NEWS-July 2
News Director: Bev Alquist Call with news at 320-235-2900 or email

News Archive

About one this morning (Tuesday), the Meeker County Sheriff's Office, Litchfield Police Department, and Litchfield Fire Department responded to a structure fire at a vacant farm house on Highway 24 in Litchfield Township. The farm site was vacant and the house had been prepped and used earlier in the day by the Litchfield Fire Department for training purposes.  It is believed that one of the training fires held in the house earlier in the day had rekindled; causing the new fire after the fire department and property owner had left. 25 year old Ryan Rathbun of Litchfield is the current property owner and gave the structure for the fire department training. The house was allowed to burn down completely from this fire.  The house had no monetary value and was scheduled to be completely burned down on August 4th during another controlled burn by the Litchfield Fire Department. 

The Willmar City Council last night (Monday) had a report on GreenStep Cities from Andy Bjur, who noted the city of Willmar was recognized as a Step 2 Cities by the League of Minnesota Cities. City Administrator Charlene Stevens says what that means is the city is well on its way to implementing Best Practices for sustainability for the community. The council also accepted a bid on $1.9 million in financing general obligation bonds for its street improvement program. The city was also downgraded in its bond rating from an A3 to an A2.

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners meet this morning (Tuesday) at ten at the Health and Human Services Building. Agenda items include a public hearing on a tax abatement request for Peaceful Thymes Gift, Garden & Hardware of Atwater; a performance grant agreement; and information on the Vision 2040, Community Chalkboard and meetings. At nine in the morning the commissioners meet as a Health and Human Services committee.

The Alexandria Lakes Area Tea Party will hold its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, July 9th at the Broadway Ballroom in Alexandria. There is a social time at 5:15, with the regular meeting beginning at 5:30. The program is a celebration of our independence and will include reading the Declaration of Independence in its entirety, patriotic readings, a skit, and patriotic music performed by local musicians. You’re invited to attend.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and other law enforcement agencies are stepping up patrols this weekend to crack down on boating while intoxicated. It is part of Operation Dry Water, a national campaign designed to reduce alcohol and drug related accidents and fatalities. According to DNR Conservation Officer Greg Salo, alcohol was a contributing factor last year in 33 percent of the deadly boating accidents in the state. He said they would rather be writing tickets to people, arresting people who are operating under the influence than going to tell their family members that they are not coming home or that they are seriously injured. That’s what they’re trying to prevent, he said, they don’t want to get to the bad part of it, and if they can stop it early by taking strong enforcement action, that’s what they’re going to do. He says operating a boat with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher is against the law. Last year, 158 people were arrested for BWI in Minnesota.

66 year old Larry Dirksen of Montevideo has been identified as the man who was operating a personal watercraft on the north side of Norway Lake Sunday when he collapsed and was taken to Rice Memorial Hospital where he was later pronounced dead. According to the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office, they were called to assist with a medical emergency Sunday afternoon where CPR was in progress. Dirksen collapsed near shore and stopped breathing shortly after being tipped from the watercraft he was riding. The Kandiyohi County Coroner is further investigating the cause of death.

53 year old Ted Raymond Paffrath of Owatonna was killed in a tree cutting accident east of New London Sunday afternoon, according to the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office. The accident is under investigating by the sheriff’s office.

Motorists on Highway 9 between Benson and Highway 104 will encounter a detour and delays when a road resurfacing and bridge replacement project begins July 8, weather permitting. Crews will resurface 17 miles of Highway 9 and replace the Mud Creek bridge two miles east of Benson. During the project Highway 9 will close, and motorists will detour to Highway 12 and Kandiyohi County Road 7. Residents who live within the road closure will be allowed to use Highway 9 during the project, except at Mud Creek. The road work is expected to be complete by late September, weather permitting.

The railroad crossing on County Road 8 in Kandiyohi is closed until five this afternoon (Tuesday), according to the Kandiyohi County Public Works Department office in Willmar. The road closed yesterday (Monday) when the BNSF Railroad crew began working on the railroad crossing. You’re asked to use alternate routes.  

