NEWS-Apr 29
News Director: Bev Alquist Call with news at 320-235-2900 or email

News Archive

Saturday the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of theft of a trailer in progress from a residence on Highway 22, Litchfield Township. A short time later, deputies located the trailer at a residence on Highway 12, Acton Township. Upon investigation deputies arrested 56 year old William Dugan of Grove City for felony theft, fourth degree assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct.

Yesterday afternoon (Sunday), the sheriff’s office was called to and dispatched the Dassel Fire Department to a grass fire at a residence on 720th Avenue, Collinwood Township. A short time later the Hutchinson Fire Department was dispatched for mutual aid. Grass, 24 large round hay bales, and two tires were burned before the fire department was able to extinguish the fire.

This morning (Tuesday), starting at nine, the murder trial for 47-year-old Timothy Huber of rural Paynesville continues in Kandiyohi County District Court. Huber was indicted on first and second degree murder charges in the shooting death of 43 year old Tim Larson of Albertville. His father, 82 year old Delbert Huber, pled guilty to shooting Larson and is serving a 30 year prison sentence. The elder Huber testified in court last week, as did Norman Larson, father of the murdered man; Larson’s widow; and several detectives. The 911 tape of the elder Huber calling to report the shooting, was also played in court.

Paynesville Mayor Jeff Thompson says the council has approved the bid on the Trunk Highway 55 and Lake Avenue intersection work. There will be an upgrade to the turn lane coming off Highway 55 and exiting onto Lake Avenue and into the city from there. In other business the council has purchased a street sweeper the city of Willmar recently traded in at what they felt was a fairly decent price. He says their street sweeper was a 1970 some model and this one is quite a bit newer.  

The Morris City Council approved paying an $11,000 bill to TKDA Engineers for an airport project that may not materialize. However, says City Manager Blaine Hill, the engineering work could be used in the future. A land acquisition and engineering plan were developed in the last few years in anticipation of a parallel taxiway project. The Federal Aviation Administration determined a parallel taxiway was not in the best interest of the regional airport, however, and recommended the local airport commission consider other projects to improve the airport's services. Rather than a parallel taxiway, focus has shifted to adding another hangar to the Morris Municipal Airport. Ninety percent of the engineer's plan and land acquisition will be paid by the federal government; 10% by the local government.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has announced changes to their reimbursement plans for hospitals, causing local health care providers to reconsider their relationship with the insurance giant. The Minnesota Hospital Association is opposing the payment change plan, alleging the changes will slash payments to hospitals and have a particularly devastating effect on rural health care. Hospital Association CEO Lawrence Massa described the payment change as converting payments from a negotiated discount from a hospital's charges to a below-cost or marginally above-cost rate, unilaterally set by Blue Cross. The changes are set to take effect on May 1. Massa reports some small rural and critical access hospitals are considering terminating their relationship with Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Stevens Community Medical Center President and CEO John Rau says, at this time SCMC has been unable to determine an exact dollar amount that will negatively impact the medical center. No plans have been announced to end the relationship between SCMC and Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Jobless rates in western Minnesota counties were mixed in the last month, when comparing February and March unemployment numbers. The unadjusted unemployment rate in Stevens County was 3.7 percent in March, a decrease of 0.4 percent from February, according to figures from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Other county numbers include:  Big Stone  6.9  +0.1; Grant   8.4  -0.1; Pope   4.9  No Change; Swift   7.0  -0.1; Traverse  6.6  +0.4; The comparable statewide jobless rate was 5.4 percent and the national rate was 7.6 percent.

Motorists and residents on Highway 28 west of Sauk Centre will encounter intermittent lane closures, flaggers, pilot cars and possible delays between Highway 71 and Westport beginning today (Monday). The lane closures will be from sunrise to sunset Mondays through Saturdays. Different segments of the road will close each day. The lane closures are needed as crews resurface, replace or repair guardrail and improve drainage. The project and lane closures are scheduled to be completed by June 7th.

Survey work on Highway 23 from Cottonwood to Granite Falls begins tomorrow (Tuesday). You’ll encounter reduced speeds and delays beginning as survey crews work along the shoulders on Highway 23. Crews from Continental Mapping Consultants will be using Mobile Lidar to survey Highway 23 for a future stringless paving project. They will be placing control panels that look similar to painted arrows on the road surface approximately every 700 feet. This is the first time they’ve used this technology, according to Barry Anderson, land management engineer.

Rice Memorial Hospital and the National Kidney Foundation’s Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP), will offer a free kidney screening on Thursday from ten to four at the Health and Human Services Building in Willmar. This is a free public health screening program designed to identify those at increased risk for kidney disease, and to encourage them to seek further evaluation and follow-up. You’re invited to participate in the free screening if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, a family history of these conditions or kidney disease.

There will be a Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning from 6:30-8 at the Assembly of God Church in Willmar. Tickets for the Sunrise Breakfast buffet are $12. Mayor Frank Yanish says his prayer is for our community to continue to be blessed, and asks you to commit to pray for the concerns of the city. He says it all begins with you and me.

Traffic Safety Day activities tomorrow (Tuesday) will give Willmar High School students opportunities to see how they can be safe drivers. Scheduled activities start at 9:30 in the morning, and include ‘Ghost-Out,’ ‘Distract-A-March,’ ‘EVERYTIME Thumb Bands’, a Young Forever presentation, and a roll-over simulator. Willmar Police Officer Gene Schneider, says distracted driving and excessive speed cause most of the teen fatal and serious injury crashes in southwest Minnesota. Also, he says, lack of seat belt use is another huge issue. Assisting the Willmar Police Department with the teen traffic safety activities are the Willmar Ambulance Service, Minnesota State Patrol and Willmar High School Student Council.

