Abigal Taylor DIes
The 6-year old Minnespolis girl who lost part of her intestinal tract in a swimming pool mishap last summer has died. Abigal Taylor had recently received a new small bowel, liver and pancreas at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha but developed a cancerous condition sometimes triggered by organ transplants. The girl's injuries led to federal legislation requiring pool drain systems include safety covers.
Concerned Citizens Curious About Police Protection, Budgets
A group calling themselves Concerned Citizens for Community have been meeting for the last couple of months to talk about law enforcement. A public forum has been set for Monday, March 31 to get more answers. Billie Pestello owns Pestello's Bar in Pequot Lakes. Pestello said for him, the search for answers intensified after he saw how law enforcement budgets had grown for Pequot Lakes and other communities as well. He also has a concern that some departments don't have officers on duty between 2am and 6am some nights. A common practice in small communities is to turn over police calls to county law enforcement during early morning hours but sometimes that means very slow response times. Pestello said he has a good relationship with local officers and sees them often in his restaurant. But he sees the meeting at the end of March at Pequot Lakes High School as just the beginning of the dialogue. That meeting starts at 7pm.
Possibly More Money For Conservation Farming
The new sign-up period for the Conservation Security Program nears. April 18th is the date farmers have to apply. Loni Kemp with the Minnesota Project said she hopes the new farm bill will expand the program. Right now, only the Thief Watershed in Northwestern Minnesota has been funded. Kemp said there is a tentative agreement between lawmakers that would increase funding for the program. There are 700 Minnesota farmers enrolled in the program that paid for using conservation methods in their farming business. The current farm bill extension runs out on April 18th.
Writer Jon Hassler Dies
Minnesota Author Jon Hassler died Thursday morning. He was best known for writing about small-town life in his novels like "Staggerford", "The Love Hunter" and the Agatha McGee series. Hassler had suffered from a Parkinson's-like disease for the last fifteen years and had been in home hospice care sinde last December. One of Hassler's most famous fans was actress Angela Lansberry who played the part of small-town teacher Agatha McGee in a made-for-television movie. Hassler was born in Staples and taught English at Brainerd Community College from 1968-1980. Fellow instructor Joe Plut said Hassler's writing will become more appreciated by scholars and critics in the future. Hassler's funeral service has been scheduled for next Thursday, March 27th at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.
Two Men Die From Flu-like Illness
The Minnesota Health Department is investigating the deaths of two Itasca County men, 64-year old Reverend Danny Adams Senior of Dora Lake and his son 45-year old Danny Adams Junior of Spring Lake. Both had the Type B strain of influenza and both were otherwise healthy. A health department spokesman said there's no reason to conclude that the deaths were caused by an unusual strain of the flu virus. The spokesman said the men may have died of a secondary condition such as a staph infection. Autopsy results are pending.
Three Oak Trees Missing
Long Prairie property owner Joe Bleess told Todd County Sheriff's Deputies that someone cut down three mature oak trees on his land and took the wood. Bleess said the illegal lumbering happened sometime during deer season. If you have information about the theft, contact the Todd County Sheriff's Department.
LF Woman Missing
Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel said 20-year old Allison Sipila has been missing since mid-February and he'd like your help in finding her. Sipila appears to be a vulnurable adult. She had a doctor's appointment on February 11th in Little Falls and hasn't been seen since. The blue eyed and blond-haired white woman is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs about 140 pounds. She was last seen wearing a white ski jacket, blue jeans and gray tennis shoes. If you knows anything about the location of Allison Sipila, call the Morrison County Sheriff's Department or any law enforcement officer.
Governor's Fishing Opener Gets Closer
This will be the fourth time that Breezy Point/Pequot Lakes has hosted a Governor's Fishing Opener. Breezy Point Resort General Manager Dave Gravdahl remembered the earlier events were worthwhile, fun events for everybody involved. Gravdahl said the first 1970 event featured Governor Harold LeVander and lots of area guides like Max Slocumb and Harry Van Doren, The Lindners and Marv Koep were all part of the 1970 opener. Gravdahl said the 1981 opener featured Governor Perpich. The 2001 opener with Governor Jesse Ventura drew reporters from Japan. Governor Pawlenty will preside over this year's opener. The organizing committee will probably be looking for sponsors and volunteers until the day before the event, May 9th and 10th. If you can help, contact Ryan or Patty Buell at 568-7767.
