democrats endorsed both John Ward and Al Doty to run for a second term each at the endorsing convention last weekend. The decision to endorse both men was unanimous. Those who attended also held an appreciation dinner for former State Senator Don Samuelson. The meeting was held in Little Falls at the Cabin Fever Restaurant. District 12 Republicans intend to hold endorsing conventions for House of Representative candidates later this spring.

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School Referendum Campaign Spending 15 to 1

The Brainerd School District released campaign finance reports for spending on last fall's operating levy referendum. A district spokesman told the Brainerd Dispatch that those in favor of the referendum spent nearly $32,000 ($31,967.42.) while those opposed spent just over $2,500 ($2,529). The November 6th, 2007 referendum would have increased property taxes by $5.5-Million per year for the next ten years and linked the tax increase to inflation. Voters decided against the referendum by a wide margin.

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ATV Driver Charged In Fatal Crash

28-year old Jarrod Nell Zimmerman was charged Tuesday in Crow Wing County District Court with felony criminal vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident. 21-year old Joseph Bongaarts of Albertville died early Saturday morning in the ATV crash north of Baxter. Zimmerman was driving the vehicle. The Hanover man is being held in the Crow Wing County Jail on $100,000 bail. Court officials told the Brainerd Dispatch his next court appearance will be on April 7th.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Brainerd Mom Organizing Bus for Education

A Brainerd woman wants to gather other citizens who are unhappy with public school funding and complain to the people who supposedly can do something about it; state legislators. Anne Holub wants to sign people up for a bus ride to St. Paul on Tuesday April 1st. Holub said she still has plenty of room on the bus and people shouldn't fear that if they do sign up, they'll have to speak in public or to lawmakers themselves. Holub said organizers of the trip have 'talking points' they will hand out to participants so that "everyone is on the same page." Holub said the Minnesota State Constitution said only transportation and education are mentioned as services to be funded and "they took care of transportation because a bridge collapsed and education is getting close to the same point, collapse." If you'd like to sign up for the trip to the state capitol on Tuesday, April 1st, contact Holub online at or call the Brainerd School District Communications office at 218-454-6927. Holub hopes that people from all over the Lakes Area would take the time to make the trip especially those from Crosby-Ironton, Walker, Wadena, and Little Falls or anywhere people are convinced that public education is in trouble.

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Democrats Unhappy With Pawlenty's Budget Plan

Democrats don't like Governor Tim Pawlenty's plan to adjust the state budget by $935-Million, especially his suggestion to borrow money from the Health Care Access fund. Walker Lawmaker Larry Howes said the practice has been done before, the money is a reserve fund that's not needed at the moment, and the fund continues to grow because of a 2% sales tax on medical and dental procedures. Howes said the governor wouldn't have to balance the budget now and involve lawmakers, he could wait until the end of the year and "un-allot" money already budgeted. The nearly $1-Billion shortfall became apparent after the latest state economic forecast. The November forecast last year indicated a shortfall less than $400-Million.

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Shamrock and Roll in Crosslake

The lead float in the annual St. Patty's Day Parade in Crosslake will step off at noon on Saturday, March 15th. Event Chairperson Candy Hart said the celebration includes a pancake breakfast, a brat sale, lots of fun for kids, and blinkie buttons. Hart said she's been blinking for three weeks now. For $6, you support the celebration, can take advantage of specials at participating Crosslake merchants, and be eligible for the raffle of 20 very nice prizes. Hart said the drawing takes place at 4:17p on Saturday. Get more information at For the latest Medallion Hunt clues, look for the link "St. Patrick's Parade Saturday", click on it and look for the link "Click here for Pot O' Gold clues".

Learn more about the Crosslake Saint Patrick's Day Parade.

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Pierz Chief's Resignation Accepted

The Pierz City Council accepted Police Chief Steve Boser's resignation at Monday's meeting and made it effective the date he submitted it, Monday, March 3rd. Boser had been on paid administrative leave since February 19. The council was looking into allegations of misconduct filed against Boser. City Administrator Michael DeRosia told the Brainerd Dispatch that the letter was not a public document and said he would not release it. DeRosia also refused to talk about the allegations and wouldn't say if there was a continuing investigation. Boser was the Chief of Police for nearly 20 years. Former part-time officer Doug Rekstad will serve as interim Chief until a new one is hired.