Let’s Go Fishing will have its annual volunteer meeting on Wednesday night, May 1st at 6:30 at the Dethlefs Senior Center in Spicer. They’re looking for volunteers to serve on the committee and asks that you encourage a friend, neighbor, spouse or co-worker who might be interested in helping this summer to attend the meeting.

Forrest Peterson with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says the Hawk Creek Watershed Project will head out into the elements this year to check local streams for pollutants when rain starts to fall. He says these checks will include measuring the water temperature, its clarity and other conditions. Staff will also take water samples for lab analysis to determine levels of nutrients and sediment. While the Hawk Creek staff regularly monitors the health of area lakes and rivers, this water monitoring is special because it captures the level of pollutants in runoff.

The Meeker County Sheriff’s Office was called to a rollover Saturday at the intersection of 624th Avenue and County Road 28 south of Litchfield in Greenleaf Township. 29 year old Todd Smith Jr. of Grove City ran a stop sign and rolled into a field. he was airlifted to the Hennepin County Medical Center. A passenger, 22 year old Ashley Ramthus of Litchfield was taken to the Meeker Memorial Hospital. Also on the scene was the Minnesota State Patrol. The crash is under investigation by the sheriff’s office.

Glenwood will have a community-wide cleanup day May 18th. This is a chance for residents to get rid of unwanted waste such as appliances, computers, e-waste, TVs, batteries, compose and brush, construction material, fluorescent bulbs, furniture and mattresses, grills, lawn mowers, tires and more. This being held a week later than in past years.

On Friday afternoon the Meeker County Sheriff's Office received a report of an unattached garage fire at the Mark Erickson residence in Dassel. Upon the arrival of the deputy, it was learned that the Erickson was in the garage welding when a spark ignited some fuel that was on the cement floor of the garage. The fire then spread to surrounding areas of the garage. The Dassel Fire Department was able to extinguish the fire, which was contained to the north side of the 24X64 foot garage. There was moderate, smoke, and fire damage to the structure and contents.

There will be a special BOLD Board of Education meeting tonight (Monday) at seven in the district office. The purpose of the meeting is to approve MOU on Early Retirement Sunset clause; approve a resolution for teacher reductions; and hold a closed session for negotiation strategies.

Formal charges are pending against 22 year old Brian Ogaard of Darwin for the burglary of the Darwin Freezer as well as the theft of the golf cart that was parked behind the business. According to the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office, Ogaard also stole a vehicle from a residence in Darwin, which they recovered on April 21st. During the next few days, the sheriff’s office received other reports from citizens concerning other incidents in the city of Darwin, including the theft of the golf cart and burglary of the Darwin Freezer. Ogaard was arrested April 21stafter officers found him sitting in the vehicle he had stolen.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation will commemorate Worker Memorial Day today (Monday), with special events throughout the state in honor of the fallen workers who died while working on MnDOT construction and maintenance projects. Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle says it’s important that they honor all workers who lost their lives on-the-job by using extra caution in work zones.

Last week, donors to the Rice Health Foundation were recognized at a banquet held in Rice Hospital’s Garden Court. Support for the Foundation directly contributes to the vitality of Rice Memorial Hospital and makes it possible to purchase equipment that affects the quality of patient care. Some of the equipment made possible through donations includes air oxygen blenders, video laryngoscope, and digital x-ray equipment for the Rice Regional Dental Clinic. Guests at the banquet also received an update on Rice Health Foundation’s current capital campaign for Rice Care Center. To date, the “Live, Laugh, Thrive” campaign has raised $1.3 million of its $2 million goal. Rice Care Center’s $6 million, three-year building and renovation project aims to improve life for seniors in the community.

Early Bird registration for the Rural Arts & Culture Summit closes tomorrow (Tuesday). The summit ‘Leveraging Arts and Culture to Build Thriving Communities’ is June 5th and 6th in Morris. Scholarships are still available to individuals from the SMAHC region to participate in the summit. Scholarship applications have to be submitted no later than May 31st. Limited funds are available for these scholarships.

Safe Avenues, Rice Hospital, the Willmar Police Department and the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s and Attorney’s Offices are collaborating on a Sexual Assault nurse Examine (SANE) program for Kandiyohi County and the surrounding areas. Beginning tomorrow (Tuesday), nine registered nurses from Rice Hospital will go through a 40-hour certification course that will train them to a higher degree of forensic evidence collection as well as how to be expert witnesses in court trials.

Rice Hospital averages nine sexual violence victims to the emergency room each year. Stephanie Felt is the SANE project coordinator.

Sunday afternoon the Litchfield Police Department was called to a crash at an East U.S. Highway 12 location. A 17 year old Dassel male was charged with driving after suspension. He will be appearing in Meeker County District Court on a later date. On Saturday night, Litchfield Police arrested a 43 year old Litchfield man on being a felon in possession of a firearm, order for protection violation, 3rd degree DWI, and .08 or more BAC. The arrest occurred at a County Road 34 and 5th Street location. He is being held in the Meeker County Jail pending an appearance in Meeker County District Court.

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