Koering Bill To Establish Korean War Vets Day
Fort Ripley State Senator Paul Koering has introduced a bill that would establish a day to remember veterans of the Korean War. Koering said his father served in the Korean. Hostilities ended July 27, 1953. Senator Koering said this was another way for us to thank and honor veterans who served in Korea. The House unanimously approved a Vietnam Veterans Day earlier this week. A companion bill waits in the Senate. The day would be March 29, the day in 1979 when the last American soldiers officially left Vietnam.
Warrior Way Successful So Far
The group of parents and school activity supporters in the Brainerd School District known as Warrior Way Inc. took on the task of raising money to help students pay increased activity fees. The district has to trim $5.5-Million from next year's budget. Warrior Way Inc. member Don Ryan said the fund raising effort is having a good bit of success and has $110,000 in the bank as of last Friday. Ryan said people have pledged more than that but he doesn't want to count that until its in the bank. Ryan said the group has to raise $220,000 by Wednesday, April 2nd to have the fund ready for next year's public school budget and he believes the group will make their goal. Ryan said the long range plan is to gather enough money to set up a foundation and be able to leave the principle alone and use the interest to help kids with their activity fees. He estimates a good number to work with would be $5-Million and he believes Warrior Way can do that too.
Someone took a cord and a half of firewood in Todd County sometime during the first week of March. If you have information about this theft, call the Todd County Sheriff's Department.
Major Senate Health Bill Held Over
Minnesota State Senators decided Wednesday not to take up a major health proposal after all. State Senator Paul Koering said there were a number of provisions in the bill with which the Republican caucus was not happy. Koering said Senate Democrats expressed displeasure with some of the elements of the bill too. Senate Majority Larry Pogemiller decided to hold the bill over until next week after the Easter Break. No vote was taken.
More Money for Nursing Home Workers
Minnesota House Republican Leader Marty Seifert said he likes most of the Governor's ideas on how to balance the budget. The February forecast revealed that state government is spending nearly $1-Billion more than it expects to see in taxes by the end of next year. Seifert said he would like to see more money go to nursing home workers and has suggested lawmakers take $30-Million from the Health Care Access Fund and increase nursing home workers pay by 2.25%. Last year's Nursing Home bill increased workers pay by 2% and they're to get a 1% increase this year. That proposal and others will have to wait until next week. Lawmakers have begun their Easter Break and will go back in session on Tuesday, March 25th.
JOBZ, Q-Comp Money May Go To Public Schools
Two proposals from House Democrats would repeal the JOBZ program and cancel an expansion of the Q-Comp merit-pay for teachers program and use the money for public schools. Brainerd Lawmaker John Ward said money from those programs would add $51-per pupil for Minnesota public education. Ward said anything we can get for next year is appreciated. The money would be for one year only. Maple Grove Representative Kurt Zellers said JOBZ is a pet project of the Governor's and repealing the program that offers tax breaks to businesses who expand in economically distressed areas would not be popular. The bill says public schools could spend the money on anything they want to.
Former Jenkins Clerk Pleads Guilty
Former Jenkins City Clerk Julie Ann Ohr of Pine River pleaded guilty last week to embezzling public funds and diverting corporate property. According to the formal complaint, the 40-year old Ohr wrote $107,000 worth of checks to herself from her employer, Lakes Area Carpet and Wood in Pequot Lakes and more than $55,000 from the city of Jenkins. A spokesman for the Crow Wing county District Court told the Lake Country Echo that six other felony counts were dropped in exchange for the guilty plea. Her sentencing has been set for May 30th.
