The city of Willmar has received a $2500 donation from CenterPoint Energy to purchase a thermal imaging camera for the Willmar Fire Department. There was also a presentation by the Willmar Fest Ambassadors. City Administrator Charlene Stevens says the council also approved a tax abatement policy that had been requested by the city council and drafted by Bruce Peterson, director of Community Development and Planning. Stevens says in other business they will be advertising for the public works superintendent vacancy. Ron Gilbertson is retiring after almost 40 years of service to the city. The council also directed the staff to begin preparations for a council retreat to be held in late fall. They approved a tax abatement policy. The Mayor noted that he’s providing a copy of his whitepaper on the city’s organizational assessment at the end of this week.
The Montevideo City Council has updated a letter to FEMA for the Safe House project. The council approved going forward with plans, specs and bids for a credit card reader at the airport.
During an annual review of the Morris lab Tuesday, Regional Director for Midwest States Robert Matteri (muh-TEAR-ee) said the Agricultural Research Service budget, like in most branches of the federal government, has been cut. There is, however, good news. Matteri says the President's proposal includes funding at or near current levels for most ARS work. The ag appropriations bill released by the House Appropriations Committee totals $19.5 billion in discretionary funding, which is $1.3 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level and approximately equal to the current level caused by automatic sequestration spending cuts. The total is $516 million below the President's request for ag and nutrition programs.
Following passage of the Federal Affordable Care Act, state officials implemented a Health Care Exchange Marketplace and a new set of rules governing how local units of government insure their employees. Stevens County has offered employees a "cafeteria benefit:" a monthly disbursement of $750 to be used at the employee's discretion to cover health care costs. That system might not meet state requirements, says Human Resources Director Janet Raguse. The County Board approved issuing a Request For Proposals for agents to find a health insurance plans for the county, should the county determine their current arrangement does not comply with federal standards. Raguse reports the Request for Proposals will be reviewed within the next few weeks, with a recommendation before the board in the following weeks.
Road construction on County State Aid Highway 13 will start at the end of this month. Stephens County Engineer Brian Giese says the contractor plans to start on June 26th. Weather permitting, work will be completed in 2 weeks. The project runs from North from Chokio to the Grant County line. Giese reports Grant County has continued the road work running north along the same highway.
Motorists on Interstate 94 near Alexandria will experience intermittent lane and shoulder closures when a cable median barrier installation project begins June 10, weather permitting. Crews will install the cable barrier along 10 miles of I-94 from mile post 96 to mile post 106. Motorists should prepare to slow down in areas where crews are working. Work is expected to last about two months near Alexandria. Crews will install cable barrier in the Moorhead area beginning in late July or early August. Cable median barrier prevents vehicles from crossing medians and hitting oncoming traffic. Installing cable median barrier in strategic locations helps prevent fatal and serious injury crashes.
The Gopher Road Trip: Chalk Talk 2013 will be at the Willmar American Legion on Mondaymorning, June 17th at 11:30. Scheduled to appear during the event are Goldy Gopher, Hugh McCutcheon, John Anderson, Richard Pitino, Norwood Teague and other Gopher Coaches. This event has a capacity limit and will fill, so pre-register by calling 1-800-UGOPHER. According to the University of Minnesota Athletics Department, the Golden Gopher family is excited to visit the Willmar community.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is celebrating National Get Outdoors Day by offering free admission at all Minnesota state parks and recreation areas on Saturday.Many special programs will also take place at parks that day. There is an Archery in the Park program from 9-3 at the Lac qui Parle State Park in Montevideo that day. The DNR conducted surveys and focus groups in 2007 to find out why people weren’t getting outdoors more often. Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division, says one of the barriers the research identified was a lack of information. People specifically asked for more online trip-planning tools, such as virtual tours.
Now that the summer recreation season is officially in full swing, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is urging all-terrain vehicle (ATV) enthusiasts to brush up on safety. 2nd Lt. Leland Owens, DNR’s recreational vehicle coordinator, says when they weather warms up they see more ATV related crashes, and most ATV related fatalities are the result of warned-against behaviors, such as driving too fast, driving while impaired and youths riding adult-sized ATVs. State ATV laws require youth ages 12-15 and anyone born after July 1, 1987, who is 16 or older, to take ATV safety training before operating on public lands. A free ATV safety CD is available from the DNR.
This morning (Thursday) at 11, Senator Lyle Koenen, Representative Mary Sawatzky, Larry Pogemiller, Commissioner with the Mn Office of Higher Education, and Douglas Allen, Ridgewater College president, will hold a press conference in the small outreach room at Ridgewater. They will discuss what the investments made in higher education this session will mean for Minnesota and specifically for the Willmar area. The 2013 Higher Education Bill invests an historic $250 million in higher education, with over 73 percent of the new money going directly to students. In addition to a tuition freeze at all MnSCU campuses, Ridgewater will also benefit from funding for leveraged equipment. President Allen will outline how these funds will benefit the college and the region.
You’ll encounter a larger detour area on Highway 4 in Cosmos as stage two of the construction project begins today (Thursday). Crews will begin work on the south side of Highway 7 to the south fork of the Crow River. Stage one of the project consisted of construction on Highway 4 from Highway 7 to Northern Cross Avenue and included East Gemini Avenue. The reconstruction includes grading, paving, sidewalk construction, watermain replacement, sewer construction, landscaping and installation of pedestrian accessible ramps and signals.