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Alphonso Rodriguez Gets One More Extension

Attorneys for the man who kidnapped and murdered Pequot Lakes woman Dru Sjodin asked for and received another extension to appeal his death sentence. Judges on the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals told Alphonso Rodriguez Jr.'s attorneys that this would be the last extension. Defense Attorney Robert Hoy said they won't need any more time. Rodriguez was sentenced to death last year for the 2003 kidnapping and murder of then 22-year old Sjodin.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Attorney to Represent City of Emily

The Minnesota League of Cities has hired attorney Paul D. Reuvers to represnt the City of Emily in their law suit with the developer who is building the Northern Lights over Roosevelt Lake Project. City Lakes Investment Group wants to overturn the city's decision to require an environmental impact study for the 48-lot project with 24-slip marina project. The plaintiff brought suit against the city to get them to reverse the decision saying the council decision was "based purely on speculative factors." An area citizen group said four state agencies testified in the hearings and all were critical of aspects of the project. No court dates have been set yet.

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Koering On Bonding Conference Committee

Fort Ripley State Senator Paul Koering is the only Republican to serve on this year's House-Senate Conference Committee on Bonding. Koering said that means Lakes Area projects have a good chance of success. Senator Koering said the $5-Million for a Camp Ripley Homeland Security training facility and the $1-Million for Cuyuna Recreation Area development are probably going to be funded. Both Senate and House bonding bills are in the $965-Million range. Governor Pawlenty said to remain in the 3% of debt service range, the bill should be closer to $885-Million.

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Saving Music in Brainerd Schools

Music Matters is a group of Brainerd School parents who want to raise enough money to pay the salaries of the high school band and choir directors. Both men have been given notice their positions will be cut by the end of the school year. Spokesperson Jennifer Pelowski said the group believes they can raise the $100,000. Pelowski said it will be a one-year effort because there are two other teachers in the school music system who will probably retire next year. As long as there are no more cuts in the music department, Pelowski said all should be well. If you'd like to help Music Matters, write a check to the Brainerd Public Schools Foundation and write the words 'Music Matters' in the memo line. Send the check to Music Matters, P.O. Box 234, Brainerd, 56401. Pelowski said she'd like to raise the money by April 15th to give the two music instructors enough time to make plans.

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Bill Would Raise High School Dropout Age

A bill recently introduced in the Minnesota Senate would raise the high school drop-out age from 16 to 18. North St. Paul State Senator Chuck Wiger is the bill's sponsor. He said nearly 5,000 students drop out of Minnesota public schools every year. Wiger said students who drop out are at higher risk for a lower quality of life. He said students drop out for a variety of reasons; they're failing, they're bored, or they just don't see the link between education and future quality of life.

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Staples Man Arrested For Burglary

Todd County Sheriff's Deputies arrested 36-year old Dennis Gordon Lee for Burglary, possession of stolen property and illegal drug possission last week. A search warrant was issued after an investigation of several months. A substantial amount of stolen property was recovered. Lee plead guilty and was sentenced to 60 days in the Todd County Jail.

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Oberstar Leans On FAA

8th District Congressman Jim Oberstar is putting pressure on the Federal Aviation Administration for what he calls lax inspection procedures. Oberstar said he will hold hearings on April 3rd to find out why some airlines were allowed to keep planes in the air that should have been grounded for maintenance and inspection. Oberstar said many FAA inspectors have given up reporting airline failures because there's such a cozy relationship between FAA management and airline management. Oberstar said his hearings may result in legislation to make sure the flying public is as safe as possible.

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ATV Rider Dies Near BIR

21-year old Joseph Bongaarts of Albertville was riding an all terrain vehicle early Saturday morning with several other adults when they lost control of the machine and were thrown. Bongaarts died at the scene on Birchdale Road near Brainerd International Raceway. Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department is investigating the crash.

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Wadena Man Charged With Shooting School Buses

19-year old Timothy Erwin Mindermann has been charged with firing shots from an air pellet gun at three school buses last week. The Otter Tail County Prosecutor said Minderman was charged with three counts of assault. There were children on the buses at the time. The pellets broke windows and two students reported minor injuries. Mindermann posted bail to wait for his next court appearance.

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