Here Come the Zebra Mussels
The 2008 Great Lakes shipping season is under way on Lake Superior. Andy Buchsbaum is with the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes office and said this is also a milestone; the 20th anniversary of the introduction of zebra mussels into United States waters. Buchsbaum said the invasive species does about $1-Billion of damage to parks, beaches, water supply systems and people every year. One Oberstar bill pending in Congress would require the US Coast Guard to check ships before they enter United States waterways. Other potential laws would require ocean-going ships to empty and clean their ballast tanks before entering the St. Lawrence Seaway.
MN Senate Looks at Health Bill
The Minnesota Senate began debate this morning on a bill some are calling the next step towards government-run health care. Roseville Lawmaker John Marty is the chairman of the Health, Housing and Family Security Committee and believes the bill will pass the Senate but not convinced the bill will become law. The bill reportedly has support from Governor Pawlenty and was written by Minneapolis Senate Linda Berglin. It includes at least two controversial provisions to create a Minnesota Insurance Exchange and a Health Care Transformation Commission. Marty said the bill is supposed to simplify health care. A similar bill in the House is still making its way through committees.
Calling All Toad and Frog Surveyors
The Minnesota DNR is looking for volunteers who like the sound of toads and frogs to count the spring population. Jean Goad is the public affairs officer for Northeastern Minnesota. Goad said volunteers will get a route and a CD of frog and toad sounds and will be instructed to go out three times this year, mostly after dark because that's when toads and frogs are most active. If you'd like more information about the toad and frog survey, pull up the web site www.mndnr.gov and type in the words 'toad survey'.
Looking For A New Superintendent
The Brainerd School Board is conducting an online survey to help find out what people want in a new superintendent. The board will also hold a listening session next Tuesday, March 25th to get similar information from people directly. The board will ask citizens to fill out a questionnaire and will allow time for citizens to talk directly to a board member. The online survey is on the school’s web site, www.isd181.org.
US Education Secretary Offers Pilot Program
US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced a new pilot program yesterday that would fine-tune the No Child Left Behind Act and allow administrators to better decide the difference between schools that need drastic help and those that need a little nudging. Spellings talked to a group of educators and government officials in St. Paul on Tuesday and the pilot program could lead to more flexibility in dealing with schools not making adequate yearly progress. Spellings said Minnesota is to be congratulated for demanding accountability from schools. The Education Secretary said the key is to student advancement is to custom make remedial efforts to better fit students. Spellings said instruction for a better golf swing or a tennis game is tailored to the student, why shouldn't we do the same for those students who need the most help. Minnesota Education Secretary Alice Seagren said she'd look at the pilot program but may not apply right away because other state's need the program worse than Minnesota.
Farmers Should Think Outside The Box
Minnesota farmers are being encouraged to try something different with their crops and land. Mike Heavrin is with the Center for Rural Affairs. He says millions of Federal tax dollars are available through the Agriculture Department's 'value-added' grant program. Heavrin said one example is dairy farmers bottling and blending their milk on the farm. He said organic meat operations have been funded as well as walnut and wood projects. Other ideas include biodiesel production, wineries, and wind farms. Heavrin said Minnesota is one of the top five states in the nation in the grant race. The deadline to apply for this year is March 31st.
Brainerd Lawmaker Says Taxpayers Grateful
Brainerd Lawmaker John Ward said he has heard from constituents about the passage of the Transportation Bill and the increase of the state gas tax. Ward said the first 2-cent increase will appear on Minnesota gas pumps on April 1st. Ward said voters he's heard from say thank you for taking care of a problem that hasn't been taken care of for 20 years. First term Representative Ward said his constituents say oil companies are making major profits and "thank you for making our roads more safe, proving family transportation and providing for a cleaner environment." The second installment - 3.5-cents - of the Minnesota gas tax increase goes into effect in October.
