The Willmar City Council this week passed a resolution appointing election judges for the special election that will be coming up February 12th. This election is to replace the vacant city council seat in Ward 4 that was previously held by Doug Reese, who resigned to serve on the county board. They also appointed the new fire chief/fire marshal as the city’s emergency management operations coordinator for the city of Willmar. City Administrator Charlene Stevens says he does have an emergency operations background. In other business there was some discussion by the council regarding the process for selecting the mayor pro-tem but no changes were made at this time to the process nor to the decision that was made at the Jan. 7th council meeting.
Part of the budget process should be re-examining as to how funds are currently being spent and reallocated as necessary, says District 17A Representative Andrew Falk. He sits on the Ag Policy Committee and is Vice Chair of the Ag Finance Committee. Falk says other policy and budget changes to improve efficiency in the department will be a priority this biennium.
The Morris City Council has approved the plans and specifications for reconstruction of West 9th, 10th, and 11th Streets. City Manager Blaine Hill says the current bonding estimate is for $3 million; 10% of that is for unexpected, or contingency, spending. Hill says any unspent contingency money will be available for the city's next project. The City Council plans to call for bids for demolition with a final contract in March.
The Montevideo City Council has reviewed and approved moving forward the solicitation of bids for some ventilation additions to a hangar at the airport. At the meeting, which was held Tuesday night, the council also discussed some possible changes to the city ordinance dealing with motor vehicles, and heard an update from Mayor Fader on her trip to Uruguay.
The Paynesville City Council Wednesday night approved the Stearns County Hazardous Mitigation Plan, adopting a resolution of support for the plan. Mayor Jeff Thompson says that’s the last local step needed to apply for a grant from FEMA for constructing a public storm shelter on the high school property as part of an upgrade to their stands at the baseball field. That is going to be a fairly sizeable project of several hundred thousand dollars. That will now be in the hands of FEMA to hopefully get that grant and get that project going.
A local legislator is hoping to write legislation to decrease the taxes and fees paid by nursing homes, in an effort to boost local economies. District 12A Representative Jay McNamar, a Democrat, says fewer taxes will allow health care facilities to increase employee compensation. In addition to the services they provide, McNamar says many nursing homes in small communities are also the largest employers. If nursing homes are paying fewer taxes, McNamar says nursing home administrators are likely to increase employee wages. McNamar says one example of over-taxing is requiring facilities to pay surcharges on empty beds. He hopes to eliminate that and several other charges from the State.
As the new Emergency Management Director in Stevens County, Donna Griener is stepping into a role she has long supported as a Deputy Director. In fact, she has been overseeing the department's biggest project since its inception: the cataloguing of critical infrastructure information. Griener says a task force has been collecting data. A team of ten have been trained in assessing critical infrastructure, such as energy, water, waste, communications, and health care sectors. Local Emergency Management Departments will be working with the Department of Homeland Security and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety when archiving the information in the federal database ACAMS (Automated Critical Asset Management System).
The numbers are only preliminary, but a budget for the Morris Area Schools during the next school year, 2013-2014, shows a deficit. The preliminary deficit number is $116,259. Morris Superintendent Scott Monson says one way to address a deficit is to increase revenue. Governor Dayton's recent budget proposal included a 1% tuition increase for Minnesota schools. For Morris, that number would be about $55,000. Monson also notes that the budget is preliminary, and can drastically change between January and the final budget in June. The current school year will also show an operating deficit of $743,998, due in large part to one-time improvement projects.
The Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Co-op is having its annual production meeting on Tuesday morning at 8 in the Holiday Inn & Conference Center.
Both 31 year old Luis Hernandez and 19 year old Christian Vergana-Arellano of Willmar appeared in Kandiyohi County District Court yesterday (Thursday) on felony charges of receiving stolen property, and possession of machine guns and short barreled shotguns, a gross misdemeanor of possession of a pistol, and petty misdemeanors for drug possession. Hernandez makes his next court appearance on April 2nd. Vergara-Arellano makes his next appearance on Monday.
U.S. Senator Al Franken has reintroduced the Prescription Drug and Health Improvement Act to cut prescription drug costs for seniors in Minnesota and across the country by allowing the federal government to negotiate lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries. Franken says this is a common sense measure that will cut spending without cutting any vital services that Minnesotans depend on. This plan would empower the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies on behalf of all Medicare beneficiaries. Under current law, drug prices are negotiated directly between pharmaceutical companies and private insurance companies contracted by the government to deliver the drug benefit.
Pioneer Public Television of Appleton will air the next episode of Postcards this Sunday night at seven with ‘History of Sonshine Music Festival.’ The episode chronicles over 30 years of the music festival, which is held annually in Willmar. They’ll be talking with the original founders about the challenges and surprises throughout the years at Sonshine, which has become one of the most popular Christian music festivals in the nation. You’ll also hear from the volunteers, band, and people that still flock to his family-friendly festival every summer.
38 year old Dana Schoen of Starbuck, who has pled guilty to three felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide, will be sentenced in Pope County District Court today (Friday). Schoen stands accused of driving while intoxicated, with a blood alcohol content four times the legal limit, and causing a crash July 28th that ended the life of five month old Drake Bigler, son of Southwest Minnesota State Men’s Basketball Coach Brad Bigler. Bigler, his wife and his wife’s grandmother were also injured in the crash. Schoen’s plea agreement with the Pope County Attorney's Office includes a sentence of 48 months, along with restitution and fines. Schoen's guilty plea has not yet been accepted by the court, but is expected to be accepted and ruled on by Judge Charles Glasrud today.
Students in 5th and 6th grade at the Morris Area Schools will be performing tonight (Friday). The elementary choir and band will play at 7 in the Elementary Concert Hall.
It’s a night of poetry and plays tonight (Friday) at the Morris Area High School. The Poetry Out Loud Recitation Contest will start at 5 and students will compete until 6:30. The Morris Area Arts Boosters sponsor the event that sends the top competitors to a regional competition. Following Poetry Out Loud, both the junior and senior high one act teams will present their plays, starting at 7:30. The events will be held back-to-back in the Morris Area High School Auditorium.
The 12th annual Snowmobile for Life is happening tomorrow (Saturday) at the Atwater Community Center with registration at 11:30. The ride starts at 12:30. Other activities going on at the center during this event wil be bingo at one, a silent auction, a snowmobile pinewood derby; a chili supper; with a live auction beginning at five. All proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.
This morning (Friday) about 4:45, the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office dispatched theWatkins Fire Department for a barn fire at a farm on 150th Street in Luxemburg Township, Stearns County. A short time later the Eden Valley Fire Department and Kimball Fire Department were contacted for mutual aid. Upon arrival Watkins Fire Department requested a cancel for Eden Valley and Kimball Fire Departments, as it was a small barn and it was already on the ground.