The Minnesota Department of Transportation is urging motorists to use extra caution while driving through highway work zones during the July Fourth holiday. Mike Barnes, MnDOT's Operations director, says many work sites have suspended work for the holiday, "however, there are still many work zones around the state that will affect travel during the holiday. Highway projects that may affect travel during the July Fourth holiday include, in central Minnesota: Highway 371, lanes will narrow in Nisswa, businesses are accessible; on Highway 15 there will be lane shifts in Sartell; and all lanes will be open on I-94 in the Clearwater to St. Cloud project.
Just before six yesterday afternoon (Tuesday), the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a vehicle in a drainage ditch located off of 230thStreet, approximately ½ of a mile west of State Highway 22, Litchfield Township. When deputies arrived they found the driver, 73 year old Hubert Haekenkamp, of Winsted dead at the scene. The investigation showed that Haekenkamp was eastbound on 230th Street when the vehicle he was driving went off of the roadway and into the south ditch. The vehicle then continued in the ditch, struck some brush, and went into the drainage ditch. Haekenkamp, who was the only occupant in the vehicle, was pulling a New Holland brand haybine at the time of the crash. The crash is under investigation by the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation invites you to review and comment on the draft Minnesota 20 year State Highway Investment Plan through July 31st. This will be the final opportunity for public input on the plan. MnDOT will hold a public hearing Monday afternoon, July 29th from 4-5:30 in St. Paul. You can also participate via a videoconference at MnDOT offices statewide. Video conferences will be set up at both Willmar and Morris’ MnDOT offices.
A new law went into effect Monday that raises the average price of a pack of cigarettes in Minnesota from approximately $6 per pack to more than $7.50 per pack. Mike Sheldon with ClearWay Minnesota, a nonprofit group that provides free cessation support to any Minnesotan, says this increase will prevent more than 47,000 kids from becoming addicted adult smokers and help more than 36,000 current Minnesota smokers quit. He says they know that a majority of smokers want to quit and have tried quitting. Previous price increases in Minnesota and nationwide have shown that price is a strong motivator for smokers to make a quit attempt. He encourages those trying to quit smoking to contact QuitPlan Services which provides free stop smoking support to any Minnesotan and can even provide free nicotine patches or gum to eligible smokers. Since 2001 QuitPlan Services has helped more than 20,000 Minnesotans successfully quit tobacco.
Water levels in lakes and rivers around Minnesota are expected to remain high during the Fourth of July holiday, so the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is urging boaters to slow down and use caution. People should always wear their lifejackets every time they step on a boat and especially during high water,” says Kara Owens, DNR boating safety specialist. High water levels mean a fast and strong moving current, which many boat operators are not used to. That can create dangerous situations. Boaters must always be aware of their surroundings. Fast river currents are more unforgiving and boaters have less of a time to react to a problem, she added. The swift current also makes it more difficult for even an experienced swimmer to swim or stay afloat if their boat or canoe capsized.
Representative Mary Sawatzky of Willmar says there are a number of new laws designed to move Minnesota forward that went into effect this past Monday. Among the most significant are historic investments in education; jobs and economic development; taxes; and Health and Human Services.
Two contracts for street improvements were awarded by the Willmar City Council Mondaynight. City Administrator Charlene Stevens says one was for Willmar Avenue Southwest, and the other was for 4th Avenue Southwest. The council also had a report on the downtown Gateways Concepts, and approved a contract with its law enforcement labor union. Thirty-two police officers that are covered under that. She said that includes some general wage adjustments for 2013 of 1.5 percent and 2014 a 2 percent general wage adjustment as well as some changes to clothing allowance and it resolved an outstanding issue on insurance and sharing the cost of insurance premiums.
Work continues on Morris' West side road construction project. City Engineer Jay Fier (fear) says the wet spring has slowed work but area residents have been understanding. The project encompasses several city blocks and includes replacing all below-surface infrastructure along with curbs, gutters, and pavement.
Jobless rates in western Minnesota counties decreased in the last month.
The unadjusted unemployment rate in Stevens County was 3.2 percent in May, a decrease of 0.3 percent from April, according to figures from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Other county numbers include: Big Stone 4.3 -1.9; Grant 5.5 -2.0; Pope 3.8 -0.6; Swift 5.1 -1.0; and Traverse 4.7 -0.9. The comparable statewide jobless rate was 5.3 percent and the national rate was 7.6 percent.
A Douglas County man is set to appear in court again this week, following a grand jury indictment on three murder charges. 25 year old Kody Klimek of Alexandria is charged in the June 1 stabbing death of 28 year old Phillip Altstadt of Alexandria. He is charged with two counts of second degree murder and one count of third degree murder. Klimek remains in custody in the Douglas County Jail. His next court date is July 5th.