Mille Lacs Health System Spring Fling Tickets On Sale
Tickets for the fourth annual Mille Lacs Health System's Spring Into Action Spring Fling '08 are now on sale. Foundation Director Lois Lahr said this year's event will include some fabulous items on the silent auction and some really great music. Lahr said this year's auction table will include 'bling' from Birgit's Jewelers and music from the Rockin' Hollywoods. Tickets are $50 and tax-deductible. Admission includes a surf and turf dinner, silent auction and entertainment. Get yours by calling Lois at the Foundation office at 320-532-2604. Or check out the web site, www.millelacshealth.com. Spring Fling '08 starts at 6pm on Saturday, April 19th.
Non-Profit Tax Status In Jeaopardy
A recent court ruling has put some nonprofits in jeopardy of losing their tax exempt status according to a spokeswoman from the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. Marcia Avner said the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled last year that the Under the Rainbow Child Care Center should lose its property tax exempt status because the center charged full price for all its services. The court said the center should offer free or reduced rates in order to qualify as a nonprofit. Avner told a House committee if assessors enforce the ruling, many organizations could lose property tax exemptions and perhaps sales tax exemptions as well. Dilworth lawmaker Paul Marquart introduced a bill that would place a one-year moratorium on enforcing the ruling. A companion bill waits in the Senate Taxes Committee.
Vietnam Vets Day Bill Passes House
All 130 members of the Minnesota House voted for the bill that would designate March 29th as Vietnam Veterans Day. Bill sponsor and Walker lawmaker Larry Howes said this is one small thing we can do for the men and women who served in Vietnam. Edina lawmaker Ron Erhardt said he would vote for the bill but was not enthralled about setting a day for every war ever conceived. A companion bill in the Minnesota Senate is sponsored by Hewitt lawmaker Dan Skogen. March 29, 1973 is the day the last of American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam.
Bonding Bill Held Up
Progress on the Minnesota House/Senate bonding bill remains stalled. Both versions passed on March 6th but St. Paul lawmaker Alice Hausman said the House bill has to get still smaller before she'll call a conference committee meeting. The House bill is now at $954-Million, the Senate's at $958.8-Million. Governor Pawlenty said he may veto or line-item veto a bonding bill much over $855-Million. Hausman had wanted a bill to send to the Governor by last Saturday.
Brainerd City Council Asks For AG Advice
The Brainerd City Council decided Monday night to ask the Minnesota Attorney General for advice about appointments to the city's library board. The council made two appointments to the board last month but since some members have wondered about where board candidates must live and how long they could serve. City Attorney Tom Fitzpatrick had said earlier that board members could live outside Brainerd but in Crow Wing County because the library is part of a regional system. Council Member Bob Olson said during last night's meeting that board members must resign if they move out of the city. Fitzpatrick suggested questions should be forwarded to the Attorney General for her advice. The Council agreed.
Lakes Area Food Shelf Needs Help
The Lakes Area Food Shelf is not having the best of years. Director Don Messick said this year is noticeably different from last year and he needs your help so that he can help others. Messick said he saw 424 families last year in January and February and this year, 556. And donations were roughly 20,000 pounds ahead of what he's gotten in this year so far. The spring food shelf drive runs through the first week on April. If you can help, call Don Messick at 568-5429 or send your check made out to the Lakes Area Food Shelf to P.O. Box 724, Nisswa, Minnesota, 56468.
Knowledge Bowlers Get Ready For Regionals
Regional competition for Knowledge Bowl will be held again this year at Cragun's Resort. Teams from all over the area will compete with their knowledge of a wide range of topics. Brainerd High School coach Craig Rezak said teams of five students practice a couple of times a week but they're thinking about how to improve their game almost all the time. Coach Rezak said some of the practice competition will be against teacher-volunteers and while the teachers may have the knowledge, the students know how to play the game. Its important to listen to the question, figure out where the question is heading, and ring in to answer with as little information as possible to beat the other team. Rezak said Brainerd High School had seven teams this year and two of them are going to regionals on March 26th.
Lawmakers Want New School Rating System
Minnesota schools are now rated on state test results and performance standards but some lawmakers want to expand on the system. White Bear Lake lawmaker Sandy Rummel wants to include student's opinion of teachers, how much progress they're making toward their goals, and how many participate in advanced placement courses. Rummel said kids aren't widgets and all students aren't equally equipped to come to the classroom. Education Commissioner Alice Seagren said the idea could weaken the accountability system for schools and let some schools look better then they actually are.