The Barnes-Aastad Organization, an agriculture support group for the USDA-ARS Soils Lab in Morris, was in Washington DC last week, lobbying for research dollars. Dan Perkins says future funding is in jeopardy until legislators pass a Farm Bill. The House's inability to pass a Farm Bill is a cause of genuine national concern, Perkins says. The bill was frequently characterized as a relatively non-controversial, bi-partisan bill. The group reports they met with staffers for several lawmakers, including Representative Collin Peterson and Senator Al Franken. Peterson is the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee.

Emergency responders were in Donnelly on Saturday, testing their response skills in a planned exercise. Stevens County Emergency Management Director Dona Greiner says the scenario included a tornado touchdown in the City of Donnelly, destroying 85% of the town. First responders, ambulance crews, and firefighters from across the county responded to Donnelly, searching the streets for volunteers playing tornado victims. Greiner says the Emergency Management Office will continue to play out major emergency exercises in various locations around the county in the next few years.

Road patrols increased across the state over the weekend and will remain active through the coming weekend. The 4th of July holiday can be a dangerous time on Minnesota roads, says Morris Chief of Police Jim Beauregard. The Minnesota State Patrol, Morris Police Department, and several other local law enforcement agencies are participating in the increased patrols.

The Morris Library will be hosting a collectible card game tournament today (Tuesday). The free event will be held in the library from 5:30 to 8. Call the library at for more information.

A 16 year old male from Maynard suffered non-life threatening injuries last night (Monday) on Highway 23 two miles south of Clara City in Chippewa County. According to the Minnesota State Patrol, the juvenile veered off the road and rolled. Assisting at the scene were the Clara City Police Department and Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department.

The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office has released the names of the people involved in the car/motorcycle crash that happened June 28th on County Road 184 and 435th Avenue in Ashley Township. The driver of the vehicle was 20 year old Beckey Wielenberg of Osakis. Her passenger was 12 year old Jacob Wielenberg of Osakis. The operator of the motorcycle was 54 year old Robert Bruce of Sauk Centre. Bruce was taken to the Centra Care Hospital in Sauk Centre and later airlifted to Robbinsdale. There is no further information available on Bruce’s condition at this time. The Wielenbergs were not injured.

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners yesterday, during a road and bridge meeting, discussed the possibility of implementing a $10 wheelage tax next year. There are 65,000 vehicles in Kandiyohi County and the wheelage tax would raise in the area of $400,000. There are certain vehicles that are exempt from this tax among them RVs, semis and motorcycles. The money raised from this tax would be earmarked to improve county roads.

For anyone new to camping, several spots remain available in the overnight “I Can Camp!” program on Saturday, July 6th, at Sibley State Park in New London, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Experienced instructors will teach participants basic camping skills. All camping equipment is provided (including tents, air mattresses and cook stoves). Participants just bring their food and bedding (sleeping bags or blankets and pillows). Visitors to state parks and recreation areas can also choose from more than 100 free, naturalist-led programs the week of July 4, or spend time hiking, biking, paddling, fishing, geocaching, or riding horses or off-highway vehicles on their own.

A driver was trapped in his vehicle, dangling upside down from a seat belt yesterday (Monday) on Park Street near 8th Avenue in Alexandria. According to the Echo Press, the jeep left the road, went over a curb, crashed into two unoccupied parked vehicles, and ended up on its roof in the turnaround driveway of the Justin Swenson residence. The Alexandria Fire Department was called to help get the man out of the jeep.  

18 year old Jacob Dale of Alexandria has been charged with three counts of criminal vehicular homicide in a rollover crash that killed 19 year old Landon Lien of Carlos May 25th. According to the Echo Press, the crash happened on Interstate 94, about six miles east of Alexandria. The vehicle sideswiped a semi-truck while trying to pass and rolled into the median, according to the Minnesota State Patrol. At the time, it wasn’t clear who was driving but authorities have since determined Dale was behind the wheel. A blood alcohol test taken more than three and a half hours after the crash showed an alcohol concentration of 0.14.

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