Morris Fire Chief Dave Dybdal is reminding 4th of July revelers to be careful when lighting fireworks. Flying or exploding fireworks are illegal in Minnesota, but legal fireworks like sparklers - which can burn up to 1,200 degrees - can be just as dangerous and cause injury. In Minnesota, several types of fireworks are legal, including: wire or wood sparklers, snakes and glow worms, smoke devices, snappers and drop caps. Any size of firecrackers are illegal, as are sky rockets, bottle rockets, and roman candles. Fireworks injured 55 people - many of them children and teens - in Minnesota last year in June and July. For a complete list of legal fireworks, you can visit the website of the State Fire Marshal.
Due to last week’s rainfall, the following Renville County Parks are still closed due to flooding: Mack Lake County Park; Anderson Lake County Park; and the Skalbekken County Park on the west side of County Road 10. As of today (Wednesday), the following parks, which has been previously closed, are now reopened: Beaver Falls County Prk; Birch Coulee County Park; Vicksburg County Park, which reopens this afternoon; and the Skalbekken County Park where the main camping site is open.
The Stevens County Sheriff’s Office was called to a two vehicle crash on County Road 133 just south of County Road 4 in St. Joseph township yesterday (Tuesday). A vehicle driven by 41 year old Jonathan Dold of Sartell crossed the centerline, sideswiping a van driven by 42 year old Paul Heun of Sartell. Both vehicles left the roadway and went into the ditch. Dold was taken to the St. Cloud Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The crash is under investigation by the sheriff’s office.
The Montevideo City Council held a public hearing Monday night to consider a resolution approving a capital improvement plan. According to City Administrator Steve Jones, the plan is to build a new fire hall and to do some upgrades to city hall. The council approved moving forward with the plan. The council has been working on it close to five years. The council approved a conditional use permit for American Surplus, which people know as Ice Castle Fish Houses. They are doing an expansion in Montevideo.
The Anti-Vehicle Crime Association of Minnesota awarded a $100 gift card to their on-line contest winner Brandon Van Der Puy of Willmar, Monday. The prize was presented by the Willmar Police Department working in conjunction with AVCAM. The AVCAM promotion was part of a marketing campaign to bring awareness to auto theft issues in Minnesota. The Anti-Vehicle Crime Association of Minnesota (AVCAM) has two primary goals; 1) reduce vehicle theft though public awareness of prevention tips and, 2) promote the use of the 1-800-359-HEAT tip line. AVCAM encourages Minnesota drivers to take a common sense approach in the prevention of auto theft. The common sense approach to auto theft protection is the simplest and most cost-effective way to reduce auto theft. You need to remove your keys from the ignition; lock your doors/close your windows; and park in a well-lit area.
The results of the fifth annual State of Manufacturing survey will be presented at a meeting on Wednesday, July 10th at 11:30 at the MinnWest Technology Center. The survey reports on the state’s manufacturing outlook and the industry’s top issues. There will be a complimentary lunch and networking, along with a speaker, plus campus tours. Learn about current Minnesota manufacturing trends, and glean ideas that will help your company be more effective in growing sales and competing effectively in the global marketplace. To register or for additional information, contact Jean Spaulding of the EDC office by Monday (July 8th).
At yesterday’s (Tuesday) Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners meeting, the board approved a tax abatement request for the Peaceful Thymes Gift, Garden and Hardware business in Atwater. Three parcels are impacted, and the $2,500 abatement is over a five year period. The city of Atwater approved a $5,000 abatement over a few year period. The board also discussed Vision 2040, and how they’re installing chalk boards throughout the county for community members to use to provide input. Several public meetings are planned for July 23rd, 24th and 25th.
As the summer travel season approaches its peak, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds visitors to review aquatic invasive species (AIS) laws before traveling to ensure compliance and avoid a citation. Stepped up education and enforcement of Minnesota’s AIS laws is intended to protect the state’s more than 10,000 lakes, which play a critical role in attracting anglers and families from across the country for a lakeside vacation. Before traveling to Minnesota every boater must: clean all aquatic plants, zebra mussels and other prohibited invasive species from boats and trailers; drain water from the boat, bait buckets and motor; drain the live-well and bilge by removing drain plugs; and keep drain plugs out while transporting watercraft.
The Farm Service Agency is working to increase representation on its farmer-elected committees by folks who haven’t usually thought of themselves as potential committee members. FSA is looking for those who are working with new or different crops, who can bring a different perspective to USDA’s work with local producers, or who have a new or different angle on farming. If you have something to offer, or know someone who might, contact your local FSA office.