Deerwood Plant Closing
Douglas Machine is closing its Deerwood plant and will move its paperboard packaging machine operation to its main plant in Alexandria . The Deerwood plant employs 45 people. Company President Rick Paulsen said there has been less demand for the type of packaging machine the Deerwood plant produced and it was in the best economic interest of the company to consolidate its operations. The Deerwood plant made machines to package a variety of consumer goods and sold them to companies like General Mills and ConAgra. Paulsen expects ten employees will remain at the Deerwood plant for the next three to six months to service and support existing customers. He said the Deerwood employees were very dedicated and many of them have already found similar work with a Crosby company. Paulsen said Douglas Machine had taken advantage of a JOBZ program for an expansion in 2004. He said its a good program and helpful but it had no impact on the decision to move the Deerwood plant's operation. Douglas Machines was founded in 1965 in Alexandria and bought Davis Engineering in Deerwood in 1996.
Babbitt Bar Gets First Theater Night Smoking Ticket
Babbitt bar owner Tom Marinaro has proudly framed the $300 petty misdemeanor ticket he got on Friday for allowing patrons to smoke in his bar. Marinaro's attorney Mark Benjamin said Tank's Bar got the first ticket issued in connection with theater night promotion and they plan to challenge it in court. Part of the smoking ban law passed last year allows actors to light up on stage. Tank's has been featuring performances of "Gunsmoke Monologues" every day at 3pm. Attorney Benjamin said he'll argue that the theatrical promotion clause in the smoking ban law is unconstitutionally vague.
2nd Pediatric Flu Death Confirmed
The Minnesota Health Department confirmed the second influenza-related death of a child during this flu season. Spokeswoman Kristen Ehresmann said the 5-year old Twin Cities girl had gotten a flu shot but not until she was already ill. A 12-year child died earlier this year. That Twin Cities girl had not gotten a flu shot and had an underlying chronic medical condition. Ehresmann said the department has no evidence that flu strains this year are unusually virulent or that they pose an unusual risk for children. As of March 1st, 32 children in the nation have died from flu complications.
MN House Speaker Happy With Session So Far
Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher said she's very pleased with the results of this legislative session so far. Kelliher said lawmakers have approved more in the first weeks of the session than many other legislative sessions have approved with all the time allotted. Kelliher said lawmakers have approved the Legacy Constitutional Amendment, bills for Tax Confmity and Transportation, and approval of the bonding bill. Kelliher admitted the override of Governor Pawlenty's veto of the Transportation Package would result in the fourth highest gas tax in the nation but insisted that state roads and bridges need the money.
Todd County Man Arrested for Drug Sales
Agents of the Central Minnesota Drug and Gang Task Force arrested 26-year old Jeremy Joseph Symalla last Friday on an outstanding warrant, failing to appear on a driving under the influence charge, and selling a controlled substance. Symalla spent the weekend in the Todd County Jail waiting for his next court appearance.
Brainerd Man Dies In Septic Tank
The body of 71-year old Dale G. Peterson of rural Brainerd was found in his septic tank last Friday. Peterson had been missing for about a week and friends had called the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department. Deputies searched Peterson's Daggett Brook Township property and found the man. Sheriff Todd Dahl told the Dispatch that foul play is not suspected but he has no idea why Peterson ended up in the septic tank. Peterson will be buried this weekend.
Randall Man Charged with Murder
36-year old Robert Eugene O'Jala was charged Friday with second degree murder and first degree manslaughter for the death of his girlfriend's 2-year old son, Dylan Martin, Jr. According to the formal charge, O'Jala was watching the child in the couple's Randall home Monday, March 10th. Officers told the Brainerd Dispatch O'Jala apparently became frustrated with the child, picked up the 2-year old by the arms and threw him down. The little boy died last Wednesday at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis. O'Jala remains in custody in the Morrison County Jail.